THE BLOG

The Neo-Colonialist

08/18/2006 12:27 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In Friday's New York Times, Tom Friedman subjects us to more of his drivel on the subject of the Middle East. He admits that he hasn't decided yet who's the winner in the war between Hezbollah and Israel (how much time do you need, Tom?), but he's certain who the loser is: Iran's taxpayers. Then he calls them suckers, and says, "Isn't it obvious?"

Sorry Tom, Iranian 'taxpayers' might have been suckers, if they existed. Iranians, unlike Americans and other Westerners, don't think of themselves as "taxpayers"; just citizens. Mainly because they hardly pay any income tax, if at all. The Iranian government does indeed fund Hezbollah, but it's not with the taxes that they don't collect from the citizenry.
Speaking of sucker taxpayers, Mr. Friedman, was it not you championing the war in Iraq until very recently (and giving "liberal cover" to the administration)? A war that you expected us, the sucker American taxpayers, to pay for (for years to come)? And Tom, those bombs Israel rained down on Lebanon during the recent war were fully paid for by whom? That's right, us sucker American taxpayers. And how many of us don't have health care? How many homeless roam the streets of America's cities while billions go to fund American adventures overseas (and Israel's military)? Sucker taxpayers, indeed.

Tom Friedman refers to the recent war as "reckless" and "started" by Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Nasrallah, thus echoing the Bush administration, the Israeli government and neo-cons everywhere. True, Hezbollah captured and killed Israeli soldiers (it's "kidnapped" in the Western press when Arabs do it, it's "captured" and "imprisoned" when Israelis do it), but there is no indication that Hezbollah did so to provoke a war. Quite the opposite from all accounts, as even Hezbollah leaders have admitted (in the Times, no less) that they did not expect Israel's response to be all-out war. Whether you believe Seymour Hersh or other writers who have exposed what may have been a planned military operation long before Hezbollah laid its hands on Israeli soldiers, the fact remains that Hezbollah's operation on the border was aimed at freeing Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails, not as being the opening salvo of an all-out war.

But let's leave aside all that. Perhaps I've been nit-picking, for Mr. Friedman's real message is that we have to bring the price of oil down. Down so that countries like Iran and Syria, countries that refuse to bow to American power or hegemony, can't continue to support groups and peoples we don't like. When these countries spend their oil income on their people, he calls it "buying their people off". (I'm just so relieved that our government doesn't try to "buy us off" with free health care, aren't you?) These governments subsidize health care, social services, food etc. with their income from oil, and Tom is unhappy about that. Excuse me, but am I missing something? Isn't that what a government is supposed to do? Take care of its people? But Friedman must long for the days when the Shahs of Persia would sell their country's oil to fund their lavish European sojourns (really: one Qajar Shah in the early 20th Century decided he would rather live in France than Iran, and was happy to give Iran's oil concession away for a few million dollars so that he could do so). Friedman must long for the day that we didn't have to face these uppity governments when we needed their natural resources: we just took whatever we wanted. So, now Friedman is "obsessed" with bringing the price of oil down, so that these governments won't have the money to either "buy off" their people, or to fund Hezbollah and Hamas. (A little reminder: the military portion of Iran's funding of Hezbollah or Hamas is small compared to the social programs portion, such as health care for Lebanon's Shias, or the building and running of hospitals and various welfare programs. U.S. financial support of Israel, however, is almost entirely military.)

What Friedman wants is neo-colonialism: rather than occupy and run other countries so that we can exploit them, we merely drive down the value of their natural resources so that they can't afford to take care of their people, or support Israel's potential adversaries. That way they'll have to listen to us, right Tom?