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Program Information
 Houston Indymedia 
 
 Commentary
 Nick Cooper reading a piece by Chris Anderson
 Nick Cooper  
 For non-profit use only.
This is 4:30 mp3 of Chirs' critique of the New York Times Editorial writer Tom Friedman on NYC Indymedia.
recorded at KPFT Houston
Yet Another Iraq Tipping Point From the NYT's Tom Friedman Current rating: 5
by Chris Anderson
(No verified email address) 15 Jun 2005
Modified: 11:35:50 AM
Columnist Thomas Friedman may not be Malcom Gladwell, but he plays him on the op-ed pages of the New York Times. In today's latest missive from the paper of record's mustachioed menace, Friedman writes that:

"We need to talk about Iraq. This is no time to give up -- this is still winnable -- but it is time to ask: What is our strategy? This question is urgent because Iraq is inching toward a dangerous tipping point -- the point where the key communities begin to invest more energy in preparing their own militias for a scramble for power -- when everything falls apart, rather than investing their energies in making the hard compromises within and between their communities to build a unified, democratizing Iraq."

If all this sounds vaguely familiar, you're right. A search of the Lexis-Nexis database shows that this is the fifth time in the past 16 months that Friedman has warned in his op-ed column that we are approaching a "tipping point" in Iraq. This doesn't include that times that Friedman has warned us that America's Iraq adventure is reaching "a crisis point" "a point of no return" or a "moment of truth."

Lets look at some of Friedman's earlier Iraq tipping points:
friedman.jpg
In "A Letter from Tikrit" on November 27, 2003, while Saddam Hussien was still believed to fueling the Iraqi insurgency, Friedman takes on the persona of the deposed dictator, writing in a "letter to George W. Bush" that:

"your Pentagon only talks about pulling troops out of Iraq, when you should be putting more in ... The whole game comes down to security. We are in a race to see who gets to the tipping point first. Iraqis will follow the strong horse. My bet is that I can generate enough insecurity among Iraqis to shun you, before you can induce them to carry out your program to build a democratic alternative to me."

Hussein was captured in mid-December, 2003, shortly after Friedman composed his letter. Having reached the Iraq tipping point and captured a brutal dictator, things should have started to go better immediately.

In February 2004, Friedman referenced the tipping point again in a column titled "Meet the Press":

"The situation in Iraq is fast approaching the tipping point. The terrorists know that if they can wreak enough havoc, kill enough Iraqis waiting in line to join their own police force, they can prevent the U.N. from coming up with a plan for elections and a stable transfer of U.S. authority to an Iraqi government. Once authority is in Iraqi hands, the Baathists and Islamists have a real problem: They can't even pretend to be fighting the U.S. anymore. It will be clear to all Arabs and Muslims that they are fighting against the freedom and independence of Iraq and for their own lunatic ideologies. Which is why they are desperate to prevent us from reaching that tipping point. Their strategy is to sow chaos, defeat President Bush and hope that his Democratic successor will pull out."

Perhaps concerned that the twin Iraqi uprisings of April 2004 showed that a tipping point had indeed been reached (and we'd tipped the wrong way), Friedman reassured us in November that, despite his proclamations of February, we were still weren't at the tipping point just yet. Rather "the score is still 4 to 4," and "we can still emerge with a decent outcome." Never fear, though, for those of you concerned about earlier tipping point claims. "There's only one thing one can say for sure today," Friedman wrote reassuringly. "You won't need to wait much longer for the tipping point." To drive the message home, Friedman even titled his November 18 column "Iraq at the Tipping Point."

Buoyed by "successful" elections in Iraq and the "Cedar Uprising" in Lebanon, a clearly jazzed Friedman extended Gladwell's metaphor to the Middle East writ large. "I think that what's so interesting about the Middle East today is that we're actually witnessing three tipping points at once. Thanks to eight million Iraqis defying 'you vote, you die' terrorist threats, Iraq has been reframed from a story about Iraqi 'insurgents' trying to liberate their country from American occupiers and their Iraqi 'stooges' to a story of the overwhelming Iraqi majority trying to build a democracy, with U.S. help, against the wishes of Iraqi Baathist-fascists and jihadists." Similar tipping points were occurring in Lebanon and in Palestine, Friedman opined.

Now, of course, its June 2005. Almost 1000 Iraqis have died in insurgent attacks since the new Shiite government was sworn in in Baghdad, and US casualty levels are as high as they've ever been. Various regions of the country teeter on the edge of civil war (might they be, perhaps, at a tipping point?)

I have a new metaphor suggestion for Tom Friedman. Perhaps he should just start noting that "victory is just around the corner" in Iraq. After all, we're way past the tipping point-- indeed, by Friedman's own count, we're past at least five of them.

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