FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Tom Friedman, the Imperial Chronicler

 

Tom Friedman is the most popular columnist in the United States. He’s also the voice of the American establishment. From his perch at the CFR (Council of Foreign Relations) he delivers his affable-sounding polemics; spreading a gospel of free markets and endless war. His many accolades, including a stockpile of Pulitzer prizes, attest to his ability to convert the self-serving doctrine of personal accumulation into the highest form of personal virtue.

Friedman is forever the casual acquaintance, the man on the street, whispering a friendly word of advice to his readers. The world according to Tom is getting “flatter” all the time. This is his snappy, non-threatening expression for globalization. Friedman is the foremost pitch-man for the new economic paradigm; ignoring the tens of thousands of high-paying American jobs that have fled the country and the withering blow that outsourcing has delivered to the middle-class. He carefully avoids the details of how the neoliberal agenda has crushed third world nations with its austerity measures; privatizing resources, deregulating business and compromising national sovereignty. Instead, he champions the dismal results as a sign of emergent democracy.

“For globalism to work,” Friedman avers, “America cannot be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is…The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist–McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonald-Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.” (NYTs March 28, 1999)

It’s doubtful that anyone has ever written a more succinct defense of American militarism. Friedman’s analysis casually mixes Machiavelli with Adam Smith; producing a poignant description of how the real world operates. Behind the illusion of “free markets” and globalization the same coercive, “hidden fist” is guiding events. For all his “folksiness”, Friedman’s world view is no different than that of George Bush.

Friedman has always been a reliable salesman for Imperial aggression. He supported the war in Iraq from the get-go; concealing his bloodlust behind the flawed justifications of democracy and liberation. His only proviso was that the war be “done right”.

That’s right; his one stipulation was that the killing, occupation and theft of resources be carried out with maximum efficiency, or, in his words, “done right”. One can only wonder whether or not the 100,000 dead Iraqis fit within Friedman’s rigid moral criteria.

Friedman’s unbridled support for the war can be best summarized in his own words:

“The war in Iraq is the most important liberal, revolutionary US democracy- building project since the Marshall Plan. It is one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad.” (New York Times)

“Noblest”?

There’s no indication that Friedman’s support has wavered in the slightest since he delivered this injunction nearly 2 years ago. And, why should it? It is a point of view that is held almost universally among his peers at the CFR and the other bastions of American plutocracy. Friedman simply articulates the commonplace view among American elites that the world should be grateful for the hellfire unleashed by the US military. The vast devastation we see in Iraq today is not the result of evil men conspiring to destroy the world’s oldest civilization, but of the incalculable arrogance expressed in Friedman’s quote. Simply put, this is the flawed rationale that underwrites Falluja, Abu Ghraib and the myriad other atrocities perpetrated on the Iraqi people.

In his most recent column Friedman explores another of his favorite themes, “Why have the winds of democracy blown everywhere else” except in the Arab world?

He responds by citing a UN report that focuses on “the acute deficit of freedom and good governance in the Arab world,” and “the state’s firm and absolute grip on power.” Friedman avers that “the report is scathing about what Arabs have done to themselves and how they must change…That’s why part of every Arab hates the US invasion of Iraq–and why another part is praying that it succeeds.”

The quote is vintage Friedman and shows why he gets the plaudits from his friends in high-places. In just a few terse comments, he manages to turn the tables and convince his reader that the victims of American aggression can only blame themselves. It’s a familiar refrain for Friedman who likes to characterize the disastrous effects of American war-mongering as a struggle with modernity within the Arab world.

He fails to acknowledge the daily bombings, arrests, and raids that are the up shot of the American occupation. He, similarly, forgoes any mention of the lack of power and services, the skyrocketing unemployment, the steadily increasing malnutrition, the poisoning of groundwater, the outbreaks of cholera and diarrhea, the continuing reports of torture and abuse, and the exponential growth of birth deformities and cancer rates among children. These, somehow, don’t fit into the tale of backward Arabs being ushered into the 21st century by their friends in Washington. Friedman’s paternalistic views would fit nicely next to the other apologies for western colonialism like “white man’s burden” or “manifest destiny”; flimsy ideologies papering-over the empire’s excesses.

The primary task of the imperial chronicler is to create an acceptable narrative for the savagery of the state. Friedman has shown that his talent at spinning that yarn far exceeds his competitors. Don’t expect to see an account of torture-chambers and death-squads in Tom’s scribbling; it’s nowhere to be found. Instead, Friedman postulates a fairytale world where American foreign policy is always governed by principle and genuine humanitarian concern. His role as establishment-scribe is to perpetuate the illusion that the American Goliath may stumble, but the policy is always driven by good intentions.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ahmet Altan’s “I Will Never See the World Again”
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail