What Can One Say About a Man Like Sayyed Fadlallah?


From Matt Duss, my favorite snide reaction (so far) to the war party protest ousting of Octavia Nasr from her CNN gig (mentioned in today's Daily Links here at Hit and Run) for saying she had respect for dead Iraqi cleric Sayyed Fadlallah:

The punchline here is that Sayyed Fadlallah was the religious guide, or marja' al-taqlid, to numerous members of Iraq's ruling Da'wa Party, including Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This means that they looked to Fadlallah as a source of religious authority on matters relating to correct Islamic life and practice, and committed to following his edicts on those matters. It also meant that, in October 2008, when Fadlallah (along with several other ayatollahs) condemned the U.S.-Iraq security agreement in its then-current form and decreed that any agreement should call for an unconditional withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, the agreement had to be re-negotiated.

As I wrote at the time, the power of these ayatollahs to effectively scuttle an agreement of significant import to the security of the United States throws into stark relief what the Bush administration created in Iraq: a government dominated by Shia religious parties who take their guidance — and derive much of their legitimacy — from the opinions and edicts of a small handful of senior Shia clerics.

That aside, here's the neocon logic, as best I can explain: When a reporter acknowledges the passing of a revered, if controversial figure in a way that doesn't sufficiently convey what a completely evil terrorist neocons think that figure was — that's unacceptable. But when the United States spends nearly a trillion dollars, loses over four thousand of its own troops and over a hundred thousand Iraqis to establish a new government largely dominated by that same "terrorist's" avowed acolytes — that's victory.

Applying lessons from Das Weigelkrise to MSM thinking: one must express in one's off-spotlight communications neither lack of respect nor respect for those one is expected to cover objectively.

NEXT: Parasitic Tort Lawyers

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  1. “Applying lessons from Das Weigelkrise”


    1. Yeah, he’s got me beat.

    2. What is “Weigelkrise” and why does the author use the wrong article? Google didn’t help.

  2. Careful, Brian, you’re going to end up on the same fatwa list as Nick. I don’t want to spend the cruise dodging RPGs.

  3. I tend to refrain from openly admiring guys who advocate people blowing themselves up to kill other people. And I’m not even in the public eye.

    Just one of those life missions of mine.

    1. So if we can respect Reagan, who supported terrorists and terrorism in Central America, why is it wrong to respect Fadlallah?

      1. I can respect his efforts in some instances. However, I don’t think Ronnie told anyone it was their duty to strap explosives to their as and go kill jews.

        I could be wrong on this, but I’m fairly confident in that assertion. So yes, removal from a situation and direct endorsement do make a difference.

        I hope by “we” you mean you and the mouse in your pocket. Because there isn’t a whole lot Reagan did that I respect.

        1. Sorry about the “we.” I was speaking collectively. Too much soma this morning, maybe.

          I don’t know that Fadlallah actually said it was anyone’s duty to commit suicide bombings, but he certainly did defend suicide bombers as a means of the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, which is pretty awful.

          But the point is that the same people who revere Reagan despite his actual material support for terrorists, will condemn this guy – and anyone who says they respected him – for his support of terrorists.

          But it’s not really surprising.

          1. “…as a means of ENDING the Israeli occupation…” damn soma.

          2. I wouldn’t argue with that. People do it all the time. I don’t necessarily condemn anyone who endorses an individual despite some despicable actions. One of the reasons I tend to endorse actions and not individuals, people are flawed and always will be. Which makes endorsing individuals or elevating individuals to some higher status a tricky and dangerous thing.

            I still think that being the head of the Middle Eastern news division I wouldn’t be saying what a swell guy he was. It shows a lack of forethought in both posting it and thinking it.

  4. This is a dick move, CNN. They probably encouraged her to have a Twitter account in the first place, and whole point of Twitter (to the limited extent there is a point to Twitter) is to fire off brief, spontaneous messages. I’m sure CNN benefits from their staff being all hip and social-media’d, and part of what makes that work is being free to express opinions, personality, emotions, etc.

    All the opinion policing is just one more reason I’m so fed up with the big news factories.

    1. Or it could be some insight into the people being hired. People that are either too stupid to realize the ramifications of their statements or people that now feel comfortable in saying some pretty stupid shit oenly.

      1. I’ve never known CNN to care about their employees saying stupid shit openly.

        1. point and match

    2. I think a professional reporter should be aware that publishing is publishing, even if the comment is under 140 characters.

  5. I’m an unabashed supporter of Israel, but I really don’t think she said anything that bad. She said she respected the man; not admired him.

    It was hardly a Helen Thomas moment.

