‘NPR’ Debates Arrangement of Deck Chairs on Titanic

On Al-Jazeera television, a moderator with a thick accent is asking Why the U.S. invaded Iraq and then pitting John Mearsheimer and Norman Finkelstein on the question. They debate Israel’s security as a motivation for the neocons who helped plan this war, yes or no.

On NPR this morning, a moderator with a soft sophisticated American accent, I believe Steve Inskeep, pitted George Packer and Douglas Feith on the question of whether the U.S. did the right thing by trying to bring in exiled Iraqis to run Iraq once we had conquered it five years ago. Feith said that by failing in this regard, we became occupiers not liberators. George Packer said that the U.S. erred by insisting on the installation of goofball Ahmed Chalabi.

The discussion on NPR is a waste of time. It indulges and sustains the claim, shared by Packer and Feith and many other influential Americans and now utterly discredited in the eyes of 70 percent of the public, that we should have invaded. The real question is Why Feith was so religious on the issue of invading Iraq? Why did he turn his back on the peace process in Israel/Palestine? Why did he support Netanyahu? Why did he dismiss the issue of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank as a cause across the Arab world? Why did he believe that the road to peace in Jerusalem ran through Baghdad? Why was he writing letters at age 15 to the New York Times to justify yet another occupation of Arab land on security grounds (Israel in the Sinai)?  In short, to what degree were his own attachments as a Jew to Israel a factor in his decisionmaking?

I guess I’ll have to wait till Feith goes on Al-Jazeera…

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Beyondoweiss, Iraq, US Policy in the Middle East

{ 33 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Feith should take Liberal White Boys "Am I a Zionist Fascist and Bigot Test"

    Complete this questionnaire and you will soon know if this is a problem for you and us.

    Zionist-fascist Bigot Questionnaire
    (If you answer affirmatively three or more questions you may have a problem)

    Do you love "Curb Your Enthusiasm" but feel like you can't tell any of your wealthy friends?

    Did you in conversation this week feel compelled to defend the foolishness in an Alan Dershowitz book?

    Do you still laugh out loud each time you hear a news employee pundit on your television network accuse the news media of left wing bias?

    Do you feel like you need to cover your copy of Heeb Magazine with a copy of Playboy when you read?

    Did you tell anyone in conversation this week that you thought Norman Finkelstein's Mother was a capo at Auschwitz?

    Did a sentence in which you referred to Rachael Corrie this month include the words "bitch or deserved it"?

    Would you favor more than disfavor the extra judicial targeted assassination of the editorial staff at The Nation?

    Additional questions at
    link to homo-sapien-underground.blogspot.com

  2. Phil:

    Thank you for this excellent example of just how poor our national political discourse is.

  3. MY SELECTED ANSWERS IN BOLD:

    Do you love "Curb Your Enthusiasm" – YES – but feel like you can't tell any of your wealthy friends? NO.

    Do you still laugh out loud each time you hear a news employee pundit on your television network accuse the news media of left wing bias? YES.

  4. Jim Haygood says:

    .

    "The discussion on NPR [between Packer and Feith] is a waste of time."

    Yeah, but it's Emmy Award material compared to the mindless sludge on cable "news." They're all over the latest TV ads (four for Obama, five for Hillary) which are described as being "soft" in focus and biographical. They would be, wouldn't they?

    This isn't journalism. Cable "news" is just a televised PR wire, with more crime and celebrities to sustain interest.

  5. LeaNder says:

    It's interesting to hear (& see) Mearsheimer argue that: Yes, the administration initially believed that Saddam owned weapons of mass destruction. [don't remember his exact words]

    On this issue I am definitely more on Finkelstein's side:

    link to commondreams.org

    Very interesting debate:
    link to normanfinkelstein.com

    Do you care to comment Richard Witty?

  6. Richard Witty says:

    I'm not at a location where I can watch video.

    I'm not a fan of either Finkelstein or Mearsheimer.

    How about some real contrast? Rather than shifting chairs on the dissident celebrity ship?

  7. LeaNder says:

    I no you are no fan of Finkelstein, Richard.

    That's why I would be interested, if this interview confirms your view.

    Admittedly I wonder, if you are aware of Finkelstein's critic of the W/M lobby thesis?

  8. LeaNder says:

    Jesus, I should take a second look sometimes:

    I know you are no fan of Finkelstein.

    Quite possibly I receive similar informations as you do. I usually know your position already.

  9. jonathan ekman says:

    How many people, I wonder, were struck by the
    absence, in last Sunday's 60 Minutes interview of Feith, of any question concerning his Zionism and his many. long-standing Likudnik ties to Israel?

