Martin LeFevre: Speaking of unregenerate war criminals after Kissinger’s death, if journalists could be tried for crimes against humanity, Thomas Friedman would top the list. He coined the phrase “war of choice” against Iraq in 2003, and was an indefatigable cheerleader for that hideously wrongheaded invasion by the United States and its lapdog Britain.
More than any other single event in the last 20 years, the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq shaped the world we’re living in today. Putin uses it as his precedent and permission to invade Ukraine, and now Israel is following in American missteps after Hamas’s horrendous terrorist attack.
Yet the New York Times still gives pride of place to every arrogant and egocentric column Friedman writes. His latest is simply too much: “This Is the 9/11 Lesson Israel Needs to Learn” (changed today to “The Debate Israel Needs Over the War”).
In that piece Friedman, in the dim light of his conscience, hints at his egregious errors twenty years after being the mainstream media’s loudest and most influential mouthpiece for Bush and Cheney’s invasion of Iraq.
He writes, “I thought back to America after 9/11. And I asked myself, what do I wish I had done more of before we launched two wars of revenge and transformation in Afghanistan and Iraq for which they and we paid a huge price?”
“What do I wish I had done more of before we launched two wars of revenge after 9/11!” Nice bit of casuistry Tom, since it isn’t what you should have done more of, but that you should not have done at all.
His mea culpa is pathetic, writing that he wishes he had “argued for what the CIA calls a ‘Red Team,’ a group of intelligence officers outside the direct military or political chain of command, whose main job would have been to examine the war plans and goals for Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Absurdly out of touch with the human suffering in Gaza, as well as Israel, Friedman indulges his penchant for abstract realpolitik: “So I am proposing Israel create not only a Red Team for how to deal with Hamas in Gaza but also a Blue Team to critique the Red Team.”
Thomas Friedman speaks in the first-person singular in his column, sounding like an advisor to presidents and prime ministers, which he clearly conceives himself to be.
In truth, his sycophancy to Bush/Cheney had no bottom before the invasion of Iraq. He bullhorned their propaganda, insisting there was a “terrorism bubble” in the Arab world that produced the 9/11 attacks.
“What we needed to do,” Friedman malevolently said in the spring of 2003, “was to go over to that part of the world and take a very big stick right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble, [with] American boys and girls going house to house – from Basra to Baghdad – and saying…suck. on. this.”
Isn’t that exactly what Hamas did after breaking through Israel’s wall around Gaza? And isn’t that exactly what Israel is doing to Gaza following the slaughter by Hamas on October 7th?
As others have noted, “what Friedman’s bubble-bursting in 2003 meant was that hundreds of thousands of human beings lost their lives, millions became refugees, and successive waves of bloodshed and chaos rocked the region.”
The true lesson from 9/11, which the United States and its allies still seem light-years from learning, is that the mindset, institutions and weapons of nation-states do not apply when dealing with stateless terrorists.
Israel declaring war on Hamas is even more stupid than the United States declaring a global war on terror to go after al Qaeda, and then invading Iraq.
Nations going to war against terrorists commit many more crimes against humanity by following the atavistic ideology that “every nation has the right to defend itself.”
Defend itself against what? The al Qaeda terrorists brought down the Twin Towers with box cutters. Hamas used off-the-shelf drones, small rockets, paragliders, motorcycles and AK-47s to trigger Israel into an all-out war that it cannot win, any more than the United States won in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In Israel’s case, a nation-state is waging war against a stateless terrorist group on an Israeli-controlled strip of land in its own backyard. It’s a contravention wrapped in a conflict inside a contradiction.
Netanyahu, an extremist who reeks of darkness, has the gall to quote the Bible to justify the slaughter of Palestinian civilians: “The Bible says ‘there is a time for peace and a time for war.’ This is a time for war.”
It also says, “there is a time to love and time to hate.” That does not mean it’s ok to hate, anymore than it’s ok to make war. One evil does not justify another, no matter what the history of either party is.
“Proportionality” in this conflict is meaningless; Israel is using all the latest weapons the United States can deliver, while Hamas’s weapons are primitive by comparison. It’s grotesque to speak of “proportionality’ as Israel levels Gaza and slaughters thousands of children and women.
Politically, Israel is doing exactly what Hamas wanted it to do. Hamas wanted a war, just as al Qaeda wanted war, since triggering nation-states to declare war elevates weak and wretched terrorists to nation-state status. Hostages (called prisoners in Israel, even when they’re children) are pawns in the whole horrendous game.
Aren’t I drawing a moral equivalency between Hamas and Israel under Netanyahu? No, I’m saying Israel, which has vastly greater power, weapons and control over the stateless Palestinians they have displaced and suppressed for seven decades, has greater responsibility to end this madness.
As for the impunity of American political and media leaders, their wars have come home to roost. We are now at war with each other, and a “gloves off” Trump slouches toward Washington to be reborn as a full-fledged fascist.
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue. email@example.com
Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.