Tom Friedman pushed Iraq war as ‘radical liberal revolution’ to ‘install democracy in heart of Arab world’

I sometimes forget what happened to our country. But Belén Fernández has a new book out on Tom Friedman called The Imperial Messenger, and she reminds us of Friedman’s achievement, in an interview in the NY Times Examiner: 


Friedman sells the Iraq war as “the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched” despite making subsequent assessments such as “The neocon strategy may have been necessary to trigger reform in Iraq and the wider Arab world, but it will not be sufficient unless it is followed up by what I call a ‘geo-green’ strategy.” As I point out in my book, it is difficult to determine how many true “geo-greens” would advocate for the tactical contamination of the earth’s soil with depleted uranium munitions; why not introduce a doctrine of neoconservationism?

Fernández links to Tom Friedman cheerleading the Iraq war in 2003. Wow, I forgot about his stuff! Or thankfully never read it in the first place. The question arises, Did Tom Friedman make any difference with this kind of talk? And I say of course he did, he helped convince the liberal Establishment to go along with this foolish war. Friedman and Ken Pollack and Bill Keller and David Remnick– the pen is mightier than the sword. 

[T]he Baathists and Arab dictators are opposing the U.S. in Iraq because — unlike many leftists — they understand exactly what this war is about. They understand that U.S. power is not being used in Iraq for oil, or imperialism, or to shore up a corrupt status quo, as it was in Vietnam and elsewhere in the Arab world during the cold war. They understand that this is the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched — a war of choice to install some democracy in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world.

Most of the troubles we have encountered in Iraq (and will in the future) are not because of ”occupation” but because of ”empowerment.” The U.S. invasion has overturned a whole set of vested interests, particularly those of Iraq’s Sunni Baathist establishment, and begun to empower instead a whole new set of actors: Shiites, Kurds, non-Baathist Sunnis, women and locally elected officials and police. The Qaeda nihilists, the Saddamists, and all the Europeans and the Arab autocrats who had a vested interest in the old status quo are threatened by this.

Many liberals oppose this war because they can’t believe that someone as radically conservative as George W. Bush could be mounting such a radically liberal war.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 30 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. annie says:

    Many liberals oppose this war because they can’t believe that someone as radically conservative as George W. Bush could be mounting such a radically liberal war.

    riiiight…i somehow recall lots of liberals defining the iraq war and ‘radically liberal’ and just not trusting cheney could carry it off/not.

    • edwin says:

      I think that liberals started opposing the war when it started looking like the US was going to lose.

      • RoHa says:

        “I think that liberals started opposing the war when it started looking like the US was going to lose.”

        I don’t know what a liberal is, but I know that millions of decent people in the US and all over the world opposed the war before it started.

        • annie says:

          yes there were protests all over the world on synchronized dates. i attended one in perth and there were many cities in the US, all over europe and south america. i remember telling people in perth..we can’t do it..we can’t..we won’t let it happen, but i was wrong.

        • RoHa says:

          Perth Scotland or Perth Australia?

  2. Chaos4700 says:

    “Radically liberal?” Neo-liberal, maybe, which is basically just neo-conservatism with less shouting.

  3. pabelmont says:

    Be fun to make Friedman explain just why it is that the USA was in favor of “democracy” — under multi-trillion-$ duress — in Iraq, but disfavors it (even though it’d be cheap) absolutely for Palestine (despite having once plumped for elections) and but lukewarm about actual democracy in Egypt (I am too polite to mention Bahrain).

    Or, BETTER YET, to get Friedman to express HIS OWN views on these matters, to see if he can square the circles within circles.

  4. RE: “Friedman and Ken Pollack and Bill Keller and David Remnick– the pen is mightier than the sword.” ~ Cap’n Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Bill Keller blames it all on his second daughter! Apparently, that’s today’s equivalent of the (Hostess) Twinkie® defense. Don’t laugh, Dan White was only convicted of manslaughter and spent less than five years in prison for murdering two people!

