Thomas Friedman, voice of reason

I certainly don’t always agree with him, but he is sure right-on today.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hear the president and vice president slamming John Kerry for saying that he hopes America can eventually get back to a place where “terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.” The idea that President Bush and Mr. Cheney would declare such a statement to be proof that Mr. Kerry is unfit to lead actually says more about them than Mr. Kerry. Excuse me, I don’t know about you, but I dream of going back to the days when terrorism was just a nuisance in our lives.

If I have a choice, I prefer not to live the rest of my life with the difference between a good day and bad day being whether Homeland Security tells me it is “code red” or “code orange” outside. To get inside the Washington office of the International Monetary Fund the other day, I had to show my ID, wait for an escort and fill out a one-page form about myself and my visit. I told my host: “Look, I don’t want a loan. I just want an interview.” Somewhere along the way we’ve gone over the top and lost our balance.

That’s why Mr. Kerry was actually touching something many Americans are worried about – that this war on terrorism is transforming us and our society, when it was supposed to be about uprooting the terrorists and transforming their societies.

It’s a nation utterly obsessed. Everything is terrorism. It’s all terrorism all the time. And for Kerry to say it should be our goal to turn terrorism into the nuisance it once was in America, something you didn’t have to agonize over day and night — well isn’t that what we all want? But of course, the bushies took it all out of context (can you imagine that?), making it sounds as though Kerry was saying terroism is just a nuisance. Hell, he could say the sky is blue and Rove would make it sound like an outrage.

Read the column. Friedman makes the case that bush, by politicizing 911, turned us into “The United States of Fighting Terrorism.” A country all about anger, and not about hope. Kerry’s vision sounds like Paradise. But bush has to ridicule and condemn it, because once you stop obsessing about terrorism, you may just notice how bush has used terrorism to achieve his political ends.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

How many American’s has the war on terror actually saved. As far as I can see more Americans have died in Iraq in the last year or so than have been saved by increased security and pre emptive oil wars.

If Bush ignored terrorism, there would actually be fewer deaths, if only because less people would be trying to get revenge for American agression against them.

The Iraq war has actully increased terrorism.

October 14, 2004 @ 8:55 pm | Comment

If he’d stayed focused instead of veering off course to defend his family’s honor, we’d be fine. But no, the attacks on 911 were all he needed to justify his dream of deposing Saddam. Remember what they say: careful what you wish for, it just may come true. He had his dream come true, and look at the price we’ve all paid, and all the families tonight without their children, or children missing limbs. I can never get over the nightmare of what shub has wrought, never.

October 14, 2004 @ 9:00 pm | Comment

By all means lets go back to just being nuisanced by terrorists. Just like before 9-11. And just like before 9-11, they will huddle in the shadows plotting something dreadful enough to regain our attention. Having collapsed office towers, incinerated tourists and massacred school children, I wonder what they’ll think of next?

Imagine if, two years after Pearl Harbor, the Republicans had been urging for a return to the days when the Japanese were merely annoying.

I lost people I cared about in New York and Bali (and nearly in Jakarta) — what a nuisance that those pesky Islamists keep killing my friends.

October 14, 2004 @ 9:29 pm | Comment

Very well put, Conrad. But, Bush has politicized 9/11 but no one should be surprised by that.

What we hope to move to is a state of existence that Israelis live in – terrorism may be an issue, but it does not run their lives. Just being aware is good enough.

Bush picked the right country, but for the wrong reason. The UN and US should have – ages ago – stopped the genocide in Iraq.

October 15, 2004 @ 1:30 am | Comment

“Imagine if, two years after Pearl Harbor, the Republicans had been urging for a return to the days when the Japanese were merely annoying.”

What, someone would have criticized them for longing for earlier, more peaceful times? Huh?

Was Kerry’s quote really that hard to understand? I would think that anyone accustomed to ferreting out the meaning of Bush’s cryptic utterances would probably have pretty easily understood what Kerry was saying.

October 15, 2004 @ 5:08 am | Comment

Conrad, that’s a silly comparison and you know it. Japan is a country and it when you are attacked by a country you have a fairly simple solution to end the threat — declare war and defeat them, which is exactly what we did and it worked. Al Qaeda is forever. With no national boundary and with sleeper cells all over the world, eliminating them is all but impossible. But we can minimize them and eradicate a lot of their power. Still, as long as someone can buy fertilizer or make a homemade bomb, there will always be thre threat of terrorism, just as there was before 911. All we can do is fight it it and contain it, hoping to keep it as slight a threat as possible — in other words, relegate it to the level of nuisance as opposed to something we wring our hands over day in and day out. That’s the way it was before. To want to return to that level is really exactly what bush wants, as he revealed in his truth-revealing gaffe that “we can’t really win the war on terror.” That’s exactly what Kerry’s nuisance remark was all about. Now, if bush or Kerry had said we can’t really win the war against Japan after Pearl Harbor, that would be worthy of condemnation — becuase there was a clear and obvious path to victory. Not so in the war on terror, as we can see on our TV sets at any given moment.

October 15, 2004 @ 8:04 am | Comment

Maybe what Kerry should have said is that an appropriate set of National Security Ends is simple to determine, yet will likely take years and an untold effort to attain. Ultimately, Terrorism must be abolished and de-legitimized. Terrorism must assume its place with practices no longer endured by civilization such as slavery, piracy, fascism and genocide. The killing of innocent people should never again be recognized by any part of world society as a legitimate means of political pressure for change.

October 15, 2004 @ 10:51 am | Comment

Robert, you should be his speechwriter (or ventriloquist). Sometimes in a long interview we don’t measure every word as carefully as we should, and with the bush being so desperate he seizes on every potentially embarrassing syllable Kerry utters, even if he has to twist it way out of context (witness “global test,” “nuisance” and “sensitive”). I wish he’d said it your way. But what he said wasn’t nearly so awful as to invoke the fury Rove created over it, just as with Kerry’s allusion to Mary Cheney’s sexuality.

October 15, 2004 @ 11:55 am | Comment

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