View Full Version : "The Arab Mind" The army's bible for understanding arabs

May 26, 2004, 08:48 PM
Link (http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,1223525,00.html)

Consider these statements:

"Why are most Africans, unless forced by dire necessity to earn their livelihood with 'the sweat of their brow', so loath to undertake any work that dirties the hands?"

"The all-encompassing preoccupation with sex in the African mind emerges clearly in two manifestations ..."

"In the African view of human nature, no person is supposed to be able to maintain incessant, uninterrupted control over himself. Any event that is outside routine everyday occurrence can trigger such a loss of control ... Once aroused, African hostility will vent itself indiscriminately on all outsiders."

These statements, I think you'll agree, are thoroughly offensive. You would probably imagine them to be the musings of some 19th century colonialist. In fact, they come from a book promoted by its US publisher as "one of the great classics of cultural studies", and described by Publisher's Weekly as "admirable", "full of insight" and with "an impressive spread of scholarship".

The book is not actually about Africans. Instead, it takes some of the hoariest old prejudices about black people and applies them to Arabs.

Replace the word "African" in the quotations above with the word "Arab", and you have them as they appear in the book. It is, the book says, the Arabs who are lazy, sex-obsessed, and apt to turn violent over the slightest little thing.

Last week, my own further enquiries about the book revealed something even more alarming. Not only is it the bible of neocon headbangers, but it is also the bible on Arab behaviour for the US military.

According to one professor at a US military college, The Arab Mind is "probably the single most popular and widely read book on the Arabs in the US military". It is even used as a textbook for officers at the JFK special warfare school in Fort Bragg.

Hospitality and generosity - two highly regarded virtues in Arab societies - get three and one and a half pages respectively, compared with a whole chapter devoted to alleged sexual hang-ups.

Patai died in 1996, but his book was revived by Hatherleigh Press in 2002 (nicely timed for the war in Iraq), and reprinted with an enthusiastic introduction by Norvell "Tex" De Atkine, a former US army colonel and the head of Middle East studies at Fort Bragg.

"It is essential reading," De Atkine wrote. "At the institution where I teach military officers, The Arab Mind forms the basis of my cultural instruction."

In a speech last week, the US president, George Bush, congratulated himself on having removed "hateful propaganda" from the schools in Iraq.

Perhaps it is now time he turned his attention to military schools in the US.

Can you believe this! A 28 year old book that belongs on a shelf devoted to racist 19th century sociological studies is being promoted as a textbook for the military.

May 26, 2004, 08:56 PM
At this point, with this administration, I have managed the difficult task of being able to believe everything and nothing at the same time. I would be shocked and surprised, but due to overuse in recent months, they are in the shop being re-calibrated...I believe I have become a practicing "compassionate cynic"...