Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Dodgy Sex Dossier

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Dodgy Sex Dossier

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "The 'Dodgy Dossier': The Academic Implications of the British Government's Plagiarism Incident" by Ibrahim Al-Marashi, in Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, June 2006.

FOUR YEARS AGO, TO BOLSTER support for an invasion of Iraq, British prime minister Tony Blair released a dossier titled "Iraq--Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception, and Intimidation." Nineteen paragraphs had been copied almost verbatim from the work of an Iraqi-American Ph.D. candidate at Oxford University. And that was only the beginning.

Ibrahim Al-Marashi's thesis was based on 300,000 declassified Iraqi documents abandoned in Kuwait when American-led forces drove the Iraqis out in the first gulf war of 1990-91. In 2003, when the dossier was being written by Blair's "spin doctor," Alastair Campbell, Al-Marashi was on leave from pursuit of his doctorate to work at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California. Four days after the dossier was slipped to journalists in the final buildup to the war, the doctoral candidate got an e-mail from a British academic: Had he collaborated with the government on the dossier? Al-Marashi hadn't heard of the dossier, but when he placed it side by side with an article he had adapted from the second chapter of his thesis, he found long sections of his own words in the 19-page document. It wasn't just outrage that he felt. As a young scholar hoping to teach in the Middle East, he feared that the use of his research to justify a war against his native Iraq would blackball him forever. But while the British government's plagiarism caused considerable concern, to say the least, writes Al-Marashi, "I found the media's coverage of the incident even more disturbing."

In the press frenzy surrounding the incident, the Blair government's plagiarism of two other authors was largely forgotten. "It was far more incompetent to plagiarize a California 'student' than a published author" Al-Marashi explains. The media played the story as if he were "an undergraduate in shorts and sandals whose 'homework assignment' was copied by the British government."

Alexander Cockburn, in an article for The Nation, accused Al-Marashi of writing a "politically inspired document" for an "Israeli think tank hot for war. …

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