Empire's embedded intellectuals
- Empire's embedded intellectuals
Campus Watch in the Media
by Abdus Sattar Ghazali
University of California - Berkeley
American Muslim Perspective
Empire's embedded intellectuals is a term coined by Prof. Hatem
Bazian of University of California, Berkeley to describe persons
engaged in the promotion and rationalization of power projects and
programs domestically and internationally which is carried out at
the expense of the majority of the American public and the world
public as well.
In a recent speech entitled "Empire's embedded intellectuals" at the
University of California Berkeley, Dr. Bazian, Professor at the Near
East and Ethnic Studies Department, explained that the embedded
intellectuals are occupied in scholarship for a national or
sometimes extra-nationalist goals and often subverting sound
scientific methods of research and investigation, while asserting
propositions and hypothesis from an already constructed ideological
premise. "As such research questions are formulated ideologically
and evidence to support the research is shifted for the nuggets that
Dr. Bazian said that he has coined the "empire's embedded
intellectuals" term with the specific definition of empire meaning a
supreme or absolute power held by individual or a configuration of
individuals and organizations. " In this sense I define empire to be
a configuration between the government elites as well as corporate
elite, as the neoconservatives immediately after the victory in
Afghanistan began to boast of the American empire. This is not the
left terminology, it was the rightwing which began to speak of the
American empire and how it is likely to be qualified for it. As such
we have to coin a new term, empire's embedded intellectuals."
Dr. Bazian pointed out that the term was born out of the concept of
embedded journalists, used for the first time during the war in
Afghanistan and used extensively in the Iraq campaign. In the Iraq
campaign the military was able to manage access to the battle field
and spoon fed the so-called independent media, the stories that it
needed the American public to watch.
The coverage of the war was more of an entertainment undertaking and
less an honest and direct coverage of what is underway. The question
is, should journalist reflect and act as representative of their
nation, i.e. they cover the news with the national goals or
interests of the ruling elites in mind or should they be observers
to the truth and witness to the unfolding history.
It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war but for
whom? It is not the Iraqis that truth is kept away from them because
they are experiencing truth as it unfolds. It is actually the
American public for whom truth is the first casualty of war, because
they were kept away from getting the actual information about the
According to the Boston Globe, Factual information from journalists
in the first days of the war had come overwhelmingly from government
briefings and reporters "embedded" in military units. Such briefings
were never a source of trustworthy news; reporters had few ways to
verify what the military officers and government officials tell
them, and history suggests we should expect officials to omit
crucial information and fudge on facts. During the Vietnam War,
Pentagon spokesmen kept insisting in news briefings that they
could "see the light at the end of the tunnel." By accepting the
Pentagon system, journalists trade independence for access to troops
and a front-row seat to the battles.
Who are the embedded intellectuals?
Further elaborating his new terminology, Dr. Bazian said that the
empire's embedded intellectuals are individuals and groups
constituted in a number of public and private universities as well
as in highly insular think tanks that are outside the public
"Empire embedded intellectuals are wedded into the promotion and
rationalization of power projects and programs domestically and
internationally which is carried out at the expense of the majority
of the American public and the world public as well. They contribute
to empire through employing their pen to extol the virtues of power,
its goal and mission, while at the same time being diligent towards
critics, intellectuals, laymen and elected individuals alike.
"The empire embedded intellectuals assigned themselves the role of
patriotic defenders of America, love of their country is the only
motivation they assert is their engagement for power; while denying
the same type of intention for their critics. In their view all
intellectual energies of the society should be directed at
maintaining and expanding a highly militarized view of the current
American empire, the only remaining super power, which must act, in
their view, preemptively on global scale against any or all possible
future enemies. Even those who oppose our allies, chief among them
is Israel," Dr Bazian said.
On the modus operandi of the embedded intellectuals, Dr. Bazian said
that they are engaged in scholarship for a national or sometimes
extra-nationalist goals and often subverting sound scientific
methods of research and investigation, while asserting propositions
and hypothesis from an already constructed ideological premise. "As
such research questions are formulated ideologically and evidence to
support the research is shifted for the nuggets that affirm them. I
maintain that the embedded intellectual approach in research is to
provide boost to empire's already constructed ideas or to find
answers for pressing challenges on the field rather than engaging in
research for the benefit of the truth."
