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Steve Plaut: Response to Juan Cole's Response

Steve Plaut, at frontpagemag.com (3-29-05):

The new head of the Middle East Studies Association, Professor Juan Cole from the University of Michigan, has responded on his own web page to the in-depth expose of his bias I published recently in Frontpage Magazine. In that article, Cole’s long history of distortion, ignorance, and bias was carefully documented. In particular, I challenged the Cole Doctrine, which holds that all terrorism is due to “occupation.” I showed that most terrorism has nothing to do with “occupation,” that most occupation does not cause terrorism, and that terrorism is more often the cause than the consequence of “occupation.”

Cole is apparently unable to defend his record against the criticism contained in my piece and instead complains, in a column on his own web page, that he was a “victim” of a “GoogleSmear.” By this he means critical analysis of what he writes, which then gets cited and reposted on the web, something he dislikes (but can’t answer). He is upset when web commentators publish correctives to his extremist and unfounded views, and then these show up whenever someone googles his name in the web’s best known search engine.

But more importantly, this is all a bit like the libelous pot calling the kettle black. Cole’s habitual response whenever anyone exposes his errors and bias is to whine that he is being “smeared.” But Cole has a long history of smearing and threatening respected scholars like Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer, who – unlike Cole – are careful with the facts. “Googlesmearing” -- as opposed to the fact-filled documented analysis I wrote in the above FPM article -- is hardly a “new way of discrediting a political opponent,” as Cole described it. Indeed, Cole and his leftist friends have been doing it for years.

In his attempt to defend his indefensible record, Cole writes, “The GoogleSmear depends on subtle changes of wording that make the individual sound like an idiot.” In all candor, we do not think anyone needs word changes nor Google to assist in making Juan Cole sound like an idiot. Noam Chomsky has said, “Juan Cole is a very serious and knowledgeable analyst.” Need we say more.

Cole’s “idiot” reference is actually meant to refer to a small piece of my original article (before I corrected it), which mistook a spoof of what Cole writes for the real thing. But what does it say about Cole that’s hard to tell the difference? In any case, unlike Cole, I am happy to acknowledge an error when I make it, since it is not – as it is with him – the very substance of my discourse.

No sooner does Cole complain about “dubious facts” in the Frontpage piece about him and about his being a victim of “GoogleSmear” than he himself decides to illustrate GoogleSmear for his readers by performing it against me. Thus, his first and main defense of his good name is to repeat a lie about myself invented earlier this week by his crony, superior ship’s officer, and editor at antiwar.com, Dennis “Justin” Raimondo. Cole clearly regards Raimondo as a legitimate, authoritative source of information, while complaining that his critics rely on dubious sources. We counted 14,400 web pages in which the names Juan Cole and Justin Raimondo appear together.

One is known by the company that one keeps and Cole keeps intimate company with Raimondo, who is best known for fabricating a conspiracy theory reprinted on neonazi web sites all over the Internet about how Jews supposedly knocked down the World Trade Center to make poor bin Laden look bad. Raimondo has even self-published this theory as a “book.” Cole obviously has no problems being associated with a crackpot like Raimondo nor with citing his libelous ravings as “authoritative.” And then he complains that we at Frontpage Magazine are responsible for his own damaged reputation.

Cole rests the better part of his “self-defense” on labeling me “an Israeli defender of the terrorists (sic) around the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane,” the fellow who set up the Jewish Defense League. So what is the source of this invention reported with scholarly seriousness by Professor Juan Cole? Why, it is Justin Raimondo himself, of course! In fact, Cole thanks Raimondo profusely on his web page for smearing me as a supposed Kahanist.

The only problem is that I am not. Raimondo’s evidence for this smear against me is that he googled my name and the word “Kahanist” together, and discovered two articles of mine in which I used the word “Kahanist” in the text. But that was all he found. In neither article did I express any support for the Kahanists or Kahanism. Talk about Googlesmears! Cole, also accuses me of posting comments under a false name on a web bulletin board and accuses me of using illegal drugs, which is equally fanciful and absurd.

Not only have I never been a Kahanist, but - on the contrary - I have been a critic of Kahane and his organization for well over 30 years, and have been attacked by the Kahane movement on more than one occasion. But such facts cannot be expected to deter the scholarly head of the Middle East Studies Association, Juan Cole, and his conspiracist mentor Raimondo in their zeal to discredit my analysis of Cole's actual positions and performance. Cole, by the way, is as fond of infantile conspiracist “theories” as Raimondo, and – again like his mentor – likes to spread anti-Jewish libels. Both Raimondo and Cole have a habit of responding to any documentation of their lies by shrieks and slanders and with threats.

