In Thomas Friedman's column in the New York Times today he falls into the same traps of moral relativism that were so disastrously wrong for him in the run up to the war in Iraq. Back then he excused the previous administration of lying us into a costly, clumsy war where Iran so far is the only clear winner. Friedman argued that regardless of Bush/Cheney's motives, Iraq will be our Israel, a flower of democracy in the desert of middle eastern dictatorships.
And today he argues that U.S. government-issued torture is just water(boarding) under the bridge.
Friedman's reasoning is uncharacteristically weak:
The president's decision to expose but not prosecute those responsible for this policy is surely unsatisfying; some of this abuse involved sheer brutality that had nothing to do with clear and present dangers. Then why justify the Obama compromise? Two reasons: the first is that because justice taken to its logical end here would likely require bringing George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and other senior officials to trial, which would rip our country apart; and the other is that Al Qaeda truly was a unique enemy, and the post-9/11 era a deeply confounding war in a variety of ways.
Would the country actually be ripped apart if American ideals of democracy and the rights of man were actually upheld instead of forgotten? As I wrote last week, I totally agree with the president in not prosecuting the individuals at the CIA, however the lawyers need to be held accountable. Targeting the lawyers is the best way to make sure that when a right-leaning government again comes into office -- and sooner or later it will -- we will have on the books clear historical precedent of punishing misdeeds. The investigation would not necessarily have to go beyond the lawyers to send the message that our Constitution is bigger than party politics.
Friedman's second point is even more clearly wrongheaded. He is actually saying that because Al Qaeda is a scary death cult they could not have been "deterred by normal means." Exactly! They are actually looking forward to dying, especially at the hands of their enemies. They are the last people you should be walling or waterboarding. If you're gonna torture somebody, geez, at least pick somebody with something to lose. Torturing a suicidal maniac makes as much sense as stuffing a gourmet with appetizers before the main course.
Finally Friedman actually repeats this ridiculous Bush-era mantra:
I believe that the most important reason there has not been another 9/11, besides the improved security and intelligence, is that Al Qaeda is primarily focused on defeating America in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world -- particularly in Iraq."
He actually believes that fighting them over there means that we don't have to fight them over here? Does he really think that Al Qaeda can't spare a dozen psychos? Are they all really too busy training in Pakistan to get on a boat? Does the author of, The World Is Flat, really not understand that terror cells, be they Al Qaeda or just Al Qaeda wannabes, can travel the globe as easily as a virus?