My Own Private 1984: Why Is Saying the Muslim Brotherhood Is Radical a Controversial Claim?

In 2003, I and the publication I edit, the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, became the world's biggest story for two or three days. Last week I became a "story" without knowing it until later.

First, the 2003 experience. An Iraqi-American author submitted a good article that explained how Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime's intelligence agencies worked. As I edited the article I said to myself -- this is absolutely true -- that this was one of the most uncontroversial articles I'd ever publish because it was so bland, though useful as a database inventory of Iraqi institutions.

Without my knowing it, the British prime minister's office plagiarized the article as part of its campaign to justify launching the attack on Iraq to overthrow Saddam. A MERIA Journal reader who opposed the war noticed this plagiarism and brought it to public attention. The reader in no way criticized the journal but only the British government. I should stress that the article said nothing to support (or oppose) going to war with Iraq. I think it was used mainly to make it appear as if the British prime minister's office had done some research on Iraq.

The story was front-page news around the world. I walked into a room as a famous television personality was discussing the matter with total inaccuracy on the television. Prestigious newspapers got our journal's name wrong. Only one reporter ever called to interview me. Left-wing sources speculated that the plagiarism involved some kind of Israeli conspiracy to begin the war, though again nothing in the article suggested attacking Saddam.

I was amazed and disgusted. But that's nothing compared to what has just happened to me.

Before you read the rest of this note, understand that none of those involved have consulted me nor have they used my name. I heard about this by accident after it happened. Other than those directly involved, I'm presumably the only one who knows that this was my article. Here we go.

A well-known television program took an article of mine that appeared on my blog and quoted it on the air. The extract was put up on the screen though the author's name wasn't mentioned. It was about the Muslim Brotherhood. The article quoted a Brotherhood leader as talking about his hostility toward Israel, etc. At this point, I was saying to myself: There goes a million dollars in free publicity!