Three embedded intellectuals
In this context he mentioned three embedded intellectuals, John Yoo,
Law Professor of the UC Berkeley, Professor Alan Dershowitz of
Harvard University and Professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton
Professor John Yoo at the UC Berkeley, to whom he described as
professor torture, called for the complete dismissal of the
international law in the current war on terrorism.
It may be recalled that Professor John Yoo, while working for the
Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, authored an infamous
January 2002 memo in which he argued that terrorism suspects are not
covered by the War Crimes Act or the Geneva Conventions. Prof. Yoo's
arguments provide legal cover for the use of torture against
detainees, and conclude that U.S. soldiers can't be tried for war
crimes. He was also central to authoring the USA PATRIOT Act.
Dr. Bazian asked, what is more critical for the foundation of our
society, a critique of Abu Ghuraib or authoring legal memos that
violate the enshrined laws of this nation, military code of conduct
and the four Geneva conventions which is the law of the land?
Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University, has called for the
establishment of torture courts in the country where Prof. John Yoo
and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez can apply for torture warrants
from the judge. In an interview with CNN on March 4, 2003, Dr.
Dershowitz argued that torture could be justified with approval by
the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice.
He said that another embedded intellectual that can be identified is
Professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton University who is credited with
much of the thinking driving the current neoconservatives' views on
the Middle East that force being the only language that the Arabs
and the Muslims know.
Dr. Bazian again asked what is more threatening to our society is a
critique of policies by professors or dumping our founding
principles? They argue that this is a different war. But if our laws
have served us well for over 200 years, through a civil war, two
world wars and almost 100 other military engagements they can serves
us well now.
Speaking about the objective and role of think tanks, Dr. Bazian
believes that the term think tank is often problematic because much
thinking is not occurring in these tanks. "Take for example the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the American Enterprise
Institute, the Project for New American Century, the Heritage
Foundation, Middle East Media Institute based in Washington, Center
for Religious Freedom, Freedom House, Jehad Watch, Campus Watch,
among many others, there are almost 50 think tanks, where not much
thinking is occurring since they are all engaged in promoting the
While addressing the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC
on Feb. 23, 2003, President Bush proclaimed that you are some of our
country's best brains that my government employed 20 of you. Well if
the best brains were formulating our policy in Iraq then how come we
have such a mess? Dr. Bazian asked and added that the best brains do
not produce the best policy, we have an experience in Vietnam that
was replicated in Iraq now.
He recalled that Senator William Fulbright in 1966 wrote "power has
a way of undermining judgment of planting grandeur in the minds of
otherwise sensible peoples and otherwise sensible nations." If you
don't know, in 1964, Senator Fulbright led the debate in favor of
the Gulf of Tonkin resolution but became one of the strongest
opponents of the war after discovering that it was total
fabrication, just presently is the case with Iraq war and weapons of
Dr. Bazian argued that at the policy level, the choice of a set of
responses or approaches to deal with the new enemies are result of
particular forces, individual groups and organizations acting on
behalf of a developed agenda to bring about the maintenance or
furtherance of their defined interest. In addition there is often an
attempt to cloud the best interests behind a particular policy
recommendation with high moral purpose.
On the societal level the leader of the policy maker groups need to
enlist the support of the population on a project that is motivated
by pure self interest and greed. This collective rationalization
program is applied to make it possible for high moral purpose to be
used for pacification of the populace. It is not the Iraqis that
need to be pacified, it is the American public to be pacified so
that it continues to support the war effort.
At present, he added, the policy options are being advocated by one
group to the exclusion of all others including those coming from
other areas in the bureaucracy that are calling for re-consideration
of the policy options. Consider the infighting related to the Iraq
war and exclusion of the parts of the CIA and the State Department
from pursuing any alternative policy options in the buildup to the
A set of individuals and groups have managed to promote a particular
set of ideas, making them the effective policy of the only super
power, Dr. Bazian said adding: "First, my own interest in pointing
this out is centered on the predominance of the Israeli centric
individuals, groups and organizations that are effectively
exasperating the Palestinian sufferings. Second, the Israeli centric
picture is further strengthened by a particular millennium segment
of the evangelical Christian right that considers the current period
as a stepping stone towards the end of time scenario. Third, a host
of corporations representing the military-industrial complex and big
oil interests likewise are jumping on the band wagon. The forces
mentioned above have managed to wrest the policy making centers in
the US and aspiring for their narrow self interest and promoting
their self serving agenda at the expense of the much of the world."
