US Ally Maliki & Octavia Nasr Both Praised Fadlallah

So help me understand this. Nuri al-Maliki, still the Iraqi prime minister for the moment, expressed his appreciation for the accomplishments of the late Grand Ayatollah Hussein Fadlallah:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki paid tribute for late Fadlallah, who provided the “Islamic library” with “tens of books in jurisprudence, interpretation and Islamic culture.” “He devoted his life for serving big Islamic causes in the front line during contemporary cultural and political struggle arenas,” said Maliki. While acknowledging the big loss in the Islamic world, Maliki said Fadlallah would remain a living example “that we all adthere to.”

The new Iraqi politics, which threw up and ensconced al-Maliki is fulsomely praised by the American right wing. David Frum, Bush’s speech writer who foisted on the US public that stupid and pernicious “axis of evil” phrase, asked after the March 7, parliamentary elections, “Will Iraq’s Democracy Vindicate Bush”?

But when Octavia Nasr of CNN tweets the same thing that al-Maliki said, , she is fired.

The whole conundrum only makes sense from an Israel Lobby point of view. It is better, the Israel lobbies in the US think, for al-Maliki to be in charge of Iraq than for Saddam Hussein to have been. Al-Maliki doesn’t actively funnel money to the Palestinians and is distracted by internal Iraq faction-fighting now that the Iraqi state and army have been destroyed. So that the new Shiite political elite in Baghdad reveres a figure like Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah is overlooked.

But with Ms. Nasr, it is not a comparative issue, it is an absolute one. No figure in US media is allowed to show any understanding of or appreciation for any aspect of the life and works of someone the Lobbies have decided must be demonized and vilified (and in Fadlallah’s case, preferably killed). Theirs is a politics of demonization and marginalization in which no rounded, considered judgment is permitted. Fadlallah had severe flaws, including his condoning of suicide bombings against Israelis. But he condemned the 9/11 attacks and the Morocco suicide bombings as pure terrorism, and that has to be reported, too. (It mostly wasn’t). And, he authorized Muslim women to actively defend themselves against domestic violence, which was the thing Nasr had in mind.

The firing of Nasr is just a latter-day privatized McCarthyism, a phenomenon increasingly corrosive of American civil liberties and which is not limited to (though it generally characterizes the tactics of) the more rightwing Israel lobbies.


For excellent essays in a similar vein, see Glenn Greenwald and also that of Stephen Walt

32 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    Perhaps after the Helen Thomas episode and the Octavia Nasr episode it is open season on Lebanese journalists.

  2. This is so silly. If a Catholic said it’s a shame Pope John Paul II died, does that automatically mean that he or she supports the Catholic church’s anti-gay, anti-birth-control stances and the exclusion of women from the clergy? I feel like America has a double standard for Muslims, maybe because they are seen as different and demonized to a ridiculous extent.

  3. So much for freedom of speech within the corporate media. Really sad. But hey, it exposes the way things are really are, in the MSM.

  4. Nasr’s firing is disheartening. Concerning the Middle East and Israel, Americans have little access to the facts of the matter. The only source is the information that this blog and its counterparts provide.

    Americans accept the tyranny they’re living under because propagandists point their attention toward trivialities.

    • With respect. Mr. Cole’s blog provides helpful insight on Grand Ayatollah Hussein Fadlallah’s life and death, and how matters pertaining to this are covered in the American media. He notes that “concerning the Middle East and Israel, Americans have little access to the facts of the matter. The only source is the information that this blog and its counterparts provide.” I would suggest that one useful counterpart is also the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Though not the highest circulation paper in Israel it is generally considered Israel’s most influential daily newspaper. The paper ran a respectful and informative article on Grand Ayatollah Hussein Fadlallah on July 5. See

      link to

      And just today, the paper also ran an article on Octavia Nasr’s firing from CNN. The online version has already received 98 responses!

  5. Juan please, an example of American Xenophobia and stupidity and you blame the “Israel lobby”. Remember what happened to the Dixie Chicks, look at how the Neo-Cons are still on talk shows and the “dirty hippies” who were right about how stupid their adventure was going to be are still not talked to. The American Right is fascist, stupid and zenophobic even when they aren’t marching in lock-step with Israels stupid, xenophobic right!

