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Thomas Friedman: Imperial Messenger of the Arab Spring

(Photo: AFP-Mark Ralston)

The following is an article I wrote for the Beirut-based Al Akhbar English.

It took Thomas Friedman — New York Times foreign affairs columnist and three-time Pulitzer Prize recipient for reporting and commentary on the Middle East — approximately 46 days after the outbreak of the Arab Spring in Tunisia to weigh in on the matter.

Noted champion of the notion that Iraqis should be made to “Suck. On. This” by the US military in order to “try to build one decent, progressive, democratizing society in the heart of the Arab East”, Friedman eventually turns up in a Tel Aviv hotel to discuss ramifications of the Egyptian uprising with a retired Israeli general. He then proceeds to Egypt itself, an experience that subsequently merits significant reflection:

When I was in Cairo during the Egyptian uprising, I wanted to change hotels one day to be closer to the action and called the Marriott to see if it had any openings. The young-sounding Egyptian woman who spoke with me from the reservations department offered me a room and then asked: ‘Do you have a corporate rate?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I work for The New York Times.’ There was a silence on the phone for a few moments, and then she said: ‘Can I ask you something?’ Sure. ‘Are we going to be O.K.? I’m worried.’

I made a mental note of that conversation because she sounded like a modern person, the kind of young woman who would have been in Tahrir Square. We’re just now beginning to see what may have been gnawing at her — in Egypt and elsewhere.

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Kings have special qualifications

So do State Dept. spokespeople

As a forum for tragicomic relief, daily U.S. State Department press briefings with P.J. Crowley rarely disappoint.

The following is an excerpt from yesterday’s transcript. In reference to Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who recently sacked the Jordanian cabinet and acquired a new one in an attempt to appease protesters demanding political and economic reforms, the State Dept. authority announces:

I think I saw a story today where [the king] acknowledged that Jordan’s own efforts up to this point have been too slow.”

A member of the audience asks a question on the subject of potential differences between U.S. support for regional royalty and U.S. support for regional dictators who occasionally stage elections. Crowley responds with a lot of words amounting to nothing, but the questioner gets a good line in.

QUESTION: P.J., is your – is U.S. support for King Abdullah in any way different than what had been your support for [Egypt’s Hosni] Mubarak, because he is a king, he’s not elected?

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