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Folksy Tom Friedman and New Age Imperialism
by Mike Whitney
February 10, 2005

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Cutting through the baloney in a Tom Friedman article is like picking a nickel out of a dog's breakfast -- damn near impossible. His knack at jiggering the truth to co-opt his readership puts him light-years beyond his piers. Without a fair grasp of the facts before reading one of his columns, you’ll never know you’re being drawn into a parallel universe of calculated distortions.

His latest ruminations focus on the shabby, murderous occupation of Iraq. Friedman endorsed the war from the get-go with proviso that it should be “done right.” Yup, according to Friedman the laser-guided carnage, leveling of Falluja and the subsequent torture of suspects was “okie-dokey” as long as it was “done right.” The great error of the war, according to Tom, was that we didn't provide enough troops to stabilize the country. That's it. Not a word about the torture, death and destruction just practical, “nuts-and-bolts” stuff about how to win the war from our Pulitzer Prize winning prognosticator.

Friedman offers these outrageously callous judgments using his “trademark” affable tenor that oozes familiarity and hauteur. The normal Friedman article assumes the tone of a friendly stranger, plopped on a neighboring barstool, pontificating on the world's many intricacies to a less-knowledgeable companion. Isn't that Friedman?

“Let me explain the world to you in terms that even you can understand.”

And is he good at it? You bet. American liberals love Friedman, his folksy lingo, his homespun humor, his engaging anecdotes. Beneath the surface, of course, is the hard-right ethos that pervades his every thought and word but, "what the heck", no ones perfect.

Lately, Tom has been combing every detail of the Iraqi elections to make his case about “what should be done” to improve US chances for success in democratizing the churlish Arabs. After considerable deliberation, this is what he came up with:

“We have to have a proper election in Iraq so we can have a proper civil war.”

Say what? Did he really say that?

“We don't want the kind of civil war we have in Iraq now. That is a war of Sunni and Islamic militants against the United States,” Tom avers.

Of course, not! What we want is a Friedman-type of civil war. You know, a war where Iraqis only kill other Iraqis and America’s can get on with the “heavy lifting” of looting the country like they planned from the very beginning. Regrettably, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rumsfeld and the Intelligence services all agree with Friedman. “Let's figure out a way to make them kill each other,” they collectively muse. It should be called the Kissinger solution, since dear Henri promoted the same, self-serving strategy during the Iran-Iraq war (“I hope they both kill each other” -- H.K.)

So, you see that Friedman is not really any further to the left than Don Rumsfeld or Henry K. This may come as a surprise to some of his liberal-leaning groupies.

He's not skittish about giving his opinion about Iran either. He wouldn't be as tactless and corny as Bush, referring to it as "the Axis of Evil. But there's not a hairs-breadth difference between Bush's take on Iran and Friedman’s. As a matter of fact, Friedman refers to Iran as a “Red state” just ready to tip towards democracy after a helpful shove from the Bush claque. Sound provocative? How much difference is there between that astute assessment and the more vulgar appeal for “regime change”? Not much

Friedman believes that if Europe wants a peaceful resolution to the (American-created) Iran crisis, they should do more than just offering “carrots” to the Mullahs (as opposed to Bush's “sticks”). In other words, the world should EXPECT aggression unless Iran can somehow establish its innocence beyond a doubt. This seems to follow the logic of the Ashcroft Justice dept. that prisoners are guilty until proven innocent. To Friedman, however, this is a just the practical man's way of deciding whether or not Iran should be “whacked”. The question of whether the American military should be limited to situations related to national defense is never seriously considered. Friedman, like most Americans, sees US aggression as a sign of divine intercession. God works in strange ways, but more often than not, through his corporeal avatars, the US Marines.

Friedman's shameless praise of the Iraqi elections is worthy of another Pulitzer. He wholeheartedly accepts the George W. Orwell view that martial law and democracy are morally equivalent. This fits into his larger theory that the broad nationalist struggle (“the Iraqi insurgency”) is nothing more than a “murderous death cult” (I kid you not) comparable to the genocidal “Khmer Rouge.” (No mention, of course, of the “genocidal” murder of 100,000 Iraqis at the hands of their American overlords) His basic premise seems to be, that anyone who defends themselves against American hostility is a terrorist. Where have we heard that before?

Friedman's views on foreign policy are consistent with those of ideological forebears in the Democratic Party. While the Republican's take a “race-based”, Manifest Destiny perspective on foreign policy, justifying American conquest in terms of social Darwinism and the inherent right of the US to rule the world. Friedman invokes the “kinder, gentler” tactic of Yankee Paternalism, vindicating occupation and exploitation in terms of a “father's great love for his errant child.” This explains why it's so easy for him to shrug off Abu Ghraib and Falluja. He accepts them as an unavoidable part of bringing wayward Iraqis into America's affectionate embrace. After all, “We’re only killing them for their own good.”

Friedman's talent ensures that he will remain the unrivaled champion of imperial doctrine for years to come. He's simply the best around. His unctuous prose provides the rationale for warfare and a justification for the criminal violence against the Iraqi people. What else would you expect from the empire's foremost apologist? His columns form the ideological headwaters of new-age imperialism, celebrating the ritual of armed savagery to anyone who will lend an ear.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at:

Related Articles: DV's Tom Friedman Watch (barf bag recommended)

* Tommy Boy Friedman Does "Imagine" by Mickey Z.
* Outsourcing the Friedman by Naomi Klein
* Friedman's Education: Tommy Pats Good Little Indians on the Head by Mickey Z.
* Rhetorical Absurdities by Kim Petersen
* Shifting the Blame: Now it’s Mr. Chirac’s Fault by Kim Petersen
* Not Getting It: The Mind of Thomas Friedman by Kim Petersen
* Fraudulent Thomas Embraces Wolfie the Liberator by Ahmed Amr
* Illuminating Thomas Friedman by M. Shahid Alam
* Thomas Friedman’s Life As A Pet Hamster by John Chuckman
* Hoodwinked? by Kim Petersen
* Return to Sender by Kim Petersen
* The New York Times' Dynamic Duo by Matthew Riemer
* Thomas Friedman: A Columnist of Awesome Vulgarity by Viajay Prashad

Other Articles by Mike Whitney

* Government Without Consent
* The Desperate State of the Union
* Iraq’s Election Fiasco
* Boarding Up the “Window of Opportunity”
* KGB Chieftain Finds Home at Homeland Security
* Bush’s Grand Plan: Incite Civil War
* Pink Slips at CBS