Thomas Friedman and the Murder
by Paul Street
www.zmag.org/, January 5, 2006
Maybe New York Times columnist and corporate globalization champion
Thomas Friedman should consult his paper's news desk before crafting
his creepy, power-worshipping editorials.
THE UNITED STATES AS A BENEVOLENT "ELEPHANT"
On page A21 of yesterday's Times, Friedman
praises the supposedly benevolent United States for "provid[ing]
the basic governance that keeps the world stable and on a decent
track." America provides this noble service, Friedman argues,
"through its vast military deployments, diplomatic engagements,
and vital role buttressing the global economy and its rules"
("Social Insecurity Crisis," 4 January 2005).
In support of this nationally self-congratulatory
thesis, Friedman cites leading academic foreign policy expert
Michael Mandelbaum's claim that (in Friedman's words) "most
countries in the world like" American global dominance. "They
like it," Friedman says, "because they know that the
U.S. is not a predatory power" and that American rule "is
helpful to every country in the world."
Friedman gives a lovely quote from the
professor's recent book, "The Case for Goliath: How America
Acts as the World's Government in the 21st Century." The
U.S., Mandelbaum writes (to Friedman's applause), "is not
the lion of the international system, terrorizing and preying
on weaker animals in order to survive itself. It is, rather, the
elephant, which supports a wide variety of other creatures - smaller
mammals, birds, and insects- by generation nourishment for them
as it goes about the business of feeding itself."
"The best evidence" for this
benevolent "elephant" thesis, Friedman feels, "is
the fact that no military coalition has ever formed to counter
America's global governing role - as happened with other hegemonic
powers in history."
DESTROYING ANOTHER INNOCENT FAMILY
After reading Friedman's ode to Mandelbaum
and Uncle Sam, readers of Wednesday's Times could turn to page
A8 to find a jarring and curious example of the "nourishment"
and "stability" the noble American "elephant"
gives to the world system's "weaker animals" through
virtuous "military deployments" and "diplomatic
engagements." According to Times correspondents Richard A.
Oppel and Omar Al-Neaml, "American F-14 warplanes killed
nine members of an Iraqi family, including women and young children,
during a bombing and cannon strike on Monday night that obliterated
a home near the northern industrial city of Baiji,American officials
said the warplanes had been pursuing insurgents who had been observed
setting up a roadside bomb. They fled to a building, and the American
planes struck the building and destroyed it. The attack enraged
Iraqi officials in Baiji, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, who
said that the airstrike was unjustified and that it had destroyed
an innocent family."
By Oppel and Al-Neaml's account, "a
preliminary investigation indicated the blast had killed the wife
of the home's owner, his daughter-in-law and seven children and
grandchildren, including one son who worked for the police."
"The owner of the house is a very simple man," an Iraqi
official reported, adding that "the American forces did not
provide us with any justification for the attack. Agence France-Presse
in Baiji," Oppel and Al-Neaml note, "reported that eight
bodies had been pulled from the rubble along with three survivors
- two unconscious women and an 8-year-old boy whose cry for help
alerted rescuers. A Baiji police colonel," the reporters
ad, "told Reuters that the family members killed in the bombing
did not include any suspected insurgents" ("U.S. Strike
on Home Kills 9 in Family," 4 January, 2006).
"THIS IS YOUR FREEDOM?"
The American Empire's deadly attack on
a family home in Baji (a story that actually belongs on the Times'
front page) is all-too consistent with its record of "terrorizing
and preying on weaker animals" in its illegal, diplomatically
disengaged occupation of Iraq. Iraq Body Count (IBC)'s recently
published "Dossier of Civilian Casualties in Iraq, 2003-
2005" (www.iraqbodycount.org.press/pr12.php) reports that
roughly 30,000 - 1 in every 1000 ---- Iraqis was violently killed
between March 20, 2003 (the day after the beginning of the U.S.
invasion) and March 19, 2005. By IBC's tabulation, 42,500 Iraqis
have been wounded by violence during that period.
Who has done the killing and wounding?