Cole never quite gets around to addressing the main criticism against him that appeared in my FPM article, namely that his theory that “terrorism is caused by occupation” is without empirical foundation. In his column, he simply repeats his "theory" that occupation produces terrorism, whereas in fact the reverse is more commonly the case.

If the Cole Doctrine were true, why did the illegal Chinese occupation of Tibet not produce terrorism? – that was one of the many questions I asked in my column attacking Cole’s “theory”! Cole responds on his web page: because "the Tibetan population was not socially mobilized," adding, "the Chinese government certainly saw the Kampa revolt of 1959 to be a terrorist action." Actually, a handful of Kampas struggled against the Maoist colonialists, starting in 1951. Leave it up to a socially-mobilized apologist for Maoism like Cole to denounce these Kampa rebels, who never targeted civilians, as terrorists, while Hizbollah and Hamas – real terrorist organizations that embrace Osama’s jihad – are legitimate anti-occupation protest movements in Juan Cole’s eyes.

Cole then adds: "The Zionist Right maintains that you can't criticize Israeli violations of basic human rights and international law until you first criticize all the other 188 countries in the world." Cole is not too far off this time. Human rights are a hundred times better respected and protected in Israel than in the next-best Middle East countries and better than in close to 188 others. Someone who harps constantly on supposed human rights abuses by Israel – which is a way to demonize and delegitimize Israel, a country under threat of annihilation from the Arab dictatorships Cole supports - while ignoring human rights in other countries is acting in behalf of malevolent political agendas.

It is exactly like those who shrieked in the late 1930s about human rights abuses of ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia, while ignoring the fact the human rights record of Czechoslovakia was far better than in the countries seeking to delegitimize and destroy it. Professor Cole resents anyone questioning his real motives. Does he really imagine that his bluster against the “Zionist Right” will hide his attempts to promote the agendas of the anti-Semitic Left?

Cole takes sanctimonious exception to the fact that I referred to the Sudanese murdering people in southern Sudan as "Arabs" and noted that those being massacred in Sudan are black Africans. The ruling classes in Sudan consist of people who speak Arabic, are Moslems, run a program of coerced "Arabization" in the country, and Sudan is a member of the Arab League. Their victims are black Africans, even if much of the Sudanese murdering class is also black.

After raising the Sudan race issue, which was never mentioned at all in the Frontpage piece criticizing him, Cole insists that this proves that "The rightwing Zionists want to racialize the Sudan conflict." We wonder how many people are capable of reading Cole's web site without the constant need to shout "Huh??!!" By the way, lots of Israeli Jews are black also. What does that make them, Professor Cole, well - besides right-wing Zionists?

Standing back to view the man whom the leftwing Middle Eastern experts on America’s college campuses have made the quarterback of their anti-American game plan, here is Cole’s view of bin Laden and 9-11 and the war on terror, taken from Raimondo’s site, where Cole has published many articles:

"The attack on the World Trade Center was exactly analogous to Pearl Harbor. The Japanese generals had to neutralize the U.S. fleet so that they could sweep into Southeast Asia and appropriate Indonesian petroleum.... Likewise, al-Qaeda was attempting to push the United States out of the Middle East so that Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia would become more vulnerable to overthrow, lacking a superpower patron. Secondarily, the attack was conceived as revenge on the United States and American Jews for supporting Israel and the severe oppression of the Palestinians.... Ironically, however, the Bush administration then went on to invade Iraq for no good reason."

He then adds:

"Al-Qaeda has succeeded in several of its main goals. It had been trying to convince Muslims that the United States wanted to invade Muslim lands, humiliate Muslim men, and rape Muslim women. Most Muslims found this charge hard to accept. The Bush administration's Iraq invasion, along with the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, was perceived by many Muslims to validate bin Laden's wisdom and foresight.... The U.S. is not winning the war on terror. Al-Qaeda also has by no means won. But across a whole range of objectives, al-Qaeda has accomplished more of its goals than the U.S. has of its."

In sum, the more Cole complains about those who criticize his extremist political agenda, his undeniable bias, and his general absence of scholarship, the more he proves how correct in fact they are.