I didn't have the time or energy last week to tackle Tom Friedman's take on the torture memos. Basically, it was better than some but worse than others. At least he acknowledged the enormity of what the U.S. did.
But something terrific came out of it: Digby, in discussing the piece, mentioned a February 2002 column published in the Guardian that I'd never seen before. It is truly amazing:
(Our enemies) thought they could always "out-crazy" us, and they were right. They thought we would always listen to the Europeans and opt for "constructive engagement" with rogues, not a fist in the face, and they were right. America's enemies smelled weakness all over us, and we paid a huge price for that.
There is an old Bedouin legend that goes like this: an elderly leader thought that by eating turkey he could restore his virility. So he bought a turkey, kept it by his tent and stuffed it with food every day. One day someone stole his turkey. The Bedouin elder called his sons together and told them: "Boys, we are in great danger. Someone has stolen my turkey."
"Father," the sons answered, "what do you need a turkey for?"
"Never mind," he answered, "just get me back my turkey." But the sons ignored him and a month later someone stole the old man's camel. "What should we do?" the sons asked. "Find my turkey," said the father.
But the sons did nothing, and a few weeks later the man's daughter was raped. The father said to his sons: "It is all because of the turkey. When they saw that they could take my turkey, we lost everything."
America is that Bedouin elder, and for 20 years people have been taking our turkey.
It's worth reading in full. His argument is basically that he likes the fact that Donald Rumsfeld is a crazy motherfucker. He likes that, man. Yeah! I'll call it Thomas Friedman's Begbie Theory of National Defense.
Here's how Friedman wraps it up:
There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't like, but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right. It is the only way we're going to get our turkey back.
The guy is Looney Tunes. The fact that he is treated with such esteem when it comes to foreign policy, given some of the things he's written and said over the years, blows my mind.
I have a confession to make. Right after 9/11, I was given a CD by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which included its rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." I put it in my car's CD player and played that song over and over, often singing along as I drove.
All this drives home the point that people like Thomas Friedman and Richard Cohen were unmanned, in the fullest sense of the word, by Sept. 11. They were terrified, and their response came from the lowest, least evolved portion of their brains. Here's Cohen from his column on the torture memos:
It took a long time (after 9/11) before I could pass a New York fire station -- the memorials still fresh -- without tearing up. I vowed vengeance that day -- yes, good Old Testament-style vengeance -- and that ember glows within me still.
Rather than concoct some adolescent revenge fantasy -- how precisely was little Boy Wonder planning to exact his "vengeance"? Did he lie awake at night thinking about taking a CIA plane to Afghanistan and going all John Rambo on an al-Qaida camp? -- Cohen should have splashed some cold water on his faces, taken a couple deep breaths and sacked the fuck up. Or maybe Cohen and all his fellow petrified columnists just needed some help from old Don Corleone.