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Monday, August 07, 2006

THROWING IN THE TOWEL ON IRAQ

Finally, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has thrown in the towel on the Iraq War.

Published on The Progressive
Bay Matthew Rothschild
August 4, 2006


"It is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are baby-sitting a civil war," he wrote in his Times column on August 4.

Long the war's leading liberal defender, Friedman came late and reluctantly to the realizations that the jig is up.

"We can't throw more good lives after good lives," he wrote.

Beyond the human costs of the quagmire, which the peace movement has long tallied, Friedman also recognized what we in the peace movement have been saying about the security ramifications: "The longer we maintain a unilateral failing strategy in Iraq...the stronger the enemies of freedom will become," Friedman concluded.

This marks quite a journey for Friedman.

In his columns leading up to the war, Friedman supported the effort to take Saddam out, though not in the unilateralists fashion favored by the Bush Administration.

Nevertheless, in his final column on March 21, just as Bush was launching the war, Friedman wrote: "Bush's view is that in the absence of a UN endorsement, this war will become 'self-legitimating' when the world sees most Iraqis greet U.S. troops as liberators. I think there is a good chance that will play out."

He also said that defeating Saddam was necessary but not sufficient to achieve "a more progressive Iraq and a world with fewer terrorist suppliers dedicated to destroying the U.S."

Even at that moment, he understood that the Bush team's bullying approach had to change. "It needs to get off its high horse and start engaging people on the World Street, listening to what's bothering them," he wrote, saying that the Bush folks need an "attitude lobotomy."

But that was wishful thinking. And he should have known better.

We still have the same lazy, arrogant Bush, the same creepy Dick Cheney, and the same obtuse Donald Rumsfeld running the show, just as they always have. They weren't about to let themselves be strapped onto a gurney for brain surgery.

Sometimes, Friedman seemed to suspend his skepticism about the Bush folks and to impute to them the loftiest of motives.

Consider his column of October 30, 2003, entitled "It's No Vietnam:"

"U.S. power is not being used in Iraq for oil, or imperialism, or to shore up a corrupt status quo, as it was in Vietnam and elsewhere in the Arab world during the cold war," he wrote. "This is the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched---a war of choice to install some democracy in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world."

Oddly, in a column for months previously, he wasn't so naive. On June 4, 2003, in a column entitled "Because We Could," Friedman wrote. "The 'real reason' for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world. Afghanastan wasn't enough."

As you can see, Friedman has oscillated back and forth on the Iraq War.

He ridiculed the Rumsfeld Doctrine as "just enough troops to lose," but he never could quite get off the war bandwagon.

On January 12, 2004, in Slate, he was waxing enthusiastic. "I feel even more strongly today than I did the day after the war started that, while the Bush team has made an utter mess of the diplomacy and postwar planning, it was still the right war and still has a decent chance to produce a decent outcome."

THAT CHANCE HAS NOW VANISHED.

THAT OUTCOME IS NOW UNATTAINABLE.

At least Friedman finally realizes all that.

But he should have listened to his wife more. As he has noted in several of his columns, she was against the war from day one.

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