Thomas Friedman finds Al-Qaeda in Iraq

on 36 Comments

With today’s column ["The End, for Now"], after a brief flirtation with inconvenient truths about Israel, Thomas Friedman sinks back into the pattern of self-serving mendacity. There are probably more falsehoods and inferential falsehoods per square inch in this column than in any previously published by the Times; the only possible rivals are something by Safire, or something else by Friedman.

It says: we bombed, invaded, and occupied Iraq to change “the context of Arab
politics” and address “the root causes of Arab state dysfunction.” A regional
paradigm shifter: that’s all it was. And the word Israel is not spoken once.

He uses the name “Al-Qaeda” several times, to designate the major enemy of the
U.S. in the insurgency; not informing his readers that “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” came
into existence after the U.S. invasion, around 2005, and that its recruitment
tool was the occupation itself. Unlike Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda, “Al Qaeda in Iraq”
did not exist before 2003. We created this new “root cause” of disorder in “the
context of Arab politics.”

Friedman’s story is worse than the assembly-line platitudes of Obama at Fort
Bragg on December 14: “Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices
for territory or for resources. We do it because it’s right.” Obama’s was a
generic appeal to national self-love, and would be understood, even by its
military audience, as part of the job of a politician who isn’t particularly
concerned with the truth. Friedman, by contrast, rewrites the facts of history
as palpably as the Cheney circle did when they suggested that Saddam Hussein
“attacked us on 9/11.”

These lies get lodged in people’s minds and stick. That is their purpose. And,
just as Leon Panetta recently repeated the “Iraq bombed us on 9/11″ falsehood
to American soldiers in Iraq, and then had to issue a retraction, so now will
dozens of Congressmen and columnists and opinion makers lower down the media
ladder repeat Friedman’s rechristening of the insurgency “Al-Qaeda.” But here,
there will be no retractions.

About David Bromwich

David Bromwich teaches literature at Yale. He is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and has written on politics and culture for The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, and other magazines. He is editor of Edmund Burke's selected writings On Empire, Liberty, and Reform and co-editor of the Yale University Press edition of On Liberty.

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36 Responses

  1. Exiled At Home
    December 21, 2011, 6:05 pm

    Nicely put, Professor Bromwich. Thank you for the contribution.

  2. James North
    December 21, 2011, 6:18 pm

    An excellent evisceration by Professor Bromwich. I read Friedman’s column as a feeble, half-hearted semi-apology for being wrong about the war, followed by weaselly retractions. All that was missing was his usual moving yardstick: “the next 6 months in Iraq will be decisive . . .”

    • yourstruly
      December 21, 2011, 6:32 pm

      except this time had he said “the next 6 months in Iraq will be decisive”, he might have nailed it. remember, just 6 months (post-u.s. troop withdrawal) was all it took for bach ho’s army to defeat south vietnam’s puppet troops and retake vietnam for its people. given that when the going gets tough, puppet armies seem to melt away, shouldn’t take the iraqis longer than that.

      • anonymouscomments
        December 21, 2011, 10:43 pm

        i think it is clear we created a sphere of influence for iran, and all the shiites need to stick by is one man one vote. it may be a tyranny of the majority, and will not be a multicultural love-fest after the sectarian violence our war precipitated. but it may “stabilize” once (if) we are largely gone.

        so what i wonder is… if/when the hawks get us to engage iran. the clock is now ticking, and i think they have ~1 year if they want to go the false-flag route. the public will tire of the BS if it keeps going, and the final push to get a war seems to require some serious “terror” in the US, or some major attack on our troops abroad. call it our last flame before US empire collapse. or the war to end all wars, especially when the region goes nuts and china and russia get fully pissed off that we are militarizing and occupying the bulk of the world’s oil supply, just as peak oil hits.

        i swear the crazy people in the deep gov like the idea of 2012 prophecies, armageddon, and whatnot. they think they are god, why not play out the script?

