Tom Friedman’s Dishonest Narratives

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In his more recent article "America vs. the Narrative", the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman writes, "Major Hasan was just another angry jihadist…" I beg to differ with such an assertion, which sounds so moronic and unbelievable. One could have accepted such a pronouncement from a simpleton, but when it comes from someone like Tom Friedman it is quite unnerving or discomforting. I am inclined to think that Friedman’s allegation here is rather symptomatic of his general anti-Muslim, or more specifically anti-Arab, bias, which he has been displaying more frequently.[1]

I must admit that I have never been a fan of Tom whose opinion pieces appeared too shallow and flimsy, lacking thorough research or analysis. When it comes to Israel, he is a very biased individual, always forgiving, let alone overlooking, the horrendous crimes of his co-religionists –” the Zionist usurpers against the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. I can remember his editorial pieces in the New York Times since at least 2001 when he showed his moral bankruptcy through his reprehensible support for hard-core Zionism, practiced by the war criminals like Sharon and Netanyahu. He appeared too disingenuous — more like a closet Likudnik than a sincere journalist who was able to rise above his religious feelings to call a spade a spade.

Tom’s view on Major Nidal Malik Hasan is racist, xenophobic and highly prejudicial, mimicking those of neocons, reactionaries, Islamophobes and others generally hostile to President Obama. He ignores the more plausible explanation for the Major’s behavior — as a troubled and tormented individual who "snapped," breaking down psychologically under the stress of his awful predicament, a view that is held by the President when he said, "Even within the extraordinary military that we have –” and I think everybody understands how outstanding the young men and women in uniform are under the most severe stress –” there are going to be instances in which an individual cracks." (New York Times, November 10, 2009) In a recent discussion with a famous Canadian psychiatrist, who has authored several books, I was told that people like him who listen to mental patients and PTSD victims are vulnerable human beings who are under immense mental stress, and thus, it is not unusual for them to ‘snap’ once in a while. They can also suffer from emotional breakdown to the extent of showing emotional bankruptcy. So stressful is the job that many of these psychiatrists are not able to look after more than one patient per week.

Webster Tarpley offers a third explanation for the Army psychiatrist’s behavior: the Major could have been a patsy in the context of a relatively sophisticated operation mounted by forces within the intelligence community. According to him, "Like all patsies, Major Hasan combines the flamboyant and bombastic proclamation of his personal creed with a seeming immunity from bureaucratic countermeasures which would normally be automatic in shutting him down. Hasan is revealed as a fanatic, a misfit, and a quasi-psychotic or psychotic mental case in his own right who could not subsist without protectors in high places of the US intelligence community." Early reports from the crime scene suggested that the troops thought that it was a drill until they saw people bleeding and screaming. Some of the troops thought that the gunfire was a training exercise.[2] This array of eye-witness accounts allows Tarpley to ask the following question: "If so many of the Army personnel on the scene thought at first that the incident was a drill, did Major Hasan also think he was attending a drill? Did he imagine that he was going to be an actor playing the assigned role of a member of the terrorist red team in a realistic exercise? In other words, was this inept, troubled and quasi-psychotic individual somehow under the impression that he was attending an officially sanctioned exercise of some routine type, until real bullets began to be fired by other more qualified shooters, thus taking the drill live? This might also help us to account for the extraordinary intensity of firing at the scene well over 100 rounds. For this working hypothesis to stand up, we would have to show that there were other gunmen firing gunmen who knew that the drill was turning into a real massacre. The additional shooters would according to the classification referred to above represent the technicians in this action the trained killers who have the ability to do the things that the patsy is accused of doing. Interestingly enough, extra gunmen are exactly what we find." [3]

Since the alleged shooter Nidal is reported to be alive, we hope to hear his side of the real story –” away from the speculations made by Tom and others — when he faces military court.

As hinted above, I consider Tom Friedman to be a disingenuous journalist whose own narratives have always tried to shield his criminal co-religionists in Israel from charges of war crimes and extermination campaigns against the Palestinian people. Thus, when Israeli forces were committing one of the worst savageries in Dec. ’08 –” Jan. ’09, he had the audacity to write, "The fighting, death and destruction in Gaza is painful to watch. But it’s all too familiar. It’s the latest version of the longest-running play in the modern Middle East, which, if I were to give it a title, would be called: "Who owns this hotel? Can the Jews have a room? And shouldn’t we blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque?" Those sentences say a lot about the poisonous mindset of the journalist who refuses to see the obvious! To charlatans like him the Goldstone Report on Gaza, highly critical of the war crimes of the Zionist regime, must be an eyesore!

