I figured Representative Dennis Kucinich didn’t actually go to Damascus to salute its ghastly president Bashar al-Assad. That’s a job for the likes of George Galloway. As Christopher Hitchens memorably said of the latter, “the man’s hunt for a tyrannical fatherland never ends.”
No, Kucinich may be embarrassingly naïve and a goofball, but he isn’t a fascist. He confirmed, as I figured he would, that he did not say what the Syrian Arab News Agency reported him saying. Yet he insists on not understanding what happened to him after he met with Assad.
“A story written about my remarks by the Syrian Arab News Agency unfortunately mistranslated several of my statements and did not reflect my direct quotes,” he said in a press release posted on his Web site. “Arab-speaking friends accompanying me have explained that the problem may have come from a mistranslation as well as the degree of appreciation and affection their state-sponsored media has for President Assad.”
Whoever wrote that now-infamous story at SANA may feel a certain amount of “appreciation” or “affection” for the boss, but what’s far more important here is that the writer would vanish into a dungeon if he or she wrote anything critical. Syria is a totalitarian police state where freedom of speech is ruthlessly smashed. Those who write for its media are not professional journalists. They’re propagandists and fabulists. They invent quotes as a matter of course. Any foreign official who meets with Syria’s president risks being transformed into a regime tool in the press.
“I will consider the article only an error,” Kucinich said, “not a willful intent to mischaracterize my statements or my efforts in the region.”
Kucinich is a grown man who serves in the Congress. He has no excuse for not understanding something this basic. Will one of his colleagues please, for everyone’s sake, give him a book about Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia so he can learn about other political systems?