Sent to you by Sean McBride via Google Reader: The Dangers of
Revisionism: Tom Friedman tries to hide his "very big stick" via Salon:
Glenn Greenwald by Glenn Greenwald on 11/30/08
With a new administration ascending to power in a matter of weeks,
witnessing Beltway denizens desperately scampering to re-write their
role in the last eight years is nothing short of dizzying:

Tom Friedman, New York Times, today:

I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Iraq to have relations with
Israel anytime soon, but the fact that it may be developing an
independent judiciary is good news. It’s a reminder of the most
important reason for the Iraq war: to try to collaborate with Iraqis to
build progressive politics and rule of law in the heart of the
Arab-Muslim world, a region that stands out for its lack of consensual
politics and independent judiciaries.

Tom Friedman, The Charlie Rose Show, May 30, 2003 (as part of the #1
museum video exhibit illustrating America's political class during the
Bush Era):

ROSE: Now that the war is over, and there's some difficulty with the
peace, was it worth doing? FRIEDMAN: I think it was unquestionably
worth doing, Charlie. I think that, looking back, I now certainly feel
I understand more what the war was about . . . . What we needed to do
was go over to that part of the world, I'm afraid, and burst that
bubble. We needed to go over there basically, and take out a very big
stick, right in the heart of that world, and burst that bubble. . . .
And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from
house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: which part
of this sentence do you understand? You don't think we care about our
open society? . . . . Well, Suck. On. This. That, Charlie, was what
this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that
bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That's
the real truth.

Tom Freidman, NPR's Talk of the Nation, September 23, 2003:

What we had to do, I believe at some point, was to go into the very
heart of that world and burst that bubble. And the message was, "Ladies
and gentlemen, which part of this sentence don't you
understand?" . . . . And that's what I believe ultimately this war was
about. And guess what? People there got the message, OK, in the
neighborhood. This is a rough neighborhood, and sometimes it takes a
2-by-4 across the side of the head to get that message. But they got
the message and the message was, "You will now be held
accountable" . . . .

From the deranged desire to force Iraqi civilians from Basra to Baghdad
to "suck on" his imaginary "very big stick" -- "pound them across the
side of their heads" with his "2-by-4" -- to his magnanimous goal
of "collaborating with them" to "build progressive politics,"
Freidman's justification for the invasion radically changes without
notice or acknowledgment.

Even as recently as May of this year, Friedman was arguing that
the "real umbrella story in the Middle East today" is the "Cold War"
between what he called -- with typical adolescent, banner-waving
simplicity --"Team America" and Iran, and he confessed that everything
we're doing in the Middle East is about our our "struggle for influence
across the region." In November of last year, Friedman was again
beating his little chest while instructing Barack Obama that -- in
order to deal with Iran -- he would need "Tony Soprano by your side,
not Big Bird" and would require "a Dick Cheney standing over his right
shoulder, quietly pounding a baseball bat [another big stick] into his
palm." Yet today, Friedman seamlessly hauls out the self-glorifying
claim that the "most important reason" for the invasion of Iraq is that
we wanted to teach them the joys of Freedom.

In 2006 and 2007, our political class was openly flirting with
involuntary regret -- and even admissions of wrongdoing -- for its
almost unanimous support for the attack on Iraq. That the war was a
disaster was so undeniably clear that support for it was coming to be
seen as a source of shame, and some of the most prominent supporters of
the war were even resorting to outright falsehoods in order to pretend
that they had opposed it from the start.

All of that is changing again. Even as Americans still overwhelmingly
view the war itself as a mistake, we're back to the conventional wisdom
among our political class that the invasion was not only justified and
wise, but also noble in spirit and motive. The only problem was Bush's
mismanagement of our benevolent quest to free the oppressed. As
Friedman puts it today:

In 2003, the United States, under President Bush, invaded Iraq to
change the regime. Terrible postwar execution and unrelenting attempts
by Al Qaeda to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war turned the Iraqi
geopolitical space into a different problem -- a maelstrom of violence
for four years, with U.S. troops caught in the middle. A huge price was
paid by Iraqis and Americans. This was the Iraq that Barack Obama ran

Freidman's ideological soulmate, The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt,
similarly editorializes today that what destroyed Bush's presidency was
not the war itself or the fact that it was launched based on purely
false pretenses and was illegitimate and wrong, but instead, was merely
Bush's "mismanagement of the war."

The war itself was fine and right. Only its execution was flawed. We
just need better war managers next time. That's the consensus that has
re-emerged. And much of the palpable establishment excitement over the
Obama administration is grounded not in the expectation that he will
change this core mentality -- they clearly think, rightly or wrongly,
that he won't -- but only that he'll execute and manage it more

For a short while, it appeared that the one silver lining in the
carnage and devastation wreaked by the U.S. attack on Iraq would be a
palliative effect on the war-loving pathology among our political
establishment. As Vietnam did for some short period of time, Iraq could
have re-taught both the evil and stupidity of commencing optional wars
against countries that haven't attacked us and couldn't do so, and more
generally, could have underscored the grave error in viewing the battle
against Muslim extremism through the glorious prism of "War."

But with this intense Friedmanesque revisionism well underway --
whereby war cheerleaders like Friedman were Right and Good all along
and it was only the incompetent Bush and Rumsfeld who ruined everything
with their "bumbling" -- it seems increasingly likely that the opposite
lesson will be learned. Attacking, invading and occupying other
countries in order to change their governments to ones we prefer is the
smart, wise and just thing to do. Friedman's term for it today
is "collaborating with them to build progressive politics." Especially
if there is another terrorist attack on U.S. soil -- but even if there
isn't -- the only lesson being drawn from the Iraq debacle in these
precincts is that from now on, we just need to plan and execute it
better, so that the Good and Just people who cheer these wars on have
their noble schemes vindicated a lot sooner and a lot more proficiently.

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