Friday, May 8, 2009

Thomas Friedman's Greatest Hits

Longtime New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman can be considered a prominent voice of the United States ruling establishment. He is hailed as a 'genius' and regularly trotted out as a guest on politically oriented television shows. He has several best selling books which are focused on, and lectured about, during professional seminars - at least, one I attended. And, there is a column in the most mainstream of all national newspapers.

But, judging by his own words, Thomas Friedman is someone who enjoys watching the dispensing of violence. He gets off on it. Yet, he is keenly attuned to how violence is used to achieve the geopolitical goals of United States. That's why I have one of his quotes as link:
“The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”
There is more than a little truth in this quote and, in my opinion, economics is partly about understanding the geopolitical strategies going on in the world. Raw power and violence can alter lab-modeled theories, and one can't just live an ivory tower.

Regarding his lust for violence, consider these quotes.

During Bosnia:
It should be lights out in Belgrade: Every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted.

Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation (the Serbs certainly think so), and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.

Collective punishment is a war crime under Section 3, Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention, completed in 1949, and ratified by the U.S. in 1955. Friedman fails to mention this, or forgets it in his head rush.

After Iraq:
"What (Iraqis) needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, 'Which part of this sentence don't you understand? You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This."


So, it should not be surprising that he recently wrote a column glossing over the United States' policy of torture after 9/11.

Friedman: "First, Al Qaeda was undeterred by normal means. Al Qaeda’s weapon of choice was suicide."

This is silly. It's a variation of the "they are worse than Hitler" mantra that has been applied to American adversaries since I was a lad, when we first 'defended' Kuwait.

Let's put things in perspective. At least 73,000,000 people died during World War 2, after which, the 4th Geneva Convention was signed, and all torture (even corporal punishment) was outlawed. A little more than 3,000 people died during 9/11 and it can only be handled with torture ? Were we really that much more traumatized ?

It should also be remembered that Japanese soldiers were convicted of waterboarding Americans after the World War 2.

After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: "I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure." He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. "Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning," he replied, "just gasping between life and death."

Friedman: "Second, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda aspired to deliver a devastating blow to America...Third, Al Qaeda comes out of a stream in radical Islam that believes that it has religious sanction for killing absolutely anyone, including fellow Muslims. Al Qaeda in Iraq has blown up Muslims in mosques, shrines and funerals. It respects no redlines or religious constraints. One of its leaders personally severed Daniel Pearl’s head with a butcher knife — on film."

Hitler , or Tojo, were restrained compared to this, how ? (Since the "they are worse than Hitler" subtext is being played out.)

Friedman: "Finally, Al Qaeda’s tactics are designed to be used against, and to undermine, exactly what we are: an open society. "

A policy of torture undermines any aspect of openness we may have achieved.

(Incidentally, Bin Laden is dead. Does anyone really believe he is alive ?)


The lack of historical perspective , and lack of respect for the law, is striking. There is not even the pretense of abiding by treaties signed, or following the legal doctrine that was used to convict Axis war criminals.

To which Friedman might say (and has said), "Give War A Chance".

That he is given such a prominent voice, is reflective of the moral and ethical perspective of the U.S. ruling class.

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