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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The media's love affair with Arab dictators

Diane Sawyer's obsequious interviews with the Syria's dictator and Iran's madman are hardly the first times that the Western media tried to turn terror-supporting Muslim leaders into heroes.

Read, if you can, this fawning 1955 cover story from Time magazine on Gamal Abdel Nasser. Here are some excerpts:
Gamal Abdel Nasser, a handsome, dedicated soldier of only 37, is the one man in Egypt who could give such an order and have it obeyed. Last week, further curbing some of his impatient lieutenants and the Moslem hotheads who would like to provoke a full-scale war with Israel, he endorsed United Nations efforts to create a buffer zone or stretch a barrier along the border dividing Israel and Egypt at the hypersensitive Gaza strip. There is an intimate connection between Nasser and The Strip. It was there that the fuse was lit to Egypt's 1952 revolution, and it was Gamal Nasser who struck the match.

Seven years ago, Egypt, a power in the Moslem world, had come sweeping across the Sinai Peninsula to throttle the infant Israel at its U.N. birth. But decades of corruption in palace and government paid off disastrously in lack of ammunition, inferior arms and cowardly officering. Captain Nasser's unit was surrounded at Faluja, a few miles from Gaza. He saw his commanding officer wringing his hands and crying: "The soldiers are dying! The soldiers are dying!"

Dug in under Israeli fire, Nasser, as he later wrote, reflected: "Here we are in these foxholes, surrounded, in danger, thrust treacherously into a battle we were not ready for our lives the playthings of greed, conspiracy and lust which have left us here weaponless under fire." Said a comrade, "Gamal, the front is not here, it is in Cairo." Nasser turned to the front, plotted a revolution, toppled a king and rose to be ruler of Egypt's 22,500,000, the most powerful, most energetic and potentially most promising leader among the long divided, long misled Moslems of the Middle East.
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The shortcomings and setbacks have disappointed those—both inside and outside Egypt—who began to talk of a new Ataturk when the dashing young soldier sprang up from obscurity and took charge. Yet in Western capitals, Nasser is still looked upon as Egypt's best hope for decent government, a moderate among the hotheaded many who would fight Israel even at the cost of suicide, a man who perhaps some day can grow into the dominant Middle Eastern leader he aspires to be. Even in Israel, officials say privately that they would be sorry to see Nasser fall from power. "Without Nasser," says a British Foreign Office diplomat, "Egypt will be one unholy mess, another Syria."
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Nasser does not look like a man with a chip on his shoulder. He carries 200 Ibs. with the lithe grace of a big, handsome All-America fullback. His wiry, close-cropped hair is greying at the temples and thinning just above the forehead, where there is a faint scar made by a police club. He has a big, slightly hooked nose and a close-trimmed black mustache, a row of regular, white teeth and a brilliant, easy smile. His eyes are piercing and brown, and he talks quietly, gently, and has never been known to raise his voice or lose his temper. Beneath his apparent softness, there is a streak of rough, tough ruthlessness. Last week in his Cairo office, he talked quietly, but he let the toughness come through.

"We have no hostile attitude towards America," he said. "I have always tried to build up friendly relations, only keeping in mind that these relations must not take us toward any sort of domination. But gradually, I have realized that there is always some obstacle between us, and that obstacle is Israel. America helps Israel with money and moral support, and they use the money to buy equipment to be used against us. But when we ask America to supply us with arms for defense, nothing is done."
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While he expands his personal power, Nasser is coming closer to the day next January when he has promised to transform his military rule into representative government and give Egyptians a parliament. Not even Gamal Nasser himself seems certain that he will keep that promise. "Throughout my life," he confesses, "I have had faith in militarism." The army is the only sector of power he so far has found it possible to trust, and even there he fears that unless he can provide more equipment, morale will fall and officers will weaken to subversion from the Communist left or the passion-inflaming Moslem extremists.
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If earnestness were enough—which it is not—Nasser and Egypt would be making fast progress toward that goal. The Premier himself lives with remarkable austerity in a five-room, sand-colored house inside the army compound in Cairo's Abbasiya military district. He allows himself almost none of the personal privileges now within his means. "I did not go there before," he once explained to an associate who wondered why the Premier refused to go inside the fashionable Semiramis Hotel. In the first days of power he liked to wear a military bush tunic, open at the neck, with a couple of rows of ribbons and the insignia of a lieutenant colonel, but now he prefers a plain grey suit.
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It is easy to read a plot into some of Nasser's recent moves. Cairo's Voice of the Arabs radio pours a stream of anti-French propaganda into Morocco, and Nasser gives warm asylum to old Riff Rebel Abd el Krim, a key North African troublemaker, as well as to Jerusalem's Jew-hating Mufti. In the Gaza strip he allows, if he does not approve, the arming and training of the Al Fedayeen commandos, teams of Palestine Arab refugees which periodically cross the border to raid Israel.
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"I don't think I am a dictator," says Premier Nasser quietly. "I don't have the character for it. I am sentimental, like all our people. But I am going on with the revolution—until I meet a better assassin."

Wow...Time's reporters really had a great knack for getting to know someone, didn't they?