Useful Idiots

Thomas Friedman has written an interesting opinion piece at his long time paper, the New York Times, in which he seems to metaphorically throw his hands up in the air in frustration. Apparently, Friedman has grown tired of the Middle East, which he views as a “toxic mix of tribalism, Shiite-Sunni sectarianism, fundamentalism and oil — oil that constantly tempts us to intervene or to prop up dictators.” Friedman praises and quotes an article by Victor Davis Hanson, titled “We Give Up” that follows a similar logic to Friedman’s. Both Friedman and Hanson are bewildered at the current state of Middle Eastern politics and their antipathy towards the United States. Iraqis, Hanson notes, are friendlier to Syria and Iran than their “liberators,” meaning the great United States heroes who travelled across great oceans to free the Iraqis from their own ignorance. How could this be?

In order to answer that question, one only has to look at the crimes of times past. There is something fascinating about the imperial mentality that is particularly evident amongst today’s American commentators. It is very rare in history to find a case where the conquerors engage in acts of evil because they  deliberately want to engage in evil. Perhaps the greatest example of recognized evil in modern times–the Nazi regime–provided their own rationale for their atrocities, aiming to “save” the German race.  The American murders, rampagers, and perpetrators of genocide that wiped out the Native population were bringing civilization and divinity to the savages.  In a similar fashion, slaves were brought for a better life and were educated on American soil. The Japanese had to civilize Chinese barbarians. Al-Qaeda has to target citizens because it is God’s will. And so on.

And, so, Victor Davis Hanson can not understand why Iraqis do not sit in awe of their “liberators.” He wonders why, after “urging reform” in Egypt for the last 10 years, Americans are not welcomes as the benevolent, democracy bringing Saints. Furthermore, Hanson is stumped as to why Saudi Arabians do not like us, even though we lavish their respressive monarchy with money and weapons. It’s just so confusing. All we want is oil, peace, populations that are subservient to our wishes, weak worker movements, and blind eyes towards Israeli expansionism. Is that so much to ask for, you ignorant Arabs? Why are you not grateful for our bombs, predator drones, torture, and occupations?

 And, therefore, Victor Davis Hanson “gives up” while Thomas Friedman sulks:  ”I believe change is possible and am ready to invest in it. But it has got to start with them wanting it. I’ll support anyone in that region who truly shares our values.” Well, Mr. Friedman, what are our values, exactly? It’s almost surreal to see, not even two paragraphs above that sentence, Friedman decrying our ability to “look the other way” while repressive governments shut down dissent in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and the hard right Israeli government continues to build more settlements and persecute the Palestinian population. Though, like any good American cheerleader, Friedman is careful to explain that we are forced into supporting Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on dissent, Yemen’s sham election, the UAE, Jordan, and so on: we need oil and military freedom, damn it. What will we do if our SUVs can’t sit in traffic hours on end and our oil corporations can’t take home massive profits?
And so Thomas Friedman, cheerleader of the Iraq war, collective punishment in Gaza and “globalization” just doesn’t understand why they don’t love us. It’s just so confusing. But, until they “share our values,” he will refuse to embrace any more popular movements in the Middle East. Exactly how they will share our values is not explained, however.  Perhaps Iran should assassinate Barrack Obama and install a tyrant in its place. Perhaps Iraq should invade the United States, destroy its civil society and culture, displace millions and then wonder why we just don’t like them very much. Perhaps the Palestinians should invade Israel, kick out their civilians, colonize their territory, and refuse the right of return for Israel civilians. Ridiculous scenarios, obviously, but such is the result when our “values” are examined in a different context.

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