Twists in the Matrix: Tom Friedman & Iraq


Richard Moore


World Socialist Web Site 

New York Times ' Friedman proposes "endgame" bloodbath in Iraq 

By Bill Van Auken 
1 October 2005 

Since well before the US invaded Iraq, Thomas Friedman, the
New York Times ' chief foreign affairs commentator, has been
the most enthusiastic proponent of US imperialism's
neo-colonial conquest of the country.

Early on he served as a conduit for the right-wing ideologues
in the civilian leadership of the Pentagon-putting their phony
pretexts for war into print, while embellishing them with
noble aims of bringing "democracy" and "liberation" to the
Iraqi people.

That the newspaper identified with an erstwhile American
liberal establishment published Friedman's exhortations to war
played no small role in poisoning public opinion on the eve of
the US invasion. It helped pave the way for the ongoing
tragedy that has cost the lives of over 100,000 Iraqis and
nearly 2,000 American soldiers.

As it became ever more apparent to the American people that
they had been dragged into an unprovoked war based upon lies
about non-existent "weapons of mass destruction" and phony
claims of ties between Baghdad and terrorism, Friedman brushed
off the criminal implications of the Bush administration's

Don't get "so tied up defending [the] phony reasons for going
to war," he counseled the White House in July 2003. Instead,
he said, it should focus on "the real and valid reason for the
war: to install a decent, tolerant, pluralistic,
multireligious government in Iraq."

By November of that year, as the Iraqi insurgency and US
military repression were claiming a growing number of victims,
Friedman was waxing ever more lyrical about the dirty war of
American occupation. It was, he said, "the most important
liberal, revolutionary US democracy-building project since the
Marshall Plan... one of the noblest things this country has
ever attempted abroad."

By April of 2004, as the US military was unleashing bloody
attacks against both the Sunni city of Fallujah and the Shiite
slums of Baghdad, Friedman had taken to issuing exhortations
to the Iraqis. "Is there a critical mass ready to identify
themselves-not as Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis-but as Iraqis, who
are ready to fight for the chance of self-determination for
the Iraqi people as a whole?"

Self-determination in the Orwellian newspeak adopted by the
New York Times columnist meant siding with the American
military to suppress those fighting to expel the foreign
occupiers from their country.

Criticizing the Bush administration for failing to deploy
sufficient military power to crush this resistance, Friedman
at that time concluded: "I know the right thing to do now is
to stay the course, defeat the bad guys, disarm the militia
and try to build a political framework..."

As recently as last June, Friedman voiced the hope that the US
could still claim victory in Iraq, provided it used sufficient
military force. He called on the administration to "do it
right" and "double the boots on the ground."

That the US does not have an additional 145,000 active-duty
troops to send to Iraq was something Friedman didn't even
bother to consider. The unstated implication of "doing it
right" is restoring the draft, conscripting hundreds of
thousands of American teenagers and sending them off to fight
and die. If such a prospect doesn't faze Friedman, it is
because he is confident that any revival of the selective
service system would-as in the Vietnam era-include deferrals
and safe havens for all those in the elite financial and
social circles that he inhabits.

It seems that now, however, the number one cheerleader for the
US conquest of the Persian Gulf has come to the end of his
rope. In a September 27 column published in the Times entitled
"Endgame in Iraq," he concludes that US military strategy is
secondary and that "Iraq, at the end of the day, was always
going to be what the Iraqis decided to make of it."

How the Iraqis are to decide or make anything for themselves
under a foreign occupation that dictates all essential terms
of political and social life Friedman doesn't bother to
explain. Clearly, the implication is that either the Iraqis
knuckle under to US demands, or they can go to blazes.

In short, Friedman has concluded that the Iraqis-and
specifically the more than five million members of the
country's Sunni minority-are not worthy of Washington's
"noble" efforts to liberate, civilize and democratize them.

His latest column is an ultimatum to the Sunnis to vote the
right way-or else-on the draft constitution that Washington is
promoting as yet another "turning point" in extricating itself
from its Iraqi quagmire.

Having proclaimed the US intervention a war of liberation for
a "multireligious government" based on those "ready to
identify themselves-not as Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis-but as
Iraqis," Friedman now insists that the Sunnis must accept a
constitutional scheme that sanctions Iraq's de facto partition
precisely along these ethno-religious lines.

The Sunnis are being prodded along this supposedly democratic
path not primarily by Friedman's sermons, but rather by US
military assaults on cities in the majority Sunni provinces of
Ninewa and al-Anbar, as well as raids and arrests carried out
against Sunni representatives in Baghdad.

Most who know anything about Iraq and the surrounding region
are warning that the constitution and the US rush to impose it
through an October 15 referendum vastly increase the threat of
civil war-an explosion of sectarian violence and ethnic
cleansing, leading ultimately to the country's breakup.

While Friedman allows that the "Bush team's incompetence" has
undermined Washington's colonialist efforts, he directs his
main fire at the "moral vacuum in the Sunni Arab world" and
its determination to "stifle any prospect for democracy." That
the "democracy" on offer is the effective destruction of Iraq,
leaving the Sunnis trapped in a landlocked statelet without
resources, is of no interest to the Times columnist.

Who is Friedman to preach morality to anyone? Here is a man
who has made his living inventing alibis and pretexts for the
most powerful imperialist state in the world seizing control
of an oppressed and impoverished nation, killing thousands
upon thousands of men, women and children in the process, all
for the purpose of controlling the region's strategic oil

As Iraq sank into a hellish abyss of bloodshed, poverty and
the disintegration of all essential functions of society,
Friedman invented fairy tales about it becoming a beacon of
democracy that would be emulated by peoples throughout the
Arab world. As thousands of young American soldiers came home
in coffins or returned maimed physically and shattered
psychologically, he casually called for sending twice as many.
And now he has the gall to accuse others of living in a "moral

Behind all of this moralistic fulminating there no doubt lie
definite political and strategic calculations. Some analysts
speak more openly about Iraq's partition and even a protracted
civil war as possible paths to achieving US imperialism's main
aim-hegemonic control over the oil-rich Middle East.

But there is something more going on here.

In the period leading up to the war and in the aftermath of
the US invasion, Friedman was known for his exultant
colonialist rhetoric, declaring that the occupation must
proceed on the principle of "we break it; we own it" and
proclaiming that Washington had "adopted a baby called

Now he is writing something very different: "Maybe cynical
Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond
transformation." If the Sunni minority fails to support the
constitution demanded by Washington "then we are wasting our
time," he declares in his September 27 column.

"We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of
Iraq to reap the wind," Friedman concludes. "We must not throw
more good American lives after good American lives for people
who hate others more than they love their own children."

Using the slander employed in every colonial war to justify
mass murder against those resisting foreign domination-they
don't love their children, they are indifferent to human
life-Friedman abandons his democratizing pretenses and calls
instead for a ethno-religious bloodbath.

That this is the perspective of someone who is arguably the
most influential foreign affairs commentator in the US,
writing for America's newspaper of record, is a measure of the
profound demoralization and disorientation within the US
ruling establishment over the course of its imperialist
venture in Iraq.

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