« How Many Midnights? | Main | Oh Goody. »

October 04, 2005


This superb post, Hilzoy, requires no further comment.

Except to add that in a just world the purge that would begin in our governmental and journalistic institutions as a result of your words would be stunning.

There are not enough swords for the guilty to fall upon.

If Friedman should fall on his sword, what does that leave for the rest of the Commentariat that cheered for the war?

Or for the Congress that enabled it?

Or for the 51% of the voters who gave it their validation?

Above all - above all - what does that leave for the actual architects of this monstrosity?

CaseyL: I imagine any children Rumsfeld has are grown. The Bush twins, however, may never be able to survive without parental assistance.

hilzoy, will you cover my back with the katana as I do my belly with the wakizashi?
Those who opposed the war from the beginning are perhaps in a different position.

I, who supported it, tho of course preferring different and better management, cannot see my moral way clear to abandoning a disaster we largely created, and still remain in partial control over.

Each and every Sunni Arab in Iraq is not a terrorist, and even covert support for the insurgency does not deserve a death sentence.
If genocide, ethnic cleansing, or death in significantly greater numbers that is currently occurring would be the result of withdrawal...then we must stay, no matter the cost. No matter the incompetence of the management.

Friedman is a monster. It is not as if the Shia and Kurds are completely blameless, and all possible steps have been taken to reconcile the Sunni Arabs. And in any case, it doesn't matter, the great majority of Sunni civilians are blameless.

It would be more than our shame or our dishonour, it would be our genocide. I cannot live with that, so I ask that you time your stroke well after I open my bowels.

Two more things:

War crimes of monumental proportions have been committed, and this would just be another.

But as Tacitus would say, this is our President, our congress, our military, our war. We cannot escape the domestic responsibility for how it has played out. Any and all steps necessary and sufficient to change the management of the war should have been taken. No matter the cost.

War is heroic!

Bob M: While I agree with Tacitus that this is our war and our responsibility, I think felo de se would be an overreaction in your case. (But thanks for giving me the opportunity to use 'felo se se' in a comment: even more fun than 'arguendo'!)

'Felo se se' sounds like an African musician crossed with a dictator. Felo DE se.

I was wondering about a couple of things. Do people really think that

a) President Bush supports slavery, or would support slavery if it existed in the US?

b) Most republicans are racist?

Just answer yes or no. I'm wondering what people here think.

hilzoy, will you cover my back with the katana as I do my belly with the wakizashi?

Actually, the traditional thing to do is to ask hilzoy to behead you after you have suffered enough pain to expiate the committed sins. And if you are dealing with the sort of sins arising from our adventure in Iraq, you are in for a lot of pain.

btw DaveC, that was Japan related content, if you wanted to ask me about the problems of racism in Japan.

I think the moustache needs trimming.

Mr. Metaphor forgot to mention the debris that the wind tosses around. I believe that a Sunni tribe is related to a regional ruler with wads of dough.

Then again, I suppose it's possible that the neighbors have tied themselves to trees, to avoid being sucked into the vortex. It's not like any long-time ally has made statements recently that express alarm at the situation concerning the Sunnis in Iraq.


1. I don't think Bush would care at all about slavery if it existed in the US. He certainly supports regimes governing countries where slavery is now practiced, and never says anything about it - this is at least a noteworthy silence, though not an active endorsement.

2. I don't think most Republicans are racists. I think a lot of them are, and the rest have persuaded themselves that it's now a non-issue. (The matching Democratic flaw is to persuade themselves that earnest language about racism constitutes doing something about it, and that people who speak earnestly about it can't themselves be racist.)

What's with the attempted thread-jack?

I sympathize with people who say we have a moral and ethical duty to stay in Iraq and help fix what we broke. The problem is, I don't see how we can do that.

We are roundly distrusted by all sides (with good reason). And we're not distrusted in any useful way, such as "We can be a honest broker since nobody trusts us." No, it isn't that they don't trust us not to favor one group over the others. They don't trust our word, our intentions, or even our capabilities.

