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Thread: Today's Tom Friedman column.

  1. #1
    October 14, 2004
    OP-ED COLUMNIST

    [b]Addicted to 9/11[/b]

    By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

    [b]I[/b] don't know whether to laugh or cry when I hear the president and vice president slamming John Kerry for saying that he hopes America can eventually get back to a place where "terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." The idea that President Bush and Mr. Cheney would declare such a statement to be proof that Mr. Kerry is unfit to lead actually says more about them than Mr. Kerry. Excuse me, I don't know about you, but I dream of going back to the days when terrorism was just a nuisance in our lives.

    If I have a choice, I prefer not to live the rest of my life with the difference between a good day and bad day being whether Homeland Security tells me it is "code red" or "code orange" outside. To get inside the Washington office of the International Monetary Fund the other day, I had to show my ID, wait for an escort and fill out a one-page form about myself and my visit. I told my host: "Look, I don't want a loan. I just want an interview." Somewhere along the way we've gone over the top and lost our balance.

    That's why Mr. Kerry was actually touching something many Americans are worried about - that this war on terrorism is transforming us and our society, when it was supposed to be about uprooting the terrorists and transforming their societies.

    The Bush team's responses to Mr. Kerry's musings are revealing because they go to the very heart of how much this administration has become addicted to 9/11. The president has exploited the terrorism issue for political ends - trying to make it into another wedge issue like abortion, guns or gay rights - to rally the Republican base and push his own political agenda. But it is precisely this exploitation of 9/11 that has gotten him and the country off-track, because it has not only created a wedge between Republicans and Democrats, it's also created a wedge between America and the rest of the world, between America and its own historical identity, and between the president and common sense.

    By exploiting the emotions around 9/11, Mr. Bush took a far-right agenda on taxes, the environment and social issues - for which he had no electoral mandate - and drove it into a 9/12 world. In doing so, Mr. Bush made himself the most divisive and polarizing president in modern history.

    By using 9/11 to justify launching a war in Iraq without U.N. support, Mr. Bush also created a huge wedge between America and the rest of the world. I sympathize with the president when he says he would never have gotten a U.N. consensus for a strategy of trying to get at the roots of terrorism by reshaping the Arab-Muslim regimes that foster it - starting with Iraq.

    But in politicizing 9/11, Mr. Bush drove a wedge between himself and common sense when it came to implementing his Iraq strategy. After failing to find any W.M.D. in Iraq, he became so dependent on justifying the Iraq war as the response to 9/11 - a campaign to bring freedom and democracy to the Arab-Muslim world - that he refused to see reality in Iraq. The president seemed to be saying to himself, "Something so good and right as getting rid of Saddam can't possibly be going so wrong." Long after it was obvious to anyone who visited Iraq that we never had enough troops there to establish order, Mr. Bush simply ignored reality. When pressed on Iraq, he sought cover behind 9/11 and how it required "tough decisions" - as if the tough decision to go to war in Iraq, in the name of 9/11, should make him immune to criticism over how he conducted the war.

    Lastly, politicizing 9/11 put a wedge between us and our history. The Bush team has turned this country into "The United States of Fighting Terrorism." "Bush only seems able to express our anger, not our hopes," said the Mideast expert Stephen P. Cohen. "His whole focus is on an America whose role in the world is to negate the negation of the terrorists. But America has always been about the affirmation of something positive. That is missing today. Beyond Afghanistan, they've been much better at destruction than construction."

    I wish Mr. Kerry were better able to articulate how America is going to get its groove back. But the point he was raising about wanting to put terrorism back into perspective is correct. I want a president who can one day restore Sept. 11th to its rightful place on the calendar: as the day after Sept. 10th and before Sept. 12th. I do not want it to become a day that defines us. Because ultimately Sept. 11th is about them - the bad guys - not about us. We're about the Fourth of July.

  2. #2
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    Cute column. Being forced to show an ID badge really [i]does[/i] show how we've lost our minds as a society. I can't even imagine how inconvenient that must have been for Mr. Friedman, I mean, an ID badge! It's an outrage! It's too bad for Mr. Friedman we have to have a Department of Homeland Security. Only 3000 people died, not 10,000...what is this world coming to?

