Monday, October 4, 2004

No Bad News

Leonard Pitts in today’s Miami Herald:

‘Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.’ — from ‘The Wiz’

Evidently, there are two Iraqs.

One exists here on our Earth, the other occupies a parallel space-time continuum perceivable only by a select few individuals, one of whom is the president of the United States.

If you’ve got a better theory, I’m open to it. All I know is that in recent weeks, we’ve seen that nation go from awful to whatever comes after awful. Yet, to hear the president talk, the situation is actually a lot better, more hunky and/or dory, than anybody really knows. We’re moving forward, he says. We’re getting the job done.

Two Iraqs. That’s got to be it. That must be why the Iraq the president describes bears so little resemblance to the one described by, well … just about everybody else in the world.

“It’s Worse Than You Think,” reads a headline in Newsweek, accompanying a picture of a wounded man who seems to be in shock.

A Wall Street Journal correspondent sends colleagues an e-mail saying that in Baghdad, it is unsafe to talk to strangers, eat in restaurants, shop for groceries, take a drive, speak English, be an American.

The New York Times reports that 2,300 insurgent attacks took place in Iraq during a recent 30-day period — that’s 76 car bombs, land-mine explosions, rocket-propelled grenade assaults, shootings and mortar strikes every day in a place roughly the size of California.

Yet Bush describes an Iraq where children go peacefully to school, their parents peacefully to work. “Freedom is on the march,” he says.

Two Iraqs.

“[P]rogress is being made,” says the president.

“It’s getting worse,” says Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“I’m optimistic we’ll succeed,” says the president.

“Right now, we re not winning,” says Sen. Chuck Hagel, Republican from Nebraska.

“The Iraqi citizens are defying the pessimistic predictions,” says the president.

“The situation has obviously been somewhat deteriorating,” says John McCain, Republican senator from Arizona.

Two Iraqs.

The New York Times reports that in July, the National Intelligence Council issued a 50-page report representing the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community on the likely course of things in Iraq. It foresaw continuing instability and possible civil war.

The president brushes it aside, saying, “They were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like.”

There are two Iraqs. There must be. Because the alternative is profoundly troubling, suggesting a president divorced from reality, holding with such a death grip to his version of truth that nothing can shake him from it. Not news reports, not members of his own party, not his secretary of state, not the intelligence community.

If there are not two Iraqs, we ought to be scared, because a man who filters out information that challenges his beliefs is a man ill-equipped to adapt to new circumstances, unable to formulate new strategies, slow to make necessary change. If there are not two Iraqs, it means such a man has ultimate responsibility for stewardship of American foreign policy in an increasingly volatile world.

Ergo, there are two Iraqs. Otherwise, how can we sleep at night?

I do wish the president had publicized his ability to pierce the space-time continuum. It would have saved a lot of confusion.

I also wish that from time to time he’d talk about the Iraq on this planet. You know, the one where they’re planning an election in which maybe a quarter of the population won’t be able to participate because it’s too dangerous. The one where dozens of children were blown to shreds last week. The one where people we “liberated” hate us. The one that’s dissolving into chaos.

But I guess I can’t blame Bush for his silence. Why mention the bad Iraq when you have another to talk about?

Unfortunately for the rest of us, we have just the one.