Kerry: Thomas Friedman Is 'Most Often Correct'

WFB Rating: Five Pinocchios

September 4, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry called New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman "most often correct" while testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about Syria Wednesday.

In this instance though, Kerry said he disagreed with Friedman's latest column, which advocated for an "arm and shame" policy in Syria instead of a cruise missile attack on Assad's forces. Friedman encouraged the U.S. to increase the training and arming of the Free Syrian Army and ensure the global condemnation and humiliation of Assad and all others in his cabinet and military involved in the chemical attack.

Friedman has been subject to criticism before for criticism of Israel, and just last month he incorrectly asserted Israeli settlers assassinated former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Rep. Steve Cabot (R., Ohio) brought Friedman's latest piece up during questioning of Kerry:

CABOT: I do not always agree with Mr. Friedman. In fact I seldom do, but I tend to agree with his assessment of the Syrian situation today in which he says that rather than firing missiles into Syria, a more effective measure would be arming and assisting the more moderate rebel groups in Syria. My only concern is that it may be too late for that, as failing to arm these groups months or even years ago has allowed al-Qaeda-connected rebel groups to become more influential and powerful. Would you comment, Mr. Secretary?

KERRY: Absolutely, I'm delighted to. And I think that what Tom Friedman said, and I often do agree with him, I don't happen to on this particular occasion because he said you should arm and shame. Well, I don't think Assad is going to be shamed into any particular activity, nor the Russians or others, and there is arming taking place. But if you simply arm and try and state that your policy is to shame, and you back off deteriorating his capacity to deliver chemical weapons and say, ok, that doesn't matter to us, you have opened Pandora's Box for the use of chemical weapons. And all those people you arm will wind up being the victims of a chemical weapons attack. So with all due respect to Tom Friedman, who is most often correct, I think on this occasion it is absolutely vital that we send the message and deteriorate his capacity and hold him accountable.

CABOT: Let me stop you if I can.

KERRY: And we would have given him impunity with respect to any future use.