  6. I can’t find it in myself to give a fuck what CNN does with its shitty employees.

    1. I will lazily agree with this in the customary way:


    2. I this now.

  7. Let me add as a neocon apologist — the notion the elected Dawa/SCIRI officials in Iraq still bow to Hizbollah and their philosophically violent masters in Qom is very flawed. They were certainly allies of convenience when their common enemy Saddam ran the place, but practically the first thing they did when Saddam fell was change their fealty to the quietists under Sistani in Najaf; even Shia Iraqi voters aren’t very fond of Qom, while Sunnis and Kurds have a visceral, even paranoid hatred for them.

    Anyways, the secularists made major gains in the last election, so “dominate” is also a bit tendentious.

    And free press, open elections, right to assemble, opened economy, blah blah, liberties libertarians like.

    1. Free press, open elections, right to assemble will last for as long as the American troops are there. Not one day more. Open economy might last for longer, and in some industries maybe forever (Iraq exporting oil and buying weapons, as it was under, ta-daaa, Saddam in the 1980s).
      Whoever is in charge when the US leaves, Shia or Sunni, secular or theocratic, will remain in charge for the next 50 years in an authoritarian fashion. Their particular background will paint the regime with different shades, but all the liberties gained in 2003 will soon be lost.

      1. “Liberties gained?” Come again?

        1. I will grant TallDave that there is a freer press, elections and rights of assembly now than there were during Saddam. Not that I think those are reason enough for the war.

          1. Free press, open elections, right to assemble will last for as long as the American troops are there. Not one day more.

            Well, the ISF pretty much run the show already. Our guys are mostly relegated to training.

            I agree freedom won’t last in Iraq or anywhere without eternal vigilance, but I think it will be hard to go back to anything like what they had before. That same ethnosectarian conflict that fuelled low-level civil war also means there will be a lot of distrust of anyone consolidating power, we’ve midwifed some basic liberal institutions, and Sistani has blessed the enterprise.

            The most striking thing from the last elections was that Allawi’s nationalist coalition attracted so many Shia. Iraq has at least moved beyond strict representative tribalism.

            As for whether freedom is worth war… it’s always a difficult question, and the answer often looks different at different times. Most Union soldiers were bitter about dying to free the Negros, while the lilberal swathe of the Iranian revolutionaries in 1979 birthed a monster amid hopes of something better.

            1. TallDave gets it very right. Iraq is at a point where it has a pretty damn good chance of self-sustaining its liberty. The ‘domination’ of the Iraqi government by hostile Shia factions is an outdated argument often used by non-interventionist opponents of the war that betrays the weakness of their position.

  8. bitch was set up

  9. Mini-uproars like this seem like an excuse for the true believers to get their panties in a wad. Sure, it’s fun to prove your terrorist-hatin’ bone fides, but what does it really accomplish? The offending party probably doesn’t love it when innocent people get killed, and even if they did, browbeating them isn’t going to change that.

    It’s like when a certain type likes to lob the “misogynist!!1!” label at anyone who’s anti-abortion. As misguided as I may think they are, they probably don’t actively hate women, and even if they did, no amount of righteous indignation on my part will change that. It’s just ideological masturbation.

    1. I agree with this.

      1. But ideological masturbation sure does feel good.

  10. Is there anything “But…Bush!” doesn’t sanction?

    To this non-practicing neocon-by-birth, it was specifically the fawning-over-a-genocidal-army-dude part of the fawning that suggested that the fawner was maybe ausflippen-y in a way that should unjobben her, since the job involved not being a fucking psychopath.

    The Weigel lesson that applies is “Shut up or someone’s going to notice that you’re insane.”

  11. The idea that the dreaded “neocons” could possibly pressure CNN into getting rid of some obscure long time employee that 99.99% of Americans have never even heard of is beyond laughable.

    I’ll bet anything there’s more to this story than we know and they were already looking for a reason to cut her loose. They’re so far down in the toilet they probably need to do anything they can to save money.

  12. The beauty of not being a neocon is that you can simultaneously believe the War in Iraq was stupid and this reporter was stupid.

    1. “?” said it better.

  13. There goes CNN, promoting the neo-con agenda again.

  14. Bill Kristol says that CNN must pay me $1 million dollars.

    When can I expect payment?

    Neocons rule.

  15. You know what?

    I’m sure there are any number of former SALT negotiators who could look at the guys on the other side they negotiated with for thirty years, and could pick out one of them who was easiest to work with or who fucked around the least and say, “I always respected that guy.”

    Would that be “a stupid thing to say”? Would that show “an inability to be objective about communism”?

    This is just more keyboard commando bullshit. The farther you are from ever actually interacting with any of our so-called “enemies”, the easier it is to jump up and down about how all of them are totally DA EVILZ.

    I bet they are no good-looking people in Hezbollah, either.

    “Wow, that chick is pretty hot.”


    1. Leaving aside the frothy goodness of hyperbole, you do make a good point in your first paragraph.

      1. For some reason, he keeps conflating politicians and diplomatic types with employees being paid to work for private companies. It’s not a very good point at all.

