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Friday, March 16, 2012

Young Obama in Pakistan: Bad paranoia and good paranoia

In previous episodes -- start here -- we discussed the outlandish theory that young Barack Obama's 1981 trip to Pakistan (then an international hotspot) had something to do with the CIA.

A ludicrous notion? Perhaps. But it has the virtue of explaining why Obama completely neglected to mention his only overseas trip in his two autobiographies, even though establishing his foreign policy credentials could only have helped him. My theory also explains why an unidentified official at the American embassy arranged for the then-unknown Obama to stay with Muhammadmian Soomro, who was arguably the most powerful mover-and-shaker in Pakistan. (That unnamed official stinks of Agency.) It also explains how the allegedly impoverished Obama managed to pay for the trip.

(You may also want to see this blogger's take.)

David Remnick has written a biography of our president called The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. When I belatedly gained access to this book, my first thought was to see what Remnick had to say about that enigmatic 1981 Pakistani vacay. Would this esteemed writer for The New Yorker and The Washington Post be able to explain the mysteries?

Here's what Remnick has to say about the trip, in toto:
In the summer of 1981, before arriving in New York, Obama traveled to Asia for three weeks, first to Pakistan to visit Chandoo and Hamid, and then to Indonesia to see his mother and Maya. "They took a trip in Pakistan together that Fox News tried to twist into something awful," Margot Mifflin said. In fact, the trip reacquainted Obama with some of the realities of the developing world. "When Obama came back," Mifflin said, "he said he'd been shocked by many things, but especially the poverty. When they rode through the countryside, he was amazed at how the peasants bowed to the landowners in respect as they passed. It blew his mind."

"It's true," Hamid said. "The trip gave him a grounding of sorts. To be exposed to a place like Pakistan as an adult, he saw how differently people live. He stayed with me and Hasan in Karachi, but he also wanted to get out in the countryside, and we went to rural Sindh, to the lands of a feudal landlord who was in school with me in high school and before. We went to this person's lands, where the feudal system is still strong. Barack could see how the owner lives and how the serfs and workers are so subservient.... Barack also met an individual there of African descent. Africans were brought to Pakistan years ago by the Arabs--part of the slave trade, though in another direction. And to see people like that was very striking for Barack. He sat across from him and, even though they didn't share a common language, they tried to communicate. It was a moment that stayed in his mind."

Obama spent much of his time in Pakistan with his friends' families--Chandoo's family is fairly wealthy, Hamid is upper-middle-class by Pakistani standards--but he also played basketball with kids in the street and explored the neighborhoods of Karachi during Ramadan. By talking with his friends, he got a deeper sense of the political and religious divisions of an infinitely complex political culture. "I am from the Sunni sect and Hasan from the Shia, so he learned a lot about the dialogue between the two," Hamid said.
Nothing here about Soomro. Nothing about that mysterious official at the embassy. Nothing about Obama's strange reluctance to mention this trip in his two books. Nothing about how he paid for this trip.

Remnick does, however, make a reference to Fox News. It is true that various right-wing pseudojournalists have offered twisted interpretations of the 1981 mystery. Basically, the wingnuts point to this trip as "evidence" favoring their absurd contention that Obama is a Muslim.

Not for the first or the last time, a really stupid right-wing conspiracy theory has scared reasonable people away from investigating what I consider a legitimate area of research. Maybe that's why these really stupid right-wing conspiracy theories receive so much publicity in the first place.

Cannon's law: Bad paranoia discredits good paranoia.

If we were to take a closer look at Mr. Remnick's career, would we be indulging in good paranoia or bad paranoia? I haven't yet studied the allegations made on this site -- but on first skim, I can't help noticing a reference to Remnick in connection with Steve Coll, who has also worked for the WP and The New Yorker. (Coll also appears to be an associate of Richard Perle.)
Though The New Yorker frequently publishes articles about MLB and the CIA, The New Yorker never connects the CIA to narcotrafficking or MLB. An unfortunate situation, both because The New Yorker is an intellectual publication with a large audience, and as it is one of the few “mainstream” publications left that writes anything critical about the CIA.
So who is Steve Coll, in addition to being an enemy of the people? He is a CIA Special Agent. And his editor at The New Yorker, David Remnick, is fully aware of Mr. Coll's top level employer. So is CNN who like to invite Steve Coll on to preach his murderous CIA propaganda to the public at large, keeping Coll's real professional position cloaked behind the phony “New America Foundation” and “The New Yorker” cover stories.
Is there anything to this? The afore-linked site does seem a tad crankish. Then again, a few people have said as much about this site.

(Update: Make that more than a tad crankish. The place is run by YET ANOTHER 9/11 "CD" nut.)

Are we dealing with bad paranoia or good paranoia? Did Remnick intentionally ignore the key questions to arise out of the 1981 trip? It's your Coll.
Between a rock and a hard place?

Obama having CIA ties would have lost Dem creds with the 'bots and no way would republicans vote for a black guy even if he brought down Communism single handedly.
Holy Moly;

Obama a Manchurian Candidate? Them Birfers have been on the BC treadmill dealing with their own 'chads' of truth. Is the CIA really
omniscient, or are our creative skills just stretching?
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sorry, Lee. This blog does NOT link to 9/11 "controlled demolition" crackpots. There will be no discussion between us. I am DONE talking you hateful, despicable, evil fools. You are now and forevermore on my crackpot list.
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