Thomas Friedman Is A Yutz – Here Is Why.

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This will come as no surprise but Thomas Friedman is a yutz. There are many reasons why folks might agree with the Dog on this (his unquestioning and revenge based support of the Iraq War being a huge one) but today is the first time the Dog has felt the need to call out the New York Time columnist in any blog posting. Why is today different? The Dog is so very glad you asked gentle reader! Today Mr. Friedman crossed the line, today he makes a completely spurious argument against torture prosecutions. You can find Mr. Friedman’s column here.  

First off he starts with a factual inaccuracy. He starts off by saying he believes the president has gotten it about right in his decisions to stop torture (no disagreement there) and to release the OLC legal memos that justified torture (still doing well, but here comes the inaccuracy) then he goes on to say that the president has decided not to prosecute those who implemented the torture policy and the lawyers that drafted the memos. This last part is flatly untrue. What the president has said is that he would not prosecute those who acted in good faith, relying on the guidance of the memos. This is a far cry from blanket immunity as we know from the memos themselves (and Emptywheel’s reporting) that both Abu Zabaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed were torture far in excess of these memos boundaries. Further, there has been no firm commitment from the White House not to prosecute the drafters of these memos. The President has said that is up to the DOJ, which is the correct choice in any case.

When a column starts with flat falsehoods, it is rare that it goes up hill from there and this one is no exception. He makes the point that if we start to prosecute those that ordered or carried out torture, it would logically end with the former President and Vice President being prosecuted for the War Crimes they ordered. The reason we should not go there? That it would tear the country apart. This is where the Dog feels Mr. Friedman has entered into the yutz category. With this idea that because it would be politically hard to prosecute the powerful who have committed crimes is no excuse to fail to do so.

It seems Mr. Friedman does not believe that the law should be applied evenly when it might be hard. It makes the Dog wonder if Mr. Friedman is also in favor of letting former Gov. Blagojevich off the hook, since it seems clear he will try to take down as many folks in the Illinois State Government as he can in his up coming trial?  It is also strange that Mr. Friedman did not seem to care when the impeachment trial of President Clinton was on-going whether it would polarize and tear the country apart. In any case Mr. Friedman fails to understand that it is only by applying our laws evenly, fairly and without regard for economic class or political power is the only way that any of us can have a reasonable assurance that when we are entangled with the law, we will have the same fair application.

This would have been bad enough, if he had left of his column at this point, but the New York Times is hardly going to pay him the big bucks for 200 words. So to fill the rest of his column he makes this totally spurious argument that since Al Qaeda is a “truly unique enemy” it is okay for us to use torture.

Here are a couple of clips;

Second, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda aspired to deliver a devastating blow to America. They “were involved in an extraordinarily sophisticated and professional effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In this case, nuclear material,” Michael Scheuer, the former C.I.A. bin Laden expert, told “60 Minutes” in 2004. “By the end of 1996, it was clear that this was an organization unlike any other one we had ever seen.”

He trots out the canard of WMD in Al Qaeda’s hands. We must not prosecute torture because we were afraid that Al Qaeda would get WMD. This is a reasonable fear, but it is not a reasonable reason to let torture go. All this is yet another of a seemingly endless series of the “ticking time bomb” scenario. The problem with this argument is, as most people other than Mr. Friedman know, the very best way to get intelligence, accurate intelligence is to build a report with the prisoner. Once you start to torture them you can never be sure what they tell you is the truth or not. So, even if you had a serious concern about a time bomb, you are as likely to waste resources going all over the place as you check out whatever story you get as you are to being able to stop such an attack. Lest we all forget, we had, through normal police work, enough evidence to disrupt the 9/11 attacks. It was a failure of procedure and will at the highest levels that made us fail to take the proper action. No torture would have been needed for that.

Then there is this:

Third, Al Qaeda comes out of a stream in radical Islam that believes that it has religious sanction for killing absolutely anyone, including fellow Muslims. Al Qaeda in Iraq has blown up Muslims in mosques, shrines and funerals. It respects no redlines or religious constraints. One of its leaders personally severed Daniel Pearl’s head with a butcher knife – on film.

