Mylroie as Bush Rasputine
Peter Bergen, veteran journalist and al-Qaeda expert, raises the question of whether the bizarre and crackpot theories of Laurie Mylroie have undue influence high in the US government. Mylroie alleges that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, a thesis for which there is no evidence whatsoever. Yet she seems to have convinced Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz of it.
In the academic world, we don’t get to publish our books at academic presses without peer review. When Princeton University Press considered my book, written out of the Egyptian National Archives, on the 19th century Urabi Revolt, the editor sent the manuscript to eminent experts in 19th century Egyptian history. Now, I lived in the Arab world for 6 years, have a degree in Arabic studies from Cairo, and had a Fulbright grant for my research. I spent a year working almost daily in the archives in Cairo. I had an academic position in a major department at a major university. But Princeton University Press did not trust me. They still had the book refereed.
In contrast, the American Enterprise Institute publishes anything Mylroie hands into them, no matter how fantastic. Her Arabic is imperfect, she has never been in any Iraqi archive, and has no standing in the Middle East field. Her books don’t have to be refereed, apparently. The poor lay reader who finds her book in Borders has no way of distinguishing it from the trade paperbacks of Princeton University Press. And then the mere fact of the book’s existence can become a reference-point in political debate. No university press would have published Mylroie’s pablum, because academic researchers would have shot it down for poor evidence and bad reasoning.
You’d think that where people are writing about issues that involve life and death, war and peace in the contemporary world, it would be more important to have the books refereed. Nineteenth century history we could get wrong and survive.
The tragedy is that people will go on believing Mylroie’s weirdness, and she will keep getting invited on t.v. and to speak to Congress, and AEI will not suffer a loss of credibility because of this fiasco. If an assistant professor in a university wrote such nonsense, the person would never get tenure and would end up unemployed.
I guess if you have the backing of enough incredibly rich people, you can get away with almost anything.