Return to Sender

by Kim Petersen

Dissident Voice

May 22, 2003


Now that things are hunky-dory enough on the Iraqi front, intrepid NY Times writer Thomas Friedman can be chaperoned around the new US “baby,” as Mr. Friedman recently refers to the cradle of civilization.  However, in Mr. Friedman’s first postcard from Iraq he notes how it has been blown back to its Mesopotamian cradle in a “contest [that] was surely one of the most unequal wars in the history of warfare. In socioeconomic terms, we were at war with the Flintstones.” (1)


Mr. Friedman gleefully revels that the “Iraqis are so beaten down that a vast majority clearly seem ready to give the Americans a chance to make this a better place.” In fact this is the “best thing” about the poverty of the Iraqis: submission out of penury.


It would be interesting to know who is this “vast majority” Mr. Friedman crows about and what is his polling methodology? The "vast majority" couldn’t be the 4,900 to 6,500 civilians killed or their surviving next-of-kin. It certainly can’t be from the thousands of demonstrators asking the US forces to return to where they came from. It got so unsettling for some of the US troops that they gunned down the civilian demonstrators in Mosul and Fallujah. Could it be that the folks still without regular electricity and potable water are still pinning their hopes on Uncle Sam? Or could the support possibly be coming from patients unable to be adequately cared for in the hospitals, since looted of whatever was or wasn’t nailed down? Could it be from the people who have witnessed their country ransacked to the bone, aided by the sometimes participating occupiers?


As the insightful Noam Chomsky pointed out, “[T]he United States is now regarded as the greatest threat to peace in the world by probably the vast majority of the population of the world. George Bush has succeeded within a year in converting the United States to a country that is greatly feared, disliked, and even hated.” (2) Yet somehow Mr. Friedman would ask us to believe that a country knocked back to the Stone Age by US-UK sanctions and a barrage of weapons, many illegal, used without regard for the civilian population is willing to give the US the benefit-of-the-doubt whereas the rest of the world’s people won’t. Sounds fanciful.


As for the Shiite majority, well Mr Friedman describes a “huge throng of Iraqi Shiites” exuberantly welcoming exiled Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim back to Iraq. He notes a “a similar energy, without the religious fervor” among the Kurdish visitors and Iraqi National Congress aides of convicted criminal Ahmed Chalabi. It is not strange that Israeli inamorato Mr. Friedman would be so appreciative of Zionist-approved Mr. Chalabi. But there was no mention of a “huge throng” for Mr. Chalabi. Sure his few aides show some energy, and why not. They are about to cash in.


Mr. Friedman surmises some more: He figures that of the 60 percent of Iraqis who are Shiite that “maybe 30 percent would favor a Khomeini-like Islamic republic. That's only 18 percent of the country. As such, two things seem clear: the next president of Iraq will be Shiite, and Iraq will not be Iran.” Maybe so, but if true democracy will be allowed to take hold then it will most likely have a Muslim flavor. But from where does Mr. Friedman pull his “30 percent” guesstimate?


Mr. Friedman ends with a quote from a US general who when asked if the US can manage Iraq says: “It is doable -- I just don't know if we can do it.”  Judging by how events are proceeding in Afghanistan and with the history of US involvement there and the Middle East, things don’t bode well.


Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. He can be contacted at: kotto2001@hotmail.com




(1) Thomas Friedman, “Postcard From Iraq,” NY Times, 21 May 2003: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/21/opinion/21FRIE.html?th


(2) David Barsamian interview with Noam Chomsky, “Imperial Ambition,” Monthly Review, May 2003: http://www.monthlyreview.org/0503chomsky.htm




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