        • marc b.
          December 22, 2011, 9:05 am

          i swear the crazy people in the deep gov like the idea of 2012 prophecies, armageddon, and whatnot. they think they are god, why not play out the script?

          some of those goofy french post-modernist thinkers have argued that ‘hitler won’, and that all military/economic post-war planning is based on the total mobilization of all resources, for continuous, total war. every transaction, every conflict is viewed as a struggle to the death for . . . whatever. michel serres called it the ‘thanatocracy’. serres puts it this way: many theorists pose the question ‘what would happen if some madman came into power and possession of nuclear weapons, unrestrained by morality?’ his answer is that the question is ‘poorly posed’ in the first instance.

          the dangerous madmen are already in power, since they constructed that possibility [nuclear destruction], installed the stocks, since they shrewdly prepared for the total extinction of life. Their psychosis is not a momentary attack, but rather a rational architecture, a logic without crossing-out, a rigorous dialectic. Study the documents closely, observe the facts, and you’ll be persuaded at once that only something like a psychiatry can truly explain the post-war segment of history. You’ll be persuaded that we have lived and do live under Hitler’s posterity: it seems proven to me that he won the war.

        • marc b.
          December 22, 2011, 11:16 am

          anonymous, more news under the heading of ‘christmas greetings from the thanatocracy’

          link to independent.co.uk

          Attempts to censor details of controversial influenza experiments that created a highly infectious form of bird-flu virus are unlikely to stop the information from leaking out, according to scientists familiar with the research.

          The US Government has asked the editors of two scientific journals to refrain from publishing key parts of research on the H5N1 strain of bird-flu in order to prevent the information falling into the hands of terrorists intent on recreating the same flu strain for use as a bioweapon.

          However, scientists yesterday condemned the move. Some said that the decision comes too late because the information has already been shared widely among flu researchers, while others argued that the move could obstruct attempts to find new vaccines and drugs against an infectious form of human H5N1 if it appeared naturally.

          Professor Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, said that the research, which was funded by the US Government, should never have been done without first assessing the risks and benefits.

          “The work posed risks that outweighed benefits and that were clearly foreseeable before the work was performed,” Professor Ebright said.

          “The work should have been reviewed at the national or international level before being performed, and should have been restricted at a national or international level before being performed,” he said.

          Two teams of researchers, one led by Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and the other by Yoshihiro Kawaoke of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have submitted manuscripts on bird-flu virus to the journals Nature and Science. In them, they describe how they deliberately mutated the H5N1 strain of bird-flu into an “airborne” strain that can be transmitted in coughs and sneezes between laboratory ferrets, the best animal “model” of human flu.

          who said scientists are like, you know, smart?

    • Annie Robbins
      December 21, 2011, 7:15 pm

      “the next 6 months in Iraq will be decisive . . .”

      he will be forever know as the founder of the friedman unit

      link to en.wikipedia.org

  3. Avi_G.
    December 21, 2011, 6:24 pm

    “the next 6 months in Iraq will be decisive . . .”

    Well, to his credit, he did get it right one of those 6 months, though. Didn’t he? ;)

    Even a broken clock is……

  4. marc b.
    December 21, 2011, 6:29 pm

    With the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Iraq, we’re finally going to get the answer to the core question about that country: Was Iraq the way Iraq was because Saddam was the way Saddam was, or was Saddam the way Saddam was because Iraq is the way Iraq is —

    god, but he is a piss poor writer, and for anyone who fawns hyperbolic about one of friedman’s articles as a ‘watershed’ moment in his educational trajectory, please return to this bit of excremental nonsense. you’d have to have one shoe nailed to the floor to view anything friedman does as a ‘turning point’. friedman is Rwitty with a pulitzer. in other words, he is irredeemable. and i see no evidence that he has experienced the least bit of embarassment or shame over his decades-long campaign for arab blood. here he treats us to his insincere hypothesizing about the potential for arab democracy, when every word insinuates that ‘arabs’ are inherently masochistic and psychologically incapable of operating except under the whip of a tyrant. what a frickin’ sociopath.

    • Don
      December 22, 2011, 8:05 am

      Marc…I could be wrong, but I think this may be the single most spectacular paragraph in Mondoweiss history. Great phrases, great insight, drop dead serious…and in spite of all that…very funny!

      excremental nonsense
      one shoe nailed to the floor
      Rwitty with a pulitzer
      decades-long campaign for arab blood
      what a frickin’ sociopath

      • marc b.
        December 22, 2011, 8:51 am

        thanks, don. i have my moments. and merry christmas.