  10. MM says:

    Speaking of journalism, gotta love today's headline in the Times,

    link to nytimes.com

    "Israel Agrees to Reduce West Bank Checkpoints"

    JERUSALEM — Israel agreed Sunday to remove about 50 roadblocks in the West Bank and promised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is visiting here, that it would upgrade checkpoints to reduce the waiting time for Palestinians who have been hampered in their efforts to go about their daily lives.

    Back in November 2005, Ms. Rice, after arduous all-night negotiations, extracted a similar agreement to work with the United States on identifying checkpoints and roadblocks to be lifted in the West Bank and to open up crossings into and out of Gaza. At the time, Israel maintained dozens of such obstacles, saying they were necessary to prevent, or at least limit, Palestinian attacks.

    These days, Israel has more than 580 checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank and at Gaza crossings, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which closely tracks movement and access in the West Bank and Gaza. The checkpoints and roadblocks include 30 that have gone up since the Annapolis peace conference late last year, when Israel promised to take steps toward a peace agreement.

    [Article continues, but of course, the Times omits this irrelevant tidbit entirely, taken from a radical activist journalist's TIME magazine report:

    link to news.yahoo.com

    ...But United Nations officials say that the number of Israeli roadblocks inside the Palestinian territories is steadily rising, from 472 in 2005 to over 580 today. Getting rid of 50 roadblocks, say Palestinians, is hardly enough. "The ones they've taken away will be back as soon as the Israelis declare a security alert," says one foreign official.]

    In other words, after those "arduous all-night negotiations" Condi went through in November 2005, even if Israel does follow through and remove "about 50" checkpoints (and btw, what's the difference between "promising" and "agreeing" to do something?), there will have been an increase of some 50+ checkpoints since then.

    Hence the appropriate headline from the Times, "Israelis Agree to Reduce Checkpoints", confirming for its reader base who will skim the article just how generous, magnanimous, and committed to peace the zionists continue to be.

    Richard will assure us there's no manipulation here, and Phil will no doubt trumpet Condi's commanding statements that "We haven’t been monitoring and verifying during the last two years," and "We want to be much more systematic about what is being promised and what is being done than we have been able to be in the past" as evidence that we are in the best of all possible peace processes.

    And I will think to myself, wow, what a wonderful world…

  11. jorge999 says:

    Philip,

    …a little off topic, but this is just to let you know that others are trying to breach the wall of silence:
    link to dailykos.com

    –jorge999 A.K.A. jorgepoemas

  12. Jim Haygood says:

    .

    "Even if Israel does follow through and remove "about 50" checkpoints, there will have been an increase of some 50+ checkpoints since then." — MM

    How unfair of you, to expect the Slimes to keep count. Would Israel lie to you? ;-)

    Chris Hillman caught the drill in lyrics:

    One step forward and two steps back
    Nobody gets too far like that
    One step forward and two steps back
    This kind of dance can never last

    link to tinyurl.com

    If there's no good news, the MSM will just have to turn lemons to lemonade. SMILE!

  13. Richard Witty says:

    I did know that Chomsky and Finkelstein held the view that they believed that OTHER motivations besides the "conspiracies" of the Israel Lobby, motivated the decision and action to invade Iraq.

    I'm sure it was a lively debate. Finkelstein can be accommodating or vicious. Did you see the interview with Finkelstein and Ben-Ami?

    Ben-Ami was careful not to invoke Finkelstein's stimuli, but he was clear that he was a Zionist and concerned about Israel's safety and health.

    Finkelstein vacilates between remembering that his work is for the development of integrity (a positive approach) and reactionism to those that present views that he regards as complicit or rationalizing oppression (a negative and angry approach, often guessing wrong).

    It harms his message, assuming the positive one is what he really believes in, which I can't tell frankly.

    When he appeared on Lebanese TV, chastising a woman interviewer for even asking whether Hezbollah did anything wrong in 2006, and he responded with "Hezbollah are heroes. How dare you criticize them." and "Israel NEEDS a severe military defeat" I lost any predisposition of respect for the man.

  14. frizzled says:

    I too was revolted by the NPR interview this morning. The announcer started by saying "Now that the surge has worked"… and interviewed O'Hanlon, one of the war's chief proponents, before having the ultra-neocon Feith on to spread his poisonous views. Even after 5 years of this catastrophe, the media refuse to allow antiwar voices on for serious analysis. They could have interviewed any number of experts who were always against this crime, like Juan Cole or Dahr Jamahl who actually speak Arabic and know something about the region. But these people are censored in our miserable era, where the Democrats blame the Iraqis for the consequences of the US invasion and we all pretend that Hillary and Obama will not continue the war indefinitely. One wonders if this is a direct consequence of Lobby control of NPR's policy, or whether more subtle pressures and groupthink are responsible.