        1. CNN can hire and fire whoever they want.

          But when they’re doing so because they’re cowards, I certainly can comment on it.

        2. And also, please explain in exact detail the precise reasons why it makes a difference if a diplomat is speaking or if an employee of a private company is speaking.

          It might make a difference to the goals of their employers, but it wouldn’t make one single bit of difference to whether or not the statement under analysis was reasonable.

      2. I don’t think it’s hyperbole at all.

        I think the dynamic here is pretty clear.

        Because Hezbollah is The Enemy, a phalanx of people is on perpetual patrol to make sure no one Undermines Public Will by expressing any thought that reflects positively on any member or purported member of The Enemy. Because we must all Continually Demonstrate Rigor and all of that fucking nonsense.

        1. I agree with you, Fluffy. You make a very good point.

        2. Maintaining vigilance against Evil is not nonsense. Your post on the other hand…

    2. Fluffy, I haven’t watched CNN in years, and I haven’t read much on this case, so I don’t have strong feelings about it. However your insistence that people should be able to say good things about opponents surprises me. In the several years that I’ve read Reason, I can’t recall you ever saying something good about neocons or Republicans. You really should turn the mirror arround.

      1. jtuf, I think he has. My guess is that Fluffy has probably lauded individual Republicans who have supported liberty in given situations.

  16. What is either overlooked or outright ignored in this discussion is that Nasr was CNN’s Senior Editor of Mideast affairs. She had enormous influence over CNN’s coverage of middle eastern affairs. She exposed her bias by stating the following –

    “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah? One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot,”

    CNN rightfully feared that this would explain the curious pro-hezbollah views that occasionally infect CNN’s reporting, especially during the war in Gaza. The media made Israel out to be some crazed war-mongering nation when they were simply trying to get people to stop shooting rockets at them.

    The exposure of Nasr’s views clearly made CNN nervous for the right reasons.

    1. If Benjie dies tonight, and someone tomorrow says that Netanyahu was “one of Israel’s giants that I respected a lot” would that mean that the person could not be trusted to cover the Middle East any more?

      1. You don’t have to answer, because I know the answer is “Of course not, because pro-Israel bias is OK, since that’s the policy of our government and the responsibility of every true patriot and every patriotic news organization.”

      2. If Benjie had said his last dying wish was “the vanishing of Palestine” or something stupid like that, then yes.

        Fadlullah wanted the extermination of the state of Israel, which is the stated goal of both Hamas and Hezbollah. If you support either of these groups, you by extension agree that their main goal is worthy and should be supported.

        1. And Tman shows up on schedule to act out my caricature and show Timon that I wasn’t employing hyperbole at all.

          1. So do you support Hezbollah and Hamas Fluffy?

            Do you have a quote from Benjie stating we should “exterminate the Arabs”?

            Or are you creating a strawman caricature to avoid dealing with the fact that Hezbollah and Hamas and their “spiritual leader” Fadlullah were openly calling for genocide?

            If being anti-genocide and against the extermination of Israel makes me have a “pro-Israel bias” then so be it. But I will have a “pro-{insert nation here} bias” for any nation that is threatened by terrorist groups that call for genocide of their enemy.

            Pick a side tough guy.

            1. You’re still doing it.

              My point here has ALWAYS been that it is possible to have respect for an enemy, because among one’s enemies it’s likely that there will be a range of human types, and there will usually be at least one guy who is more honest, more chivalrous, or more whatever than the others. And that it’s not uncustomary to talk about “respecting” that enemy, as even Churchill did.

              And that this episode is what it is because psychotic infants jump on any positive reference to any member of The Enemy as evidence that the person expressing the thought is not demonstrating Proper Revolutionary Discipline.

              Which is exactly what you are doing now.

              So now no one can say I used hyperbole, or that people don’t really act like that, or that it’s somehow more complicated than what I’m saying. Because you decided to jump up as Exhibit A.

              1. I don’t “respect” anyone who openly calls for genocide, regardless of how formidable they may seem.

                You are inserting ridiculous equivalency arguments to avoid dealing with the fact that Hezbollah is not a group to be “respected”, especially when you are the Senior Editor for CNN’s middle east bureau.

                I also don’t “respect” Ted Kennedy despite his formidable legacy because of what he did at Chappaquiddick.

                And yes, I think that any positive reference to Hezbollah is ignorant garbage that ignores their stated main goal of the extermination of Israel.

                Lipstick, meet pig.

              2. Fluffy, please point to the times when you praised Republicans or neocons. Otherwise, you are a hypocrit.

                1. I actually attended pro-Bush demonstrations during the Bush v. Gore dispute.

                  It turned out my pro-Bush stance was mistaken. But it did exist temporarily.

                  And I have said many good things about Ron Paul, Tom Coburn, Gary Johnson – I’ve even said occasional good things about Sarah Palin.

