Monthly Archives: June 2014

Enhanced Imagination

In the aptly headlined, “Timeout for Imagination,” Friedman explains what he thinks was behind Abu Ghraib: “I believe the main reason the Abu Ghraib prison scandal happened was because U.S. forces in Iraq were facing an uprising and had no intelligence.”

Could be, or maybe Abu Ghraib had something to do with the Bush administration’s active, aggressive embrace of “enhanced interrogation” as national policy.

Source: Friedman, Thomas L . 2004. New York Times. June 27: WK13.

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Why We’re Doing This

The U.S. invasion of Iraq led to deaths of at least 125,000 civilians (as documented by Western media sources). Less conservative estimates place the toll closer to 400,000 dead (http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001533). Millions more became refugees.

In this clip from an interview with Charlie Rose, Friedman reflects thoughtfully about the human costs of the war he so enthusiastically supported.

Just kidding: What he actually says is that Iraqis needed to be told to “suck on this.”

Introducing 20 Friedman Units Later

This blog is dedicated to what Thomas L. Friedman was writing 10 years ago. It will focus specifically on the inane, the pompous and the flat-out wrong in Friedman’s writing, so there will be plenty of material to work with.

The blog’s title takes its name from the Friedman unit (six months), which was named for the columnist’s habit, during the opening years of the war in Iraq, of declaring the next six months to be critical in determining the final outcome.

We had been pondering taking on this project for a while, but it has taken on new urgency in recent days as insurgent gains in Iraq have awakened the warmongers of the early Bush years and sent them swarming to the cable news networks in search of fresh blood on which to feed.

So why focus on Thomas L. Friedman? Why not Dick Cheney or any of the gaggle of Friedman’s fellow pundits who helped start that shameful, disastrous war?

Let’s start with Cheney. At this point, no one who is not already eager for another war is going to be persuaded by his self-serving and dishonest ravings. Among the pundits, though, Friedman especially requires our attention. For whatever reason, he has a reputation for gravitas, for being a Serious Thinker With Whom We Must Reckon and who perhaps even merits Capital Letters.

Let’s skip the capital letters for now and begin with the reckoning. The easiest way to debunk Friedman’s reputation as a big thinker is to look at his own writing. That is the task before us with this new blog, which will regularly highlight what Friedman was writing exactly 10 years – or 20 Friedman units – ago. Now there is a wrinkle in this plan. On June 27, 2004, Friedman started a three-month leave from the New York Times to write The World Is Flat. Does that mean 20 Friedman Units Later is going to start up and then go dark for three months? Have no fear. During the anniversary of that hiatus, we will have regular posts to catch up on Friedman’s earlier atrocities, as well as some tidbits from The World Is Flat if we can bring ourselves to read it again.

To be fair, Friedman at one time did some fine reporting, such as his Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. But that was, like, 60 Friedman units ago.

We should acknowledge here that others have done solid work taking on the Friedman myth. An excellent catalogue is found here: http://jilliancyork.com/2011/12/14/the-definitive-collection-of-thomas-friedman-takedowns/. Matt Taibbi’s “Thomas Friedman Porn-Title Contest” (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/surprise-winner-in-thomas-friedman-porn-title-contest-20130510) is particularly commendable. You should go read about it right now if you promise to come back to this page soon.

As we said, we have plenty of material to work with for years to come, and we have every reason to expect this blog to be a success. However, the next six months are critical. If this seems like a worthy project to you, please do what you can to spread the word about 20 Friedman Units Later.