    The contrast with that great Al Jazeera interview (most Americans couldn't tell Al Jazeera from Al Qaeda), is telling and very embarrassing. I stopped believing that the US was a force for good long ago, but it's now hard to pretend that we even have freedom of speech, at least outside low circulation blogs. As you've shown so well, Walt & Mearsheimer are now radioactive to American media after their fairly timid attempt to speak out against the Lobby.

  15. LeaNder says:

    ;)
    "When he appeared on Lebanese TV, chastising a woman interviewer … I lost any predisposition of respect for the man."

    Richard, you claim ample experience in the world of media, how comes you show no awareness for the basic fact that the MEMRI (?) tape uses passages out of context? What exactly got him there? Impatience, recurring questions? How long is the whole interview? Why do we never get a chance to watch the whole story in these cases?

    It's easy to see that Finkelstein is under high emotional pressure most of the time. And I somehow agree with you that he harms himself most with it. But at the time I am pleased he is not simply another customer of Benador Associates.

    link to benadorassociates.com

    Do you trust MEMRI completely, always?

    Do you think Finkelstein is out to harm Israel?

    Would you willingly defame everybody whom MEMRI declares an enemy of Israel? And help spread their views?

  16. Richard Witty says:

    I saw the interview on youtube, presented by an individual who chose the interview FOR its "proud" content.

    There were timing marks on the interview, and I surmised that about 4 minutes were edited out. I don't know who did that, MEMRI or the individual posting the interview.

    Finkelstein picks a lot of fights. Even when he's agreeing with you, its hard to tell what he is going to come up with should something irritate him.

    I don't personally got to MEMRI for information.

    That they review the Arab press and their mass media is a great service to the English speaking world, even if they select according to a different bias than I.

    In the internet age, its not just Israeli or American dirty linen that is exposed.

    It would be worth it for you to take their presentations as informative, if not adopted.

    I DON'T adopt the view of the editors of the NY Times. I read the NY Times.

  17. Charles Keating says:

    RE: "Finkelstein picks a lot of fights. Even when he's agreeing with you, its hard to tell what he is going to come up with should something irritate him."

    OR the fights pick him. Not many go where he goes, trying to find the truth and actually speak about it. He's a humanistic hero. Neither goys or jews get his hole card, nothing less than
    a sense of fairness.

  18. LeaNder says:

    Witty: It would be worth it for you to take their presentations as informative, if not adopted.

    LeaNder/Kraut/nitwit/idiotes …/ If you ask me, a biased selection is worse than no knowledge at all; just as with antisemtism. Most of this network seem to use a yellow-press-approach in their "selection & presentation".

    One of these "information channels" once spread the news that our former chancellor Helmut Kohl had allegedly told a group of Iranian businessmen that "the Jews" had invented/enormously exaggerated the Holocaust.

    I am not a fan of Kohl, quite the opposite, but there is a very, very tiny percentage of Germans that would say something like that, and not many of those have a doctorate in history.

    *******************************************

    Witty: Finkelstein picks a lot of fights. Even when he's agreeing with you, its hard to tell what he is going to come up with should something irritate him."

    LeaNder: This is a little imprecise. Tell me what you mean if you like. I find him a highly interesting person already. But strictly yes, I wonder too occasionally what drives him.

    ********************************************

    I listened again to the interview. What I loved was his statement that resistance is more honored by posterity than silently surrendering to the powers that be [Mitlaeufertum in German- link to en.wikipedia.org

    … I wish it would have been the main feature in growing up over here. It clearly wasn't the case. But maybe something is changing …

    … by the way. One of the many names I have used lately, as indicated above was Kraut…

    You thought so?

  19. Richard Witty says:

    The fights don't pick Finkelstein. He wants them. He gets his sense of identity through them.

    He, like Podhoretz, is pugnacious, though Podhoretz looks like he was a physical scrapper, while Finkelstein only political.

    He is willing to insult people to the bone, deeply, personally. What could have been done to him, that he would act so? (It preceded his drama for tenure.)

    Its not conscience. To write about using the holocaust for corrupt purposes isn't a confession. Its an attack.

  20. LeaNder says:

    Witty: To write about using the holocaust for corrupt purposes isn't a confession. Its an attack.

    LeaNder: I don't know the book. Admittedly not long ago I wouldn't have touched it.

    But why is it such a taboo to question the motivation of lawyers that may not have been as pure as the subject deserves? Why not check if the facts support the noble motives given? How much arrived in survivor's accounts? How much was diverted on the way and for what?

