Thomas L. Friedman and the Bali Bombers


The Daily Telegraph of Australia carries a report of an extraordinary death-row press conference/ festive family visit (Indonesian death rows run on looser rules than do American ones) involving Bali-bomb planner Imam Samudra who is said to have told reporters when asked what he would say to the victims’ families: "If they are unbelievers I say to them, it is your risk because you are kafir and unbeliever … If the people are not Muslim I am never, never sorry for them."(Cindy Wockner and Gita Anggun Athika, "Terrorists’ Final Insult. Facing hate: the day I met the Bali bombers," The Daily Telegraph (Australia), Saturday, November 24, 2007 [via Joyo Indonesian News Service])

The writer justly complained that Imam Samudra and his two co-convicts "were being treated more like celebrities than the cold-blooded killers they are."

In May, 2003, not on death row, but on a prestige forum on US network TV, a leading thinker of the US establishment, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, gave perhaps the most compelling explanation yet by a powerful Washington figure for why the US invaded Iraq — or, more precisely, why it felt compelled at that moment to invade a Muslim country like Iraq.

Speaking on the Charlie Rose show, Friedman postulated the existence of a terrorist "bubble" — a prevailing idea — then popular, he said, in a certain part of the world:

"And what we needed to do was go over to that part of the world, I’m afraid, and burst that bubble. We needed to go over there, basically, and take out a very big stick, right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble. And there was only one way to do it. Because part of that bubble said: ‘We’ve got you. This bubble is actually going to level the balance of power between us and you because we don’t care about life. We’re ready to sacrifice and all you care about are your stock options and your Hummers.’"

"And what they 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 going to let it grow? Well, suck on this.’"

"OK? That, Charlie, was what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could."

(Thomas Friedman appearance on Charlie Rose, PBS, May 30, 2003)

Friedman was obviously speaking metaphorically, playing the tough-guy on PBS, but when he was saying to the Muslims chosen to be used as examples "suck on this" — once again articulating Washington’s Id — he seemed to be speaking not just in the sexual sense but also in the sense of inviting them to wrap their lips around an M-16.

Given the fact that the invasion of Iraq really was, to a significant extent, a case of find-a-Muslim, any Muslim,-and-kill-them, it can be difficult to convince overseas Muslims who raise the issue that US policy is not religion-driven.

But it isn’t. The US system is too cold-blooded for that, despite the presence in it of some religious fanatics (like, for example, General William G. Boykin, Rumsfeld’s special operations chief, or, for that matter, President Bush himself, who is reported to believe in Armageddon).

It was Washington’s Zbigniew Brzezinski (now foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama) who once boasted of creating the Afghani jihadists (to screw the Soviets, he said, and, he added, it was definitely worth it; see "’The CIA’s Intervention in Afghanistan,’" Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998, Posted at globalresearch.ca 15 October 2001), and it was the US that flew early Al Qaeda types to Bosnia to fight on the Muslim/ NATO side.

If you actually took Washington’s pile of corpses from recent decades and sorted them out by religion, there’s a good chance that the Catholic stack would stand highest, given the operations in South, then Central, America.

So there are clearly differences between the targeting criteria employed by a Friedman and an Imam Samudra. One would kill you if you had the wrong religion. The other if you had the wrong (non-US) address, and if he woke up that morning and simply felt that the national interest (or whim) required the killing of someone vaguely resembling your description.

There are differences, but there is a more important commonality, ie. a willingness to commit holy murder (or at least advocate it from a first class hotel room). In the name of God, in the name of the State, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re the victim, you’re just as dead, and the perpetrator feels just as uplifted.

Its not clear if Imam Samudra is a good, punchy, concise writer, but that doesn’t matter either. Since he is due to be executed, there won’t be time for The New York Times to offer him a column.

Allain Nairn can be reached through his blog.

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