Friday, December 10, 2004

Tom Friedman's had a few columns that have been praised in the lefty blogsphere for their uncommon good sense. But it seems that with his latest, Friedman is returning to form:

America's greatest intelligence failure in Iraq was not the W.M.D. we thought were there, but weren't. It was the P.M.D. we thought weren't there, but were. P.M.D., in my lexicon, stands for "people of mass destruction." And there were far more of them in Iraq than anyone realized. The failure of U.S. intelligence to understand what was happening inside Iraqi society during the decade-plus of U.N. sanctions that preceded our invasion is the key to many of the problems we've encountered in post-Saddam Iraq.

Friedman goes on to explain where these "P.M.D." came from: the Iraqis we were counting on to rebuild society left during the sanctions, he claims, while the dregs that remained were radicalized as Saddam used an Islamic revival (Wahhabi, Friedman claims without evidence -- never mind that the most influential religious figures in the country are Shiite) as the opiate of the masses.

But while wondering where suicide bombers come from, he somehow neglects to mention the uncontested fact that a lot of their support structure -- to say nothing of the guys manning RPGs, mortars, and managing their ammo -- are the same people that Bremer fired from the preexisting Iraqi army. Nor how our administrators failed to hire the Iraqis who remained in country (let alone try to lure back the exiles) or rebuild their facilities (hoping instead that harebrained privatization schemes would magically take care of that in some indefinite future they didn't have time to achieve).

And so he gets to suggest that the people who have been running that country for going on two years now are not primarily to blame for conditions inside it.


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