March 20, 2013

Parodying the Master of Self-Parody, Tom Friedman

Bearing in mind at all times Bob Somerby's admonition that "we are where we are because of these people," I give you Tom Friedman's lede in his column today: 

"On this 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, three things are clear. First, whatever happens in Iraq, we overpaid for it in lives and treasure and focus. Second, you can overpay for something decent and you can overpay for total junk. What exactly we overpaid for in Iraq is not yet clear and will be decided by Iraqis. Third, as much as we’d prefer to forget about Iraq, what happens there matters more than ever for the Middle East."
Friedman, of course, is an important "opinion maker" in the United States. Many Americans assume he makes sense, that he has some idea what he's talking about, that he is a learned and wise man. That's a shame, because the man's an idiot, a schmendrick of the first water. However, these days I have a reason to look forward to his columns because of the "Really, Tom Friedman?" parody that haunts and follows Friedman around at  That's his photo-shop of the peerless thinker above.  Some blogger has managed to inhabit Friedman's psyche as a virtual doppelganger, and uses all of Friedman's tricks, mannerisms, non sequiturs, gee-whiz techno-nonsense, Flat Earth crap, and everything else against Friedman.  As J.D. Salinger wrote in Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, it's enough to make a man believe in a cosmic Santa Claus.  Reallytomfriedman almost makes the real Friedman worth the time to read.

As one of the major corporate-media cheerleaders for the Iraq invasion, one might think that Friedman's best ploy would be never to say another word about this misbegotten madness, which a friend of mine has called "the greatest sin committed in the world in the 21st Century."  Friedman deliberately conflated "revenge" for the 9/11 attacks with the Iraq war, with his famous tough-guy column in which this (of course, never-in-the-military) fearless warrior told the "Arabs" (in general, I guess) to "Suck. On. This."  That should have been Friedman's letter of resignation.

The passage quoted above in the lede has all of the usual Friedman elements: (1)  It doesn't make any sense. (2) It's grotesque, in that it makes a war in which perhaps one million Iraqis were killed (according to the Johns Hopkins, Lancet epidemiological study, never seriously refuted); over 4,000 Americans were killed, and perhaps one hundred thousand more American soldiers were blinded, brain damaged, amputated (losing one or more limbs), or reduced to madness because of post-traumatic stress disorder - sound like a bartering session over a Persian rug.  "You can overpay for something decent and you can overpay for total junk."  Please: God save us from this man.

And, of course (3), as Matt Taiibi always demonstrates in his hilarious send-ups of this poseur: Friedman manages to contradict himself within one paragraph of writing.  This is perhaps Friedman's true gift - his ability to "baffle" himself (to quote the banner at as much as he confuses his readers.  So three things are "clear," but it turns out that the very thing he's talking about, "what we overpaid for," is not "clear."  So Friedman is telling us that we "overpaid" for something but he doesn't know what it is that we "bought."  We should be more careful next time we blow three trillion dollars, I guess, and try not to kill a million people while we're at it.  Our bad!  And golly! - maybe Tom Friedman should be more careful about the wars he pimps for, especially when an Administration like Bush/Cheney is running the show.  Ya think?

Yet there's another angle, a trap and snare for Friedman's rationale for American top-down imposition of "democracy" on others,  and Friedman inadvertently steps into it in his column.  He refers to the popular revolutions of the Arab Spring in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere.  What potentiated these revolts?  Probably a combination of climate change-related droughts driving up the price of wheat and the effects of social media (Twitter, Facebook) undermining repressive regimes and bringing down American-sponsored dictators like Mubarak in Egypt.  In other words: the fall of the Iraqi dictatorship was just a matter of time.  Most likely, Iraq would have undergone tribal fission and returned to its condition of post-Ottoman divisions: Sunni, Shia and Kurd without the horror of the Iraq war and the ruination of a crucial decade in the history of the United States of America.

Does one find any recognition in Friedman's latest pile of nonsense that he sees this?  Of course not. If he had any self-awareness, any sense of common "decency," a word he's so fond of using, he would never have written this column at all.  Please, Friedman.  Just go away.  You've done enough. 


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