Thomas Friedman & the Chocolate Factory The realities on the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq (two separate issues in my view) are much different than how these serious issues play in Thomas Friedman's mind. I often feel I have stepped into Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory everytime I read the latest opus by the neocon Times columnist. Friedman has a brainstorm on how the reward money for Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi should be used instead. Hey kids, let's throw an essay writing contest.
What I would do with the $75 million we have budgeted as rewards for bin Laden and Zarqawi is use it instead to sponsor an essay contest for high school students in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Syria and Egypt. The contest entry form would say the following: "In 2,000 words, write an essay on one of these two topics: 1. Why do you believe the Arab-Muslim world is fully capable of achieving democratic, representative government and how do you envisage it coming about through peaceful changes inside your country, without any American or other outside help. 2. Write an essay about the lives of any of the great medieval Arab or Muslim mathematicians, scientists or philosophers and how their innovations helped to shape our world today." The winners would be awarded visas and four-year scholarships to any accredited university in America to which they could gain acceptance. The winning essays would be posted on the Web in English, Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and French. What do you think would make America more secure? Rewarding one person for turning in bin Laden or putting thousands of young Arabs and Muslims through American schools? Maybe we could even call them the "Bin Laden Scholars." I sort of like the idea of bin Laden sitting in a dark cave somewhere, composing his latest nutty video message, and suddenly learning that all the reward money we were devoting to killing him will go instead to killing his ideas - and to bringing young Arabs and Muslims closer to America rather than pushing them farther away.Before you take Friedman's idea seriously, imagine George W. Bush or John Kerry (if elected) announcing this plan to the American people. The public would think the president does not take terrorism seriously and has lost his mind. When I read Friedman's column my jaw dropped. This man should not be given the New York Times as a forum for his childishly bizarre views. I once had someone tell me that William Shatner should find a dinner theatre where his talents can be appreciated. Someone give Friedman a Movable Type account where he can go out in the blogosphere and be considered a journalism giant like Andrew Sullivan and Matt Welch.