“Bad Reception” by Art Levine in “American Prospect.”

“There is no oversight,” says Hishem Melham, the Washington bureau chief of the Lebanese daily newspaper As-Safir. “This guy [Harb] hires and fires and sets salaries on his own, and he’ll continue to do it as long as he feels protected by Norm Pattiz and Kenneth Tomlinson.”

Mamoun Fandy, a senior fellow in Middle East policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute, says that the rules governing the networks have made little difference, and that MBN is operating "runaway stations that need to be brought under control." He also says, "Alhurra looks like the Middle Eastern states it wants to change: It’s run by a small dictator who is totally corrupt" — although he and other critics concede that they know of no criminal wrongdoing.

In certain respects Harb resembles Ahmad Chalabi, back in the days when the Iraqi buccaneer was the favorite of American officialdom. He spins the story of the Arabic services’ success to legislators and reporters, charms political patrons in both political parties, and offers a product that at least looks slick and professional to Americans who don’t understand Arabic. Like Chalabi, the broadcasting potentate lives well on U.S. largesse, although neither Tomlinson’s board nor Harb’s spokesman will disclose his taxpayer-funded salary. Sources at Alhurra say that he drives a Hummer (average price: $50,000), and according to real-estate records, he recently brought a $750,000 home in a well-to-do northern Virginia suburb."

Art Levine in "American Prospect."


For the record, I know Harb.  In my opinion, he is a secularized Lebanese Shia who has been an American citizen for many years.  He is extremely fluent in English and plausibly glib in the extreme.

He is a great deal like Chalabi although he speaks American English a great deal better than the great doctor of mathmatics.  I have been told that he likes and admires Chalabi greatlly, and hopes and expects that Chalabi will someday rule (govern) Iraq.  He knows Chalabi well.  This is something he has in common with his friend, the VP.

Pat Lang


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4 Responses to “Bad Reception” by Art Levine in “American Prospect.”

  1. Geoff says:

    So are you warning of another ‘Chalabi’-like player in Washington?
    Is this one for Syria?

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    He is a Lebanese. They are still looking for a Syrian Chalabi to give your money to. pl

  3. Michael Murry says:

    “Plausibly Glib Accomplished Parrots”
    Thanks, Pat. What a truly great phrase: “plausibly glib.” It reminds me of what C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards once wrote in their classic foundational study in semantics: “The Meaning of Meaning,” first published in 1923. The two renowned British scholars wrote:
    “There will be some to whom a word is merely a stimulus to the utterance of other words without the occurrence of any reference — the psittacists, that is to say, who respond to words, much as they might respond to the first notes of a tune which they proceed almost automatically to complete.”
    I tried looking up the word “psittacist” in my dictionary (a.k.a., The Container of All Knowledge) but could only come up with “psittacine (adj.), which means: ‘of, or pertaining to, parrots.'”
    Then, remembering something else that Richards had once written in his classic “Practical Criticism: a study in literary judgment” (1925), I did a quick lookup in the library and found:
    ” … what Mr. [Bertrand] Russell once called … ‘a purely prudential use of language,’ … using words not because he knows what he means by them, but because he knows how they are ordinarily used, and does with them what he has herard other people do with them before. He strings them together in suitable sequences, maneuvers them aptly enough, produces with them pretty well the effects he intends, yet meanwhile he may have not much more inkling of what he is really (or should be) doing with them than a telephone girl need have of the inner wiring of the switchboard she operates so deftly. He may merely be in the condition that Conrad ascribed to those Russians who pour words out ‘with such an aptness of application sometimes that, as in the case of very accomplished parrots, one can’t defend oneself from the suspicion that they really understand what they say.'”
    Thanks to Pat Lang, I will now add “plausibly glib” to my former favorite expression: “accomplished parrots.” I sometimes try and envision a scene in which a guy who thinks his parrot can talk trains the bird to sqawk a noise that sounds for all the world like “Polly want a cracker?” only to suffer amazed rejection from the beast when he offers it a peanut as “reinforcement” and the bird spits it back out disgustedly, swearing: “Damn it all! I said I wanted a CRACKER!”
    Does this sort of implausible scenario describe the person under discussion here?

  4. praktike says:

    They are still looking for a Syrian Chalabi to give your money to.

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