DaveC; I don't know on the first (I'm trying to think myself into the head of Bush if he had lived in the early 19th century, and finding it difficult.) To the second, no.

CaseyL; I think we have a moral and ethical duty to stick around and fix what we broke. I more or less agree that it's now impossible, or close enough. But since this administration shows no signs of caring about their moral and ethical duty to get it right, I'm not really sure that the question whether it's possible in principle to succeed at this point matters.

To my mind, the only question is what the least disastrous course is.

it was nice of friedman to be the useful idiot that allowed neocons to instead blame "neolibs" for the war in iraq once it became clearly a disaster. i hope wolfowitz' thank-you note was a sufficient reward for your intellectual integrity, tom friedman.

lj, I directed questions to you specifally to get people to think about other countries and their attitudes about racism so that we could compare that to the USA. I should have left you personally out of it, but I guess I wanted some other perspective and you were a likely source. I came on a little too strong, but of course, you delivered a thoughtful response.

What's with the attempted thread-jack?

You're right. I was just wondering about this and it is totally off the subject. There are fairly frequent open threads and I should have waited for one. And now this makes 3 OT comments. and by the way Sandra Bullock or Gwynneth Paltrow? You decide.

DaveC was probably aiming for the race-card thread.

Really, hilzoy, you just don't get the issue here. Friedman simply isn't very smart (and I'm not talking by academic standards). He was in the right places at the right times for _From Beirut to Jerusalem_ and ever since then he's gotten by through parroting the opinions of the elites. Expecting any insight from such a surface dweller is unreasonable; expecting any hindsight (before it's conventional wisdom) from a guy who's looking forward to his next junket and his next "here's a nice idea for your column Mr. Friedman" and his next booktour is unreasonable.

"Sandra Bullock or Gwynneth Paltrow?"

I guess Kiera Knightly's not a choice?

Happy New Year for those of us who were slaves in Egypt.

I'm thinking Bush would be antislavery, and that racism is widespread among Americans but more prevalent among realigned Republicans than realigned Democrats.

Bush admin issues gag order on the National Weather Service.

Sorry, back to Friedman bashing.

On Topic, really
I was listening to an old Squeeze album:

some americans scare me
the leader of the pack
living in this theatre
i'm waiting for the trap to drop in the show
some americans gung ho

1987, two years before the fall of the Berlin wall.

Great band.



(1) no, and I have no idea;
(2) kinda, and here's why...

There is a set of Americans who got the great national moral question of the last 50 to 100 years wrong, and they moved to the Republican Party to solemnize that error. The Republican Party then turned its machinery over to those people. So the Republicans had to construct an idealogical framework that, at a minimum, wasn't antagonistic to those people. Republicans now lack any minority population of any real note, and have few electoral reasons to reconsider their ideology as regards race.

As a result, Republicans are likely to worry about the burdens of racism less than Democrats. Where a policy that has race implications conflicts with other legitimate interests (e.g., profiling), I know ahead of time which side a Republican will come down on. When individual Republican politicians race-bait (e.g., Helms, Bush in SC), I know there won't be any electoral punishment for them. Etc.

It's not that I think all or even most Republicans are pro-racism; it's just that I know that, for almost all Republicans, there is a wealth of other issues (e.g., tax cuts, getting elected) that outweigh concerns about racism.

Happy New Year for those of us who were slaves in Egypt.

As someone who's ancestors were slave-owners in the antebellum Deep South and likely slaves (or at least serfs) pretty much everywhere else, Happy New Year to you too!

Hilzoy, you touched on this topic that I don't think is receiving enough attention. The change in voting standard is *very* undemocratic. The tear-the-whole-thing-up option is approved only if 2/3 of all registered voters turn it down in three provinces, not 2/3 of those who show up at the polls. It implicitly turns anyone who doesn't show up into a yes-vote. This is in consequence no different from ballot stuffing.

