Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thomas Friedman, Advocate of Terrorism

That's what Digby is saying here, in response to various posts from Atrios. She doesn't quite come out and say it, limiting herself to the implications of what she spells out, plus the comment that his comments from before the Iraq war "really calls Friedman's morals into question."

But that's the sum of it. As she shows with the quotes in her post (go read Digby for chapter and verse), Friedman was advocating that the U.S. invade an Arab country just to show that we were tough. It didn't matter which one -- could've been Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, he says, it's just that Iraq was convenient. An easy target.

Apart from noting that he was hopelessly stupid on that latter point, it's worth emphasizing that this is the morality of a gangster translated to an international scale.* The belief is that they need to respect us -- and for "respect" read "fear" -- and if we invade and occupy an Arab country, they'll fear us. Leave us alone.

Perhaps it's worth spelling out clearly why this is advocating terrorism -- or, in other words, mass murder. If you invade a country -- start a war -- not because it's self defense (against a specific and imminent threat), then what you are doing is ensuring that you will kill a lot of people to make your point -- to be feared.

Killing -- because that's what war is, remember, mass violence -- people who do not threaten you, not even to get at people who are threatening you (which under some circumstances might be considered legitimate "collateral damage"), but simply to gain a rep. To make a point.

When gangsters do this, we call it murder. When politically motivated criminal syndicates do it, we call it terrorism. When nations do this, we call it a war crime -- aggressive war, the chief crime charged against the Nazis at Nuremberg. When pundits call for it, they keep their weekly columns at the NYT and get invited on talk shows to pontificate.

Worth remembering next time someone goes on about the evils of terrorist groups who target civilians. They are indeed evil. And the same impulses reside in our foreign policy elite -- such as the most prominent foreign policy columnist in the nation.

I suppose, if you want to be generous, you can say that Friedman didn't really mean it. He likes folksy anecdotes, and obviously he was pleased as punch at that anecdote about the turkey. So maybe he didn't really think that we should go and kill a bunch of innocent people in order to make a point -- in order to be feared. Maybe he thought that there were better reasons for invading Iraq.

But that's not what he said -- not there. And advocating terrorism through carelessness and the love of the sound of your own voice is, well, pretty despicable.

Let's remember this as they try to talk us into war against Iran, okay?

* Although I suppose (I don't know for sure, but I'd guess) that gangsters are a bit pickier about killing people who actually hurt them when retaliating; Friedman is advocating going after just any old Arab country at all, it seems.

1 comment:

Bedouina said...

Thank you for spelling this out.

My late father used to say "they hate us and want to destroy our culture and put us in chains." I would argue with him. I thought he was paranoid.

Friedman and so many, many like him in this country make me think my father was not mistaken, after all. What a bitter insight. I am sorry about it.

I am more grateful to you, however, for speaking against such thinking. Thank you, thank you.