Juan Cole sometimes shoots first and fact checks later if at all, so a quick post to set the record straight based on his post today:
A couple weeks ago, I published an essay, “Is Iraqi Kurdistan a Good Ally?” That essay, based on field work and interviews, was critical of some aspects of the Kurdish leadership, and positive toward others.
Hawlati, one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s two independent newspapers, published excerpts. These touched off a debate in Iraqi Kurdistan, in Baghdad, and in Dearborn about issues such as censorship, corruption, nepotism, and abuse-of-power in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Uncomfortable with such taboo subjects discussed openly, Talabani and Barzani threatened to sue the newspaper under an old Baath party press law that equates criticism with defamation. Juan Cole, who claims to be a defender of free speech, might want to think twice before cheerleading application of Baath party laws to independent newspapers.
Cole’s antipathy to people with whom he disagrees is great, but academics should not subvert the principle of freedom of the press in Iraqi Kurdistan or anywhere else to their own personal antipathy. Iraq should not be a template for personal or political grudges.
As to the rest of Cole’s suggestions: Close to the generals? I travel to the Middle East several times per year. When I go to Turkey, it is often to lecture at universities or present academic papers at conferences. In Istanbul and Ankara, I do meet generals. Sometimes I also meet colonels, majors, and privates. I also meet leaders of major political parties whether in power and in opposition, various government ministers, journalists and editors, professors, students, religious leaders, businessmen, and professionals, hang out in various neighborhoods including slums off the normal tourist track, and visit friends. It’s fieldwork. I do the same thing when I visit Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.
“Neoconservative operative”? What’s that mean, Juan? “Richard Perle faction?” What’s my relationship with Richard, Juan? FBI should investigate me for my time spent in OSD/ISA/NESA? For what, exactly? Drafting replies to Congressional letters? Taking notes at meetings? Writing talking points for NSC meetings? Doing the job that any desk officer does? For disagreeing with Juan Cole? The more you spout off labels and conspiracies, the more anyone with any experience in policy recognizes ignorance about the policy process.
Side note: Juan, be honest. Your September 4, 2004 demand that the FBI investigate a professor you disliked is what Yale insiders say led to university’s decision not to hire you. You often conflate McCarthyism with criticism. That’s not McCarthyism. McCarthyism is when you seek to use the engines of state—for example the FBI—to retaliate against those with whom you disagree. And you’ve just done it again.