Kanan Makiya

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Iraqi pundit used to push propaganda prior to the US-Iraq war. He is one of the names pushed by Benador Associates. He is a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, and a professor at Brandeis Univ. He is the Director of the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at the Center for Middle East Studies at Harvard University and a past fellow (February-June 1995) of the National Endowment for Democracy's International Forum for Democratic Studies. [1] He is also a founder of the Iraq Memory Foundation.[2]

Brandeis Univ. Vitae

Kanan Makya, the Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies was born in Baghdad, left Iraq to study architecture at M.I.T, later joining Makiya Associates to design and build projects in the Middle East. In 1981, he left the practice of architecture and began to write a book about Iraq. Republic of Fear (1989), became a best-seller after Saddam Husain's invasion of Kuwait. Makiya's next book, The Monument (1991), is an essay on the aesthetics of power and kitsch. Both Republic of Fear and The Monument were written under the pseudonym, Samir al-Khalil. Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising and the Arab World (1993), was published under Makiya's own name. It was awarded The Lionel Gelber Prize for the best book on international relations published in English in 1993. Along with these books, Makiya has written for The Independent, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement and The Times. In October 1992, he acted as the convenor of the Human Rights Committee of the Iraqi National Congress, a transitional parliament based in northern Iraq. He has collaborated on two films for television, the most recent of which exposed for the first time the 1988 campaign of mass murder in northern Iraq known as the Anfal. The film was shown in the U.S. under the title Saddam's Killing Fields, and received the Edward R. Morrow Award For Best Television Documentary On Foreign Affairs in 1992.[3]

"His most recent publication is a reflection on Arab politics in the collection "The Fight is for Democracy: Winning the War of Ideas in America and the World," published in 2003 by Harper Collins." [4]

From an interview with Edward Said

Interview with Edward Said conducted by Nabeel Abraham[3]:

Nabeel Abraham: Last April, Iraqi-born Kanan Makiya's Cruelty and Silence was hailed by Geraldine Books in the Wall Street Journal as "one of the most important books ever written on the state of modern Middle East" (7 April 1993, p. A12). New York Times Columnist A.M. Rosenthal described the author as “an Iraqi writer who speaks for freedom” (13 April, p. A13). Writing in the New Yorker, Michael Massing linked Makiya to Emile Zola (26 April, P.114). The work was also favorably mentioned in the New Republic, Dissent, and elsewhere.

The Nation excerpted it, and recently Edward Mortimer gave the work a fairly positive review in the New york Review of Books (May 27, p.3). Makiya was interviewed on the highly regarded Fresh Air Program on National Public Radio.

Do you see any connection between the attention the book received and its message?

Edward Said: Yes. A widespread ignorance of and hostility toward Arab culture already exists. Then somebody who seems knowledgeable comes along and writes as if from within, and trashes it. Such a work is going to be very popular.

NA: You were cited by a number of reviewers – Rosenthal, Brooks, and several others – who seized on Makiya claim that Arab intellectuals have been silent on the crimes of Arab rulers, preferring instead to blame the West for Arab society's ills. Whats your reaction? Were Arab intellectuals silent?

ES: No. What is particularly scurrilous about the book and about Makiya himself are two things about which he is deliberately misleading. One is that all the intellectuals he attacks are in fact the most vocal in opposition to the current regimes in the Middle East. What Makiya does is literally mistranslate their Arabic, misrepresent their views, distort their opinions. Why? Principally because all of them opposed the Gulf war at the same time that they all opposed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. And out of this concoction Makiya has tried to make a larger case, which is completely without basis, that Arab intellectuals are silent. With a few exceptions, all the intellectuals he attacks have been imprisoned, and/or exiled for speaking out; in the case of Abdelrahman Munif [Cities of Salt (New York: Vintage Books, 1989)], the man was stripped of his nationality by the Saudis because of his works. Munif is therefore far braver than Makiya, who sits pretty, wherever he is.

None of the reviewers so far, not even so-called experts who don't read the language (like Mortimer), who know nothing about the Arab world except clichés and stereotypes (like Brooks), who detest the Arabs (like Rosenthal), is in any position at all to judge whether Makiya is telling the truth or not, and they're too lazy to check.

Moreover, the second point is that in the late 1960s and early 1970s Makiya was a card-carrying Trotskyist, a member of the Fourth International. He used a pseudonym then. Then he switched sides and during the during the early 1980s he and his father, who own a firm called Makiya Associates, were employed by President Saddam Hussein to build a large number of buildings and projects, including a military parade ground for the observation of Saddam's birthday in Tikrit [Saddam's hometown], so he benefited from his connection with the Iraqis. And it was during this time that he used his second pseudonym, Samir al-Khalil, to write Republic of Fear [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989].

Makiya worked for Iraq, he was part of the Ba'athist regime, he has profited from Iraq, whereas none of the people he cited – especially me, because I never went to Iraq or accepted any invitations to do so – has had such connections. So the book is in effect a tremendous coverup for himself. And all the information about Makiya Associates and so forth that I've mentioned here, was published in a New Yorker profile a year and a half ago [6 January 1992]. But, interestingly, none of the reviewers refers to it, as if it had no relevance. Makiya's whole book is about collaboration and complicity, yet nobody ever thought to inquire whether he was collaborating and therefore complicit.

NA: So they just seized on those parts that were…

ES: All of the people who have seized on him are basically very happy to bash critics of Israel and the U.S. like me, Noam Chomsky, Ibrahim A. Abu-Lughod, and others. That's the agenda, not any interest in the state of Arab culture or anything of the sort.

NA: Or promoting freedom

ES: Or promoting freedom. They don't give a damn about freedom.


External links


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. Interview with Edward Said conducted by Nabeel Abraham, Lies of our Times (Loot), May 1993, p. 13.