    Not long ago survivors protested in Israel. Remember?

    Without doubt Finkelstein at times gets applause from the wrong side, e.g. over here from the extreme right.

    *******************************************

    The first time I saw him, he was a guest in the main German political talk show next to the Ambassador from Israel, Shimon Stein. The subject was: Are racism and antisemitism are getting socially acceptable again.

    I should try to get a video. I am sure my strong reactions were at least partly produced by a very careful use of the camera and visual editing: Finkelstein came across as the rebel, maybe even slightly homosexual while Shimon Stein appeared as the dignified responsible fatherly leader, who carefully evaluates every step he takes to lead his people into safety, while the rebel brings danger.

    **********************************************

    … I sense a deep dislike for the comedy of manners, for masks and dissembling and an love for truth. …

    According to Raul Hilberg one even finds his undiplomatic (?pugnacious?) features in his style. Seems I have to check that.

    I can't imagine, he said anything as disgusting as the distortion of his statements about his mother. Origiating with Dershowitz? And I read many, many comments, articles & mails along these lines. Yes the Problems with Dershowitz started before, and as before Dershowitz seems to have pulled strings in his tenure process. As one of the responsible fatherly leaders …

    sick,sick, sick …

    Since then I am highly suspicious of anybody that shares your anti-Finkelstein opinion.

  21. LeaNder says:

    Witty: To write about using the holocaust for corrupt purposes isn't a confession. Its an attack.

    LeaNder: I don't know the book. Admittedly not long ago I wouldn't have touched it.

    But why is it such a taboo to question the motivation of lawyers that may not have been as pure as the subject deserves? Why not check if the facts support the noble motives given? How much arrived in survivor's accounts? How much was diverted on the way and for what?

    Not long ago survivors protested in Israel. Remember?

    Without doubt Finkelstein at times gets applause from the wrong side, e.g. over here from the extreme right.

    *******************************************

    The first time I saw him, he was a guest in the main German political talk show next to the Ambassador from Israel, Shimon Stein. The subject was: Are racism and antisemitism are getting socially acceptable again.

    I should try to get a video. I am sure my strong reactions were at least partly produced by a very careful use of the camera and visual editing: Finkelstein came across as the rebel, maybe even slightly homosexual while Shimon Stein appeared as the dignified responsible fatherly leader, who carefully evaluates every step he takes to lead his people into safety, while the rebel brings danger.

    **********************************************

    … I sense a deep dislike for the comedy of manners, for masks and dissembling and an love for truth. …

    According to Raul Hilberg one even finds his undiplomatic (?pugnacious?) features in his style. Seems I have to check that.

    I can't imagine, he said anything as disgusting as the distortion of his statements about his mother. Origiating with Dershowitz? And I read many, many comments, articles & mails along these lines. Yes the Problems with Dershowitz started before, and as before Dershowitz seems to have pulled strings in his tenure process. As one of the responsible fatherly leaders …

    sick,sick, sick …

    Since then I am highly suspicious of anybody that shares your anti-Finkelstein opinion.

  22. Crimson Ghost says:

    Glenn Greenwald at SALON the other day outed NPR commentator Colkie Roberts (a Jewish lady for sure) as an outright LIAR re: the Iraq war.

    NPR unfortunately as just as much under the control of the lobby as most of the rest of the MSM.

  23. Richard Witty says:

    Don't be suspicious of criticism of Finkelstein, Leander. He's a writer, an interpreter of events as he sees them. If you can't criticize an interpretation, then you become a disciple, not a thinker.

    I'm glad he stated that he didn't think that the Israel Lobby, or Israel got the US into Iraq, and on Al-Jazeera.

  24. Richard Witty says:

    Dissent needs MUCH BETTER figureheads than Mearsheimer or Finkelstein or Walt or Chomsky.

  25. Phil Weiss says:

    Richard, I have a feeling I got you on something: You say re Iran that you want a president who is willing to strike Iran if it attacks Israel. OK. You're straightforward about this desire, and definition of the American interest as being congruent with Israel's, or overlapping.
    Well Iraq had attacked Israel. And Iraq was thought by some to be developing Weapons of Mass Destruction. And many neocons, many of them Jews with strong affiliative feeling for Israel, wanted the U.S. to attack IRaq. And we did. Why isn't it fair for critics ofthe war, including those who demonstrated against it, to say that some of the authors of this debacle were acting out of concern for Israel's security (as you and the U.S. wouldbe if the president attacked Iran over Israeli attack…)

  26. Glenn Condell says:

    'To write about using the holocaust for corrupt purposes isn't a confession. Its an attack.'

