Being a pundit means never having to say you’re sorry.

Thomas Friedman can wax pompous on the Iraq disaster, as he did in Sunday’s New York Times, without acknowledging his own cheerleading for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which led directly to the current catastrophe.

In his piece, Friedman chastises everyone from Iran to the Arabs for the calamity in Iraq in his usual glib style. (He actually uses the phrase: “This Bud’s for you.”) But one principal actor is missing: the Bush invasion Friedman backed. He should read terrorism expert Peter Bergen to jog his memory.

“From where did ISIS spring?” Bergen asks on CNN, referring to the extremist group now controlling much of Iraq. “One of George W. Bush's most toxic legacies is the introduction of al Qaeda into Iraq, which is the ISIS mother ship.”

The U.S. intelligence community is in broad agreement that there was no cooperation, as Bush alleged in the run-up to the war, between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.

But a year and a half after the war started, Al Qaeda set up shop in Iraq, taking advantage of the chaos to promote itself as a protector of the Sunni minority. (For more on how the U.S. invasion led to the current situation, read Professor Stephen Zunes’ piece on The Progressive website.)

Friedman displays total amnesia on this point, as he does on his support of the U.S. attack. At the start of the Iraq War, he indelicately laid out his rationale for why the U.S. had to steamroll Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

“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,” he told Charlie Rose in March 2003. “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 gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.”

After the war started, Friedman became notorious for his insistence that the war would be “turning a corner” in six months’ time. Indeed, he repeated this mantra so many times that it became a punch line among Friedman watchers.

In 2011, when U.S. troops were withdrawing from Iraq, Friedman had these words of wisdom:

“Former President George W. Bush’s gut instinct that this region craved and needed democracy was always right. It should have and could have been pursued with much better planning and execution. This war has been extraordinarily painful and costly. But democracy was never going to have a virgin birth in a place like Iraq, which has never known any such thing.”

Friedman opined on Charlie Rose that the United States was the “well-armed midwife” Iraq needed to birth its democracy.

As the U.S.-backed government crumbles and ISIS advances, Friedman’s mixed metaphor looks worse than ever. On Sunday, he opined that “we have no friends in this fight.”

“Is anyone there even fighting for our interests: a minimally stable Iraq that doesn’t threaten us?” he asked. “And whom we can realistically help? The answers still aren’t clear to me.”

Too bad they were so much clearer—and wrong—back when it really mattered.

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Comments

Thomas Friedman was the intellectual side kick of the former Neo Con's. He appealed to the upper middle class of the early part of the millennium, talking about "Democracy" as he saw it - meaning rampant privatization of the Iraqi economy - rather than harping on Weapons of Mass Destruction as Bush himself did. Friedman had a role to play back then as the so called voice of the liberal establishment. Now that the Democrats are becoming full scale interventionists - supporting regime change in Libya, Syria and to a certain extent the Ukraine - Friedman has become more dispensable as the voice of Liberal intellectual support for militarism.

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"An idiot is running for President."

"Trending on Twitter—so it must be true."

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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