George Packer is a phony
Both Fouad Ajami and George Packer made an appearance across from each other on the Charlie Rose Show on September 13. Ajami, who has been logging in the hours trying to get a clearer story out of Iraq, sounded far more authoritative on the topic than Packer. A week later, Packer used his pulpit at the New Yorker to punch holes into Ajami’s credibility by castigating him, in effect, as a Shiite nationalist.
With Ajami, something else is at work. Of Lebanese Shiite origin, he has a deep knowledge of Middle Eastern politics…This isn’t a case of the normal heartlessness of abstract thought. The Journal piece, along with his recent work in The New Republic, make it clear that Ajami has taken sides in Iraq, and that his pleasure comes from his sense that his side is winning…But Ajami is already declaring victory, because it turns out that he has a different idea altogether: Shiite Arab power.But there was one little-noticed moment in that TV interview (begins 11 minutes into the linked video) that should speak volumes about Packer’s own credibility: Charlie Rose mistakenly introduced both speakers “both of you were recently in Iraq.” That’s true for Ajami, but not for Packer who hasn’t been to Iraq in a very long while. Yet Packer did not correct Rose and allowed that badge of authenticity—doing one’s homework and seriously reporting the story by going to Iraq—to stand.
Let’s just say that when it comes to psychoanalyzing the motivations and opinions of others, Packer is credibility-challenged. Case in point is his book, The Assassins’ Gate (2005), which rehashes third-hand gossip about individuals involved in the Iraq War from sources whose affiliations (…or sectarian backgrounds) are not clarified in the least.
It’s a low blow at Ajami, much like denouncing American Jews as closet spies for Israel. But Packer, and other hand-wringers, belong to a style of journalism that places more value on getting invited to hip Manhattan cocktail parties (…everyone knows that Bush-hating sophisticates have more fun) than reporting the facts.
George Packer owes us full genealogical disclosure up to his 11th great-grandfather (…both paternal and maternal), for we have no way of understanding his opinions and where he’s coming from unless we know all there is to know about his ancestry. I wonder how many times his ancestors changed their stripes to stay within the good graces of the mainstream… Marranos? Doenme? Bogomils? Maybe they were Shiites! One standing accusation against Shiites is their use of taqiyya, dissembling one’s faith so as not to be controversial…