            2. Likud’s stated goal is an ethnic Jewish state in the whole of the former King David’s Israel.

              Yes, most of their adherents and voters know they are probably not going to get it, and yes, even that state wouldn’t require exterminating the Arabs (only pushing them beyond that border). But it is no more taking a side to admit respect for Fadlallah than for Bibi. Now endorsement of their program, that is different. The same way I can respect some politicians right where I live without meaning I endorse them or will vote for them.

              1. Ok fine.

                I respect the fact that Fadlallah was a genocidal maniac who influenced others to do horrible things.

                Is that what you mean Fluffy?

                1. I’m just going to award you with victory right here.

              2. Oh please. Israel has 1 million Muslim citizens that enjoy equality under the law. Brush up on your facts before you write.

                1. I said “stated goal” and I said “probably not going to get it”.

                  If I encountered, in the USA, a White Nationalist and an Aztlanist both claiming the same territory for their Peoples, their respective political realism or penchant for violence would influence who I consider decent, but it distracts none from their stated goal.

    2. Gee, and why would they be shooting rockets at Israel? Surplus rockets? al-fourth al-july?

  17. Just put this all in perspective: Churchill stood on the floor of the UK Parliament and expressed admiration for the Nazis, even as he was set on destroying them.

  18. I think what doomed her is the phrase “one of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” It’s sort of like (forgive the Godwinism) “Werner Von Braun, one of Nazism’s science giants I respect a lot.” Even if admiring von Braun is not beyond the pale, the particular phrasing kind of makes you wonder who the others are, exactly, and what they’re admired for.

    1. Yep, it was just poor phrasing. Although she didn’t help her tweet by adding in a that he was a Hezbollah feminist great, just a Hezbollah great.

  19. The guy was a, hmm, holocaust deflater or denier (hard to tell) from what I can tell. I just don’t have much respect for people who willfully ignore reality like that.

    As for the reporter … the entire news apparatus of the cable channels, major newspapers, etc. blows, so this is just another symptom of that sort of thing.

    Greenwald on media transparency:…..index.html

  20. Hezbollah is an organization dedicated to driving the Jews into the sea. This guy was a big wheel in Hezbollah.

    Calling him a “giant” certainly smacks of approval going beyond mere respect. Respect can be given to friends and foes alike, but you don’t usually refer to people whose life work you think is reprehensible as “giants”.

    1. Since she’s a Lebanese Christian, who aren’t exactly natural allies with Hezbollah, I think it’s much more likely she was calling him a giant in the way I might call Ted Kennedy a giant.

      1. But what exactly is she?

        Maronite and Roman Catholic Lebanese are pro-Western for historical reasons. So are Protestants (mostly converted from either in the last two centuries).

        But Coptic and (Greek) Orthodox Lebanese Christians are more ambivalent, and some have allied with Shias at different times. IIRC, there is an Orthodox party in the coalition Hezbollah leads.

      2. Please Fluffy, what neocons do you think are giants?

        1. William Buckley was a giant.

          He was a segregationist, and a traitor to the cause of liberty at the end of the day. But he was a giant. And I can say that I “respected” him, insofar as he was an intellectual force and stood against the welfare state at a time when it was ascendant.

        2. Another person I respect despite a lack of ideological affinity would be Poppa Bush.

          He combines a lot of the worst elements of the Rockefeller Republicans and the neocons, but I think he was a sincere public servant.

    2. No, not really. For instance, you would agree that most of us here would find Stalin’s life work to be reprehensible, no? Would you also agree that one would not be inaccurate to call Stalin a “giant” in the field of totalitarianism?

    3. Sure, sure. I just think people generally reserve the word “giant” for people they actually admire, rather than merely respect.

      I suspect that Fluffy would not actually refer to Ted Kennedy as a “giant” because Fluffy does not really admire Ted Kennedy.

      Of course, this is all in the context of someone who just died, when people go out of their way to be nice, too.

      1. Even if you thought “good riddance” to yourself, it isn’t very polite to say it in any public fashion. Though I doubt it was just a case of overdoing it. More likely she did respect him as a person even if not for his politics, and the phrasing was unfortunate.

  21. My last post was a response to RC. Obviously Flufffy is making the same point.

  22. Did they ever rescind Yasir Arafat’s Nobel Peace Prize?

    Can we fire those guys next?

  23. “sad to hear of the passing of Rudolf Hess? One of Nazi Germany’s giants I respect a lot.”


    “sad to hear of the passing of Albert Speer? One of Nazi Germany’s giants I respect a lot.”

    it was tweeted oddly. She seems fair minded and firing her over it does seem harsh, but it is just one of those things.

    Reminds me of ESPN firing Paul Shirley for blogging his opinion on Haiti be responsible for Haiti after the earthquake.

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