Dr. Bazian went on to say that one area of interest for the above-
mentioned forces has to do with the universities and academia in
general since it provides somewhat challenge to the ideas and a
possible introduction of the alternative to the existing set of
policies at their behest.
The universities and educational institutions in general have
presented a challenge to every authoritarian structure, group or
individual since the time of the Roman Empire. Empire structures are
first defeated at the level of ideas, before their physical demise,
since power does not take into account its own descending fortunes
and view ideas expounding alternatives at that time a sort of
rebellion to its authority which must be defeated and eliminated at
Thus we are confronting a pacification program directed at academia
with the intent of silencing ideas of descending fortunes and policy
alternatives to empire's drums.
According to the neoconservatives and Israeli centric cabal
advocates, the universities' federally funded programs for Middle
East studies have extremist "bias" against American foreign policy
which must be remedied through connecting Title VI funding to
As the march for empire unfolds and the targeting of Muslims, Arabs,
Asians, Africans and anyone expressing solidarity with them, a
campaign is focused at academia by the forces mentioned above, the
goal of which is to reintroduce a forgone paradigm, a new and
improved version of Orientalism.
The agenda is to reclaim the lost ground to the so-called "post-
colonial paradigm," in the world of Stanley Curtis, critiquing Said,
whose major sin is his argument that "it is immoral for a scholar to
put his knowledge of foreign language and culture at the service of
American empire or American power."
Dr. Bazian pointed out that what the neoconservatives and their
supporters are lamenting is their declining influence in area
studies and the emergence of a new crop of scholars no longer wedded
to the empire project even by force.
As Curtis once again laments loss of influence in academic circles
of Princeton Historian and best selling author Bernard Lewis,
Harvard University professor Samuel Huntington and John Hopkins
Professor Fuad Ajami. According to him their qualifications is that
all support American foreign policy. So the criteria for being a
sound intellectual in America is the fact that all support American
Foreign policy. What Curtis and other like him are bemoaning is the
loss of influence in area studies. But not necessarily in the more
traditional departments where the fields overall are still resistant
to the new paradigm. However this might change in the next ten years
as the old guard is reaching the retirement age.
Dr. Hatem Bazian went on to say that having scored a major success
in the embedded journalists program during the Iraq war campaign, a
new plan is a foot to create a new version of embedded intellectuals
who are ready to serve the empire projects. To nurture the cadre, a
congressional hearing was held on Sept. 17, 2003 to formulate a new
policy, how to fund the area study centers? In the hearing opening
statement, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, the chairman of the sub-
committee laid out his intention by stating the following:
"The international study in higher education would increase
coordination between these important international and foreign
language studies programs to better meet America's national and
international security needs."
The bill, that is already passed by the House of Representatives,
also clarified that programs under Title VI of the Higher Education
Act are to support and coordinate with other federal programs in the
areas of language, area studies and international relations, meaning
that if you are studying a language, say Arabic, Persian, Urdu,
Pushto or any other language that funding should be connected to
some national security apparatus.
Dr. Bazian pointed out that for almost two decades Stanley Curtis is
saying that the American academy has been busy in undermining
America's security not enhancing. So once again the role of the
university is to enhance America's security according to the elite
definition. Martin Kramer also laments where are the professors with
a strong sense of national interest, lots of knowledge in the field,
good intelligences, connections, a willingness to recruit their
students and an eagerness to serve in this time of war. No such
person exists in the Middle Eastern study. Kramer is asking for the
development of embedded intellectuals. So professors who are
teaching in areas of Middle Eastern Studies should not grade their
students A B or C rather if he is good as an agent or he is bad as
We can see a new charge given to all professors of the Middle
Eastern studies and other related fields to become embedded
intellectuals serving dutifully to the aspirations of empire, not
unlike British or French scholars did some generations ago, Dr.
He went on to say that the role model presented by Martin Kramer of
the Washington Institute for Near East Policy is none other than T.