    I especially liked the part where he said that if he had a choice, he'd prefer not to have Code Reds or Code Oranges. Reminds me of a particularly trenchent article I once read in which the author stated that if he had a choice, he'd prefer to live in a world with no poverty or disease.


    I am pretty sure the GOP controls both houses of Congress. "Mandates" mean whatever you can get passed. The Right controls both houses of Congress and the Presidency, and thus they passed legislation. Sounds like a mandate to me.


    My favorite part about this article is the utter lack of acknowledgmen or explanation of an alternative plan with which to handle terrorism, other than his implied ostrich approach. Let's just never talk about terrorism.

    Oh, and is blaming and ripping a President for "politicizing" 9-11 in itself politicizing 9-11? "Bush is using 9-11 for political gain, vote for me, I won't politicize 9-11, save from using it to criticize Bush!"

  3. #3
    I don't know how anyone can suggest that Tom Friedman is advocating an "ostrich approach" to the problems we face in the ME. For the past three years no one has provided more comprehensive coverage to the root causes of terrorism than Mr. Friedman.

    In addition to the everyday logistical challenges we face in this struggle with global terrorism we need to have a vision of what type of world we want to live in in the next ten to twenty years. Do we want to live under daily terror alerts or do we want to someday live in a world that has been restored to some sense of reasonable normalcy?

    I particularly liked the last paragraph of his column:

    "I wish Mr. Kerry were better able to articulate how America is going to get its groove back. But the point he was raising about wanting to put terrorism back into perspective is correct. I want a president who can one day restore Sept. 11th to its rightful place on the calendar: as the day after Sept. 10th and before Sept. 12th. I do not want it to become a day that defines us. Because ultimately Sept. 11th is about them - the bad guys - not about us. We're about the Fourth of July."

  4. #4
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    [quote][i]Originally posted by valleyjet[/i]@Oct 14 2004, 09:05 AM
    [b] I don't know how anyone can suggest that Tom Friedman is advocating an "ostrich approach" to the problems we face in the ME. For the past three years no one has provided more comprehensive coverage to the root causes of terrorism than Mr. Friedman.

    In addition to the everyday logistical challenges we face in this struggle with global terrorism we need to have a vision of what type of world we want to live in in the next ten to twenty years. Do we want to live under daily terror alerts or do we want to someday live in a world that has been restored to some sense of reasonable normalcy?

    I particularly liked the last paragraph of his column:

    "I wish Mr. Kerry were better able to articulate how America is going to get its groove back. But the point he was raising about wanting to put terrorism back into perspective is correct. I want a president who can one day restore Sept. 11th to its rightful place on the calendar: as the day after Sept. 10th and before Sept. 12th. I do not want it to become a day that defines us. Because ultimately Sept. 11th is about them - the bad guys - not about us. We're about the Fourth of July." [/b][/quote]
    These questions, no offense, are pointless. [i]Of course[/i] everyone wants to live in the world with "normalcy." [i]Of course [/i]no one wants to live with daily terror alerts. Saying something like, "We need to have a vision..." is just empty rhetoric that mean absolutely nothing.

    People say things like you've just said (written) and act as if they are profound statements, or that they represent something discussable or something that no one has thought of before. No s**t, we want to return to normalcy. Fine. The universality of that desire is so obvious that even stating it ONCE is repetative. The question is, HOW do we get there?

    What does Friedman or Kerry offer in that regard? We know what Bush offers, and it is up to everyone to judge that. But what does Kerry offer? All I've seen is Kerry saying that everything that Bush has done is wrong. Or, if Bush did something right, he's not doing it right enough. Training Iraqi police is a good move, but Bush is doing it pooorly. Kerry doesn't even know what he feels about the Iraq War. It's the right war, the wrong war, the right war, the wrong war....

    Also, I cannot stand the constant whining from certain corners about how terrorism has become the focus of our lives. It's not the focus of my life. I couldn't tell anyone what threat level we are currently at, or the last time it was heightened. I don't let it bother me. The difference between a good day and a bad day for me is NOT determined by what the color code is. I'd argue that this is true for the overwheleming majority of people. I am not consumed with fear about terrorism, I simply acknowledge that it is a problem that needs to be dealt with, and has been for some time.

