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Published on March 7th, 2010 | by Daniel Luban

2

Marty Peretz’s Cowardice

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In a typical rant, The New Republic editor/publisher Marty Peretz prefaced a rambling declaration of victory in Iraq with these charming words:

There were moments–long moments–during the Iraq war when I had my doubts. Even deep doubts. Frankly, I couldn’t quite imagine any venture requiring trust with Arabs turning out especially well. This is, you will say, my prejudice. But some prejudices are built on real facts, and history generally proves me right. Go ahead, prove me wrong.

Peretz is quoted by Glenn Greenwald, who says most of what needs to be said about Peretz’s latest display of bigotry. I’m sure we can expect a 4000-word J’accuse from Leon Wieseltier condemning his boss’s racism any day now.

In any case, if one views Peretz’s post now, one finds that the offending sentence has been changed, without any indication that it used to read differently:

There were moments–long moments–during the Iraq war when I had my doubts. Even deep doubts. Frankly, I couldn’t quite imagine any venture like this in the Arab world turning out especially well. This is, you will say, my prejudice. But some prejudices are built on real facts, and history generally proves me right. Go ahead, prove me wrong.

The fact that Peretz changed the post (however nasty his revised formulation remains) looks like a tacit admission that he knows he crossed the line. In that case, however, it seems that he should provide an explanation (not to say an apology). Does he believe that Arabs are in fact congenitally shifty and untrustworthy? Does he concede that his slur against Arabs was unacceptable? To simply change his post covertly in the hopes that no one will notice is surely the most cowardly way to deal with the issue.

I realize that it is unwise to waste much time on Peretz. He is an embarrassment, as even his own staffers generally recognize, and the only reason that TNR is forced to publish his rantings is that he owns the magazine. Still, if Peretz wants to be taken seriously in public debate it seems reasonable to demand that he conform to some minimal standards of honesty, decency, and responsibility.

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About the Author

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Daniel Luban is a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Chicago. He was formerly a correspondent for the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



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