Thomas L. Friedman. His idiocy is sometimes amusing, but other times, he displays a sociopathic tendency that is really not funny. His latest column is titled “Syria Is Iraq”, and is an example of the latter type. It is one of the most astoundingly incomprehensible, inane pieces of writing I’ve ever seen from him—and that’s saying a lot, because most of his writings are incomprehensible and inane.
He begins by saying that the “Lord knows” he is “rooting for the opposition forces in Syria to quickly prevail”. He has a “hope” that they would “turn out to be” “democratically inclined”, but “the chances of this” “is low” “because Syria is a lot like Iraq”, “Indeed”, “is Iraq’s twin”, by virtue of being “a multisectarian, minority-ruled dictatorship” “held together by an iron fist under Baathist ideology.”
Then he turns to “the lesson of Iraq”, which to him “is quite simple”:
You can’t go from Saddam to Switzerland without getting stuck in Hobbes — a war of all against all — unless you have a well-armed external midwife, whom everyone on the ground both fears and trusts to manage the transition. In Iraq, that was America….
The only reason Iraq has any chance for a decent outcome today is because America was on the ground with tens of thousands of troops to act as that well-armed midwife, reasonably trusted and certainly feared by all sides, to manage Iraq’s transition to more consensual politics.
Actually, far from trusting the U.S., most Iraqis opposed the American military occupation of their country and blamed most of the violence that plagued their country on the U.S. invasion and occupation, as I discussed in an article last year, “The Propaganda Narrative of U.S. Withdrawal from Iraq”. I’ve also written on how the U.S. implemented policies that predictably resulted in violence and helped to create the insurgency that the U.S. then cited as a pretext for why it needed to remain and occupy the country for so many years, and also how early decisions made by the Coalition Provisional Authority not only created sectarian division but effectively codified it into law. As Mike Otterman, author of the book Erasing Iraq: The Human Costs of Carnage, observed in an interview with me published in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, the U.S. literally inflicted “sociocide” on Iraq from the early ‘90s through the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation.
As for the further real lessons from Iraq, I discussed them in another article: “the role U.S. corporate media play in ‘manufacturing consent’ from the American public for U.S. foreign policies”, how “underlying and familiar assumption is that the rules are set by Washington, not by treaties comprising the body of international law”, how “the official reasons for committing such acts of aggression against foreign nations, if we presume leading policymakers are sane and rational, cannot possibly be the actual rationale for them” and how the “war against Iraq had nothing to do with WMD or terrorism” and proliferation is “obviously of little to no consideration to U.S. policymakers”, etc., etc.
Friedman is delusional. He suffers extreme cognitive dissonance, and must in his own mind justify his own support for the Iraq war (which is why I say he has sociopathic rather than psychopathic tendencies, although the case could probably be easily made for the latter). At the time, he justified his support for the war on Iraq by citing 9/11. He didn’t repeat the lie that Iraq was somehow responsible for it, or that its WMD could be handed over to al-Qaeda terrorists, or anything like that—although he did buy into that whole lie, saying “There is no avoiding nation-building in Iraq. Because to get at Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction we’ll need to break the regime open, like a walnut, and then rebuild it.” Rather, he simply expressed his belief that the U.S. must react against the Arab world in general and punish Arabs in general, and Iraq would do just as well as any other country, and Americans should go door to door in Iraq to teach the people of the Middle East who is boss, to say “Suck. On. This.” (And if you think I’m being unfair to him or putting words in his mouth, see for yourself what he said. Like I said, sociopathic tendencies.)
With regard to his delusion and cognitive dissonance, further into his commentary, he writes:
One is the Iraq alternative, where America went in and decapitated the Saddam regime, occupied the country and forcibly changed it from a minority Sunni-led dictatorship to a majority Shiite-led democracy. Because of both U.S. incompetence and the nature of Iraq, this U.S. intervention triggered a civil war in which all the parties in Iraq — Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds — tested the new balance of power, inflicting enormous casualties on each other and leading, tragically, to ethnic cleansing that rearranged the country into more homogeneous blocks of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
So, to sum up, first he argues that you can’t go from a dictatorship to a democracy without having a foreign military occupation from a benevolent superpower (i.e., the USofA) to prevent a descent into sectarian violence and chaos. Then he (correctly) observes that the U.S.’s invasion and occupation of Iraq had the direct consequence of the country descending into sectarian violence and chaos. And this fatal self-contradiction is something he seems totally unable to even perceive. He is just totally clueless to his own irrationality. The guy really needs to seek professional help.