As one commenter at atrios said,

"The Lexus just ran into the Olive tree"

Happy New Year for those of us who were slaves in Egypt.

Does having been declared of the tribe of Ephraim count?

As for Friedman, I hear there are still some openings at The Poor Man Institute for Freedom and Democracy and a Pony. That's pretty much the only place he's qualified for, so I hope he can survive on the wages.

I hope he can survive on the wages.

He can always eat the pony.

Piscator, the Iraqis just did an Emily Litella on the 2/3s issue.

I would like to wrench this thread back on course. Any conservatives out there, what do you think about Hilzoy's post?

I'm pretty sure the cut and run will start soon and I think the basis will be more or less what Friedman has outlined: we did our best but those barbarians weren't good enough so now it's their problem. Bush will probably put it a bit more positively: declare victory based on the election and the ratification and start withdrawing, but it's the same thing.

A US General has said that the decision to invade Iraq will prove to be the most disastrous strategic error in US history (I'd get the exact quote, but I can't find it).

There is no way Bush and the GOP will allow that to happen on their watch. US Troops will not leave Iraq until Bush and the GOP can get some political capital out of it, and just saying "It's those savages' fault" doesn't give them enough political capital.

Once they find some way to shift the blame to Democrats and liberals, then the troops can leave.

"They were careless people, Tom and Judith--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."

Yes, if Friedman believed in the reality of anything beyond his own mustache, he would've resigned in shame by now. I suppose I'll have to content myself with the hope that this stench follows him around for the rest of his life, until he finally cries crocodile tears on some documentary of 2025 about the ineptness of the Iraq adventure.

And since, DaveC's already turned the discussion to other topics, I'll bring up the George Will column that Slarti mentioned in a previous thread.

What amazes me is Will's comment: "In addition, the president has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution. The forfeiture occurred March 27, 2002 ..." Wow. Now, if I took Will seriously, wouldn't I be correct to conclude that the same President lacked any right to be trusted to take the country to war a year later? And furthermore, to expect that Will would use his column to remind his readers of this--that an untrustworthy man was leading the country into a poorly planned adventure?

I've never had much brief for either Friedman or moustaches, JFTR. My position is we stay until Iraq can stand on its own, also JFTR.

The Weather Service gag order cited by Rilkefan should be followed up. I came over here myself specifically to threadjack the first thread I could find with this news from DKos because it explains so many things, not the least of which is how the Mafia ends of running garbage collection companies in so many Northeastern cities.

Only to find Rilkefan hijacking an attempted threadjacking, which is pretty cool.

I may need to revise my cockamamie thesis that the Republican Party wants to destroy government. But only in the sense that in converting it to a giant sluicy conduit of my tax dollars into their pockets they hope to accomplish two things: destroying government, yes; and enlisting me in a much larger and dangerous coalition of the pissed-off who aim to destroy any remaining trace of it.

Dave C.: How ya doin'? Let me attempt answers to your questions.

Who knows what George W. Bush might decide about slavery if it existed Stateside today? I suspect he would be torn between a religious zealotry provided to him directly from the Creator to abolish slavery (not being able to figure out all on his lonesome that slavery is just not fun) and, on the other hand, a craven political desire to preserve traditional Southern culture and the job-creating economic base of the plantation-owning, entrepreneurial, small business class in this great country of ours.

Plus there would be the relatively random need to attract as many Southern racist m------------g Democrats into the Republican Party
to maintain a national majority to accomplish other goals, such as, eliminating the estate tax so that slaves might be passed on to the next generation without hindrance from the heavy hand of government; keeping wages low among poor whites by maintaining the free labor of blacks; abolishing the capital gains tax on slave sales to prevent government distortion of economic transactions among free people; maintaining a strict constitutional adherence to the notion, nay, the impermeable rock of State's rights, by preventing noxious court-led infringements like affirmative action, school desegregation, and, who knows, unisex public bathrooms.