        • Taxi
          December 22, 2011, 11:55 am

          ‘Merry crimbles’ marc b (that’s how they say it it England).

          And an astute new year to you – and to EVERYBODY!!!! (No not you ziogangbangers never!)

        • marc b.
          December 22, 2011, 12:41 pm

          joyeux noel, frohliche weihnachten, vesele vanoce, feliz navidad, and marie crimbles to you, taxi.

  5. casaananda
    December 21, 2011, 6:34 pm

    Thanks David Bromwich. I knew Yale, where I went for a grad degree, is good something, after trashing Dr. Juan Cole. You!

  6. eljay
    December 21, 2011, 6:39 pm

    >> Now we’re going to get the answer because both the internal iron fist that held Iraq together (Saddam Hussein) and the external iron fist (the U.S. armed forces) have been removed.

    The “external iron fist” that had no business invading, overthrowing, occupying and generally f*cking things up royally. Oh, that’s right, “… we don’t make these sacrifices
    for territory or for resources. We do it because it’s right.” Obama makes me want to barf.

  7. RoHa
    December 21, 2011, 6:59 pm

    As I understand it, BLs AlQ had a foothold (a tiny branch office) in a tiny scrap of Kurdistan where Saddam did not have much power.

  8. American
    December 21, 2011, 7:03 pm

    Friedman is trying to get the conservation away from his Israel Lobby slip up by writing this Iraq pap about how it wasn’t for Israel..not that he says that but that’s what he’s trying to convey with all the nonsense.

    Compared to Friedman I feel like a genius…can I have a Pulizer Prize?…I wrote the day we invaded Iraq that the day we left Iraq it would go back to being Iraq.
    I was right.
    And Afghan will go back to being Afghan…..I will be right about that too.

  9. tombishop
    December 21, 2011, 7:05 pm

    Every time I read one of these idiots trying to justify what we did to Iraq I replay this interview from last week on Democracy Now so my consciousness is seared with awareness of how pathetic these apologists who enabled this historic war crime are:

    link to democracynow.org

  10. Annie Robbins
    December 21, 2011, 7:29 pm

    He uses the name “Al-Qaeda” several times, to designate the major enemy of the U.S. in the insurgency; not informing his readers that “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” came into existence after the U.S. invasion, around 2005, and that its recruitment
    tool was the occupation itself. Unlike Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda, “Al Qaeda in Iraq” did not exist before 2003. We created this new “root cause” of disorder in “the context of Arab politics.”

    you took the words right our of my mouth…this “root cause” allowed the US to pose as the ‘moderating’ force ‘protecting’ iraqis, for what would we have done without them? and do not forget the illusive al baghdadi
    link to en.wikipedia.org
    the man who experience death after death as the emir of ‘the islamic state of iraq’ whatever that is.

    killing him was so popular with the army claimed to have done it 3 times before finally admitting he was a fictional character:

    link to nytimes.com

    For more than a year, the leader of one the most notorious insurgent groups in Iraq was said to be a mysterious Iraqi named Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi.

    As the titular head of the Islamic State in Iraq, an organization publicly backed by Al Qaeda, Baghdadi issued a steady stream of incendiary pronouncements. Despite claims by Iraqi officials that he had been killed in May, Baghdadi appeared to have persevered unscathed.

    On Wednesday, a senior American military spokesman provided a new explanation for Baghdadi’s ability to escape attack: He never existed.

    Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, the chief American military spokesman, said the elusive Baghdadi was actually a fictional character whose audio-taped declarations were provided by an elderly actor named Abu Adullah al-Naima.

    The ruse, Bergner said, was devised by Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who was trying to mask the dominant role that foreigners play in that insurgent organization.

    The ploy was to invent Baghdadi, a figure whose very name establishes his Iraqi pedigree, install him as the head of a front organization called the Islamic State of Iraq and then arrange for Masri to swear allegiance to him. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy, sought to reinforce the deception by referring to Baghdadi in his video and Internet statements.

    yeah right, he was so popular the US probably invented him themselves until they couldn’t keep up the charade any longer and then they blamed him off on someone else.