    LIZZY RATNER:

    …Consider one of Keller’s first excuses, what I call his Daddy Defense, which he offers up just a few paragraphs into the piece. Sounding something like a neo-Gothic horror novelist, he writes, “I remember a mounting protective instinct, heightened by the birth of my second daughter. Something dreadful was loose in the world, and the urge to stop it, to do something — to prove something — was overriding a career-long schooling in the virtues of caution and skepticism. By the time of Alice’s birth I had already turned my attention to Iraq…”

    SOURCE – link to mondoweiss.net

    P.S. Those men and their raging hormones! Maybe they should stay at home and look after the children.

  5. piotr says:

    If Persians had any decency, they would stop threatening Persian Gulf with their presence. It should be known simple as “The Gulf”, except when it is very clear that we mean Gulf of Mexico (and if Mexico had any decency … well, having two nameless Gulfs we could name one after Ronald Reagan).

    Anything short of that is a half-measure not worthy serious contemplation. Imagine that the Iranians offer to totally dismantle their nuclear program down to the last computer similation (hard chestnut — how to remove those with a preventative attack?) provided that we offer something of value to them. What would our neocons offer?

  6. Kathleen says:

    Friedman was a big cheerleader for the Iraq war. Not hard to remember. He was everywhere along with Kristol, Frum, Woolsey, Gaffney, Bolton, Micheal Rubin, Reuel Marc Gerecht, along with the big guns in the Bush administration. They are all covered in the blood spilled in Iraq

  7. A few comments on the Iraq war:

    1. The Iraq war was launched by the Bush Cheney administration. Most American Jewish supporters of Israel voted for their opponents- Gore Lieberman.

    2. In fact Bush Cheney won the election due to a decision by the Supreme Court. At the time there were two Jewish votes on the Supreme Court (whether Zionist or not). They both voted against Bush Cheney.

    3. The key question is why did Dick Cheney change from a realist conservative when he was with Bush pere into neoconservative Dick Cheney when he was with Bush fils.

    • James North says:

      WJ: I agree entirely with your 3 comments.
      But I don’t think you go quite far enough. I think there is a good chance the Cheney/Bush administration would have succesfully pushed for war against Iraq no matter what. Yet I suspect you would agree that their aim was greatly helped along by support not just from neo-conservatives, but from purportedly centrist opinion-makers like Friedman.
      What continues to astonish me is that Friedman seems to have suffered no consequences from his failure on the greatest foreign policy issue of our time. If he made the same kind of error in the business world, he would have been fired.

      • Shmuel says:

        If he made the same kind of error in the business world, he would have been fired.

        Either that or a bailout and a bonus.

      • Philip Weiss says:

        what is the definition of aiding and abetting? is a conspirator off the hook just cause they didnt pull the trigger?
        agreed re the career stuff. when is someone going to do a lineup of all the CFR types, or the FP types, who were Wrong about the most important foreign policy decision of their adult lifetimes? the regime that gave us iraq is still in power…

        • Hostage says:

          what is the definition of aiding and abetting?

          The legal requirements pertaining to individual or state responsibility for the crime of genocide do not require an actual, completed genocide, in the common-sense understanding of the term, but only a prohibited act (incitement or conspiracy) with the intent of destroying the group in whole or in part, e.g. link to papers.ssrn.com

          The United States illegally occupied the territory of Iraq; branded a large percentage of the lawful inhabitants “insurgents”; and proceeded to persecute or exterminate them on the basis of their political or religious beliefs and resistance to the occupation.

      • Frances says:

        “If he made the same kind of error in the business world, he would have been fired.”

        I don’t think Friedman CARES about being right. People whose job it is to regurgitate crude establishment propaganda and cover it with a thin veneer of intellectualism don’t have to worry about being right. Friedman’s job is just to dissemble and obfuscate and provide administrations with the left cover they need to be as greedy and selfish as possible.

    • Sand says:

      1. However, when we all found out that Joe Lieberman turned out to be a neocon all along, a majority of CT Jewish voters apparently still voted for “iconic Jewish Senator” Lieberman rather than voting for the Democrat. That was sad.
      link to thejewishweek.com

      2. I never thought Ginsburg was the neocon warmonger, or hardcore zionist type. However, Lieberman did a rather good job of changing the political game outside the doors of the Supreme Court. From the film Recount:

      – Thanks for nothing Lieberman

      3. I’ve always wondered that? Maybe Cheney was part of the ‘The Crazies’ gang after all? Having mini-strokes affecting his brain and coming to the conclusion if you can’t beat them, then join them?