By IBC's meticulous account, based on multiple verifiable media
reports, anti-occupation forces have killed less than 10 percent
of the total number of the nearly 25,000 dead for whom killers
can be identified. "Criminal elements," who have thrived
in the lawless environment created by the destruction of Iraqi
civil authority, killed 8,935 or 36 percent.
The biggest killers have been U.S.-led armed forces, who ended
the lives of 9,270 Iraqis or 37.3 percent. And "at least
21,000 of the 45,000 reported injuries," IBC adds, "were
caused by U.S.-led forces."
In separate databases that include real-time
observations from reporters on the ground, IBC presents a number
of journalistic accounts of Iraqis killed by their supposed American
"liberators." IBC's "Falluja Archive" contains
(to give one among many examples) an April 2004 Associated Press
(AP) story relating how more than 600 Iraqis, "mostly women,
children, and the elderly," were butchered during Uncle Sam's
massive "retaliatory" (after the resistance killed U.S.-funded
Blackwell Security mercenaries) campaign in Falluja. "Iraqis
in Falluja," the AP noted, "complained that civilians
were coming under fire by U.S. snipers."
In a May 7th (2004) dispatch reproduced
by IBC, New Standard correspondent Dahr Jamail reported that "rows
and rows of fresh graves" occupied by civilians killed by
their American "liberators" "filled the football
stadium in Fallujah. Many of [the graves]," Jamail noted,
"are smaller than others. My translator Nermim reads the
gravestones to me: 'This one is a little girl.' We take another
step. 'This is one is her sister.' Next to them is their mother."
"We walk," Jamail continued,
"slowly under the scorching sun along dusty rows of humble
headstones. She continues reading aloud to me: 'Old man wearing
jacket with black dishasho, near industrial center. He has a key
in his hand.' Many of the bodies were buried before they could
be identified. Tears are welling up in my eyes as she quickly
reads: 'Man wearing red track suit.' She points to another row:
'three women killed in car leaving city by American missile.'"
Jamail quoted an Iraqi man who "'saw
American snipers shoot a woman while she was hanging her clothes'
"Another man" interviewed by
Jamail pointed to a mosque and recalled that "Marines entered
the mosque before they bombed it and slit the throats of refugees.
This," the man asked Jamail, "is their democracy? This
is their freedom?'"
"One of the bodies brought to the
[Falluja] clinic," wrote Jamail on April 14th, 2004, "was
that of a 55-year old man shot in the back by a [U.S.] sniper
outside his home, while his wife and children huddled wailing
inside. The family could not retrieve his body for fear of being
shot themselves. His stiff corpse was carried into the clinic,
flies swarming above it. One of his arms was half raised by rigor
ROGUE STATE AMERICA AND THE "PRICE
Even before the re-initiation of formal
U.S. military hostilities in Iraq in March 2003, it is worth recalling,
the economic sanctions imposed on that devastated nation by Friedman's
beloved Clinton administration murdered at half a million Iraq
children. Friedman's favorite Secretary of State, Madeline Albright,
publicly described this massive juvenile body count as "a
price worth paying" in the advancement of benevolent, U.S.-imposed
Of course, Uncle Sam's terrorization of
Iraq under Clinton and the two Bushes is part of a broad and venerable
pattern of American imperial depredation that fosters (contrary
to Friedman's notion of a world that "likes" American
power) rampant global fear and hatred of "rogue state America."
Most of the planet's politically cognizant
populace actually sees Friedman and Mandelbauam's friendly elephant
the U.S. as the single greatest threat to world peace and prosperity.
The preponderant majority of the world's citizenry, we can be
sure, supports the development of effective international institutions
and rules to "counter America's global governing role,"
which consigns more than 2 billion people to life on less than
a dollar a day. Absent such institutions and rules, military coalitions
to check deadly Uncle Sam are a certainty in the 21st century.
Paul Street (email@example.com) is a writer,
teacher, and activist in Iowa and Illinois. He is the author of
Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (www.paradigmpublishers.com)
and Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil
Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005)
Compassion & Empathy page