  11. MRW
    December 21, 2011, 7:56 pm

    Mr. Bromwish, your opening paragraph was delish.

    A quibble: you wrote “Unlike Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda….” Not so fast.

    Watch the banned-on-US-TV Part III of Adam Curtis’ Power of Nightmares.
    “The Shadows in the Cave”
    Google video:
    link to video.google.com
    Google video with transcript:
    link to informationclearinghouse.info

    • MRW
      December 21, 2011, 10:56 pm

      Sorry about that “Bromwish.” I know it’s “Bromwich.”

    • anonymouscomments
      December 21, 2011, 10:59 pm

      love the adam curtis stuff. in the present day i always wonder how deep CIA/mossad/MI6/ISI really reach into the few organized and effective “al-qaeda” terror groups. the ideology itself is clearly sincere, and gathers actual followers (how hard does the west and israel ef the ME? very very hard, many many dead people). but i assume we have good penetration at the foot soldier level, and at least contacts and great intel at the top levels.

      i always think of israel’s attempt at a fake al-qaeda terror cell in gaza, our history with al-qaeda, and now our new ties with the terrorists we installed in libya.

      this game seems absurd. is the point to just keep the oil rich regions war-torn, make money for the MIC, and perhaps keep the west on the israeli side of this ongoing “clash of civilizations” script? WTF is the damn goal now, really?

  12. RoHa
    December 21, 2011, 8:50 pm

    “There are probably more falsehoods and inferential falsehoods per square inch in this column than in any previously published by the Times; the only possible rivals are something by Safire,…”

    In fairness to Safire, he was right about the grammar of conditional sentences.

  13. mudder
    December 21, 2011, 9:14 pm

    Insightful Professor. Friedman’s mind is its own place, and in itself has already made a heav’n of hell. He says he didn’t buy the storylline. But he convinced his readers of it.

  14. jayn0t
    December 21, 2011, 9:22 pm

    This is way off topic, even by my standards, but…

    link to telegraph.co.uk

    A leader of the Falkland Islanders have compared his people to the Palestinians, claiming the latter get more support. He’s probably never heard the word ‘chutzpah’.

  15. Krauss
    December 22, 2011, 1:53 am

    Thomas Friedman does not want to be Goldstoned.
    This article proves that the attacks got under his skin.

    Nontheless, the situation in Iraq is very alarming.
    Someone complained about this section of his column:

    “With the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Iraq, we’re finally going to get the answer to the core question about that country: Was Iraq the way Iraq was because Saddam was the way Saddam was, or was Saddam the way Saddam was because Iraq is the way Iraq is”

    Whatever the phrasing, it sums up the situation. If you people haven’t been following the situation in Iraq, you ought to do that now. The current Iraqi PM is showing extreme dictatorial tendencies and that country may spin out of control.

    But the reasons for going into war? That’s just a sloppy apology to the lobby.
    Someone once said that he is a quissential Establishment columnist.
    This article proves why.

    If it were fashionable to talk about the Bolivian lobby tomorrow, Friedman wouldn’t be far behind.

    • marc b.
      December 22, 2011, 10:28 am

      Whatever the phrasing, it sums up the situation. If you people haven’t been following the situation in Iraq, you ought to do that now. The current Iraqi PM is showing extreme dictatorial tendencies and that country may spin out of control.

      that’s not right at all. first, how is that the US has withdrawn from iraq, as friedman put it? the largest embassy in the world, with an undisclosed number of ‘private contractors’ remaining in country, and tens of thousands of uniformed troops in s.arabia, turkey and afghanistan. as to any ‘dictatorial tendencies’, the US/UN/NATO has been doing their level best to irritate sectarian tensions with the no-flow zones, kurdish ‘independence’, etc. that a perfectly functioning western-style parliamentary democracy does not exist in iraq is not nearly the fault of iraqis, assuming that that is their goal.

      If it were fashionable to talk about the Bolivian lobby tomorrow, Friedman wouldn’t be far behind.

      that i agree with, hence friedman’s new found interest and ‘expertise’ on environmental matters, a way of repairing his reputation. how soon until we have a picture of him and his wife on the floor of their apartment feeding fry to a baby seal?

