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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Thomas Friedman’s Confusions

The London Review of Books blog has just published my very short piece on Thomas Friedman’s Iraq war crimes, which begins:

In his most recent book, Thomas Friedman – New York Times columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner, presidential adviser – says of the Iraq War that he has ‘nothing but regret for the excessive price that America and Iraq have had to pay in lives and treasure’. The body count seems to be less cause for concern, however, than the fact that China, which has not been distracted from domestic infrastructure projects by pricey wars abroad, can now build a convention centre in approximately the same time it takes for the Washington Metro crew to repair two escalators in Friedman’s local subway station (the book is called That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back). Still, he’s come a long way since May 2003, when he said that the US military had to go ‘house to house from Basra to Baghdad’, wielding ‘a very big stick’ and instructing Iraqis to ‘Suck On This’.

Click here to read the rest of the piece at the LRB blog.

Thomas Friedman—Greenwashing Imperial Messenger?

My book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work was recently excerpted at Guernica Magazine.

Here’s an excerpt of the excerpt:

Despite Friedman’s newfound annoyance that the United States is preoccupied with nation-building abroad and that “the Cheneyites want to make fighting Al Qaeda our Sputnik“ while “China is doing moon shots“ and turning from red to green, he credits the U.S. army with “outgreening al-Qaeda” in Iraq. In Hot, Flat, and Crowded, we learn that this has been achieved via a combination of insulation foam and renewable energy sources, reducing the amount of fuel required to air condition troop accommodations in certain locations.

After speaking with army energy consultant Dan Nolan— whom he “couldn’t help but ask, ’Is anybody in the military saying, “Oh gosh, poor Dan has gone green—has he gone girly-man on us now?“ ’—Friedman announces that the outgreening of Al Qaeda constitutes a typical example:

“of what happens when you try to solve a problem by outgreening the competition—you buy one and you get four free. In Nolan’s case, you save lives by getting [fuel transportation] convoys off the road, save money by lowering fuel costs [from the quoted ‘hundreds of dollars per gallon’ often required to cover delivery], and maybe have some power left over to give the local mosque’s imam so his community might even toss a flower at you one day, rather than a grenade.”

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WBAI/Beyond the Pale interview: The Imperial Messenger

Yesterday I was interviewed about my book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work for the Sunday WBAI/New York program “Beyond the Pale“. WBAI is part of the Pacifica Radio Network; the interview was conducted by Marissa Brostoff, former staff writer at The Forward newspaper and Tablet Magazine and author of a recent article for Salon.com on the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The hour-long program can be listened to here:

My part starts at minute 21 and ends at minute 38. Before me is Anthea Butler, professor of Religious Studies and Graduate Chair of Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, discussing the Herman Cain phenomenon with Kiera Feldman, author of an exposé for the Nation about Birthright Israel.

After me is a commemorative segment on recently deceased Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali.

The Imperial Messenger: promotional video

The following is a short promotional video for my book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work. (gracias Amelia)

'Thomas Friedman: The imperial messenger'

The following is an excerpt from my book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released today by Verso. The excerpt, originally published at Al Jazeera, begins with late Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said’s criticism of the Orientalist tendencies Friedman exhibits in his 1989 bestseller From Beirut to Jerusalem. All quotes appearing in this excerpt are properly cited in the work itself.

Edward Said has challenged Friedman’s superimposition of desert scenery onto the contemporary Middle East in his explanation of the Hama massacre of 1982, which Friedman attributes in part to the notion that Syrian President Hafez al-Assad viewed the Sunnis of Hama as “members of an alien tribe – strangers in the desert – who were trying to take his turkey”, something we are told happens in Bedouin legends. Said comments:

So astonishing a jump, from modern, predominantly urban Syria to the prehistoric desert, is of course the purest Orientalism, and is of a piece with the moronic and hopelessly false dictum offered later in the book that the Arab political tradition has produced only two types: the merchant and the messiah.”

It should be noted, however, that Said’s original conception of Orientalism as Eurocentric prejudice must be amended slightly in Friedman’s case to incorporate his generalisations about Europeans themselves, collectively denounced as “Eurowimps” when they do not exhibit sufficient enthusiasm for US military endeavours against Arabo-Islamic peoples. Friedman alternately cajoles particularly intransigent language groups with persuasive slogans like “Ich bin ein New Yorker”, advocates removing France from the UN Security Council because, “as they say in kindergarten, [it] does not play well with others”, and warns Spain that a withdrawal from Iraq in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings of 2004 is a potential modern-day equivalent of the European appeasement of Adolf Hitler.

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Book review: Fernández skewers empire’s messenger Tom Friedman

Below is an excerpt from David Cronin‘s review for The Electronic Intifada of my book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, slated for release by Verso this coming Monday, Nov. 7. Cronin, the author of Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation, writes:

Few books on current affairs merit being called page-turners; because of Fernández’s witty and punchy style, this one does.

Click here to read the review in full at The Electronic Intifada. Click here to read an exclusive excerpt from The Imperial Messenger, also at EI.

Even though just one chapter is specifically focused on the “special relationship” between Israel and the US, Friedman’s commitment to Zionism is criticized throughout Fernández’s book.

While Friedman has claimed he learned he was “more Middle East than Minnesota” on his first visit to Jerusalem in 1968 (55), Fernández stresses that his refusal to analyze Zionism and its legacy from a critical perspective means that all his work on the region must be treated with circumspection (54).

In any event, his claim is a dubious one; a great deal of his travels are spent in the Westernized environments of golf clubs, luxury hotels or hamburger restaurants (Friedman’s most famous and ludicrous theory is that no two countries hosting a branch of McDonald’s have gone to war against each other (3)).

Perhaps the best thing about this book is how it highlights the shoddiness of Friedman’s research and how someone who has been lauded by Pulitzer Prize judges for his “clarity of vision” is frequently muddled and inconsistent.

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