Fear and Loathing in the Middle East

"I have seldom been lied to so blatantly in my life," Amit Pal, editor of the Progressive Media Project, writes from Egypt. "On June 20, we had a lunch meeting with Nabil Osman, who is the chairman of the State Information Service here. He assured us that censorship was a relic of the past in this country, having disappeared after the 1970s, and that the press was free to criticize anything or anyone, including the president. The interior minister Habib Al Adly had, in a slip of tongue that morning, told us that the government could tell the press what to put in but couldn't tell the press what to take out." Pal is posting reports from his three-week trip in the Middle East and Central Asia. He writes from Saudi Arabia, "The U.S. and the Saudi P.R. machines attacked us in tandem. At a meeting with the American Business Group of Riyadh (with representatives of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Bechtel present), one corporate executive (we were asked not to reveal specific names) told me, 'Saudis do not want democracy. It's not in the Saudis' best interests. They do things by consensus here.'"