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June 12, 2003

My goodness. Mark Shields is actually angry. At Thomas Friedman.
Unlike Bush, Friedman had never argued that Saddam posed a grave threat to America. He wrote this week that the “real reason” for the war was “that after 9-11, America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world…because a terrorism bubble had built up over there—a bubble that posed a real threat to the open societies of the West and needed to be punctured.”

Why Iraq? “We hit Saddam for one simple reason: because we could, and because he deserved it, and because he was right in the middle of that world,” Friedman wrote.

According to Friedman, “The only way to puncture that bubble was for American soldiers, men and women, to go into the heart of the Arab-Muslim world…and make clear that we are ready to kill, and to die, to prevent our open society from being undermined by this terrorism bubble.”

Tell me, Tom, exactly whom do you know professionally or socially in Washington who was urging his or her children to leave their “hardship duty” on Ivy League campuses “to go into the heart of the Arab-Muslim world” to “make clear that we were ready to kill and to die?”

Quit an outburst from someone who I thought was just making a living playing the “placating liberal” role on TV news shows. (The rest of his piece is good too.) [02:18 PM]
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Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on My goodness.:

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 03:46 PM:

Friedman's Version is probably the *actual reason* for the Administration's conquest of Iraq.

I suspect a lot of people -- myself included -- agree with Shields. *Because we gotta show we tough and no one can dis us* is a really bad reason to go to war.

The Administration knows damn well that they couldn't sell the war to the congress and to the public on this basis.

Thus the WMD spin campaign. Which worked beautifully. I listened to NPR's coverage of the Senate hearings before the vote giving Bush carte blanche vis-a-vis Iraq. Virtually everyone in favor of letting the Administration do what it wanted parroted the same tired stuff about chemical weapons, smallpox, anthrax, and Saddam using chemical weapons on his own people. They drank the Kool-Aid and got the sugar buzz.

Of course, Bush will get away with this con, thanks to guys like Friedman. And, alas, with Democrats who worry about looking wussy and unpatriotic for not calling foul.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 04:10 PM:

Hmm, an interesting take on the "drinking their Kool-Aid" trope...I always thought of it in terms of Jonestown, where the people who drank Jim Jones' Kool-Aid got rather more than a sugar buzz.

And that is the Kool-Aid the nation is drinking now. The face-down-to-hide-the-hideous-grin kind.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 04:20 PM:

Have I mentioned that drinking the Kool-Aid is my very favorite 90s business phrase?

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 05:09 PM:

It's easy to think that of Shields, because of his low key TV style. But his bacground is print, and he can pitch the hard inside ball with the best of them. For example last December, when Trent Lott said that his error was "of the head, not the heart," Shields wrote:

That is unarguable. We have no MRI on the purity or impurity of Lott's heart. But we know for sure that there is precious little in the man's head.

He went on to catalog in scathing detail Lott's sorry record. Then:

Lott either is so dumb that he believed all this garbage, or he believed that this garbage was what his "home boys" wanted to hear, or he believed that the rest of us were too dumb or disinterested to notice the games he was playing.

So slow is Trent Lott, today at the age of 61, that he needed a week of relentless, public criticism before he remembered to mention publicly that, largely because of "all these problems over all these years," his home state now has more black elected officials than any state in the union. Of course, because of the sub-species of politics Lott, among others, has practiced, of the 9,040 black elected officials in office in the United States today, exactly 50 of them ran and won as Republicans. Rhetorically, the GOP may be the party of Lincoln, but realistically, it remains the party of Trent Lott.

Shields is a polite man, but I think his patience has run out.

Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 05:18 PM:

Given Friedman's most recent column where he offers up talking points to the Democrats, I can't help but wonder if someone substituted his Kool-Aid with Folger's Crystals!

(Feel free to propagate the meme, I'm kinda proud of it.)

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 05:21 PM:

'Drinking the Kool-Aid' definitely originated with Jonestown.

The meaning has changed a bit, I think. The consequence of the drinking (death, ruin) is less important than the fact that you got suckered into drinking it.

There's an immediate reward to drinking the stuff -- fruity taste and sugar buzz -- but the imbiber still pays for it later.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 05:43 PM:

Chris, I love you.

Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 05:45 PM:

A correction that makes no difference, and everybody probably knows it anyway: They drank Grape Flavor-Aid at Jonestown.

We now return to relevance.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 06:26 PM:

I am so angry that I'm unnaturally calm and a little dizzy.

