Thomas Friedman Doesn’t Get Much Uglier Than This

Thomas Friedman is upset in his New York Times column today (5/26/10) because Brazilian President Lula da Silva negotiated a nuclear deal with Iran. Asks Friedman, “Is there anything uglier than watching democrats sell out other democrats to a Holocaust-denying, vote-stealing Iranian thug just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table?” And he answers himself: “No, that’s about as ugly as it gets.”

Friedman quotes a source complaining that Iran had just executed “political prisoners who were tortured into confessions,” but Lula “didn’t mention a word about human rights.” Friedman presumably is aware that the U.S., too, has prisoners that it has tortured into confessions, and that it maintains the right to execute such captives. Should Lula have said a word about those human rights issues as well, or would that just be an attempt to “tweak the U.S.”?

Friedman has another expert who accuses Lula of “the thwarting of democracy across Latin America.” Friedman’s evidence: “He regularly praises Venezuela’s strongman Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, the Cuban dictator…while denouncing Colombia, one of the great democratic success stories, because it let U.S. planes use Colombian airfields to fight narco-traffickers.”

“One of the great democratic success stories”? Here’s some excerpts from Amnesty International’s latest annual report on Colombia’s human rights record:

At least 296 people were extrajudicially executed by the security forces in the 12-month period ending in June 2008, compared to 287 in the previous 12-month period…. Paramilitaries continued to kill civilians and to commit other human rights violations, sometimes with the support or acquiescence of the security forces. Some 461 killings were attributed to paramilitaries in the 12-month period ending in June 2008, compared to 233 in the previous 12-month period…. At least 46 trade union members were killed in 2008, compared to 39 in 2007. Some 12 human rights defenders were killed in 2008, similar to the figure recorded in 2007.

Funny, most “democratic success stories” don’t involve quite so much murdering of civilians. But then, most of them don’t star a president whose brother helped organize death squads, as reported in the Washington Post on Monday (5/24/10).

So, to summarize Friedman, Lula should criticize the torture of prisoners by Iran–but presumably not by his fellow democrats in the United States. And he should promote democracy by praising a government that continues to murder hundreds of civilians a year as a democratic success story.

No, it doesn’t get much uglier than that.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.