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So... this happened.

In an interview with the BBC's Sharanjit Leyl last week, former Secretary of State and godfather of the Bush Doctrine George P. Shultz offered a few comments on the negotiations in Geneva regarding the future of Iran's nuclear program.

"The Iranians are known as great rug-merchants, not for nothing. They're good at this business of smiling, encouraging you on and then cutting your throat. So you have to be tough-minded, you have to be realistic. Iran is the country that's the biggest supporter of terrorism in the world. They do it directly, they do it through proxies such as Hizb'allah, so they're a pretty tough customer."

Read that again:

"The Iranians are known as great rug-merchants, not for nothing. They're good at this business of smiling, encouraging you on and then cutting your throat."

Witness, please, the kind of orientalist fantasies that suffuse much modern Western "thought" on the Islamic Middle East, North Africa and Western Asia, not only in the popular Western imagination but also, and much more dangerously, in the imaginations of some purportedly Very Serious People.

Look closely at Jean-Léon Gérôme's The Carpet Merchant of 1887 (Minneapolis Institute of Arts). Look through the warped lens of the Bush Doctrine and the neoconservative Clash of Civilizations; look through the spinning prism of the hasbarists who have cited Shultz' conception of perfidious Islam so approvingly in the last few days; look through the polarizing filter of Fear, Inc.

There, to the right of center.

See him now?

No, not him. A little further to the right. The other bigoted, antiquated, orientalist stereotype.

Ah, now you've got it.

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