Enough is enough. Thomas Friedman has just published his first column since the catastrophe in Iraq, and it is marked by so much dishonest evasion, pedestrian analysis, and poor writing that his editors should put him out to pasture at a think tank somewhere in Colorado, where he can’t do much more damage.
First and most important; he nowhere admits that he loudly advocated for the 2003 U.S. invasion and the policies since then that have culminated in this violent debacle. A writer with some integrity would have said straightforwardly that he was wrong, explained why, and tried to draw some useful lessons from his mistakes, as in-
“I misunderstood that the American invasion force would trigger and help inflame a civil war among Iraqis.”
Instead, Friedman’s analysis is limited to noting that the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Malaki, is “not a friend of a democratic, pluralistic Iraq.” He makes no effort to try and understand the larger social and economic framework that has shaped Malaki and the other actors.
Friedman’s legendary tin ear does not desert him, when he concludes,
“In a word, Malaki has been a total jerk.”
This is an odd choice of words. A “jerk” is someone in front of you at a basketball game who won’t sit down, not a man like Malaki who has been charged with permitting or even running vicious sectarian death squads.
Friedman’s trademark pomposity is also on display. His column is headlined “5 Principles for Iraq,” and it reads like a clumsy PowerPoint presentation from the Human Resources Department. His fourth principle is:
He has already informed us that he just got back from Iraq; this is what he traveled there to learn?
Then there is Friedman the Simplifying Ignoramus. He asserts that there is conflict in Iraq today because “too many of them are still fighting over who is the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad from the 7th century.” He does not even recognize that religious sectarianism in Iraq exploded after the American invasion, much less try and explain why.
There are, as always, a couple of expressions to make the reader cringe. He actually writes that two political parties in Kurdistan “buried the hatchet.” And he snidely addresses an Iranian commander by saying, “Well, Suleimani: This Bud’s for you.”
A few months ago, here at the site we argued that Thomas Friedman’s column should be outsourced to India. We pointed out that there are accomplished Indians already writing in English who could take over his job tomorrow, and we named several names. It is past time that the Times took up our suggestion.