Feb
11
2011

Tom Friedman Admires His Writing in Egyptian Mirror

It might be hard for you to imagine covering the democratic uprising in Egypt as a way to reflect upon all the wise things you've written in the past.

But you're not Tom Friedman. He wrote today (New York Times, 2/11/11):

I spent part of the morning in the square watching and photographing a group of young Egyptian students wearing plastic gloves taking garbage in both hands and neatly scooping it into black plastic bags to keep the area clean. This touched me in particular because more than once in this column I have quoted the aphorism that "in the history of the world no one has ever washed a rented car." I used it to make the point that no one has ever washed a rented country either–and for the last century Arabs have just been renting their countries from kings, dictators and colonial powers. So, they had no desire to wash them.

That wasn't the first time Egypt reminded him of something smart he'd written (NBC's Meet the Press, 1/30/11):

For the first 15 years or so of his rule, Egypt really did stagnate. I visited, gosh, back 12 years ago. I remember writing that Mubarak had more mummies in his Cabinet than King Tut, OK. Then he slowly, under our pressure, and under the pressure, really, of globalization, started to open up. And in the last few years, actually appointed a lot of reformers to his Cabinet who produced a real opening, a 6 percent growth, I believe, last year.

Appearing on Charlie Rose last night (2/10/11), Friedman said this:

We've had this conversation before where we talkedabout the Iraq War and the whole idea of why it's important to democratize a place like Iraq. I think I said to you the old aphorism that in the history of the world no one has ever washed a rented car. And the point I made about Iraq is that no one's ever washed a rented country, either.

Is this guy wise or what?

Actually, Friedman's most memorable "conversation" about Iraq on the Charlie Rose show didn't have to do with washing cars. It was the time he explained the reason the U.S. invaded Iraq–to pop the "terrorism bubble" after 9/11. As he put it (5/30/03):

What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand? You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow? Well, suck. On. This." That, Charlie, is what this war is about.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.