Sunday, September 30, was the day we were told we all had been really stupid, and told the assumption that we would continue to be stupid was quite reliable – but the assessments were by two different folks, so it was okay be confused.
First, Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times, decided that, well, he had been wrong. Yes, he of the Freidman Unit – a neologism coined by Duncan Black on May 21, 2006. You see, a Friedman is a unit of time equal to six months. The term in reference to a May 16, 2006 article by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) detailing Friedman’s repeated use of “the next six months” as the period in which, according to Friedman, “we’re going to find out… whether a decent outcome is possible” in Iraq. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting documented it – Friedman had been making these six-month predictions for two and a half years, he made them at least fourteen different times. They called him on it. Now when anyone at all says “the next six months will be critical,” or says “just wait six months,” we all smile and say, “Ah, a Freidman Unit, an FU, as it were.” It is amazing “the newspaper of record” pays him for such analysis. And he knows better now – in a recent appearance on The Colbert Report he said that “we’ve run out of six months.”
And you remember how he felt about the war, as he explained to Charlie Rose on PBS –
I think it [the invasion of Iraq] was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie. … We needed to go over there, basically, um, and um, uh, take out a very big state right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble, and there was only one way to do it. … What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um 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 to let it grow? Well Suck. On. This. Okay.
And now he says 9/11 Is Over and he was just wrong about that, as we all were. As a white man it’s tempting to say, “Speak for yourself, white man” – but that would make no sense. But he does claim to speak for America –
9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 – mine included – has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.
It is not that I thought we had new enemies that day and now I don’t. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness.
What? What changed his mind? Well, he’s a New Yorker. The issue is Rudy Giuliani –
For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our enemies are, but who we are.
Before 9/11, the world thought America’s slogan was: “Where anything is possible for anybody.” But that is not our global brand anymore. Our government has been exporting fear, not hope: “Give me your tired, your poor and your fingerprints.”
You may think Guantánamo Bay is a prison camp in Cuba for Al Qaeda terrorists. A lot of the world thinks it’s a place we send visitors who don’t give the right answers at immigration. I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans. Guantánamo Bay is the anti-Statue of Liberty.
Maybe we have become “The United States of Fighting Terrorism,” but Iraq is getting us nowhere –
I’d love to see us salvage something decent in Iraq that might help tilt the Middle East onto a more progressive pathway. That was and is necessary to improve our security. But sometimes the necessary is impossible – and we just can’t keep chasing that rainbow this way.
What happened to busting down doors and saying suck on this? That was supposed to be the most important thing in the world. And now he’s big on what others say is unimportant –
Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association, told me that the United States has lost millions of overseas visitors since 9/11 – even though the dollar is weak and America is on sale. “Only the U.S. is losing traveler volume among major countries, which is unheard of in today’s world,” Mr. Dow said.
Total business arrivals to the United States fell by 10 percent over the 2004-5 period alone, while the number of business visitors to Europe grew by 8 percent in that time. The travel industry’s recent Discover America Partnership study concluded that “the U.S. entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is turning away foreign business and leisure travelers and hurting America’s image abroad.” Those who don’t visit us don’t know us.
Those who don’t visit us don’t know us. That might be a good thing, actually.
And he’s all worried about infrastructure –
It’s not just the bridge that fell in my hometown, Minneapolis. Fly from Zurich’s ultramodern airport to La Guardia’s dump. It is like flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. I still can’t get uninterrupted cellphone service between my home in Bethesda and my office in D.C. But I recently bought a pocket cellphone at the Beijing airport and immediately called my wife in Bethesda – crystal clear.
And there’s technology –
I just attended the China clean car conference, where Chinese automakers were boasting that their 2008 cars will meet “Euro 4” – European Union – emissions standards. We used to be the gold standard. We aren’t anymore. Last July, Microsoft, fed up with American restrictions on importing brain talent, opened its newest software development center in Vancouver. That’s in Canada, folks. If Disney World can remain an open, welcoming place, with increased but invisible security, why can’t America?
His idea is that we just cannot afford to keep being this stupid – “We have got to get our groove back.”
Of course he’s one of the ones who made us stupid, or at least kept us stupid. He is a key “opinion maker” – highly influential and well-respected (by those in the established world of acceptable opinion that everyone should have, if they were only smarter and not so emotional and uninformed). People buy his books. In 1975, he received his BA in Mediterranean studies from Brandeis and then attended St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford on a Marshall scholarship, earning an MA in Middle Eastern studies. When he says “wake up people, you were being stupid” what can you do but smile sadly? Tom, it’s you, not us. On the other hand, in the summer of 1970, when he was seventeen, he was Chi Chi Rodríguez’s caddy at the US Open at Hazeltine. The caddy can be wrong.
In any event, he now says we need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy –
Al Qaeda is about 9/11. We are about 9/12, we are about the Fourth of July – which is why I hope that anyone who runs on the 9/11 platform gets trounced.
Yeah, whatever, Tom. We’ll see. After all, “the next six months will be critical.”
