On Wednesday, I had a brief on-air exchange with Friedman, live on KQED Radio in San Francisco.
Solomon: "I think it's unfortunate the sensibility that Thomas Friedman, who's a very smart guy, has brought to bear in so many realms. For instance, we heard a few minutes ago, asked about Iraq and the lessons to be drawn -- quote, 'We overpaid for it.' 'We overpaid for it.' Which is sort of what you might call jingo-narcissism, to coin a term. Just the dire shortage of remorse, particularly given Thomas Friedman's very large role in cheering on, with his usual caveats, but cheering on the invasion of Iraq before it took place. Full disclosure, this is Norman Solomon, I chronicled his critique in my book War Made Easy, his critique of foreign policy, and he did cheerlead -- in his sort of, kind of erudite glib way, he did cheerlead the invasion of Iraq before it took place. Just as, as I chronicle in the book, he was gleeful in his columns about the bombing of Serbia, including Belgrade, civilian areas, just chortled and very very gleeful about that bombing. One other point I'd like to make. His recent column about NSA surveillance is absolutely a formula for throwing away the First Amendment gradually in stages. The idea that somehow we should relinquish the sacred Fourth Amendment, a little bit at a time, maybe not a little bit at a time, because if there's terrorism that takes places in a big way again in this country then hold onto your hats -- I mean, that is formulaic as an excuse, may I say a bit of a craven way, to accept this attack on our civil liberties."
Host (Michael Krasny): "Norman, let me thank you for the call and get a response from Tom Friedman."
Friedman: "Well first of all, I would invite, I wrote a book called Longitudes and Attitudes that has all my columns leading up to the Iraq War. And what you'll find if you read those columns is someone agonizing over a very very difficult decision. To call it cheerleading is just stupid and obnoxious. Okay. Number one. And on the question of the Fourth Amendment, as has been pointed out, there actually has been no case of abuse that has been reported so far with this program. Believe me, if there were one, two, ten or twenty, then I think we'd be having a very different debate. And so to simply -- he says I'm dismissing the Fourth Amendment, which is ludicrous, I'm terribly agonized over this whole business -- but to simply blithely say, 'Oh, you're just trying to use the threat of another terrorist attack,' as if that isn't a live possibility, as if we haven't had three or four real examples of people trying to do things that had they gotten through I think would have led to even worse restrictions on privacy and civil liberties."
Well, that's Thomas Friedman -- in sync with a downward spiral of fear, threats and perpetual war -- explaining why we've got to jettison some of our civil liberties to try to avoid losing more later on.
For the record, here's Friedman speaking to Charlie Rose on May 30, 2003:
What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: 'Which part of this sentence don't you understand? You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.' That, Charlie, is what this war is about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia; it was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.
The invasion of Iraq, Friedman declared, was "unquestionably worth doing."