Foreign Aid? In a story which the US media largely ignored, sources within the CIA say that the French government loaned two of its top chemists to Lebanese drug dealers early in 1988 as part of a deal to secure the release of three French hostages. The Toronto Star reported in mid-November 1989 that the French chemists provided technical assistance for processing heroin, in return for which the drug dealers used their good offices to get the hostages released a few months later. The same sources also insist that there was a secret cell within the CIA itself which was running a drugs-for-hostages operation. The agency is said to have permitted a powerful Syrian drug lord operating in Lebanon to smuggle large quantities of drugs into the United States in the belief that he could help secure the release of US citizens held hostage in Lebanon.

Higher Education? We never got too worked up when Allan Bloom and his ilk ranted about an alleged decline of standards in America’s universities. Then recently we came across some evidence for their contentions. Professor Fouad Ajami, often featured on “MacNeil/Lehrer” and “Nightline” as the US media’s favorite Arab voice, teaches a course called “Arab Political Thought” at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. We haven’t seen the whole course syllabus, but to judge from the assigned readings for October 11 and October 18, Professor Ajami has a peculiar notion of Arab political thought and what his students should know about it. The required reading for October 11 consists of a single article — “The Lost World of Arab Moderation: The King of Realism,” by Ajami himself — published in The New Republic last April. The following week’s assignment is another fine exemplar of Arab political thought, Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem. We can only guess what may come next — maybe an essay on the dynamics of Arab politics as revealed in that classic 1940 film, The Thief of Baghdad.

Filial Loyalty Speaking of crime in Baghdad, faithful readers may remember a bizarre story that appeared in this column. Iraqi President Saddam Hussain’s son Uday beat one of his father’s security guards to death, whereupon numerous lackeys of the regime (and even the victim’s own father) pleaded with Saddam to show mercy toward his erring but remorseful offspring. Now rumors circulating in Baghdad are helping make more sense of this strange incident. It is said (in a whisper, of course) that the slain bodyguard had been responsible for setting Saddam up with a woman who became his mistress and later his new wife, prompting the outraged Uday to resort to murder in defense of his mother’s honor.

Civilize or Else In a recent interview, Iraq’s information minister, Latif Nusayyif Jasim, insisted that not a single Kurd had been forced out of his or her home. Rather, residents of Kurdish villages within the “security seclusion areas” had been moved to new towns so that they might acquire “all the means of dignified life,” such as schools, electricity, clean water and good farmland. This was not displacement of Kurds, the minister stressed, but “upgrading the inhabitants’ civilization.”

The End Bush, Gorbachev and Shamir are summoned to heaven for an audience with God. Outraged by the mess humanity has made of his creation, God announces that he will destroy the world in a week. Shaken, the three leaders return to earth to break the news to their peoples. Bush tells his fellow Americans: “Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that, just as we’ve always believed, there is a God. The bad news is that he is going to destroy the world in a week’s time.” From Moscow, Gorbachev tells Soviet citizens: “I’m afraid that I’ve got some bad news and some worse news. First, in spite of everything we communists have always believed, God does exist. Even worse, he is going to destroy the world in a week.” Shamir, too, addresses his fellow Israelis: “I have some good news and some great news,” he tells his listeners. “First, just as we’ve been telling the world for thousands of years, there is a God. Second, I can now absolutely guarantee that the intifada will be over in one week.”

How to cite this article:

Al Miskin "Al Miskin," Middle East Report 162 (January/February 1990).

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