Tuesday, January 10, 2012
ALVY: Boy, those guys in the French Resistance were really brave….
ANNIE: I don't know, sometimes I ask myself how I'd stand up under torture.
ALVY: You? You kiddin'? If the Gestapo would take away your Bloomingdale's charge card, you'd tell 'em everything.”
--Woody Allen, “Annie Hall”
By Barry Rubin
A little man stood on the stage in a British university hall, meticulously dressed, looking just like the scholar that he was. To look at him you would think he was the embodied stereotype of timidity. It was 1980. Iraq had just invaded Iran and I was in Exeter, England, at an academic conference.
Though I hadn’t realized it before arriving, the meeting was sponsored by the Saddam Hussein government.
The speaker was Dr. Hanna Batatu, a Palestinian scholar who had spent much of his adulthood in the United States but at the time was living in Beirut. He was a Marxist who had written extensively about Iraq and Syria. His presentation was on Shia opposition groups in Iraq and he spoke about how and why they were opposing the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. Batatu didn't exaggerate or politicize the subject. He just spoke factually.
This lecture did not meet with great approval in the audience which was, I came to realize, sprinkled with Iraqi security personnel. A few chairs away from me a very tall man, very powerful looking man wearing bright yellow shoes and a suit the shade of blue that didn't belong on one. He looked like a man who usually wore clothes designed so that the blood came off in the wash. He towered over Batatu. And in broken English this thug said:
“You cannot say these things!”
And Batatu responded without hesitation:
“I am a free man and I can say whatever I want.”
To read the entire article click here
Posted by Rubin Center at 8:12 AM