  16. Taxi
    December 22, 2011, 2:26 am

    The people DEMAND to hear REAL war stories from the very mouths of returning soldiers – not from the janitor-jounalist brigades that are occupying our political discourse with bottles of bleach in hand.

  17. Richard Witty
    December 22, 2011, 7:10 am

    link to podcast.lannan.org

    Norman Finkelstein interview with Chris Hedges.

    On the lobby, start at around 32:00.

    • Donald
      December 22, 2011, 10:32 am

      I saw part of that the other day. I agree that Cheney isn’t one to be tricked by the Lobby. My own impression from years of reading “Commentary” and “National Review” is that there were plenty of non-Jewish conservatives (and some neoliberals) who viewed foreign policy in the same terms as the editors of “Commentary”. That is, neocons aren’t all Jewish. Duh. They viewed the world as divided between “the West” and “everyone else” and “everyone else” had to be kept in line. For someone like Cheney, the Israelis would be part of “the West” and he probably could not have cared less about the Palestinians–they were part of “everyone else”. If they got out of line, smash them.

      This is in contrast to some other members of the foreign policy establishment, who did and do see some conflicts of interest between Israel and the US. I’m thinking, for example, of someone like James Baker. I doubt Baker actually cares about Palestinians either, but he could see that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians creates problems for the US. Cheney would see the solution to that problem as more force.

      • Richard Witty
        December 22, 2011, 11:33 am

        Finkelstein concluded that the lobby had little to no influence on the decision to enter Iraq, which is widely promoted here.

        And, that the idea of some over-arching cabal is more than ludicrous, worse.

        • Jeffrey Blankfort
          December 22, 2011, 5:37 pm

          Finkelstein’s spiritual mentor and longtime supporter is Chomsky who blames every ill on the world either directly or indirectly on US imperialism and, in deference, to Chomsky I suspect that he is unwilling to give credence to the notion that Iraq was a war for Israel, orchestrated by pro-Likkud Jewish neocons with extraordinary influence both inside and outside of the White House.

          Finkelstein’s expertise, however, is not Iraq nor the Iraq war and so what he has to say about it should carry little weight. He has, in the past, admitted that The Lobby shapes US policy toward the Israel-Palestine conflict but that’s as far as we will go. Like Chomsky the Lobby is not a subject he is eager to talk about.

        • Shingo
          December 22, 2011, 5:55 pm

          What is ludicrous is that you expect anyone to take you seriously.

          You have rejected practically every argument Finkelstein has ever made, so it’s ludicrous that you suddenly expect anyone to believe you and Fink are on the same page.

  18. Les
    December 22, 2011, 10:11 am

    Let’s give credit to Bush and now Obama for creating terrorists for generations to come of innocent Americans thanks to the slaughter of innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, . . .

  19. traintosiberia
    December 22, 2011, 8:18 pm

    THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
    Published: December 20, 2011
    Iraq was always a war of choice. As I never bought the argument that Saddam had nukes that had to be taken out, the decision to go to war stemmed, for me, from a different choice:THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
    12/20/11 NY Times

    “Friedman had been pushing the notion of an Iraqi nuclear threat as far back as July 7, 1991, when he severely criticized the first President Bush for leaving Saddam in power in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, arguing that “Mr. Hussein has a unique personal incentive to continue trying to obtain a nuclear weapon quickly.” Friedman wrote critically of what he considered President Bill Clinton’s tepid response to Iraq’s supposed WMD threat, with the columnist warning in December of 2002 that “Saddam Hussein was an expert at hiding his war toys and, having four years without inspections, had probably buried everything good under mosques or cemeteries.” Friedman was a particularly harsh critic of the French, who wanted to triple the number of U.N. weapons inspectors and let them finish their work before rushing to war. Friedman in February of 2003 argued that “the inspections have failed not because of a shortage of inspectors. They have failed because of a shortage of compliance on Saddam’s part, as the French know. The way you get compliance out of a thug like Saddam is not by tripling the inspectors, but by tripling the threat that if he does not comply he will be faced with a UN-approved war.” link to opednews.com

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