Published on Wednesday, February 9, 2005 by The Progressive
Friedman Lets Rumsfeld Get Away with Torture
by Matthew Rothschild
I had the misfortune of watching Tom Friedman and Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation Sunday, Feb. 6, letting Donald Rumsfeld box them around the ring.
Friedman was especially defensive. He has three Pulitzer Prizes, and hes the leading foreign policy columnist for the leading paper in the country, and yet he acted like Rumsfelds little boy.
Overly deferential, meek almost to the point of obsequious, Friedman in his first question gently tapped Rumsfeld with this patty cake: Mr. Secretary, the first sign that people will be [turning against the insurgency] would be if your intelligence improved, if somebody started calling our men on the ground and saying, You know that third house down the street?
Rumsfeld: Exactly. Exactly.
Friedman: Are you seeing any sign of that?
Rumsfeld: Its too soon for me to know.
Gotcha? No follow up on why the Secretary of Defense doesnt have that intelligence? Just gotcha? Why not be done with the charade and snap to it, salute, and say, Yes sir, boss.
Then Friedman, and Schieffer too, spent the longest time trying to get Rumsfeld to say that the world would be better off with a different regime in Iran.
When he bobbed and weaved, Friedman tried to joke, One regime at a time?
To which Rumsfeld said, Yeah, and exulted about the recent elections.
Friedman did ask whether Rumsfeld thought the Iranian nuclear program could be ended through diplomatic means, which prompted this unhelpful exchange.
Rumsfeld: Time will tell.
Friedman: . . . Are you ready to see the United States give the kind of assurances the Iranians are looking for, it seems to me, through the Europeans?
Rumsfeld: Thats not the business of the Pentagon. The President and the Secretary of State are managing that issue, and God bless them.
Friedman: Youre just no fun today.
No fun? Nice follow up! How about asking about the business of the Pentagon, which is war planning, and inquiring about war games for Iran (like the ones conducted by The Atlantic magazine) that show any military action by the United States or Israel in Iran ending in disaster. But not a word of that from Friedman.
When Schieffer tried to pin Rumsfeld down for his comment about going to war with the army you have, not the army you want, Friedman attempted to follow up when the Secretary of Defense cut him off.
To which Friedman responded, Oh, sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead. Wouldnt want to interrupt.
Friedman also asked Rumsfeld whether hed like to see long-term U.S. military bases in Iraq.
Rumsfeld: Oh, I have no idea. I dont want our forces anywhere in the world where theyre not wanted, and thatd be a matter for the Iraqi people. And we have no plans to do that.
Friedman must have been asleep here, since he failed to retrieve the fact, recently published on the front page of his own paper, that the Pentagon just asked for $80 billion more for the war in Iraq, including for establishing military bases there!
Finally, and most damning of all, Friedman let Rumsfeld get away with murderor at least torture. Friedman asked him about the Geneva Conventions, and Rumsfeld said: The Geneva Conventions have a perfectly sensible purpose. And the purpose isand its not very well understood, but one of the key purposes was to try to get people to fight conventionally and to wear uniforms and to carry weapons if they have weapons that are invisible.
Friedman failed to note that the Geneva Conventions primary purpose is outlawing the kind of torture that Rumsfeld has been countenancing. But Friedman didnt ask a word about Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo or Bagram Air Force Base. Nor did he ask Rumsfeld about why he signed off on brutalizing techniques or why he hid detainees from the Red Cross.
Here was the Secretary of Defense, one of the most powerful people in the country, in a rare Sunday face off with a bigwig of the Fourth Estate, and he got off untouched.
Friedman, return your prizes.
© 2005 The Progressive