FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Thomas Friedman, Liberal Sadist?

by NORMAN SOLOMON

The acclaimed New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has often voiced enthusiasm for violent destruction by the U.S. government. Hidden in plain sight, his glee about such carnage is worth pondering.

Many people view Friedman as notably articulate, while others find him overly glib, but there’s no doubt that he is an influential commentator with inherently respectable views. When Friedman makes his case for a shift in foreign policy, the conventional media wisdom is that he’s providing a sober assessment. Yet beneath his liberal exterior is a penchant for remedies that rely on massive Pentagon firepower.

And so, his July 27 column in the Times — after urging Americans “to thoughtfully plan ahead and to sacrifice today for a big gain tomorrow” — scolds the commander in chief for being too much of a wimp and failing to demand enough human sacrifice. Friedman poses a rhetorical question begging for a militaristic answer and then dutifully supplies one: “If you were president, would you really say to the nation, in the face of the chaos in Iraq, ‘If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them,’ but they have not asked. It is not what the generals are asking you, Mr. President — it is what you are asking them, namely: What do you need to win?’ Because it is clear we are not winning, and we are not winning because we have never made Iraq a secure place where normal politics could emerge.”

Such a line of reasoning points to sending still more U.S. troops to Iraq. The result, predictably, would be even more mass slaughter from various directions. But there’s no reason to believe such a result would chasten Friedman, as long as the eminent pundit figures the Washington-backed killing is for a righteous cause. In recent years Friedman has expressed much enthusiasm — even relish — for launching and continuing wars underwritten by U.S. taxpayers.

During the last decade of the 20th century, Friedman was a vehement advocate of — in the words of a January 1998 column — “bombing Iraq, over and over and over again.” In early 1999, when he offered a pithy list of recommendations for Washington’s policymakers, it included: “Blow up a different power station in Iraq every week, so no one knows when the lights will go off or who’s in charge.” Such disruptions of electricity would have deadly effects, from hospitals to homes where vulnerable civilians live. Evidently, Friedman could not let those considerations get in the way of his snappy prose.

But is it unfair to say that Friedman seems to get a charge out of urging systematic infliction of pain and death? Well, consider his fixation on four words in particular. During the spring of 1999, as the U.S.-led NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia went on, Friedman recycled his witticism “Give war a chance” from one column to another.

“Twelve days of surgical bombing was never going to turn Serbia around,” he wrote in early April. “Let’s see what 12 weeks of less than surgical bombing does. Give war a chance.” (He used the same motto in a Fox News interview.) Another column included this gleeful taunt while vicariously threatening civilians in Yugoslavia with protracted terror: “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.” As on so many other occasions, Friedman’s pronouncements gave off more than a whiff of pleasure at the spectacle of other people’s anguish.

“NATO began its second month of bombing against Yugoslavia today with new strikes against military targets that disrupted civilian electrical and water supplies” — the first words of the lead article on the New York Times front page the last Sunday in April 1999 — promoted the remarkable concept that the bombing disrupted “civilian” electricity and water yet the targets were “military.” Never mind that such destruction of infrastructure would predictably lead to outbreaks of disease and civilian deaths. On the newspaper’s op-ed page, Friedman made explicit his enthusiasm for destroying civilian necessities: “It should be lights out in Belgrade: Every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted.”

In autumn 2001, after the bombing of Afghanistan got underway, Friedman dusted off one of his favorite cute phrases. “My motto is very simple: Give war a chance,” he told Diane Sawyer during an Oct. 29 interview on ABC Television. In November, his column was cracking the same rhetorical whip. “Let’s all take a deep breath,” he urged, “and repeat after me: Give war a chance.”

That fall, Friedman proclaimed that he was crazy about the craziness of top officials in Washington who were capable of going a bit berserk with the USA’s military might. During an Oct. 13 appearance on CNBC, he said: “I was a critic of [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld before, but there’s one thing … that I do like about Rumsfeld. He’s just a little bit crazy, OK? He’s just a little bit crazy, and in this kind of war, they always count on being able to out-crazy us, and I’m glad we got some guy on our bench that our quarterback — who’s just a little bit crazy, not totally, but you never know what that guy’s going to do, and I say that’s my guy.”

Friedman kept writing along those lines. “There is a lot about the Bush team’s foreign policy I don’t like,” he wrote in mid-February 2002, “but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right.”

Last week, when Friedman’s column appeared in the New York Times on July 22, it mostly concentrated on denouncing Muslim “hate spreaders.” And the piece ended by declaring: “Words matter.”

If words truly matter, then maybe it’s consequential that some of Thomas Friedman’s words — including his flippant and zealous endorsements of mass killing — have the odor of sadistic cruelty.

NORMAN SOLOMON is the author of the new book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, published in July 2005. For more information, go to: www.WarMadeEasy.com

 

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 27, 2017
Darlene Dubuisson – Mark Schuller
“You Live Under Fear”: 50,000 Haitian People at Risk of Deportation
Karl Grossman
The Crash of Cassini and the Nuclearization of Space
Robert Hunziker
Venezuela Ablaze
John W. Whitehead
Trump’s America is a Constitution-Free Zone
Ron Jacobs
One Hundred Years That Shook the World
Judith Deutsch
Convenient Untruths About “Human Nature:” Can People Deal with Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons?
Don Fitz
Is Pope Francis the World’s Most Powerful Advocate for Climate Stability?
Thomas Mountain
Africa’s War Lord Queen: The Bloodstained Career of Liberia’s Eleanor Sirleaf Johnson
Binoy Kampmark
Short Choices: the French Presidential Elections
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Monetizing My Mouth
Michael Barker
Of Union Dreams and Nightmares: Cesar Chavez and Why Funding Matters
Elier Ramirez Cañedo
“Let Venezuela give me a way of serving her, she has in me a son.”
Paul Mobbs
Cellphones, WIFI and Cancer: Will Trump’s Budget Cuts Kill ‘Electrosmog’ Research?
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee
The Closing of Rikers: a Survival Strategy of the Carceral State
April 26, 2017
Richard Moser
Empire Abroad, Empire At Home
Stan Cox
For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Machine Called Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
The Dilemma for Intelligence Agencies
Christy Rodgers
Remaining Animal
Joseph Natoli
Facts, Opinions, Tweets, Words
Mel Gurtov
No Exit? The NY Times and North Korea
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Women on the Move: Can Three Women and a Truck Quell the Tide of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse?
Michael J. Sainato
Trump’s Wikileaks Flip-Flop
Manuel E. Yepe
North Korea’s Antidote to the US
Kim C. Domenico
‘Courting Failure:’ the Key to Resistance is Ending Animacide
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer
Andrew Stewart
The People vs. Bernie Sanders
Daniel Warner
“Vive La France, Vive La République” vs. “God Bless America”
April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail