Part II of NYTimes eXaminer interview with Belén Fernández

The following is a the second half of an interview conducted by the new NYTimes eXaminer with PULSE co-editor Belén Fernández about her book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work. Read the first half here.

Q: Did you come away with a lower opinion of Friedman or of the people and institutions that continually give him platforms to spew his idiotic, loathsome views?  I find it so telling that, when Friedman did his “suck on this” performance on Charlie Rose, Rose just nods and leans in for the next question instead of calling Friedman out for saying one of the most offensive things ever said on television.  Or to put it another way:  Do you think the New York Times would allow one of their columnists to consistently dehumanize entire groups of people – to the point of openly calling for civilian deaths in Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq – if those people weren’t Arab/Muslim?

Unfortunately, Orientalist dehumanization is institutionalized in US media discourse, the result being that there is no overwhelming public concern when over a million Iraq lives are lost thanks to America’s bellicose projects or when 1400 Palestinians perish in a matter of 22 days at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces.

It is utterly appalling that neither Charlie Rose nor anyone else in the US establishment media took issue with Friedman’s obscene proclamation, and that he was never required by his employer to apologize for it in the interest of maintaining a pretense of objectivity. One can imagine the uproar that would have ensued—and over which Friedman himself would have presided—had, for example, Yasser Arafat instructed Israelis to suck on things, or had Osama bin Laden justified 9/11 with similar terminology. Friedman, on the other hand, is permitted to continue blissfully peddling his contemptuous analyses of the Arab/Muslim world, such as his 2007 assessment—with regard to the US military—that Iraqis “don’t deserve such good people… if they continue to hate each other more than they love their own kids.”

Of course, it is safe to assume that most Iraqis exhibit normal human affection for their offspring, including for those millions of offspring that have been killed, maimed, displaced or otherwise made to suffer as a result of a US military-inflicted sucking, and that the half a million Iraqi children previously killed by US-championed sanctions were probably also loved by their parents.

Even if Charlie Rose et al. fail to comprehend that sucking orders do not qualify as proper journalistic etiquette, they should at least be able to comprehend that Friedman’s argument for why the sucking should occur is in complete defiance of logic. According to Friedman, Iraqis must be made to suck so that the US can effectively combat the “terrorism bubble” that has developed in “that part of the world” and that poses a “fundamental threat to our open society,” something Americans discovered on 9/11. However, this very same Friedman also explains that the real threat to “open, Western, liberal societies today” consists not of “the deterrables, like Saddam, but the undeterrables – the boys who did 9/11.” The resulting argument—made by someone who himself criticizes the Bush administration for implying a link between bin Laden and Saddam Hussein—is that war against deterrables whose weapons are not the problem will solve the problem of undeterrables who are the weapons and who by definition cannot be deterred anyway.

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United we stand

by Brenda Heard

News during the last couple of weeks has rumbled in to shake an already rickety balance of world order.   Perhaps one of the most disturbing images accompanying those headlines, though, was not that of more bruised and bulleted bodies.  Rather, the image was of what the Associated Press termed a ‘jubilant crowd’.   As though they had just won the World Cup Final, Americans waved flags as they sang and chanted their patriotic celebration.

Osama Bin Laden, they had just been told, had been shot dead.  After nearly a decade-long manhunt, he had finally been pounced upon in Pakistan.  The crowd cheered.  And when President Obama made the official announcement, he coaxed the nation to cheer the same; he concluded by quoting the American pledge of allegiance:

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’.

‘Indivisible’.  In this one word lies the notion that has fed American policy for many, many years:  united we stand—divided they fall.

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Bin Laden’s Rising Influence In America

by M. Junaid Levesque-Alam

American leaders are always trying to assess Osama bin Laden’s level of influence over Muslims.

They should look at his influence over their own countrymen.

The aversion to a proposed Muslim center near Ground Zero shows that it is Americans, not Muslims, whose thinking the terrorist leader has most successfully recast to his advantage.

The detractors strengthen and draw strength from bin Laden; their hot prejudice bolsters his assertion that America despises Islam and betrays an acceptance of his claim that he embodies the faith.

Reception

At first, the proposal to build the 12-story facility two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center aroused scant disapproval. It was even welcomed as an opportunity to reaffirm America as a land of tolerance and reclaim Islam as a religion of moderation.

The group behind the project, Cordoba House, pitched the facility (which would include restaurants, bookstores, art exhibits, a pool, an auditorium, and a prayer space) as a means of bridging divides between faiths. Its board of directors draws from various faiths, and its mission statement promotes intercivilizational understanding.

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