August 04, 2004

Welcome to Memphis

How embarassing is this?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Iraqis visiting on a civil rights tour were barred from city hall after the city council chairman said it was too dangerous to let them in.

The seven Iraqi civic and community leaders are in the midst of a three-week American tour, sponsored by the State Department to learn more about the process of government. The trip also includes stops in Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago.


Elisabeth Silverman, the group's host and head of the Memphis Council for International Visitors, said Brown told her he would "evacuate the building and bring in the bomb squads" if the group entered.

If the visiting Iraqis learn anything useful from their Memphis experience they'll use it as an object lesson for what not to do back home. Somehow I don't think that's what the State Department had in mind. My experience with Arab hospitality tells me they didn't need to learn such a lesson in any case.

I sure hope someone official apologized to these people for the idiots in our country who manage to get themselves into positions of power yet still don't know how to behave.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 4, 2004 02:34 PM

I have posted a follow up link below. An apology for the MORON was given but now another apology from Memphis is required as 2 of the Iraqis were robbed later by some lowlife.Well at least the robbery probably made them feel at home.
They should have just gone to Graceland and NOWHERE else.
The people of Memphis should be ashamed to have IDIOTS like this represent them in ANY CAPACITY.

Posted by: dougf at August 4, 2004 05:15 PM

Well go here if you want to see the official reaction so far.

Basically, here's the relevant portion from a Q&A with Boucher of the State Department.

QUESTION: There's a group of Iraqis visiting, being hosted by the State Department, some city council members, and some civic community leaders traveling the country. Apparently, they ran into some trouble in Memphis. The Government was not very hospitable there and wouldn't even allow them --

MR. BOUCHER: I saw the story. Frankly, I forgot to check on it. I'll check for you. But I think, if I read through the end of the story, it kind of worked out in the end. They were able to meet with city counselors there anyway, so.


MR. BOUCHER: I'll check and see if there's any residue --


MR. BOUCHER: -- left over at this point.

Yeah, they're on it with typical speed and firmness.

Posted by: jeremy at August 4, 2004 05:34 PM

Ah yes. . . . petty tyranny by a petty official - an honorable tradition in local elected government. Don't be too hard on local officials, though. As one who works with a number of local governments and, in fact, serves as a member of my town's council, I can assure you that in my experience most people who serve in local government are people of goodwill who try to do the right thing. It's just a shame that there are morons out there to grab all of the headlines.

Posted by: Ben at August 4, 2004 05:38 PM

The city official must have just left off reading this Web page before the Iraqis came:

Posted by: Mark James at August 4, 2004 11:23 PM

Wow. What an ignorant ass. So, does this top the town council that unanimously banned gay people a while back?

Oh, and Mark, I sincerely hope that wasn't a comment intended to justify what the local official did. If it was, I could rattle off a few lines from the Old Testament for you just the same. The only joy I derive from reading the supposed ramblings of a "jealous" Christian God or the 164 "Jihad" Verses you link to is in knowing that mankind has (by and in large) long abandoned such irrationality. A contradiction in terms but worth saying, none the less: God Bless The Forces of Modernity.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 5, 2004 01:15 AM

The people of Memphis should be ashamed to have IDIOTS like this represent them in ANY CAPACITY.

Yes, I am.

Posted by: Brock at August 5, 2004 06:08 AM

The question is: Would this nutjob have acted this way before 9/11?

One of the things that I personally think Al-Q wants is the destruction of our way of life, particluarly in our ideals of liberty and justice for all. The years since 9/11 have certianly smeared those words that we have all pledged....

Now for the constructive question: How do we return to an Ideal of Liberty and Justice for all, while maintaining a reasonable defense for our homeland?

Posted by: Ratatosk at August 5, 2004 06:28 AM

Notice how the news report leaves off the party Councilman Brown belongs to.

I take that to mean he's a Democrat.

Posted by: Eric Blair at August 5, 2004 07:06 AM

Tosk --

There would be less of an issue over 9/11 if we could be confident that the Muslim community in the USA truly condemned the acts of the militants. To date, I have yet to hear our Muslim community unequivocally state that the militants are wrong. Don't get me wrong, though, none of this makes the Memphis officials behavior any less inappropriate.

Posted by: Ben at August 5, 2004 07:33 AM


I've heard several representitives of the Muslim communitity decry the 9/11 attacks, the violence currently in Afganistan and Iraq, etc.

