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Ashton on Toulouse; Obama on Iran; Goldberg on Beinart

by Shmuel Rosner

March 20, 2012 | 9:15 am

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (Photo: Reuters)

1.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is far from being my favorite diplomat. But I’ll give her a pass and won’t join the barrage of attacks from Israeli leaders. Here’s what she said: “When we think about what happened today in Toulouse, we remember what happened in Norway last year, we know what is happening in Syria, and we see what is happening in Gaza and other places - we remember young people and children who lose their lives”. Yes, these words might imply some comparison between the brutal and intentional murder of the innocent (France, Norway, Syria), and the unintentional killing of children in the course of violent conflict (Gaza). It is unintelligent and worthy of retraction or rephrasing, but I suspect all Ashton was trying to do is remind her audience (of Palestinian youth) that there needs to be a way to stop all killing of innocent children. Am I being naïve? Maybe. Or maybe I’m just more prone to give Ashton a pass for foolishness.

2.

Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed was getting some credit for “unearthing” an interview from 2004 in which President (then Senator) Obama had said that Iran should be attacked if it gets closer to acquiring nuclear weapons. While I agree that this was a fascinating interview with Obama, I must say that reintroducing it every now and then as new revelation is a journalistic habit that should be resisted. It might be just the short memory we all have, or our natural tendency to find inconsistencies in politicians’ statements – but Obama of 2004 was a junior Senator, and is now President, and what he said back then is no longer relevant.

If you want to read The Chicago Tribune interview with Obama, click here. If you want proof that this interview was “exposed” more than once, click on this article from 2007 (written by one Shmuel Rosner).

3.

It is a noble attempt by Jeff Goldberg to try and make Peter Bainart’s book go away by way of ignoring it (“I’m not that interested in debating Peter’s new book, which I’ve just finished reading, because I find his recounting of recent Middle East history one-sided and filled with errors and omissions”). I must say, though, that even a writer as talented and popular as Goldberg can’t prevent Beinart’s book from becoming a topic of much conversation in the coming weeks. Errors and omissions? Did such problems ever prevent books from succeeding? (I also read Beinart’s book, and might write about it in the coming weeks. Don’t lose sleep over it – I didn’t find it much better than the original NY Review of Books article).

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