Reaction to this was expected – from the right, Jules Crittenden, Nation of Stupid; from Macranger, Oh How the Left Hates 9/11; from AJ Strata, The Liberally Naive; from Chuck Adkins, Editorial: On the contrary Mr. Friedman, 9/11 is NOT over!; from Wake up America, 9/12 has made Thomas Friedman Stupid, and so on and so forth. See also RJ Eskow at the Huffington Post – Should Tom Friedman Be Forgiven? Vote Now and Decide.
Should Friedman be forgiven? No, or yes, or no – he should be ignored. And what does it take to lose your place in the established world of acceptable opinion that everyone should have, if they were only smarter and not so emotional and uninformed? Don’t even ask. It never happens.
The second Sunday item of note was in the New Yorker. You remember Seymour Hersh, the nation’s preeminent investigative reporter, that pesky fellow who long ago broke the story of the My Lai Massacre and not so long ago broke the story of the Abu Ghraib business – the hooded guy on the stool with the electrodes, the beatings and torture and humiliation and all the rest? That would be Seymour Hersh with the good sources who last year was reporting on our plans to nuke Iran and all that. The generals said they wouldn’t. So other plans had to be made. Now he reports the generals are on board – the administration seems to have convinced the generals that it needs to attack Iran to protect the troops in Iraq. It’s very simple –
The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon. The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities.
“Cheney’s option is now for a fast in and out – for surgical strikes,” the former senior American intelligence official told me. The Joint Chiefs have turned to the Navy, he said, which had been chafing over its role in the Air Force-dominated air war in Iraq. “The Navy’s planes, ships, and cruise missiles are in place in the Gulf and operating daily. They’ve got everything they need – even AWACS are in place and the targets in Iran have been programmed. The Navy is flying FA-18 missions every day in the Gulf.” There are also plans to hit Iran’s anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile sites. “We’ve got to get a path in and a path out,” the former official said. A Pentagon consultant on counterterrorism told me that, if the bombing campaign took place, it would be accompanied by a series of what he called “short, sharp incursions” by American Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training sites. He said, “Cheney is devoted to this, no question.”
And Britain seems inclined to go along, as Digby puts it, “in order to get back their manly pride after that incident with the sailors last spring. (The neocon bullies taunted them relentlessly on that and it worked.)” And she adds this –
So, there we have it. All the months of screaming into the void by many bloggers and others on this subject, culminating last week in the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment in which many Democrats, including our presidential frontrunner, signed on to the fundamental premise Cheney is using to justify the attack. (What an excellent move on their part.)
Read the article. It has that sickening stench of a done deal, just like that roll-out in the fall of 2002.
We just cannot afford to keep being this stupid? Hersh –
At a White House meeting with Cheney this summer, according to a former senior intelligence official, it was agreed that, if limited strikes on Iran were carried out, the Administration could fend off criticism by arguing that they were a defensive action to save soldiers in Iraq. If Democrats objected, the Administration could say, “Bill Clinton did the same thing; he conducted limited strikes in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and in Baghdad to protect American lives.” The former intelligence official added, “There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’ But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.”
Cheney isn’t really a politician anymore and hasn’t been one for a long time. He represents the people who really run things at times like this, the big money boys, and their concerns are not so parochial as a Republican win. They run things no matter who’s in office. (And anyway, they’ve set certain things in motion, pillaged the treasury so thoroughly and solidified their hold on the media and the Democrats sufficiently enough that they think a few years of GOP R&R is probably a good idea. They need to allow the Democrats just enough power to be blamed, in any case.)
Hersh has been reporting on this impending Iran attack for some time, of course, and has first-rate sources inside the military, but you know what’s up –
Until now he has said that there was sufficient resistance among the top brass to doing this, which sounded right to me. It’s hard to believe that the military would want to start a new front at this point. This article indicates that they have been persuaded. And it also indicates that the argument they used is the argument they have also seized upon to sell the war to the American people.
Also see the video clip of Hersh on CNN that same Sunday morning –
Hersh: You can also sell counter-terror, it’s much more logical. You can say to the American people, we’re only hitting these people that are trying to kill our boys and the coalition forces and so that seems to be more sensible. The White House thinks they can actually pitch this, this would actually work…
Digby notes the obvious, that the subtext of all this is clear – they will browbeat the American people into either stifling their dissent against this action or risk being called traitors to the troops. Who would say anything, Tom Friedman? He might, two or three years after the fact.
Can you imagine the fallout? Digby notes this –
And just in case anyone is wondering what the fallout of this insane action is likely to be, well, nobody knows. And nobody in the administration is thinking much about that, other than once again, I suspect, relying on puerile schoolyard logic that says the Iranians will tuck their tails between their legs and run like a bunch of shrieking little weenies once they realize that mighty Big Daddy isn’t joking around anymore.
“They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” one recently retired C.I.A. official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002” – the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency. He added, “The guys now running the Iranian program have limited direct experience with Iran. In the event of an attack, how will the Iranians react? They will react, and the Administration has not thought it all the way through.”
That theme was echoed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security adviser, who said that he had heard discussions of the White House’s more limited bombing plans for Iran. Brzezinski said that Iran would likely react to an American attack “by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan. We will be stuck in a regional war for twenty years.”
We just cannot afford to keep being this stupid? Who says?
Ah, it’s just the Sunday funnies.