Lebanon, Syria

Justice, A Dish Best Served with a Side of Popcorn

By now, we’ve all heard about the amazing work performed by Syria’s finest crack squad of counter-terrorism constables, who rounded up the Shaker Al-Absi Gang lickety split and had them confess to their wicked deeds on national television.

It looks like the war on terror is finally producing tangible and satisfying results.

Sami Moubayed, writing in Asia Times this week, expertly dismisses the arguments of those who would doubt the authenticity of the primetime confession special. He writes:

Naturally, the anti-Syrian team in Lebanon writes off the entire story as a hoax. They claimed from day one that Fatah al-Islam was created by the Syrians. That is difficult to believe, since [Shaker al-Absi’s] prison record in Damascus – along with Syria’s history of combating Islamic fundamentalism – would certainly prevent it from engaging in such a risky scheme with such a notorious terrorist. Additionally, the terrorist bombing of September 27 adds proof that if anything, Fatah al-Islam is certainly not allied to Damascus. On the contrary, it is bent on destroying Syria.

Those doubting the entire story will continue doing so, claiming that the program aired on Syrian TV was doctored by the Syrians. That too is hard to believe. These terrorists were watched by millions of people around the world and in Syria. They gave out real names and appeared clearly on screen. If the Syrians asked them to stage the entire operation, how can they continue with their ordinary lives and not be spotted as frauds?

By golly, he’s right. After all, they appeared on television, for Pete’s sake! What they said has to be true, it just has to!

Is it me, or is Sami Moubayed slowly turning into an employee of the Syrian Ministry of Information? I used to like his pieces, but these days he is starting to sound as credible as… well, as the poor schmoes on the made-for-TV confession special. Isn’t the point of being a journalist to interrogate the official narratives of government, rather than to help circulate them? Where is the swashbuckling cynicism that accompanies his critiques of American foreign policy? When was it replaced with the plaintive cry, “The terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming…”? Does it really only take a government-produced documentary to gain his confidence? If so, America take note, and consider outsourcing the War on Terror to Hollywood.

Why doesn’t Sami just state the obvious, namely that nobody really has any idea what Fatah al-Islam is. All the theories are more or less outlandish, ranging from Seymour Hersh’s spooky conspiracy tale in The New Yorker (which I’m convinced he heard from a Lebanese service taxi driver and later had ‘confirmed’ by Michel Samaha), to the notion that it was created by the Syrian mukhabarat and controlled directly from Damascus. Who knows what is really true? There is nothing resembling actual proof, just more or less glorified conspiracy theories supported by anonymous sources and government-sponsored confessions.

Sami, please, come back down to earth. Where is the journalist who used to be so unsparing in his criticism of the follies of Arab politics, yet also constructive and realistic? Why not treat Syria in the same way that you treat Lebanon, namely with both criticism and tough love? I understand that you may face different kinds of pressures in Syria, but if it is not possible to expose and dismantle your government’s propoganda, surely it is within your means to ignore it. Talk about something else! Write a cultural piece about Zenobia. Make fun of Dubai. There are plenty of ways to avoid lowering yourself by applauding a scapegoating operation.

Could someone pass the popcorn?


9 thoughts on “Justice, A Dish Best Served with a Side of Popcorn

  1. I have linked with the Moubayed article!!

    Posted by Joshua Landis | November 7, 2008, 1:17 pm
  2. when did a Maronite become a salafite appologist

    Posted by George | November 7, 2008, 1:58 pm
  3. George

    I don’t catch your drift.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 7, 2008, 2:14 pm
  4. the funny issue is that joshua landis knows that sami and samir seifan and samir altaqi are member of the advisory committee to the head of the state intelligence general ali mamlouk who is arresting all the intellectuals .
    i challenge him to deny that and can he explain is this one of the tasks of the advisory board ??
    a lot to come

    Posted by ali asaad ali | November 8, 2008, 4:19 am
  5. QN:

    I am offering my services to you as a Editor. While my pedigree is not Harvard, but the University of Technology in Sydney, I feel I can make a contribution to your blog, I have forwarded my resume for you to peruse.

    First your articles while starting the blog were fine, I think that this latest heading needs some overhaul. Let me explain.

    Heading:”Justice, A Dish Best Served with a Side of Popcorn”

    should read (taking into account our Arab and resistance culture)

    “”Justice, A Dish Best Served with a Side of Syrian Hummus”

    You go on taking poor Sami to task, I need to remind you about Arab journalists 101; Find a benefactor, its healthy to prolong your career.

    You succintly tell Sami why he does not conclude that the Fatah and tabbouleh organization was divinely made, with out no parent claiming this errant child. I again remind you about Arab journalism 101.

    And Finally you tell Sami: “Talk about something else! Write a cultural piece about Zenobia. Make fun of Dubai. There are plenty of ways to avoid lowering yourself by applauding a scapegoating operation.

    Anway: Here is my conclusion which you have clearly overlooked.

    ” The Syrian film industry after many succesfull years of producing drama pieces and exporting them to the Arab world, today came up with a new novelty to test a new drama piece. A First in the World. A new “Arab CSI drama” wrote one critical reviewer. Stay tuned this latest piece from the State Film industry will prove to be a smash hit and even surpass ” Bab el Herra”

    Posted by Enlightened | November 8, 2008, 9:24 pm
  6. Why the silence QN?

    Posted by Enlightened | November 13, 2008, 1:31 am
  7. Habibi Enlightened

    I’ve been meaning to respond to you, but this week has just been so busy. I have my sister-in-law in town visiting, and my own siblings just arrived as well for something of a family reunion. So it’s been hectic.

    Maybe I was a bit too hard on Sami, but you are right: our journalists have to kowtow as a matter of course.

    The Daily Star’s usual stable of analysis (Hilal Khashan, Paul Salem, etc.) dismissed the Syrian TV thing as nothing more than a publicity stunt.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 13, 2008, 1:54 am
  8. I envy your situation been in Lebanon and a family reunion! We just had a cousin arrive in Australia, I haven’t seen him since I was 4, approx 34 years ago. Family re unions are good.

    I think that is the only reasonable conclusion we can come too. The whole thing is a soap opera at the moment. The Syrian government is ratcheting the pressure up on M14 little by little.

    Hows sipping Arak on the corniche this year?

    Posted by Enlightened | November 13, 2008, 6:34 pm
  9. Sipping araq on the Corniche, alas, has not been an option because the place we usually go does not serve alcohol!

    Ho hum…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 14, 2008, 12:58 pm

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