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Understanding our own language

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column today in Salon, which points out the hypocrisy of typical American war rhetoric about Muslims. For example, there is a column in the NY Times today by Thomas Friedman, who complains bitterly about the “half-truths, propaganda and outright lies about America that have taken hold in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11”. Foremost among these lies is that “America has declared war on Islam.”

And yet, Friedman himself has declared as truth what he now says are lies. In 2003, during an interview by Charlie Rose, Friedman was asked if the war in Iraq was worth it. His response sounds just like a war on Islam:

I think it was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie. I think that, looking back, I now certainly feel I understand more what the war was about … . What we needed to do was go over to that part of the world, I’m afraid, and burst that bubble. We needed to go over there basically, and take out a very big stick, right in the heart of that world, and burst that bubble. …

And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: which part of this sentence do you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society? … Well, Suck. On. This. That, Charlie, was what this war was about.

We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That’s the real truth.

Today, Friedman instead claims that the purpose of the war was to destroy a tyrannical regime and that Muslims should be more appreciative of our efforts.

But the real hypocrisy is when Friedman talks about the recent shootings at Fort Hood, and says “Major Hasan may have been mentally unbalanced — I assume anyone who shoots up innocent people is.” What he doesn’t hear is the echo of his own words. Maybe Major Hasan was just saying “Suck. On. This.”