I don’t have much use for Tom Friedman as I’ve stated here before. While I know he has his heart in the right place, he’s too fixated on entering the pantheon of great foreign policy columnists–Scotty Reston, Walter Lippman, etc.–to write solidly, simply and realistically about the Mideast. I almost never learn anything new from him on the few occasions when I do read him. I learn what Tom thinks, what Tom knows, who Tom’s met, to whom he’s writing imaginary letters. But that’s not the same as learning something you didn’t know before or seeing a perspective you hadn’t considered previously.
But thanks to Israel Policy Forum’s M.J. Rosenberg writing in No More Excuses, I have learned something shocking and revelatory about the remarkable hole we Americans are in in Iraq. Rosenberg quotes Friedman’s Jews, Israel and America in the October 24th edition of the New York Times:
Scott [Pelley of 60 Minutes] had gone around and asked Iraqis on the streets what they called American troops – wondering if they had nicknames for us in the way we used to call the Nazis "Krauts" or the Vietcong "Charlie." And what did he find? "Many Iraqis have so much distrust for U.S. forces we found they’ve come up with a nickname for our troops," Scott said. "They call American soldiers ‘The Jews,’ as in, ‘Don’t go down that street, the Jews set up a roadblock.’"
The combination of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism inherent in that Iraqi colloquialism is a truly toxic cocktail which will lead to enormous future misery for Israel and the U.S.
What this means is that it is even more imperative than ever for George Bush to crack heads if he has to in order to get the Israelis and Palestinians talking seriously about making peace. If Bush doesn’t negotiate most of a final status agreement before his term ends then he will earn the ultimate opprobrium of history and those on both sides who will have lost their lives due to his lethargy. And if Bush surprises me and achieves what now looks impossible? What then? I don’t relish saying nasty things about Bush and Sharon. I’d love to be proven wrong. Please, prove me wrong. But as I said in my previous post about Mahmoud Abbas and Israel’s golden opportunity for peace: "Just give me peace. I don’t care who achieves it."