    • The comments are interesting, but . . .

      But nobody seems to notice that we do not have the most important set of facts, which is not whether all Lebanese journalists and terrysymps deserve to be dismissed, but exactly who calls whom and says what in order to make sure that they ARE dismissed.

      Happy days.

  6. Of course, the biases of an unreconstructed Zionist like Wolf Blitzer are not disqualifying. The mythos of Zionism starts to erode around the edges, and then the rock starts rolling down the mountain again.


  7. @ Qasim – Fully agree never liked her. This said did Octavia Nasr US media colleagues – and in particular those of CNN – went on strike in the name of the freedom of the press and opinion ? If not then please let them abstain denouncing the (supposed) lack of freedom in other countries and especially in the Southern hemisphere…

  8. I think that Nasr tweet: “one of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot” may be interpreted, if forced, as expressing respect for Hizbulla.

    On this point it should be said that for years most Israelis have a lot of respect for Hassan Naserallah and the organization he heads. They consider him a strong and truthful leader unlike their own. Maybe CNN should fire the Israelis for not being patriotic enough to their country?

    American tradition is supposed to cherish free speech and having respect for an enemy doesn’t show you are not patriotic. It’s not even clear if Fadlallah should be considered an enemy. I know the great USA is a client state of little Israel but hey aren’t you taking your role too seriously? We don’t give bonuses for extra zeal you know!

    And if I may go off topic it seems an India-like nuclear deal is cooked with another country that doesn’t like the NPT:

    link to

  9. Let me see. If an journalist said they admire Obama, Bush, or Netenyahu, would CNN fire them?

    No. Yet all these three people have blood on their hands.

    This incident shows that CNN is biased. If they were objective, either they’d fire nobody about their political views, or they’d fire everybody.

  10. I suggest there is a moral dimension here that is being ignored. Ever since Georgie boy was allowed to massively lie about Al Queda flying the planes of 9/11, engage in a ridiculous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Barack (never met a lie I wasn’t willing to tell) furthers Georgie’s positions, the American people, being willing to go along with this nonsense, have all become significantly immoral (incapable of taking proper actions; actions that lead to good results and people enjoying the processes of their activities). And in their state of immorality can’t tolerate a personal opinion that differ in any significant degree from any of the absurd delusions currently promoted by the status quo.

    If you make statements that are truly insane (think Charles Krauthammer), but which support any of the status quo’s delusions you are commended. But say something of which the status quo opposed, and it is eminently true, and you are vilified.

    I accept the Israeli government has a highly skilled p.r machine, but they are not responsible for every malfeasance committed by an American corporation. The current status quo view (their real view, not the lies they claim are true) is that all Moslems are terrible. So Ms Nasr must be severely punished. But don’t mourn her state too much. She may now find fulfilling work, and realize in retrospect it is impossible to have a single moment of pleasure working for a propaganda machine like CNN.

  11. israel lobby sure works fast, huh, Juan?

    Come on, if you’re going to praise a cleric/hezbollah, maybe don’t do it in a tweet. I read her longer explanation and it made much more sense, but what was she thinking when she posted that first message?

    Also, I didn’t know the new standard was that anything expressed by the Iraqi PM can be expressed by journalists. Not saying she should’ve been fired, but this was clearly a mistake on her part, followed by an overreaction from CNN.

    • 1. Nobody in American mass media reported that al-Maliki praised Fadlallah, nor did anyone criticize him for doing so, nor did anyone suggest that if pro-Fadlallah Da’wa activists took over Iraq under Bush’s watch maybe that has implications for how the Iraq enterprise should be interpreted. What I heard McCain say was that we ‘won’ the Iraq War.

      2. The dismissive comment about the ‘Israel lobby working fast’ is either uninformed or disingenuous. You think the Lobbies don’t have a rollodex? The threat of a consumer boycott or just a major negative PR campaign would be enough.

      3. The whole incident underlines that you often cannot get a balanced account of the life of a controversial figure such as Fadlallah from American corporate news, because news-for-profit is a creature of the market and shaped by market considerations.

    • Exactly who called who and when in this instance has been mentioned on several Web sites. It was quite clearly the Israeli Lobby, including Abe Foxman and AIPAC, that got Nasr fired.