In fact, I just recently heard several muslim clerics here in the states explain why the beheadings were not in line with muslim teachings and condemed them.

Posted by: Ratatosk at August 5, 2004 07:51 AM

After much searching on the mysterious Mr. Bropwn, I found the following via Google:

As for his party (which isn't mentioned directly anywhere) I found this:

which shows that he endorsed Wes Clark.

So yep, he's a democrat alright... and a Black Democrat to boot. How is racisim not obvious to people who have historicaly had to deal with racism?

Posted by: Ratatosk at August 5, 2004 08:11 AM

"So yep, he's a democrat alright... and a Black Democrat to boot. How is racisim not obvious to people who have historicaly had to deal with racism?" -- Tosk

I am impressed with this research.That is why i love the internet; I can remain lazy and STILL learn new things.Great work
I think that it matters not at all whether you have had to deal with racism or not.It is who YOU are that determines your attitudes and values.This clown would not even think he is being racist as in his mind he can do no wrong and is ALWAYS the aggrieved party.On the other hand,I do not see this as racism.It more closely resembles SHEER STUPIDITY which is an equal opportunity character trait.What always amazes me is how these idiots can be so clearly idiotic and manage to ooze their way through life without EVERYONE noticing.

Posted by: dougf at August 5, 2004 10:48 AM

Tosk --

I have heard some Muslims say the same things. My confidence on how widespread their views are, however, is lacking because of items like this:

For every Western Arab that I have heard denouncing Islamofascism, I have heard at least two making excuses for it.

Posted by: Ben at August 5, 2004 11:53 AM


Well then, I suppose it depends on which Muslims you decide to listen to.


Posted by: Ratatosk at August 5, 2004 12:01 PM

Doesn't that kind of prove his point? Shouldn't the vast majority of American Muslims and Arabs be condemning the actions of the terrorists? The terrorists who attacked their country, killed their citizens and continue to threaten them and their familes' lives?

Nuclear bombs are equal opportunity vaporizers, after all.

Posted by: Barry at August 5, 2004 12:31 PM

I guess the problem I'm having with the Muslim community, Tosk, is that if a white supremecist group in my community killed 3,000 black people, I would be stand up and say loudly and repeatedly that I was opposed to what they did. I would NOT say, "Of course killing people is wrong," and then spend the next 10 minutes talking about how legitimate the grievances are, how it is all Israel's fault, etc. The Muslim community is not doing a whole lot to give me the warm fuzzies that they really think the attack on the WTC was wrong.

Posted by: Ben at August 5, 2004 03:05 PM

No one who puts up with the suffocating summer humidity of Memphis should be shut out of an air-conditioned building. The King must be cryin'.

Posted by: jeff at August 5, 2004 04:55 PM

As someone who grew up in Memphis, I winced when I saw that story. Joe Brown is a dipshit of the first water, and I'm sorry that he was allowed to make any sort of decision about interacting with anyone visiting.

In his defense, he does claim that he didn't say what he was reprted as saying. He claims that he merely asked if the FBI knew about the group's plans. Given that Ms. Silverman was so disorganized that the Iraqis had to hire their own taxis in from the airport, it seems a pertinent (if impolite) question.

The delegation did get to meet on their first day with Councilwoman Carol Chumney, who has more brains in her little finger than Joe Brown has in his whole damn body, and they were given apologies from the city mayor, the county executive, and the entire city council (including Mr. Brown).

Then again, two of them got mugged downtown. Sigh.

Posted by: Michael at August 5, 2004 08:24 PM

"if a white supremecist group in my community killed 3,000 black people, I would be stand up and say loudly and repeatedly that I was opposed to what they did."

So, when McVeigh did his atrocity, did you stand up and say loudly and repeatedly that you were opposed to what he did?

I didn't bother, I assumed people would assume I disapproved.

I can sort of imagine it, though. You get this guy who starts posting etc, saying loudly and repeatedly. "I'm white McVeigh is white, but I say he was wrong to do it!" "I'm a veteran, McVeigh is a veteran, we don't all support him." "I'm in a militia, McVeigh was in a militia, he was wrong to use his training against the US government when the government hasn't been subverted yet."

Somebody who talked like that would probably get investigated pretty thoroughly....

Posted by: J Thomas at August 7, 2004 11:42 AM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member


"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere

Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com

News Feeds


Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button


Tip Jar


Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn