Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's Official - Luttwack Is Full Of....

Well, semi-official, but the New York Times public editor has softly agreed with the idea that Edward Luttwack's smear of Obama was not "fit to print". Some of the column is amusing,
Many Times readers saw the article as irresponsible (“gasoline on the fire,” said Paul Trachtman of Tierra Amarilla, N.M.) or false (“Islam is not like our hair or the color of our skin, which we inherited from our parents,” said Ali Kamel of Rio de Janeiro). The blogosphere lit up with assertions that Luttwak did not know what he was talking about.
But you have to read down three more paragraphs before you find out, the blogosphere was right:
I interviewed five Islamic scholars, at five American universities, recommended by a variety of sources as experts in the field. All of them said that Luttwak’s interpretation of Islamic law was wrong.
Luttwack attempted to defend himself with reference to an anonymous scholar of Islam who... also seemed to believe Luttwack was wrong:
Interestingly, in defense of his own article, Luttwak sent me an analysis of it by a scholar of Muslim law whom he did not identify. That anonymous scholar also did not agree with Luttwak that Obama was an apostate or that Muslim law would prohibit punishment for any Muslim who killed an apostate. He wrote, “You seem to be describing some anarcho-utopian version of Islamic legalism, which has never existed, and after the birth of the modern nation state will never exist.”
The editor of the Op-Ed page, David Shipley, seems to be brimming with lame excuses for running anti-Obama propaganda:
David Shipley, the editor of the Op-Ed page, said Luttwak’s article was vetted by editors who consulted the Koran, associated text, newspaper articles and authoritative histories of Islam. No scholars of Islam were consulted because “we do not customarily call experts to invite them to weigh in on the work of our contributors,” he said.
What, exactly, did they consult? The collected works of Daniel Pipes? Really, I would like to hear the specifics.
Shipley, the Op-Ed editor, said he regretted not urging Luttwak to soften his language about possible assassination, given how sensitive the subject is. But he said he did not think the Op-Ed page was under any obligation to present an alternative view, beyond some letters to the editor.

I do not agree. With a subject this charged, readers would have been far better served with more than a single, extreme point of view. When writers purport to educate readers about complex matters, and they are arguably wrong, I think The Times cannot label it opinion and let it go at that.
I'm still wondering, how did Shipley decide that Luttwack's column was suitable to print in the first place? What was the process by which the column ended up in the New York Times? I suspect that story's at least as embarrassing as the fact that Luttwack was regurgitating the propaganda of Daniel Pipes.


  1. . . . but at least someone signed this one . . .


  2. True. Compare and contrast, this unsigned Washington Post stenography of Bush Administration talking points on the Iraq War.


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