      Google it.

      Nothing she said in her tweet or longer explanation was sufficient to justify firing her. The ONLY reason she was fired was because CNN can’t afford to anger the Israeli Lobby.

  12. Thanks to corporate media Americans are the most propagandized people in the free world. Unlike in the “not so free” countries, censorship and propaganda in the US is done not with laws but with economics. While we have freedom of speech and freedom of press written in laws, but we allow economic interest of the corporate media to control both.

    So, what is one to do? As for me, ever since Bushe’s Iraq war I have stopped patronizing the American mainstream media IN ANY FORM. That keeps my blood pressure low (I still can’t get over their hypocrisy) and thanks to the Internet it also keeps me much better informed. Let’s vote with our feet.

  13. Warren Metzler says:

    “If you make statements that are truly insane (think Charles Krauthammer), but which support any of the status quo’s delusions you are commended. But say something of which the status quo opposed, and it is eminently true, and you are vilified.”

    I’m not a historian but it seems to me Mr. Metzler describes an empire on the verge of collapse. Until this point the military superiority (half the planet’s military expenditure!) and economic superiority (a very vulnerable service economy) could compensate for policies that benefited only the big lobbies and created enemies all around the globe. Now the structure is carrying more than it can bear and the political engineers know it’s going to collapse but pretend everything is ok. The economy had already collapsed and left trillions in debts. The only way to pay the huge army is to print (i.e. counterfeit) money. Remember the USIC/NIC report saying the US is going to lose the status of sole superpower? My guess it’s going to be like Russia today.

    When the house is on the verge of collapse and people are absolutely quiet listening to every screech coming from the walls there comes Ms Octavia Nasr and in a cheerful voice asks: “Hi fellows, did you see the new palace built next door? They just finished another floor and are celebrating. I admire these people!”. You see? it’s a bit like the little child who couldn’t see the invisible new royal garments and cried that the king is naked! If the only man Ms Nasr finds admirable is a Lebanese Ayatollah then either she is blind to our greatness or we are not great anymore and deep inside we know it’s the second option.

    Obama is a brave man and he is aware of the dire situation. He is trying to save the US with conventional political methods but the big lobbies don’t let him. There is only one way he can succeed: start a full scale FBI investigation of the connection between Congress and the big lobbies. If done credibly most Congressmen will panic and distance themselves from the lobbies and allow rational legislation to pass quickly. The alternative is a painful decline.

  14. Mr. Cole,

    Nasr did not tweet “the same thing” that Maliki said. Maliki offered a nuanced praise of Fadhlallah’s contribution to Shi’a religious and political discourse. Nasr stated she respected him as one of “Hizballah’s giants”. Nasr seems to have missed the point that the entire reason Fadhlallah was widely respected in the arab world and beyond was precisely because he wasn’t “one of Hizballah’s giants”.

    That said, I agree that firing her on those grounds was silly and sets a dangerous precedent. The real take away from this is that Twitter is stupid and shouldn’t be used for anything more complex than ‘LOL at Lindsey Lohan’, or things of that nature

    • You do know the difference between a 140-character tweet and a PR release from a state official, right?

      How, exactly, was Nasr supposed to be “nuanced” in 140 characters?

      Which is one very excellent reason WHY she should not have been fired, even after she released a longer explanation which WAS nuanced.

      Whether she missed the point that Fadhlallah wasn’t precisely the Hizballah “mentor” the neocons accused him of being is not relevant. Fahdlallah DID have SOME connections to Hizballah, and that was how she figured people would see him and perhaps how she thought of him.

  15. Does anyone remember Eason Jordan’s being forced to resign from CNN in 2005 after he said that US troops had targeted journalists–this after the death of more than one journalist at our hands (and before the Wikileak video footage)? CNN strikes me as particularly conservative.

  16. Joseph McCarthy investigated government officials he believed to be security risks. But people constantly conflate his activities with the House Unamerican Activities Committee, which was set up in the 40s to harass isolationists (and serve as a weapon by Stalinists against Trotskyites). So if you accuse government officials of failing to do due diligence in protecting the interests of their country, you are closer to the tradition of senator McCarthy than those who try attack private figures for opinions they express.

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