E. Lawrence, that his role model and his mentor who according to
Kramer says "It was David Hogarth, Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum,
who saw potential of young Lawrence and helped recruit him to the
service of British empire." Hogarth later appeared as Lt.-Commander
in the Royal Navy and a key figure in British intelligence in the
Middle East during the first world war.
Being nostalgic to such service Kramer recalls that it was Hogarth
who arranged his (T. E. Lawrence) traveling scholarship, employed
him before the war at his archeological dig in northern Syria and
directed the wartime intelligence branch known as the Arab Bureau in
Cairo in 1916. Lawrence acted on his behalf in Arabia, meaning that
he was engaged in the archeological dig, he was funded by the Oxford
University and he was acting in the Arab Bureau in Cairo in 1916.
Not content with providing with historical role for the Middle
Eastern studies, Kramer's attention shifts to the modern hero in the
service of empire, he is non other than Harvard's Nadat Safran,
noted professor of Middle Eastern Studies who is given credit for
Abi Zaid Master degree in the field of Middle Eastern Studies.
Prof. Nadat Safran works for the Rand Corporation, he got funding by
the CIA for his Saudi project and conference on Islamism.
The Rand Corporation
Dr. Bazian said that the Rand Corporation is a non-profit
institution founded 50 years ago to "improve policy and decision
making through research and analysis," and its policy
recommendations are reflective to service to power and in the most
recent period has turned its attention to bring about "a reformation
in the Muslim world."
Its researchers pre-occupied with the question of Islam include
Cheryl Benard who is recommending a civil war among the various
parts of the Muslim community. She hopes that the end result will be
that those who support their world view would prevail through our
Cheryl Benard suggests this in a research recommendation,
highlighting various components of the global Muslim community,
highlighting the group that we need to support and highlighting the
groups that we oppose. Placing the various groups against each other
with the hope that, as she defined, the moderates will prevail
through our own support. And their definition of modernists is that
they support our world view essentially.
It may be pointed out that the Rand Corporation issued two reports
about Islam and Muslims last year. One report was issued in March
2004 entitled: "Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and
Strategies," is written by Cheryl Benard, a sociologist and fiction
writer. It issued another 600 pages report in December 2004
entitled " US strategy in the Muslim World after 9/11." The first
report suggested support of the so-called moderate Muslims while the
other study suggests that Sunni, Shiite and Arab, non-Arab divides
should be exploited to promote the US policy objectives in the
Dr. Bazian said that Cheryl Benard ideas are a mirror image of those
coming out from "done it all intellectuals" and all at hand for the
service of empire, like Prof. Bernard Lewis, who provided much
advice, as an embedded intellectual to the Pentagon, justifying the
policies by his research. In Bernard Lewis view the Arabs only
understand the language of power, and don't pay attention to Arab
public opinion since it is an irrational behavior not based on any
reaction to our policy. Because if you connect to policy then it
means that the people are reacting to policy.
Similarly, Foad Ajmi, a Lebanese, a native Arab, affirms the already
constructed view and paradigm, Dr. Bazian went on to say. The Arab
predicaments and other writings that point to the inherent failures
of the Arabs and Muslims to embrace modernity and democratic
institutions, not that modernity and democratic institutions were
not one of our interest for the past 50 years and we supported most
of the authoritarian regimes in not only in the Middle East but in
Africa, Central and Latin America.
Dr. Bazian asked, how come we don't say that the predicament of the
Christianity in central America relative to their lack of democratic
institutions but we only frame it according to Bernard Lewis and
Foad Ajmi in the pathological understanding that there must be
inherently wrong with Muslims and Islam?
Looking at the success of the neoconservatives paradigm in the past
three years and its contribution towards preparing public opinion
for an Iraq invasion, we can talk of their think tanks, intellectual
foundations, position papers by scholars in the field, he said. And
if you look at the individuals who promoted the Empire Project, you
have Daniel Pipes, Kramer, Bernard Lewis. From the political arena
you have Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz , Dick Chenny, Stanley
Kurtz, Foad Ajami etc. All belong to the group of neo-conservatives.