Plus, by now, I suspect many slaves would be, or considered to be (whichever comes first) by Redstaters, de facto members of Al Qaeda.

I do believe he would be foursquare against abortion among slave women, but again he would be torn between a human rights and a property rights dichotomy.

On the most-Republicans-are-racist question:
Of course, I do not consider most Republicans to be racist. But if I did, it would be like considering all southern Democrats to be racist, say, in 19- pick a year. Wait a minute, that was true! So, not a great example.

But I have amassed anecdotal evidence of racist comments over the years at: family dinners, dinner parties and other parties with folks of many different socio-political levels, and the usual random conversations. I can note that race inevitably raises its ugly head and it ain't your politically correct, elitist, pointy-head liberals who manage to observe, say, to name a few, that "what do you expect from blacks like Barry Bonds" or, 40 years ago, "Hey, Johnnie, look at the nigger."

And yet I still like that particular friend (the former case) and I revered my grandfather (the latter). In case anyone is wondering about my reactions to these incidents, they range from embarrassed silence to exaggerated spit-takes to drink-throwing, full-volume, party ending rages, depending on my mood and my calculation about how embarrassed my wife might be by my behavior.

But then I'm little better than Bruce Baugh's acute observation above about the Democratic Party.

It's a confusing world. Bear with my verbosity. I once played on a very fine softball team, all Mexican except dead-white-guy me. When fights broke out, they were conducted in Spanish so my kind teammates would warn me to stay out of them, lest my fatally broken Barney Fife Spanish would somehow be miscontrued from "hey fellows, can't we all get along" to "how bout you and me go, you dog."

At any rate, once we retired to a dive of a Mexican bar (bartender had a baseball bat in reach for emergencies) for post-game cocktails and the conversation got around to illegal immigration. The consensus among my teammates and the other congregated patrons was roughly "We hate those d----- good-for-nothing wetbacks!"

Now, eastern, politically correct, college-educated moi felt his liberal gorge rising at this invocation and I almost went off like a roman candle .... but, I considered the venue (political discussions conducted at high volume in such places REALLY count, and large drunk crowds suddenly require fresh air in the parking lot and room to tap dance), the number of my opponents in the argument, the distance to my car, my spot in the batting order ... you know?

It was, I suppose, a little like being on Hannity Colmes at FOX arguing with Armstrong Williams about the paternal nature of Strom Thurmond's attitude toward pretty young black women. Not a lot of upside short of the nuclear option.

So I, the cowardly liberal lion, held my tongue to live another day and observe the odd mix of constant human stereotyping.

P.S. See, here's how chock full of William Faulkner slavery-is-America's-original-sin I am. I feel compelled to explain that my team mates referred to themselves as Mexicans and wetbacks as wetbacks. They all looked like Hispanic Latinos to me, from my perch in white suburbia.

As to Friedman, finally, I hate his guts.

Alert to Dave C. and all other Republicans here: this comment has nothing to do with you.

Since this is now an open thread, this question for the crowd.

Where did Tad Brennan go?

bob mcmanus: thanks for the "riverbend" link... a fabulous peek through the "life in baghdad" keyhole. a worthwhile read.

and john t: interesting vignette. don't know exactly what it has to do with anything... but interesting!

John Thullen: "Who knows what George W. Bush might decide about slavery if it existed Stateside today? I suspect he would be torn between a religious zealotry provided to him directly from the Creator to abolish slavery (not being able to figure out all on his lonesome that slavery is just not fun) and, on the other hand, a craven political desire to preserve traditional Southern culture and the job-creating economic base of the plantation-owning, entrepreneurial, small business class in this great country of ours. "

How often has George's faith required him to take the less-rich, less-worldly-power path?

As a politician? We know the answer to that.

As a businessman? Last I heard, the only difference between born-once George and born-again George was that, as a crooked businessman, born-again George was a bigger crooked businessman.

