Dear Mr. Friedman

Posted by sepoy on September 28, 2005 · 8 mins read

In your 9/28 column, The Endgame in Iraq [access for the academic audience, thanks to moacir], you conclude:

Maybe the cynical Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won't, then we are wasting our time. We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind. We must not throw more good American lives after good American lives for people who hate others more than they love their own children.

You want to arm the Shiites and the Kurds to do exactly what? Oh! to let the Sunnis "reap the wind". I am sure that the TimeSelect barrier is not nearly enough for a NYT columnist to advocate ethnic cleansing. But wait, you are way too smart for that, aren't you, Mr. Friedman. Because, you have already accused the "minority" Sunnis of ethnic cleansing: Do the Iraqi Sunnis understand their own interests, and does the Sunni world have any moral center? Up to now the Sunni Arab world has stood mute while the Sunni Baathists and jihadists in Iraq have engaged in what can only be called "ethnic cleansing": murdering Shiite civilians in large numbers purely because they are Shiites in hopes of restoring a Sunni-dominated order in Iraq that is un-restorable. Yes, the "jihadists" now represent the entirety of Sunnis - inside and outside of Iraq [the actual count of Shi'a insurgents remains zero, according to a leading expert in Middle East asshatry, Tom Friedman]. The 80% Shi'a majority is being ethnically cleansed by the Sunnis - they pass out sect-id cards before the car blows up, I am sure. Perhaps, only perhaps because I am not as astute as a NYT columnist, the jihadists are killing civilians to create unrest and panic regardless of sectarian affiliation? Hmm?

In any case, how should the Sunnis of Iraq feel about the bombs that kill their own - even if some of their own set them up? What should they do about the armies that enforce "evacuations"? So far, your army has decimated Fallujah, Tal Afar and Qaim among other Sunni "strongholds" - also known as cities. What is the proper response that you seek from this minority? To endorse the US designed "constitution" that remains unavailable to be read by any Iraqi citizen to this day? That gives over control of Sunni areas to the majority [who, I am sure are not at all pissed about the "brutaliz[ation] by an oil-backed Sunni minority regime", not to mention the more recent, "ethnic cleansing"]? Yes, they should issue fatwas against the jihadists because that inscrutable Arab mind understands nothing more than a two-bit religious edict issuable by any GED-equivalency madrasa-diploma holder. And then suck it up. Right? The Sunnis that you want killed off already know that they are a target. Maybe some more Sunnis will raise arms and join the jihadists or MAYBE, just MAYBE, they will use other means. Maybe, before you have US arms merchants sell US weapons to the Kurds and the Shi'a to kill their fellow Iraqis and Muslims, you should listen to them:

Expressing a commonly held view in Baghdad, Professor Nadhmi says, "This civil war is only in the brain of the American decision-maker, and perhaps he himself is aware that there is no civil strife between Shia and Sunnis, but [attempts] to use it as a pretext." After watching the black silhouettes of the helicopters grow smaller against the setting sun, he adds, "The Americans are actually saying, 'Let us stay in your country, let us kill you, Iraqis, because we don't like you to kill each other.'"

Imam Mu'ayad al-Adhami of the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad also blames foreign influence for the recent talk of rising sectarian tensions. "The Americans are using divide and conquer to try to split the Muslims of Iraq," he says softly, while gesturing with his large hands. "But Iraqi society is Muslim first and tribal second. That means Sunni and Shia are relatives, often in the same family with so many links and intermarriages. This is our society and anyone trying to divide us is blind to these facts."

The sheik offered several examples of solidarity between the two sects. Last year, when his Shiite neighbors in the Khadamiya district just across the Tigris from Adhamiya were struck by a devastating suicide bomb attack during the Ashura holiday, his was the first mosque to ask people to donate blood.

"We didn't feel any different from them," emphasizes Sheik Mu'ayad. "They are Muslims and we must help them. When they analyzed the donated blood for our brothers and sisters in Khadamiya, they couldn't tell if it was Sunni or Shia blood."