    We had "normalcy" prior to 9-11. Well, what happened? How "normal" was it, really? People ask if we are safer now, well, how safe were we back then? We [i]felt[/i] safe pre-9-11, but how safe were we in reality?

  5. #5
    Sure other's have longed for a returned sense of normalcy to our lives. I don't mean to suggest that this is somehow an original idea.

    However, this became an issue recently when Bush and Co. sought to use Kerry's statement (incidently a view also shared by Brent Scowcroft) that he hopes America can eventually get back to a place where "terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance" as him somehow having a fundemental lack of understanding in our struggle against global terrorism.

    As I see it what Senator Kerry was putting forth in that statement was what he'd like to achieve in the struggle against global terrorism not the means of reaching it.

    jets5ever, you asked what Kerry's plan is for dealing with global terrorism, I suggest if you want an unfiltered version you should go to his web site and read it for yourself.

    Anyway, it was Bush/Cheney and Co. who sought to ridicule and trivialize the admirable goal of restored normalcy and Mr. Friedman's column is a great response to it.

  6. #6
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    [quote][i]Originally posted by valleyjet[/i]@Oct 14 2004, 09:34 AM
    [b] Sure other's have longed for a returned sense of normalcy to our lives. I don't mean to suggest that this is somehow an original idea.

    However, this became an issue recently when Bush and Co. sought to use Kerry's statement (incidently a view also shared by Brent Scowcroft) that he hopes America can eventually get back to a place where "terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance" as him somehow having a fundemental lack of understanding in our struggle against global terrorism.

    As I see it what Senator Kerry was putting forth in that statement was what he'd like to achieve in the struggle against global terrorism not the means of reaching it.

    jets5ever, you asked what Kerry's plan is for dealing with global terrorism, I suggest if you want an unfiltered version you should go to his web site and read it for yourself.

    Anyway, it was Bush/Cheney and Co. who sought to ridicule and trivialize the admirable goal of restored normalcy and Mr. Friedman's column is a great response to it. [/b][/quote]
    I agree that the Bush campaign has distorted what Kerry meant by the nuisance line. They clearly have. As has Kerry distorted what Bush meant when he said we "wans't concerned" about Osama Bin Laden. Both candidates have truncated the full quotes taken the "damning" sections out of context and have tried to mislead the public as to the intent or meaning behind those words. It's the "sound-bite" era that we live in. Bush said he knew Bin Ladan was on the run and would continue to be on the run. He didn't mean that he was indifferent about him. And Kerry clearly didn't mean that he currently considere terrorism to be a nuisance.

    But Friedman's article goes much, much further than that, and is really just nonsense, IMO. I expect more from him actually, because I know he's more informed than that about ME affairs, etc. I agree that he is knowledgable in this field.

    Bush and Co and haven't trivialized the "goal" of normalcy, they have merely ridiculed Kerry by trying to use his words to create the impression that Kerry is soft on terror and considers terrorism a nuisance. They haven't ridiculaed the goal of normalcy by any strecth, and YOU have simply distorted what they are saying.

    So many distortions.

    Incidentally, I have been to Kerry's website and fins his "plan" weak, vague and, to be honest, almost delusional.

  7. #7
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    Brent Scowcroft has rightly been a pariah in the Republican Party since his toasting the butchers of Tianamen Square. If that's what you think is a good idea-realpolitik and the stability of scumbags-fine. Just don't throw his name around like he's a great mind we should all respect.

    And how many Kerry plans are there? They seem to be infinite, and most involve sitting around a table with a bunch of people all giving their brilliant ideas. having been through that style of moronic time-wasting management in a government bureaucracy where everyone wants to talk every issue, great and small, and thinks they're geniuses, SPARE ME. NOTHING EVER GETS DONE, but the dumbest person in the room always gets their say for hours.

  8. #8
    [quote][i]Originally posted by Bugg[/i]@Oct 14 2004, 10:32 AM
    [b] Brent Scowcroft has rightly been a pariah in the Republican Party. [/b][/quote]
    Really? As the current chairman of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board one would tend to think that he's still held in high regards in GOP circles.

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