    So what? Are you saying he shouldn't expose this corruption? Why? Are any attacks on Jews (even by other Jews) for any reason, at any time to be considered beyond the pale?

    Surely Richard you condemn any person or entity which profited illegally from Holocaust graft. And I am sure you agree that Jews who were relieved of their possessions during the Holocaust have every right to expect compensation at least, if full restoration is no longer possible.

    Are you able to apply this conviction to those Palestianians dispossessed by the Nakba?

    'Dissent needs MUCH BETTER figureheads than Mearsheimer or Finkelstein or Walt or Chomsky.'

    I can imagine the sort of figureheads you'd find more amenable. That lot are probably too 'polemical' for you. 'Better' is relative – that quartet look pretty good to me. Do you have any suggestions as to who might approach your lofty standards, or do such paragons exist only in your imagination?

  27. Glenn Condell says:

    'To write about using the holocaust for corrupt purposes isn't a confession. Its an attack.'

    So what? Are you saying he shouldn't expose this corruption? Why? Are any attacks on Jews (even by other Jews) for any reason, at any time to be considered beyond the pale?

    Surely Richard you condemn any person or entity which profited illegally from Holocaust graft. And I am sure you agree that Jews who were relieved of their possessions during the Holocaust have every right to expect compensation at least, if full restoration is no longer possible.

    Are you able to apply this conviction to those Palestianians dispossessed by the Nakba?

    'Dissent needs MUCH BETTER figureheads than Mearsheimer or Finkelstein or Walt or Chomsky.'

    I can imagine the sort of figureheads you'd find more amenable. That lot are probably too 'polemical' for you. 'Better' is relative – that quartet look pretty good to me. Do you have any suggestions as to who might approach your lofty standards, or do such paragons exist only in your imagination?

  28. Richard Witty says:

    "You say re Iran that you want a president who is willing to strike Iran if it attacks Israel."

    "Willing" is a willingly misrepresentative word. "Willing" as in desiring vs. "Willing" as in reluctant.

    The point to you is not have fantasies about someone that wants to be president of the United States. The president is the leading executive of a super-power, one without military peer or any other with even the pretense of military peer.

    And the responsibilities of being a super-power with promises and public commitments to others.

    The questions are what one does with being a super-power, HOW one is a super-power, not how dissent imagines that the US is not one.

    Its the same question for Israel, HOW one is a regional "super"-power, not whether one is or not.

    And, its the same question for a Jew, HOW one is a Jew, not whether one is or not.

    "Overlapping" is the accurate interpretation. There is a GREAT difference between overlapping and congruent.

    I'm NOT running for president. I don't WANT to be the president of a super-power.

    I applaud any that seek it earnestly. It is a great moral courage to be willing to do one's best, with such likelihood of scarring (from other inflicted and self-inflicted wounds) in the process and after.

    Phil,
    I was surprised to see your name on the bottom of that specific post.

  29. Richard Witty says:

    Anyone that conducted graft should be prosecuted, NOT politicized.

    No Jew presumes that all Jews are pure. We live. We see the gamut of lives around us.

    To make hay over it is not all that different than the scandal rags that make an "identity" in contreversy.

    Its something different than scholarship perse. I know that if you see something wrong (or ambiguous even), the choice you have is to shut up and ignore a wrong, or quietly or politically expose it in some way.

    But, there are MANY possible ways that one can respond. The options are not limited to sledge-hammer against one party, vs sledge hammer against another.

    I think that Finkelstein wanted to be a celebrity for some personal reason of his own, a loved/hated one.

    But, in politics, one's personal foibles, affect others as well, and if one acts in a way that has the prospect of harming deeply, better that it be done with extreme care in the content itself and in the manner it is presented.

    Its tough to have something prospectively important to say, and not be heard. I get that.

  30. Richard Witty says:

    "Why isn't it fair for critics ofthe war, including those who demonstrated against it, to say that some of the authors of this debacle were acting out of concern for Israel's security (as you and the U.S. wouldbe if the president attacked Iran over Israeli attack…)"

    You switch between the innocuous Mearsheimer of the footnotes and revision and the conspiratorial one of the title and articles.

    The incorporation of *some* concern for Israel is DIFFERENT than his thesis.

    Walt/Mearsheimer's thesis of the title and the article ISN'T that the increment of concern was the tipping force, but that it was THE cause of the invasion, which to me and to Finkelstein looks ludicrous, amateurish.

  31. Charles Keating says:

    Dissent needs much better figureheads than Hillary, McCain, or Obama. Try Ron Paul or Nader.

  32. Charles Keating says:

    Sorry, I don't see any connection at all between Finkelstein' s POV and Witty's. What am I missing?