A visit to Baghdad University reinforces the sense that Iraqi nationalism and Islamic identity are more deeply felt than sectarian allegiances. Despite the fact that the university suffered looting in the aftermath of the invasion and much of it remains in disrepair, the campus, now home to more than 100 refugee families from Falluja, remains an island of normalcy for college students of both sects of Islam. Most do not foresee sectarian differences necessitating civil war or the partition of their country.

"There is not a split between Sunni and Shia here, we are all Iraqi," says Intisar Hammad. The 21-year-old physics student, who is a Shiite, adds, "There are enemies of Iraq who want us to be separate, but we are all Muslims and our constitution is the Koran."

Another Baghdad University student named Saif feels the same. "There is no split. We are together. We are one."

You, Mr. Friedman, are morally and ethically despicable.


related: Dear Mr. Brooks

related 2: Quizman, in the comments, pointed me to SP's post [somehow i missed it]. Read the whole thing but I want to highlight this:

You, I and the whole world talks these days of Sunnis and Shia and Kurds as if they are homogeneous groups. We have lost all nuance and differentiation. As if no Sunni had a Shia neighbour ever. As if Kurds never lived in central Iraq. As if my Shia mother never got married to my Sunni father. AS IF EVERY SINGLE IRAQI TAKES HIS/HER ORDERS DIRECTLY FROM THEIR IMAMS.

My point, exactly.


Quizman | September 28, 2005

Interesting take on the subject. Salam Pax on the other hand seems to have relatives who are convinced that this is a sectarian war.

raven | September 28, 2005

Aside from the ethical despicableness of Tom Friedman, what do you really think the facts are?

There is not a split between Sunni and Shia here, we are all Iraqi
Doesn't this seem like the sort of thing that "religious leaders" say after every sectarian attack in Pakistan? No sectarian strife here, it's the Americans/Israelis/Indians. No Muslim would kill another etc.

AD | September 28, 2005

Friedman has been on tilt ever since Katrina. He's repeatedly savaged Bush and the administration... and now he's pulling this bizarre reversal on Iraq. He's been disillusioned with religion and ideology since his experiences in the Middle East with extremists of all types... so he turned to the marketplace and globalization as solutions to the world's ills. After the recent graphic demonstration of just how fallible his new God really is... he really started to unravel...

sepoy | September 29, 2005

raven: I don't know the facts; I only know that the truth can never be as simple and stupid as friedman wants us to believe. There is a war in Iraq - between jihadists, baathists and civilians - sect or tribe notwithstanding. Is that a CIVIL war? I am not positive. It can become one, that is for sure. and yes, the platitudes are quite familiar to me but that doesn't mean they can be dismissed as fabrications either. AD: Friedman was ravelled once? Hard to believe. And the beating he took for his outsourcing column ["They outsourced my job to India and all I got was this lousy t-shirt"] but no one will say anything about this one......

Suhail Kazi | September 29, 2005

Matt Taibbi of NYPress, generally derided as lowly and downmarket, did a kick-ass hilarious review of his book, World is Flat. A must read! : "[The walls had fallen down and the Windows had opened, making the world much flatter than it had ever been—but the age of seamless global communication had not yet dawned - Friedman] How the fuck do you open a window in a fallen wall? More to the point, why would you open a window in a fallen wall? Or did the walls somehow fall in such a way that they left the windows floating in place to be opened? Four hundred and 73 pages of this, folks. Is there no God?" :D A must read. Any idea where is Taibbi these days after leaving the NYP?

Quizman | September 29, 2005

Related news here.

Raphael | September 29, 2005

I too was shocked by the violence and pessimism of Friedman’s essay, but in truth his opinions are hardly unprecedented. Charles Krauthammer argued much the same in the Guardian last year when he urged the US to “unleash the fierce and well-trained Kurdish peshmerga militias” on Iraq’s Sunni minority, adding that the goal of a “united, pluralistic, democratic Iraq… may be, in the short run, a bridge too far... [We] should lower our ambitions and see Iraqi factionalization as a useful tool.” This kind of talk is also familiar from the Western debate over Bosnia, where many advocated arming either the Bosnians or the Croats.

