The unacknowledged controversy over Bernard Lewis

Comment is free: Bush’s historian

Brian Whitaker on how Bernard Lewis, whose 90th birthday celebrations were attended by none other than Dick Cheney (full guest list here), is being talked up in the media by people who don’t acknowledge how controversial Lewis’s work is:

Among academics specialising in the Middle East (including many in the US), the praise is mainly for his early work. He hasn’t travelled much in the Arab countries and his area of greatest expertise is Turkey - not the most typical of Muslim countries.

Although he has a track record of coming up with interesting - if debatable - ideas, in recent years his ideas have been based less and less on solid research, and directed more and more towards providing a scholarly veneer for the Bush administration’s Middle East policies.

His track record in that area is pretty bad. He was one of the key figures promoting the invasion of Iraq and, presumably drawing on his knowledge of Turkey, he argued that his chum Ahmad Chalabi, the convicted fraudster, could become an Iraqi version of Ataturk.

There’s lots of links - very useful read.

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