Tom is too critical of the Muslim world, accusing its leaders of providing a narrative that posits America having declared war on Islam, as part of a grand "American-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy" to keep Muslims down. Can he honestly say that there is no such conspiracy? Why then practice double-standard against any Muslim country that wants to be energy sufficient? Why a different yardstick for Iran, while Israel presumably has more than 300 nuclear bombs? Why no solution has yet been found for a just and equitable solution to the 61-year old Palestine-Israel conflict? Who thwarted the latest peace initiative to kneel down before the Israeli demand for continuing illegal settlement activities in the Occupied Territories? Why was the unbiased Goldstone Report on Gaza declared biased and unreliable by the USA government and the Amen Center in the Capitol Hill? Does the West prefer democracy in the Muslim world over lackeys that will listen to their master’s voice? Does it like al-Jazeera when it shows the real faces of the war and occupation? Why is Islamophobia on the rise all over Europe and the USA? Who are fueling this campaign? Wasn’t Islamophobia evident in the reaction to the Dubai Ports World deal? Why are the elected members with Islamic leanings described as ‘Islamo-fascists’, ignoring the fact that they had won an election? What happened in Algeria and Somalia? Why is the outcome of Iran’s presidential election not welcomed in the West? No, we won’t have answers for any of these from Tom. He has been supportive of the Bush Jr.’s wars that brought down the Taliban and the Baathist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. His narratives seldom mention the very people who are supposed to benefit from the change in politics there. Has he ever interviewed any victim of American naked aggression that had witnessed the death of a loved one? Sure, we have the corrupt Karzai government running in place of the fundamentalist Taliban government, but has peace come to Afghanistan even after churning and demolishing the war-ravaged country? Why is Iraq bleeding today some six years after Bush invaded the country?

Commenting on Muslim reaction to the Fort Hood incident, Tom writes, "Whenever something like Fort Hood happens you say, ‘This is not Islam.’ I believe that. But you keep telling us what Islam isn’t. You need to tell us what it is and show us how its positive interpretations are being promoted in your schools and mosques. If this is not Islam, then why is it that a million Muslims will pour into the streets to protest Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but not one will take to the streets to protest Muslim suicide bombers who blow up other Muslims, real people, created in the image of God? You need to explain that to us –” and to yourselves."[4]

I have some suggestions for Tom. If he is sincere to find answers to his question – what Islam is all about, how about starting with my book –” Islamic Wisdom or Wisdom of Mankind? (And there are many such books that are available in western languages today to understand what Islam teaches on every matter, including dealings, etiquette, rights and obligations.) If he is interested in procuring a copy, he can contact me or the Canadian publisher. If he is interested in learning what is taught in our schools and mosques, he is welcome to visit ours. I can also take him to some other mosques and schools, which would allow him to do a comparative analysis and stop stereotyping. He may be surprised to find out that what is taught and preached in our schools and mosques are better in terms of promoting tolerance than his own synagogue. Tom is dead wrong about Muslim protests against suicide bombers. He may like to read news reports outside his NY Times for such information. See, for instance, the BBC news report: Protest against Bangladesh bombs (9 December, 2005). And there are many such examples of protests against such terrorists that I can cite from the Muslim world. [5] Tom can look at the Informed Comments of Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan for a collection of statements condemning terrorism from notable fuqaha in Islam.[6] Tom may not like to know the ugly truth that intelligence reports suggest that in many such suicide attacks, the finger prints of Mossad and RAW are all over.[7]

As I have maintained all along when someone compares our worst examples with the best of the western world, it is not analysis but a paralysis of rational thinking. While the mass murderers and child-killers like Bush and Netanyahu may be role models for Tom, let him know that guys like Zarqawi and Molla Omar are not my role models and surely not for the overwhelming majority of Muslims. As much as we hate and deplore wholeheartedly their brutality and terrorism, we are not thrilled by the savage standard set by Bush & Blair either. If they had any civility, these bigots would not have treated captured soldiers of the Taliban like animals or denied their elementary rights according to the Geneva Convention. As I write this response, an American military detention camp in Afghanistan is still holding inmates, sometimes for weeks at a time, without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to human rights researchers and former detainees held at the site on the Bagram Air Base. The site, known to detainees as the black jail, consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each illuminated by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day. In interviews, former detainees said that their only human contact was at twice-daily interrogation sessions. The former detainees interviewed by the Times said they were held at the site for 35 to 40 days. The sad fact is many of the detainees were absolutely innocent human beings.[8] Do these real examples from the battlefields portray a benign image of Judeo-Christianity?

