Wednesday :: Apr 13, 2005

Elementary School Admissions Open for NYT Columnists


by eriposte

At one time I actually used to think Tom Friedman was a good writer. Over time I realized that good writing skills are not the same as thoughtfulness or journalism.

Today's Friedman column in the New York Times is a sad reflection of how far Friedman has fallen. I could be wrong, but this is the kind of article that an elementary school student would probably write, although no insult is intended to elementary school students by that statement.

His column is an attempt to answer this question:

So here's a question that I've been wrestling with lately: With all these reports about the bungling of U.S. intelligence, and the C.I.A.'s relying on bogus informants with names like "Curveball" or "Knucklehead" or whatever, why have there been no terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11?

He goes through some of the predictable reasoning:

So, how then do we explain the calm? To begin with, I'd give a tip o' the hat to the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security. I have no doubt that their increased vigilance - and coordination with European and Arab intelligence services - has made it much harder for terrorists to organize. Moreover, thanks to Gen. John Abizaid's Centcom forces in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda no longer has a whole country from which to plan, train and coordinate terrorist attacks with impunity. The fact that Al Qaeda effectively controlled a country is what made it unique. Also, new U.S. visa policies have made it much harder for bad guys to get into America.

OK, that's partly true. Unfortunately, he then moves on the latest brilliant Friedmanism-of-the-day:

Despite all of that, I fear that we may now be entering the most dangerous period since 9/11. Why? Because I've always believed that one of the most important reasons there has been no new terrorist attack in America has to do with the U.S. invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
...
The reason things may be getting more dangerous now is that the formation of a freely elected government in Iraq may signal that the Baathist-Jihadist insurgency is being gradually defeated. The U.S. may even be able to withdraw some troops. And there is nothing worse for the Baathists and Jihadists than to be defeated in the heart of their world - and, even more so, to be defeated in the heart of their world by other Arabs and Muslims who are repudiating the Jihadists' vision and tactics.

I fear that when and if the Jihadists conclude that they have been defeated in the heart of their world, they will be sorely tempted to throw a Hail Mary pass. That is, they may want to launch a spectacular, headline-grabbing act of terrorism in America that tries to mask, and compensate for, just how defeated they have become at home.

In short, the more the Jihadists lose in Iraq, the more likely they are to use their rump forces to try something really crazy in America to make up for it [my emphasis]. So let's stay the course in Iraq, but stay extra-vigilant at home.

Um. How do I put it...?

So, Osama bin Laden attacked the U.S. on 9/11 because he lost some major war that he fought with the U.S. somewhere? Hmmm. That's certainly news to me. I thought he just hated our "freedom" or something.

And, um, if the jihadists lose in Iraq and that is likely to make them want to try "something really crazy" in America, would it be too much to ask what might *really* happen if they (God forbid) win? [For this argument, let's set aside the question of who these jihadists are and whether they are really connected to those who attacked us on 9/11] Wouldn't it be a reasonable assumption that they would be MORE emboldened by winning, rather than losing - and therefore, that a win will NOT make them feel content with not attacking us inside American soil? I apologize for asking Mr. Friedman, but your logic would be insulting even to elementary schoolers.

Mr. Friedman, what has happened to you? Why have you sent your common sense and intelligence on vacation? The New York Times could certainly use a good op-ed columnist to talk about how to win against terrorism, but if this is the best you can do, then maybe you ought to take a sabbatical and get control over your senses.

  • Do you recall, Mr. Friedman, that the last major terrorist attack on U.S. soil prior to 9/11 by foreign terrorists was in February 1993 (WTC), a good 8 and a half years before 9/11/2001?
  • Do you recall, Mr. Friedman, that the last major terrorist attack on U.S. soil prior to 9/11 by American terrorists was in April 1995 (Oklahoma City), almost 6 and a half years before 9/11/2001?
  • Do you realize, Mr. Friedman, that your "tip o' the hat" is based on the fact that we have had no major domestic terrorist attack by anyone in the last 3 and a half years?

Question 1: Does this mean President Clinton and his CIA, FBI, NSA, etc. deserve an ever bigger "tip o' the hat" for having kept America free of terrorist attacks even longer than the current incumbent, without having to invade Iraq?

Question 2: Does it occur to you that the fact that there hasn't been a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil could also be due to the fact that terrorists like bin Laden may strike less frequently on a mass scale than you would imagine they do?

I'm not taking away any credit from the FBI, CIA or other agencies for the job they have done since 9/11 to keep us all safer, but everyone knows how the Bush administration has underfunded key measures of national security, how they let a big chunk of our armed forces get stuck in Iraq by creating a new mass of terrorists there, and politicized our intelligence agencies so severely that the focus shifted from the mass murderer and terrorist Osama bin Laden, who caused 9/11, to a mass murderer and terrorist in Iraq who had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11, and who was almost entirely defanged prior to the Iraq invasion.

These are serious times and it calls for serious analysis and actions. Not poppycock that sounds like it was phoned in, in the middle of a few glasses of beer.

Please treat your readers with some respect. We aren't that dumb, although I can see that between you and Mr. Brooks, you're trying hard to make sure we become dumb.

eriposte :: 7:27 PM :: Comments (18) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!