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Kanan Makiya: Wikis


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Kanan Makiya is an Iraqi academic, who gained British nationality in 1982. He is the Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University. Although he was born in Baghdad, he left Iraq to study architecture at M.I.T., later founding Makiya Associates in order to design and build projects in the Middle East. As a former exile, he was a prominent member of the Iraqi opposition, a "close friend" of Ahmed Chalabi, and an influential proponent of the 2003 Iraq War.[1][2] His life is documented in British journalist Nick Cohen's book What's Left.



Makiya began his political career as a Trotskyist and became closely identified with Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Schwartz. In 1981, Makiya left the practice of architecture to write, using the pseudonym Samir al-Khalil to avoid endangering his family. In Republic of Fear (1989), which became a best-seller after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, he argues that Iraq had become a full-fledged totalitarian state, worse than despotic states such as Jordan or Saudi Arabia. His next book, The Monument (1991), is an essay on the aesthetics of power and kitsch.

Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising and the Arab World (1993) was published under Makiya's own name. It was awarded the Lionel Gelber Prize for the best book on international relations published in English in 1993. According to a 2007 profile of Makiya in The New York Times Magazine, the 1993 book "posed a devastating critique of the Arab world's intelligentsia, whose anti-Americanism, Makiya argued, had prompted it to conspire in a massive, collective silence over Hussein’s dungeons." [1]

In 2001 Makiya published The Rock: A Seventh Century Tale of Jerusalem, a work of historical fiction that tells the story of Muslim-Jewish relations in the formative first century of Islam, culminating in the building of the Dome of the Rock. Makiya also writes occasional columns and they have been published in The Independent and The New York Times.

Makiya has collaborated on many films for television, the most recent of which exposed for the first time the 1988 campaign of mass murder in northern Iraq known as the Anfal. The film was broadcast in the U.S. on the PBS program Frontline under the title Saddam's Killing Fields and received the Overseas Press Club's Edward Murrow Award in 1992.

In 1992 Makiya founded the Iraq Research and Documentation Project (IRDP), which was renamed the Iraq Memory Foundation in 2003. [3] Makiya worked closely with Ayad Rahim in the early development of the IRDP. In October 1992, he convened the Human Rights Committee of the Iraqi National Congress, a transitional parliament based in northern Iraq.

Makiya is widely known to have been a strong proponent of the 2003 Iraq War and advocated for the "complete dismantling of the security services of the regime, leaving only the regular police force intact". [4] As U.S. forces took control during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, Makiya returned to Iraq under their aegis and was given the position of Advisor to the Iraq interim governing council by the Coalition Provisional Authority. In an interview with Charlie Rose in late 2003, Makiya said he had "settled back" in Iraq and that he was "in it for the long run." [5] However, in 2006 Makiya left Iraq and returned to teach at Brandeis University. [6]

Makiya is quoted as having said, "As I told the President on January 10th, I think [the troops] will be greeted with sweets and flowers in the first months and simply have very, very little doubts that that is the case." His support for the war followed an idealistic line, as recounted in the New York Times Magazine in 2007:

In the buildup to the Iraq war, Makiya, more than any single figure, made the case for invading because it was the right thing to do - to destroy an evil regime and rescue a people from their nightmare of terror and suffering. Not for oil, Makiya argued, and not for some superweapons hidden in the sand, but to satisfy an obligation to our fellow human beings.
If it sounded idealistic, Makiya went even further, arguing that an American invasion of Iraq could clear the ground for Western-style democracy. Years of war and murder had left Iraqis so thoroughly degraded, Makiya argued, that, once freed, they would throw off the tired orthodoxies of Arab politics and, in their despair, look to the West.

However, the article depicted Makiya expressing concern over the subsequent war, and comparing the number of Iraqi deaths since 2003 to deaths under the deposed ruler Saddam Hussein: "It's getting closer to Saddam." [1]

Criticism of Makiya

Edward Said, a professor of English at Columbia University and supporter of Palestinian rights, was a vocal critic of Makiya. Said contended that Makiya was a Trotskyist in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but that he later "switched sides," profiting by designing buildings for Saddam Hussein. George Packer asserted in his book The Assassin's Gate that Said's accusations were untrue and Makiya had never worked for Saddam (although his father had). Said also claimed that Makiya mistranslated Arab intellectuals so he could condemn them for not speaking out against the crimes of Arab rulers. Makiya had earlier criticised Said for encouraging a sense of Muslim victimhood and offering inadequate censure to those in the Middle East who were themselves guilty of atrocities.[7]

External links


  1. ^ a b c Dexter Filkins. "Regrets Only" The New York Times Magazine, October 7, 2007. Accessed October 12, 2007.
  2. ^ Edward Wong."Critic of Hussein Grapples With Horrors of Post-Invasion Iraq" The New York Times, March 24, 2007. Accessed July 13, 2008.
  3. ^ Iraq Memory Foundation: History. Accessed October 12, 2007.
  4. ^ "Transcript of Iraq Seminar with Richard Perle and Kanan Makiya" National Press Club, March 17, 2003. Accessed July 13, 2008.
  5. ^ "A conversation about Iraq with Kanan Makiya", Charlie Rose program, November 3, 2003. Accessed July 13, 2008.
  6. ^ Rachel Marder, "Iraqi exile activist returns to campus after extended leave" "The Justice", January 17, 2006. Accessed July 13, 2008.
  7. ^ Packer, George, The Assassin's Gate (London, 2006).


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