Mr. Friedman is spectacular in his failure to understand a lesson the Dog’s five year old nephew gets already; two wrongs do not make a right. That the Al Qaeda leaders and soldiers are horrible brutal people is not an excuse for us to allow horrible brutal acts in the name of security to be uninvestigated and unprosecuted! If anything it is a major reason we should not allow them to be swept under the rug. Showing your enemy and the world that you are just like them is not a way to win people to the side of Law. It does nothing but help in their self-justification of their brutal acts.

This meme, which came from the Bush administration that we need to show we were absolutely the badest of the bad asses in the world, is a failure of understanding. While the Al Qaeda groups and others like them might think they are some kind of existential threat the United States, the fact is they are not. On 9/11 the very worst terror attack on this nation in its history, we lost less than 1/110th of a percent of our population. This is not to minimize the loss of life and the tragedy of all who knew or were related to the victims, it is just to put it in perspective. They have as much chance of toppling the United States as Sheldon from the TV show Big Bang Theory has of sleeping with Angelina Jolie.

Mr. Freidman is living in fear and because of this he uses fear to justify us breaking our own laws. He fails to understand that by doing what he prescribes we are actually allowing the 9/11 attacks to do more harm to this nation now, then they ever did that day. By confirming the idea that there is one set of law for the powerful and another for the people, we would be damaging the very pillars of our nation. By standing on his high perch at the New York Times and spouting this torture apologist blather, Thomas Friedman has proved once again, he is a world class, a flat hot world class, self impressed Yutz.

The floor is yours.  

Cross Posted At Square State


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  1. but when you apologize for torture and argue against the rule of law, that is going to be an exception.  

    • Edger on April 29, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    that he won’t be able to make everyone else live in fear.

    Yutz fits.

    Good article, Dog.

  2. are an extreme minority? This guy and the one on Jon Stewart last night,… this whole logic is beyond stupid, for so many reasons.

  3. Just repulsive in so many ways.

    Saying the Russians loved their children but these brown monsters don’t, etc.

    When we all know the US has been torturing for decades.

    What a giant idiot.

    The whole thing was so offensive that I am literally incoherent about it and can’t believe it was published.

    Every line reeks of moral corruption.

    • ANKOSS on April 29, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    This amoral energizer bunny of journalism has built a lucrative career by telling fat cats what they want to hear and acting as a publicity agent for the miracle of “globalization.” Along the way, he was a cheerleader for the Iraq war. His smarmy assurance that he speaks for America when he justifies torture is profoundly disgusting. The New York Times should be ashamed to print anything this monster writes.

    • geomoo on April 29, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Given the recent environment, I take this simply as a threat that the crazed minority will try to tear the country apart in an effort to prevent the majority from finding justice.  It’s tantamount to the enforcers saying, “If youse don’t pay the piper, it’ll tear your store apart.”

    • rb137 on April 30, 2009 at 12:13 am

    I did that at orange, too. And you used “Big Bang” and “Angelina Jolie” in the same sentence.

    But seriously, I don’t get Friedman. He should know better than this. What al Qaeda did is irrelevant in terms of whether we torture or not. Is enhanced interrogation punishment? Hello? I’ll probably write a letter to him about this spectacular display of stupidity. Thank you for pointing out the op-ed.

  4. The Dog, saying what he said, & in such concise statements of fact & with such commitment to justice & law, has impressed the Knucklehead, who now showers it with gratitude, for it`s eloquent statements.

    • Arctor on April 30, 2009 at 1:47 am

    reading a Freidman column, something I stopped doing years ago. Aside from being spectacularly wrong on the Iraq War (it would spread democracy through the Middle East and encourage a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict), this paragon of enlightened punditocracy had the brass to say on Charlie Rose years ago, soon after Dubya had declared Mission Accomplished, that what the US had done was ( I summarize): shove a gun barrel in the Arab world’s mouth and say suck on this. Let the dirtbag deny that, it’s easily available in the archives. William Kristol had (ugh) more of a raison to be a Times columnist than this pretentious expletive deleted.

  5. check your email Dog… I sent you one earlier today, unless I screwed up the addy again!!

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