Dr. Bazian argued that the neoconservatives' view of the Middle East
and their paradigm shift was formulated as a policy initiative first
and foremost for Israeli leadership which then was imported and
locked into the American process. As such the criteria by
intellectuals of neoconservatives paradigm was maintaining within
the defined scope.
Evangelical Christian Right
According to him, the initial success of the neocons is partly due
to the many of the think tanks which are proliferating in Washington
while the other half of this success points somewhere closer to home
which is his second point the Evangelical Christian Right.
The Evangelical Christian Right coalition is espousing a messianic
agenda of the Middle East. What is most profound is the marriage
that was struck between the Evangelical Christian Right and the
Israel centric forces in the US and abroad. As often the case,
politics makes strange bed fellows. But no one from the time of
Moses and Jesus would have thought such a wedding possible even if
it was a shot gun wedding.
Dr. Bazian pointed out that the Evangelical Christian Right
coalition while powerful in many political and social circles,
fundamentally lacks the intellectually formulation necessary to
shape public opinion across party lines and across generations when
it comes to the Middle East. The theological argument behind the
Evangelical Christian Right is the imminent return of the Messiah,
but that cannot be moved towards policy recommendations. However,
once it is wedded with the Israel centric approach then the needed
rationalization for this world view can be actualized.
It should not come as a surprise to many that there is an inherent
conflict between the Evangelical Christian Right and the Israel
centric individuals that the return of the Messiah, would usher in
the conversion of Jews into Christianity and those who refused would
be killed, according to this Messianic view.
However, real politics moves many neoconservatives who are pro-
Israel to this alliance and their current support regardless of its
foundation, theological or otherwise. Supporting the existence of
Israel for the right wing evangelical coalition position is a pre-
condition for the return of Messiah which is a welcome news for the
Furthermore if many pro Israel supporters don't believe in this
theological position but if the Evangelical Christian Right is ready
to give an unquestionable support to Israel then they will take it
and use it against their enemies in this current period.
On college campuses, the Evangelical Christian Right has been active
hand in hand with many of the Israel centric supporters and
individuals attempting to silence debate and prevent a change to the
existing paradigm, Dr. Bazian concluded
The use of feminine paradigm
In the Question-Answer session after his speech Dr. Bazian spoke
about the use feminine paradigm against Muslims.
The use of feminine paradigm is to attack the Muslim world and
furthering the US agenda. I will say that the war on Afghanistan was
promoted by means of the Burqa. It is the Burqa that sold the war.
Event at one point a congressional aid was calling around Muslim
organizations in Washington, if they can borrow a Burqa to war at a
press conference and show the oppression in Afghanistan. Now there
is no story about Burqa anymore although the Afghan women are still
wearing the Burqa. It was the mater of generating the interest.
There is an oppression of women in the Arab and Muslim world.
Wherever there are men and women there is a level of oppression. It
exists not because of Islam, it is just because you have men and
women. That is the normative structure. But when we use it in
relation to the Middle east and the Arab world, we think that we are
dealing with some kind of pathology and try to follow ways to
explain it that it must be Islam that is causing oppression.
My response is the following:
Every three minutes we have a woman raped in the US. It is because
we have a large number of Muslims in the country? If that is not the
rationale then what is the rationale. The rationale is that the
society has a particular aspects to it that generate all these types
of behaviors including battery and other types of repressions.
It exists in the Muslim world, it exists in many other places, but
here we use it as a way of advocating the agenda because it casts us
as completely good and pure, we are the pinnacle of civilization and
they are the barbarians that need to be civilized. So the white
man's burden is articulated in new terminology and not realizing
that actually it is the white man who has been the burden on the
world for the past so many years.
So the woman issue is in the forefront, how they deploy it for
public relations purposes, this is just a master-slave narrative
that is taking place at global level.
This is not a defense of Muslim or the Arab society, we have
problems that are not dissimilar to the rest of the world. If you
live in a glass house don't go and through stone on others. Don't
show others how women needs to be treated, when women in this
country are still given 77 cents on the dollar.
If you got raped, most likely the person who raped you is not going
to jail as the legal system will find ways to hook him off the legal
So once again this process to teach and civilize the barbarians is a
paradigm that existed in the 1500 and now is being articulated in
far more sophisticated Madison Avenue style dynamic and we need to
be aware of it.
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