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Thomas Friedman- I will keep my opinions to myself

by NYTimes- special edition (satire)
The sudden outbreak of peace in Iraq has made me realize, among other things, one incontestable fact: I have no business holding a pen, at least with intent to write.

I know, you’re thinking I’m going too far. I haven’t always been wrong about everything. I recently made some sense on global warming and what we needed to do about it, for instance.
But to have been so completely and fundamentally wrong about so huge a disaster as what we have done to Iraq — and ourselves — is outrageous enough to prove that people like me have no business posing as wise men, and, more importantly, that The New York Times has no business continuing to provide me with a national platform.

In any case, I have made a decision: as of today, I will no longer write in this or any other newspaper. I will immediately desist from writing any more books about how it’s time for everyone to climb on board the globalization high-speed monorail to the future. I will keep my opinions to myself. (My wife suggested that I try not to even form opinions, but I think she might have another agenda.)

Baffled? I don’t blame you. So I’ll cite some facts to support my decision — a practice, I must admit, I have too seldom followed.

Let’s start with the invasion itself. I was pretty much all for it. Mind you, I was not one of the pundits, reporters, or public figures who said that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States. I knew better — but I said it didn’t matter!

Back in February of 2003, I wrote in this space: “Saddam does not threaten us today. He can be deterred. Taking him out is a war of choice — but it’s a legitimate choice.” In other words, we should invade a sovereign state and replace its government in order to remake the world more to our liking.

Now the simple fact is, an unprovoked attack on a sovereign state is a war crime, even when linked to grand ideas of the future of mankind. In fact, that’s exactly what Hitler did, for exactly the same reasons. The Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal called it the “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

What was I thinking? And more importantly, why didn’t anyone stop me?

But wait, it gets worse. Having expressed how acceptable it was to commit Hitler’s signature crime, I then applauded the invasion of Iraq as an “audacious roll of the dice.” It should have occurred to me that this gamble would be unspeakably painful for an untold number of Iraqis who had done nothing to us — in other words, any of them.

Soon, when it became obvious that my pipe dreams for a peaceful and democratic subject nation were just that, I decided to say it was too soon to tell how things would turn out in Iraq, but that we would definitely know in six months to a year. I said this pretty much every six months for five years. And The Times just kept giving me more and more column-inches.

I’m not trying to beat myself up here. I’ve done that plenty already, believe me — and my wife has done the rest! But I have one question: why are newspapers like The New York Times letting people like me make fools of themselves, mislead the American people, and, worst of all, give their wives a lifetime of ammunition?

To err is human, but to print, reprint, and re-reprint error-mad humans like me is a criminally moronic editorial policy.

Nor, of course, is it only me. Just consider who populates the opinion pages of America’s top newspapers. Bill Kristol, who was actually hired by The Times long after being proven wrong on Iraq. Charles Krauthammer. Robert Novak. Mona Charen. Fred Barnes. The list goes on and on of officially-approved wise men (and a woman or two) who never once doubted that Iraq had vast stockpiles of W.M.D.s. And that’s just in newspapers.

We were all wrong again and again — and the consequences were devastating. Can anyone tell me why any of us should ever be asked, let alone paid, for our opinions ever again? Or, for that matter, why Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz should be allowed behind any sort of desk whatsoever as long as they live?

Peace in Iraq will undoubtedly have many far-reaching consequences. As promised, I’m not going to speculate publicly about what they might be.

Except one. As of today, I’m putting down my pen, to take up a screwdriver. I am going to retrain as an engineer and spend the rest of my life working to build non-carbon-based energy technologies. And I’m going to spend a lot of time washing my hands.
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