We needed to hit someone? Our answer to feeling vulnerable was to attack a power we knew we could beat, and kick the stuffings out of it? And Thomas Friedman is calling this a need?

I've known people who've believed that if you feel like you need to hit someone, you have the right to do it. I made the acquaintance of some of them when I was quite small.

So. Now I know what Thomas Friedman is.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 06:42 PM:

Worse are the people who say the "Don't force me to hit you" line. As if they didn't have a choice in the matter.

Unfortunately, when I put on my Machiavelli hat, some things are easy to understand. When you're more concerned with power than, say, morality, or ethics, some decisions are very appealing.

These decisions have mostly been the ones the Republican party has been taking for the past few administrations.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 06:42 PM:

Worse are the people who say the "Don't force me to hit you" line. As if they didn't have a choice in the matter.

Unfortunately, when I put on my Machiavelli hat, some things are easy to understand. When you're more concerned with power than, say, morality, or ethics, some decisions are very appealing.

These decisions have mostly been the ones the Republican party has been taking for the past few administrations.

David Owen-Cruise ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 08:03 PM:

I'm not convinced that Friedman feels it was a legitimate need[1], but it was definitely a need the Bush administration felt. You could hear it in the rhetoric on Afghanistan even as they were warming up on Iraq. If we didn't do *something*, we would look weak[2].

We're picking fights we know we can win because we can't land a decent punch on Al Qaeda. We're dumping on our old friends because they won't gang up on the little freaks with us. We're talkin' smack to North Korea, but we won't pick that fight because we might get hurt. We have the foreign policy of a classic schoolyard bully.

[1] To be honest, I have had trouble following Friedman's thinking on Iraq for the past year.

[2] And therefore unelectable, or even worse, wimpy.

Scott ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 08:09 PM:

I didn't interpret Mr. Friedman's article in the same way as many others have. It seemed to me that he was saying that the U.S. invaded Iraq for an illegitimate reason, but that there was a legitimate reason for the invasion, too, even though that isn't actually why we invaded.

I'm not trying to defend his point of view, but I never thought as I was reading it that he was saying that beating up someone smaller than us but the same skin color as our real enemy was a legitimate reason for the invasion. I thought he was contrasting the illegitimate motivation that was actually fueling the invasion with the (in his opinion) legitimate justification that could have been made for it, but wasn't.

I don't agree with a lot of his points, but I don't think he was actually saying anything as baldly evil as that beating up on people weaker than you is an okay thing to do.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 08:38 PM:

Of course, part of the problem is that when Friedman gets going, his prose tends to resemble a don't-do-this exercise in a writing textbook.

For instance, in just one paragraph, in order to puncture a bubble we have to go into a heart, and be ready to kill and die in order to avoid being undermined by the bubble.

Words fail me, but they appear to have failed Friedman first.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 08:58 PM:

If I'm not mistaken, Shields is a Dorchester boy (Massachusetts) by birth--and he still sounds it. I hadn't read any of his stuff lately but he definitely needed to snap out of complacency. Probably too many years at the helm of the commentary section in Lehrer's newshour with Paul Gigot as his "opposite" number.

Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2003, 02:54 AM:

I kept hearing "Alice in Wonderland" in my feeble morning brain as I tried to parse Friedman's logic.

In fact, I rather think Mike Ford could do an entire Jabberwocky parody on the so-called war. As we try to come gallumphing back and don't succeed.


LowLife ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2003, 08:41 AM:

When I read the Friedman collumn I had the exact reaction as Sheilds. When I councilled my colleagues at work about why the war might be unwise the comments back were along the line of, "They started it," "They bombed the WTC," and other comments that don't bother to distinquish between Saddam and Osama, Iraqi and islamasist, muslim and mullah. In my small world Friedman's point expresses America's desire to lash out. I'm pretty sure that the best course of action is not to persue one's worst instincts and in doing that aWol has gained favor with the populoi and condemnation from history.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2003, 12:27 PM:

I read Friedman's column in much the same way: the invasion of Iraq was necessary because after 9-11 we needed to beat someone up. I had to read it multiple times to convince myself that, yes, he really was saying that.

Patrick: Maybe Friedman should read or reread "Politics and the English Language." ("The Facist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting-pot." Yup.)

Copeland Morris ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2003, 02:51 PM:

Mark Shields is the real deal as far a liberal commentary is concerned; and he stands out all the more in comparison to the increasingly tepid News Hour.