Friedman has been a jerk for decades. From Beirut to Jerusalem was okay, but it's been downhill ever since. He'd write about globalization in the 90's and while he wasn't necessarily wrong about everything, the plight of the extremely impoverished never interested him. Jeffrey Sachs and Joseph Stiglitz are pro free-trade, but they know that free trade by itself won't keep kids from dying of malaria and/or AIDS.

Then he wrote that famous bomb them back to the Middle Ages column about the Serbs during the Kosovo War. (You want 1453? We can do 1453? You want 1389? We can do that too.) Most people who supported the war did so without indulging in half Walter Mitty half Genghis Khan fantasies about bombing civilians back into a pre-industrial age.


Well, at least it was interesting. I try to compose my vignettes like some sort of Socratic/George Carlin/Walker Percy/Zen koan (he said, with alarming self-regard) which might point, in a glancing, sidelong way, at something ... or everything... or Nothing, Nothing being either the ultimate absurdity of the universe or ...

...in this specific vignette the absurd position an Anglo, liberal, politically correct, heterosexual Democrat of elitist, upper middle-class sensibilities finds himself in 2005 vis a vis minority politics in these here United States, and trying to argue with the juggernaut of the Republican Party's lollapalooza of a big tent.

Imagine, if you will, Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo (the Italian stallion of demagogues) striding into this particular bar handing out campaign literature extolling the virtues of militarizing the U.S.-Mexican border. A big cheer would have gone up among a bunch of the patrons. Imagine further, me suggesting could we at least raise taxes to pay for said militarization. Lots of further boos for me and a few more votes for Tancredo, the demagogue, who would also point out we could cut Medicaid to the bone instead to pay for his border proposal, and, by God, government (you know, the employer of the robocops down there at the border) is evil and taxes suck.

My only solace in this is that I would have died at the bottom of a very big pile with my hands fatally throttling Tancredo's larynx.

Get it? Roughly speaking, it has everyhting and nothing to do with the fact that I hate Tom Friedman's guts.

"Mr. Metaphor forgot to mention the debris that the wind tosses around."

Not only that, if he weren't such a degenerate elitist out-of-touch blue-state liberal who's never even opened a Bible, he'd realize that the wind is what you sow; the whirlwind is what you reap.

Assuming I haven't just woken up in Onion-world, Indiana Republicans want to license reproduction.

rilkefan: I may yet write on that one. Also, in this post, I wasn't criticizing Friedman's intellect -- about which I agree with you -- but his character.

Can one have the relevant bits of character without sufficient intellect?

Indiana has come to its senses, by the way.

Can one have the relevant bits of character without sufficient intellect?

Sure, I think. In fact, it seems to me that the main attribute of intellect is an ability to rationalize. Present company excepted, of course ;^)

rilkefan: contra lj, I think there's some level of intellect below which one can't really have good character. That, I think, is one of many reasons why we don't make moral judgments about rocks, or (more to the point) infants. But I think Friedman meets the relevant criteria.

More seriously: there are lots of decent people out there who are not all that smart, but who, despite that fact, wouldn't blithely consign a country to civil war. I don't really think that decency sorts with intelligence at all: smart people who are not decent are, in my experience, just better at constructing clever rationalizations for what they do.

I guess I was taking intellect to be virtually synoymous with intelligence. But I have to tell you, having a one year old, I find myself making lots of moral judgements on her actions. How I much I hold her responsible is certainly another question, but the amount of responsibility relayed back to her is certainly not zero. And there are people I have met whose character was exceeded by that of rocks...

An interesting point which may or may not be related to this is the recent fuss about people opposing Miers as being elitist, which prompted not only Goldberg at the Corner to tout the fact that he could only get into university as a result of affirmative action, but also a visit by Rush Limbaugh explaining how he gave up on college because he failed Speech 101. Fun times.

Note that rocks pick up character from limpets by osmosis.

The comments to this entry are closed.