Friday 6 June 2003

New York Times covers up for lies on Iraq war

In the face of a mounting international scandal over US and British falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction, advanced to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times’s chief foreign affairs columnist, has leapt into the breach to assure the paper’s readers that whether Bush and Blair lied about WMDs is beside the point.

His June 4 column in the Times is a demonstration of the cynicism of the media—including its erstwhile “liberal” representatives—and its contempt for democratic principles.

Friedman declares that the failure to discover Iraqi weapons of mass destruction is not “the real story we should be concerned with.” The question of WMDs was, he says, “the wrong issue before the war, and it is the wrong issue now.”

The Times columnist argues that there is no point getting upset about the US president launching a war under false pretenses. This is a minor technicality. “Because there were actually four reasons for this war: the real reason, the right reason, the moral reason and the stated reason.”

Curiously, one often raised reason is absent from Friedman’s list—namely, Iraq’s oil wealth. This is a glaring omission, coming as it does in the wake of statements from top administration officials who planned the war acknowledging that Iraq’s possession of the world’s second-largest oil reserves was the decisive factor in the decision to go to war.

Explaining why Washington invaded Iraq—where no weapons of mass destruction were found—while opting for a diplomatic approach to North Korea, which has openly touted its nuclear weapons program, US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told delegates to a security summit in Singapore last weekend: “The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil.”

In an earlier interview with Vanity Fair, Wolfowitz tacitly acknowledged that the charge of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons was a pretext. “For reasons that have a lot to do with the US government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on: weapons of mass destruction,” the Pentagon’s number-two man said.

Friedman’s omission is all the more curious—and damning—since he himself published a column in the New York Times last January 5 bearing the headline “A War for Oil?” in which he declared he had “no problem” with a war waged to gain control of Iraq’s petroleum reserves.

In his latest column, Friedman writes, “The real reason for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world. Afghanistan wasn’t enough.” Washington could have picked any Arab country, he argues. “Smashing Saudi Arabia or Syria would have been fine. But we hit Saddam for one simple reason: because we could...”

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