The [Literally] Incredible Rise and Fall [Minus the Fall] of Thomas Friedman, Iraq War Cheerleader

Posted on November 13, 2008

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There is only one thing more incredible than Thomas Friedman’s ability to forget his past and re-invent himself: it is the mainstream media’s ability to enable the cleansing of his arrogantly clumsy and disastrously wrong record of advocacy on the middle east.

Currently, Friedman is making the rounds hawking his new book. On the Daily Show, November 11, he dared the gods of irony by decrying the massive debt that American reliance on oil will leave to the next generation. But John Stewart, the snarky host who went toe to toe with Lynn Cheney when she appeared on her own book tour, didn’t mention Friedman’s near-decade long war support. Freidman struck a populist note on Hardball the next evening, denouncing the grandiosity of the auto industry’s executives, and demanding that their incompetence not be rewarded. Though Matthews recently nearly ended the career of a mid-western congresswoman with his obnoxious cross-examination, he feted Friedman as one of the best journalists in America. One wonders what could prevent John Stewart from pointing out to Friedman that his advocacy of the Iraq war helped engender trillions of dollars of debt. And how could Chris Matthews pass up the chance to rub Friedman’s nose in his own now legendary incompetence on advocating the invasion and predicting its outcome?

Indeed, there have been few nationwide figures as stridently ideological, as consistently wrong, and as unwilling to examine any of his failures outside of George W. Bush and Bill Kristol. Friedman’s errors, distortions and ‘have a nice day’ war-mongering catchphrases and euphemisms are literally too numerous to recount. In New York Times weekly column after column he urged President Bush to invade Iraq, and with due haste. And he urged Americans to learn to love the invasion that would “clean up a bad neighborhood”, be “the most important liberal revolutionary U.S. democracy-building project since the Marshall Plan”, and of course would give “our kids a better chance of growing up in a safer world.” He urged Americans not to listen to “liberal” caveats or hesitation, or to give in to “unserious…euro-whining”; this was no time to think, this was a time to act. The Arab world

“needed to see 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 let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.”

Suck on this, indeed, lectured Friedman, demonstrating why he is considered the preeminent orientalist at America’s paper of record. The only thing that could go wrong is if Bush did not prosecute the war according to Friedman’s strict instructions, which changed from week depending on recent developments.

Once the war unfolded, and month by month came to be revealed as a colossal mistake from any perspective, Friedman played for time, instituting his three year campaign to convince the public that success in Iraq was ‘six months” away. It remained six months away from 2003 to 2006, and as FAIR notes, Friedman made that prediction on no less than 12 occasions over those three years. Thereafter, the “Friedman Unit”, as it came to be known, became somewhat more flexible ranging from ten months to ten years. Finally, when no amount of shuck and jive would hide his colossal arrogant failure, Friedman finally began denouncing the war in 2006, when negative public opinion was at its near height. In a bland and banal column offensively titled “Time for Plan B”, Friedman claimed the war a lost cause, and wondered aloud if it had been the fault of the “Arabs” or of Bush; neither had followed his prescriptions. But in any case the time for pointing fingers was over.

Now Friedman retreats to the last refuge of the post-Iraq consensus coward, the “green” meme. The needlessly-confident, glad-handing, walrus-faced, turtle-necked expert has been reborn and now grins his way through the talk show and pundit circuit with a new book “Hot, Flat and Crowded”. Friedman is taking a break from advocating mass murder in badly thought out invasions and proxy wars, but his apparently unshakeable belief that the United States, despite its incredible moral, economic and military failures over the past decade, is the only entity that can lead the world out of the shadows of the twentieth century remains. One would think that Friedman would be somewhat more chaste with his predictions and pronouncements after his catastrophic failure, but he is not. And none of his colleagues seem to mind.