      –All Options on the Table
      link to alternet.org

  8. Friedman was and is influential. He is not dogmatic in his presentation, and strikes people as making common sense.

    He is definitely liberal.

    He certainly learned from his experience with Iraq.

    To dis someone permanently that learns is counter-productive (the most charitable word for it, there are others).

    • James North says:

      Richard Witty said, ‘Look at this

      He certainly learned from his experience with Iraq.

      ‘Other visitors to Mondoweiss have been unable to find Thomas Friedman’s apology for cheerleading for war against Iraq, in which he showed both terrible political judgment and abject moral failure. I will soon provide links to Friedman’s apologies. Otherwise, Mondoweiss visitors might think I’m just making things up — or else that I can read Friedman’s mind.’

      • “You know that an idea is catching on when Tom Friedman gets behind it. He’s been a reliable weathervane for some time (a cheerleader for U.S.-led globalization in the 1990s, backing the Iraq War in 2002 and then reversing course when it went south”

        link to walt.foreignpolicy.com

        • Donald says:

          A link to a Friedman column opposing the war would be better if there is one. He’s been critical of aspects of it, but in a recent column he referred to the occupation of Iraq by US forces as an “occupation”–yes, he put quote marks around it.

          link

          If you read the column he supports pulling our troops out of Iraq, but says our invasion was “well-intentioned”. Sorry, but that’s not an apology for supporting it.

      • Cliff says:

        Welcome back James North!

    • Cliff says:

      Tom Friedman is not liberal.

      He is dogmatic.

      He did not learn from his experience with Iraq.

      He strikes other equally ignorant, intellectual frauds (like you Witty) as making common sense.

    • Donald says:

      “He is not dogmatic in his presentation, and strikes people as making common sense.

      He is definitely liberal.”

      He’s been very dogmatic–back in the 90′s he was cheering for the “golden straitjacket”, his term for the austerity imposed on countries by the financial markets, which he saw then as the incarnation of the infallible wisdom of the invisible hand. He was for the Iraq War and in the liberal blogosphere the “Friedman Unit” became a widely mocked term, meaning six months, because Friedman repeatedly claimed that the next six months would be crucial in determining the success of that war.

      Obviously someone must be buying Friedman’s books, but then plenty of people buy books by Dan Brown and other third rate writers. He’s an author for people silly enough to find his pseudo-folksy oversimplifications charming. Plus the endless praise he gives to business leaders must make someone happy.

      He is, however, a good weathervane, in the sense that if a tornado is blowing your house down he might let you know it just as the walls come crashing on your head.

  9. seafoid says:

    Friedman is a purveyor of pop analysis to the middle classes and no more. His “the world is flat” looks really good now that globalisation is in retreat. His “no 2 mcDonalds countries have ever gone to war” was destroyed in Georgia. He has zero credibility. He says whatever TPTB will allow.

    did he ever apologise for his cheerleading for the Iraq war ?

  10. Avi_G. says:

    Actually Friedman pushed the Iraq war for a cruder rationale, “Suck on THIS!”

    Intellectualizing Thomas Friedman’s nonsense is an insult to any thinking human being.

    Friedman is an Establishment bigot.

  11. Patrick says:

    After the invasion and no WMD were found, a new rationale for the war had to be found. So Friedman wrote on Oct. 30 , 2003 :

    “unlike many leftists — [Baathists] understand exactly what this war is about. They understand that U.S. power is not being used in Iraq for oil, or imperialism … They understand that this is the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched — a war of choice to install some democracy in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world.”

    But before the invasion it was a different matter. This was Friedman on Jan. 5, 2003:

    “Is the war that the Bush team is preparing to launch in Iraq really a war for oil? My short answer is yes. Any war we launch in Iraq will certainly be – in part – about oil. To deny that is laughable.

    Let’s cut the nonsense. The primary reason the Bush team is more focused on Saddam [than N. Korea] is because if he were to acquire weapons of mass destruction, it might give him the leverage he has long sought — not to attack us, but to extend his influence over the world’s largest source of oil, the Persian Gulf.”

    link to nytimes.com

    • Avi_G. says:

      In a rare candid moment of introspection, Samuel Huntington, the author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order which was published in 1997, wrote on page 50:

      “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.”