The following originally appeared in the 'New York Times' and was reprinted in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' last week.
By Thomas Friedman
So let me see if I've got this all straight now: Pakistan will allow us Americans to use its
bases on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays - provided we bomb only Taliban whose
names begin with Omar and who don't have cousins in the Pakistani secret service.
India is with us on Tuesdays and Fridays, provided it can shell Pakistani forces around
Kashmir all other days. Egypt is with us on Sundays, provided we don't tell anyone and
provided we never mention that we give the Egyptians $2 billion a year in aid. Yasser
Arafat is with us only after 10pm on weekdays, when Palestinians who have been
dancing in the streets over the World Trade Centre attack have gone to bed. The Northern
Alliance is with us, provided we buy all its troops new sandals and give US passports to
the first 1,000 to reach Kabul.
Israel is with us provided we never question the lunacy of 7,000 Israeli colonial settlers
living in the middle of a million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The Saudis, of course, want to be with us, but Saudis are not into war-fighting. That's for
the household help. The Saudi ruling family would love to co-operate by handing over its
police files on the 15 Saudis involved in the hijackings, but that would be a violation of
their sovereignty, and, well, you know how much the Saudis respect sovereignty - like
when their embassy in Washington rushed Osama bin Laden's relatives out of America
after September11 on a private Saudi jet, before they could be properly questioned by the
And then there's my personal favourite: all our Arab-Muslim allies would love us to get
bin Laden quickly, but Ramadan is coming soon and the Muslim "street" will not tolerate
fighting during the holy month. Say, do you remember the 1973 Middle East war,
launched by Egypt and Syria against Israel? Remember what that war was called in the
Arab world? "The Ramadan War" - because that's when it was started. Oh, well. I guess
the Arab world can launch wars during Ramadan, but not receive them.
My fellow Americans, I hate to say this, but except for the good old Brits, we're all alone.
And at the end of the day, it's US and British troops who will have to go in, on the
ground, and eliminate bin Laden.
Unfortunately, killing up to 5,000 Americans in New York just doesn't get the rest of the
world that exercised. In part we're to blame. The unilateralist message the Bush team sent
from its first day in office - get rid of the Kyoto climate treaty, forget the biological
treaty, forget arms control, and if the world doesn't like it that's tough - has come back to
My advice: focus instead on the firemen who rushed into the trade centre towers without
asking, "How much?" Focus on the thousands of US reservists who have left their jobs
and families to go fight in Afghanistan without asking, "What's in it for me?" Unlike the
free-riders in our coalition, these young Americans know that September11 is our holy
day - the first day in a just war to preserve our free, multi-religious, democratic society.
And I don't really care if that war coincides with Ramadan, Christmas, Hanukkah or the
Buddha's birthday - the most respectful and spiritual thing we can do now is fight it until
justice is done.
The New York Times