"Nostalgia" for Baathist Bombs - October 28, 2003 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for October 28, 2003

"Nostalgia" for Baathist Bombs

Monday's story by Joel Brinkley on the struggles of Iraq's new foreign minister is headlined: "Iraq's Foreign Ministry Has a New Chief, but Nostalgia for the Past Lingers."

Is this "When life was slow/And oh so mellow" style nostalgia? Hardly. Whoever wrote the headline has a rather broad definition of nostalgia, given the harsh opening to Brinkley's actual story: "Somebody planted a bomb outside the office of the new Iraqi foreign minister two weeks ago, set with a timer to go off when he was at his desk. The minister was delayed out of town, so when the bomb exploded, the office was empty. Iraqi and American investigators have concluded that the bombing was an inside job, and no one at the Foreign Ministry is surprised."

Apparently the headline writer was inspired by Brinkley's last line, which indeed quotes Ambassador Muhammad Hamoud saying that around the Foreign Ministry, "there is still some nostalgia for Saddam."

For the rest of Brinkley's story on the plight of Iraq's foreign minister, click here.

Joel Brinkley | Gaffes | Headlines | Iraq War

Krugman on the Defensive

In his Tuesday column, columnist Paul Krugman gets touchy over criticism of his column from last Tuesday discussing what Malyasian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's anti-Semitic remarks at an Islamic summit meeting said about Malaysia and Bush's foreign policy. (Among other things, Mahathir said: "The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.")

To this Krugman remarked in his controversial column: "Indeed, those remarks were inexcusable. But they were also calculated-for Mr. Mahathir is a cagey politician, who is neither ignorant nor foolish. And to understand why he made those remarks is to realize how badly things are going for U.S. foreign policy. The fact is that Mr. Mahathir, though guilty of serious abuses of power, is in many ways about as forward-looking a Muslim leader as we're likely to find."

Krugman then appears to blame Bush's foreign policy for rising anti-Semitism worldwide: "Not long ago Washington was talking about Malaysia as an important partner in the war on terror. Now Mr. Mahathir thinks that to cover his domestic flank, he must insert hateful words into a speech mainly about Muslim reform. That tells you, more accurately than any poll, just how strong the rising tide of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism among Muslims in Southeast Asia has become. Thanks to its war in Iraq and its unconditional support for Ariel Sharon, Washington has squandered post-9/11 sympathy and brought relations with the Muslim world to a new low."

Following an outcry, including letters to the Times from the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, Krugman responds in Tuesday's edition in a column titled "A Willful Ignorance" (a reference to his critics, naturally).

Krugman responds: "I wrote about why Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's prime minister-a clever if loathsome man who adjusts the volume of his anti-Semitism depending on circumstances-chose to include an anti-Jewish diatribe in his speech to an Islamic conference. Sure enough, I was accused in various places not just of 'tolerance for anti-Semitism' (yes, I'm Jewish) but of being in Mr. Mahathir's pay. Smear tactics aside, the thrust of the attacks was that because anti-Semitism is evil, anyone who tries to understand why politicians foment anti-Semitism-and looks for ways other than military force to combat the disease-is an apologist for anti-Semitism and is complicit in evil."

The problem for Krugman is that it isn't just his usual critics but generally liberal redoubts like the ADL and even the New Republic magazine, where Krugman's Bush-bashing would be expected to have a friendly forum. Instead, the New Republic accuses Krugman of making an "unholy alliancebetween liberal Bush hatred and Muslim Jew hatred."

For more of Krugman's defense, click here.

Anti-Semitism | George W. Bush | Iraq War | Paul Krugman | Donald Luskin | Mahathir Mohamad | The New Republic

Quagmire on the Times Copy Desk

Another day, another odd headline in the Times. The ghosts of Vietnam are haunting the Times copy desk. Sunday's Arts & Leisure column by Frank Rich is (surprise) about Bush, the media, and the war, is typically over the top, likening press coverage now to Joe McCarthy and the Vietnam War: "Most of the press was as slow to challenge Joe McCarthy, the Robert McNamara Pentagon and the Nixon administration as it has been to challenge the wartime Bush White House. But in America, at least, history always catches up with those who try to falsify it in real time. That's what L.B.J. and Nixon both learned the hard way."

But the strangest thing about the piece is something Rich is probably not responsible for, the accompanying headline: "Why Are We Back in Vietnam?" Rich's actual article makes pretty much the opposite point: "At the tender age of six months, the war in Iraq is not remotely a Vietnam."

For the rest of Frank Rich's column, click here:

Gaffes | Headlines | Frank Rich | Vietnam