He then comments:
But the U.S. presence in Iraq contained that civil war and ethnic cleansing from spreading to neighboring states.
Isn’t that wonderful? So the U.S. presence in Iraq creates a civil war and ethnic cleansing, but we must praise America for having “contained” the violence to just Iraq, rather than having it also spill over the border into “neighboring states.” This is how he justifies the U.S. invasion and occupation, its “midwifery”, in his perverted, racist, Orientalist mind. He acknowledges:
The cost of this transition in lives and money was huge, and even today Iraq is not a stable or healthy democracy.
But then adds:
But it has a chance, and it’s now up to Iraqis.
So Iraq “has a chance” thanks to the “well-armed midwife” who created a civil war and ethnic cleansing thanks to its benevolent military invasion and occupation, and if it doesn’t turn out so well from here on, it will be the recalcitrant and backwards Iraqis’ own fault for blowing the “chance” the U.S. has, in all its glorious magnanimity, so generously bestowed upon them.
He also throws Libya into the mix, glorifying the “U.S./NATO midwifery that ousted Qaddafi and gave birth to a new Libya”. Never mind the U.S./NATO’s regime change operation violated both international law and, for the U.S.’s part, the U.S. Constitution, with its killing of civilians being a further violation of international law, and which resulted in an escalation of violence and atrocities on the ground and terrorist groups under the al-Qaeda banner establishing a base of operations there. I perhaps subconsciously alluded to Friedman’s “Suck on this” Iraq war justification in an earlier post on the war on Libya, in which I made a similar observation about the intellectual culture of our media, and which I titled “Hey, Europe! You can’t compete with America’s capacity for violence! Suck on it!” An image I included in that post (for which I don’t know who the credit goes to) is just as relevant to Friedman’s “argument”, if we can actually call it that, in this latest column of his:
Sick. Twisted. Perverse. These are some of the adjectives that come immediately to mind when trying to describe what one sees when one glimpses into the mind of Thomas L. Friedman. Perhaps the best word I can think of is “sociopathic”.
And if you want further proof of it, here’s an excerpt from a book I’ve been writing for over a year now on the U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (stay tuned); this is with regard to Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead”, 22 days of death and destruction in its all-out war on the civilian population and infrastructure of the Gaza Strip from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009:
Returning to Condoleezza Rice’s statement that it was “hard” for Israel to avoid civilian casualties, it must certainly have been true that the deaths of civilians was difficult to avoid when Israel was engaging in indiscriminate attacks, deliberately targeting civilian objects protected under international law, employing white phosphorus munitions over populated areas, preventing medical teams from reaching the wounded, and maintaining a deliberate policy of collective punishment against the population of Gaza. But it is understandable that Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. officials would seek to downplay Israeli crimes, given their complicity in them. The U.S. complicity also offers one explanation for the nature of the commentary appearing in the media, which ranged from denial of any Israeli wrongdoing to openly praising Israel’s attacks on civilians.
In perhaps the most egregious example, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman on January 13 lauded Israel’s assault on Gaza and encouraged the IDF to inflict more “pain” on the Palestinian civilian population. “I have only one question about Israel’s military operation in Gaza: What is the goal?” he asked. “Is it the education of Hamas or the eradication of Hamas? I hope that it’s the education of Hamas. Let me explain why.” Friedman proceeded to compare the situation to that of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, in which “Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical.” Friedman made no effort to reconcile the contradiction between saying on one hand that Israel did not directly target civilians while on the other acknowledging that the IDF’s operational policy had been to intentionally cause “collateral casualties”, his euphemism for civilian deaths and injuries. The 2006 war on Lebanon was “the education of Hezbollah”, Friedman opined, continuing:
In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to “educate” Hamas, by inflicting a heavy toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims.
To summarize, Friedman stated that it was his “hope” that Israel’s goal was to “educate” Hamas, which he defined as a policy that was in part intended to inflict “heavy pain on the Gaza population”, as in Lebanon, where the policy had been to deliberately cause “collateral casualties”. In other words, the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times was explicitly praising Israel’s “logical” military policy of committing what he, as a former war correspondent, must certainly have been aware amounted to war crimes under international law.