Ali | September 30, 2005

I never took this guy seriously, I don't see why others do and should. His writting is spurious - the sort of stuff one expects a ninth or tenth grader to churn out.

sepoy | September 30, 2005

Suhail: Taibbi recently wrote in Rolling Stones; so perhaps he is doing that. Raphael: Charles Krauthammer. HA! Ali: I have received two types of responses to this post [or my similar posts before]: 1. Why do you Bother? We are powerless to change anything or 2. Why bother specifically about X? Obviously s/he is an idiot. I bother precisely because I have no power to change anything. I do have the power to point a finger and scream bloody murder. So, I do that - it just makes me live in this world. As for your query: you might not take him seriously but millions do.

kuffir | September 30, 2005

so what do you think is actually happening in iraq ? a short paragraph please without any reference to any other person's views.

sepoy | October 01, 2005

What is going on in Iraq? I have no clue. I am not in Iraq. All I know is some Arabic press and European press. No freaking clue. A civil war - sure looks like it. A sectarian war - perhaps. A struggle against imperial Americans - in some quarters. Anything good? - no. Constitution will pass. It will NOT be a document that binds Iraq - quite the contrary. America should leave right now - that is, announce the leaving and take 9-18 months to get out.

SloganMurugan | October 03, 2005

He starts of by saying, "Maybe the cynical europeans..." However, he should stick to theorising about a flat bread... oops... flat world.

cayenne | October 07, 2005

Finally! someone who can point out friedman's b.s. with some eloquence and a desi male no less. Sepoy, will you marry me?

sepoy | October 07, 2005

Ladies & Gentlemen: My first blog wedding proposal. I can retire now. Cayenne, meet you at the chapel hall, decked as Elvis [of course].

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Nikolai | December 02, 2009

WTF i have never read something that made me more enraged. hate each other more than they love their own children? can't transform the neighborhood? some people just never heard of ibn sina, i guess... what a bigotted idiot. i retroactively commend you (sepoy) for writing a response.

Salman | December 04, 2009

"One does not associate either intelligence or depth with a New York Times columnist. Thomas Friedman writes withous information or knowledge." Eqbal Ahmed

anan | December 04, 2009

This 4 year old column brought out memories. It is worth remembering that the Shiites were horribly oppressed in Iraq for over 13 centuries. Yes the terrorists attacked all Iraqis; however the "Iraqi resistance" of 2003-2005 primarily targeted Shiites and Kurds. Later the Arab phrase for "Iraqi resistance" became a synonym among Iraqis for Sunni Arab militias (even if those militias were occasionally tilting towards the GoI or MNF in their war against Iranian backed extremist Shia militias; which made the phrase "Iraqi resistance" increasingly useless.) What Thomas Friedman did not understand was several IA (Iraqi Army) Divisions in the fall of 2005 were ethnically balanced and nonsectarian (1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 9th in late 2005) . {Although 5th IAD would later devolve into became Shiite sectarian and become the second worst division in the IA in 2007, after the organized crime sectarian militia gang called the British "trained" and "mentored" 10th Iraqi Army Division} The IA became the banner behind which Iraqis united and nationalism and pride coalesced. Friedman extrapolated Iraq from certain pockets in Iraq to the whole; which resulted in faulty dysfunctional analysis. However, now Friedman acknowledges his mistake, to his credit. He now regards Iraq as one of the few spots of hope in the Arab world; that is aside from his favorite mecca of Dubai. However, Friedman was right in one sense. His column accurately described the extreme bigotry and negative role played by non Iraqi Sunni Arabs; who tried to destroy Iraq. Fortunately, Iraqi Sunni Arabs were far better than the non Iraqi Sunni Arabs.

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