In their Global War on Terror, what those Judeo-Christian fundamentalists of the American Empire showed has no parallel today. They proved that they can disregard all conventions and laws at will. Through their preemptive attacks on unarmed civilians they have proven that they are coward murderers and worse than Hulagu Khans of the past. If Tom had no problem with the war crimes of American soldiers in places like Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, let alone the extra-ordinary renditions of prisoners, he surely is in no position to be critical of the reactions in the Muslim world, whether these be in relation to the cartoon controversy or war crimes of the Zionist regime in Israel. Ironically, the soldiers of Hitler put up a better record of human rights than those of Bush and Blair.

Surely, the Muslim world is not what it used to be in the pre-colonial days. We don’t have Caliphate, now considered a dirty word in western parlance. Despite its shortcomings, the existence of the Caliphate offered most Muslims a feeling of continuity of the good old days, and at least a formal locus of political authority. With the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate in the beginning of the last century, the concept of the ummah was deprived of any political significance.[9] To ignore that important piece of Muslim history, their colonial legacy and the detrimental effects of such colonization is like trying to understand Shakespeare’s Hamlet without the role of Prince of Denmark. It is no accident today that we don’t have an entity that speaks for our 1.5 billion Muslims. As Tariq Ali has said elsewhere, our governments are dead; our politicians are corrupt; our people are ignored. It is, thus, not surprising that some are responsive to the so-called Islamists.[10]

The Muslim resistance (national liberation) movement against land-grabbing monsters, usurpers, thieves and robbers –” the hegemonic and neo-imperial powers of our time – is very conveniently dumped as an Islamist/Jihadist movement! Forgotten in this context is the ugly fact that it was the American government that resurrected "Jihad" amongst the Muslim youths to fight its dirty war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Its neo-callers, esp. the CIA, ought to have known that once the genie was out, it was bound to be difficult to bottle it up again. To the so-called Jihadists today raison d’etre has basically remained the same –” they are against foreign occupation, whether it is in Afghanistan or in Iraq, or anywhere else. In that process they are also fighting against any force or group deemed being stooges or proxies of the occupation forces. Pure and simple!

Notes:

[1]. See, for instance, http://tinyurl.com/ykt33s8, http://tinyurl.com/yju9yfh

[2]. “Bob Woodruff Hears Soldiers’ Tales of Survival, Recovery,” http://tinyurl.com/yj8ct6h

[3]. http://tinyurl.com/yjh43vy

[4]. http://tinyurl.com/yenss6o

[5]. See, e.g., Somali Americans protest against Shabab and Suicide Bombing, American Chronicle, July 6, 2009, http://tinyurl.com/ylk2u8a. For protests against bombing of the Islamic University in Pakistan, see, e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hs2zKSSZeLM and http://tinyurl.com/ylkoqdj. For protests against Dera Ghazi Khan blast, see, e.g., http://tinyurl.com/yfxvs3e. For protest rallies against killing of Mufti Naeemi, see, e.g., http://tinyurl.com/yl3tjh2

[6]. Friedman wrong about Muslims again, Informed Comments, Juan Cole, July 9, 2005, http://tinyurl.com/al76w ; see also: http://www.unc.edu/~kurzman/terror.htm, http://tinyurl.com/45v8z , http://tinyurl.com/yfzrqar

[7]. Mufti Sarfaraz Naeemi who spoke out against suicide bombing is believed to have been killed by agents affiliated with RAW and Mossad. http://tinyurl.com/yzyh4b8

[8]. http://tinyurl.com/yhvqph7

[9]. For a good analysis on who represents Islam today, see, http://tinyurl.com/yha4tvw

[10]. Letter to a young Muslim by Tariq Ali: http://www.tariqali.org/ExtractClashLetter.html

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