Do We Never Learn

Update: (One of those a-ha moments of recognizing the mote in other’s eyes and not my own). Here are the links I should have begun with: Allawi’s speech. And here. And here. To download video and audio go to C-SPAN .
He concludes it with

As generous as you have been, we will stand with you, too. As stalwart as you have been, we will stand with you, too. Neither tyranny nor terrorism has a place in our region or our world. And that is why we Iraqis will stand by you, America, in a war larger than either of our nations, the global battle to live in freedom. God bless you and thank you.

We should have learned one lesson from Vietnam – the battle is about Iraq, not us. So Mark Steyn describes the press conference with Allawi and Bush:

They’re six feet from Iraq’s head of government and they’ve got not a question for him. They’ve got no interest in Iraq except insofar as they can use the issue to depress sufficient numbers of swing voters in Florida and Ohio.

If the press (and Kerry) must obsess, why don’t they obsess about what is really going on in Iraq, why do bloggers have to point out where the deaths are and ask more whys – as Shannon does? The stories in this newspaper from Iraq could have provided a score of questions that we would like (in a real sense need) to see answered. How are things in Basra? What do we need to know about the destruction of the oil pipe lines? How important is the new electricity to the economy? Why, how and by whom were the eighteen professors assassinated? What is the effect of the attacks on police stations? How long before the Italians can get the marshes back to their original state? It could be that the American press would dismiss these as slanted, but, these are hardly pr projects – they are the heart of whether this whole “occupation” is going to work or not.

Certainly, the answers to these questions would require more reporting of context and researched analysis than the answer to a question such as Steyn notes CNN asking: ”Sir, I’d like you to answer Senator Kerry and other critics who accuse you of hypocrisy or opportunism . . .” Aside from the remarkable snarkiness of such a question, is it likely to elicit a “newsworthy” response in any but the most partisan context? Bush is going to say, ah, yes, here is an example of my hypocrisy and opportunism – and give the reporter a scoop? The only scoop that will likely come will be a returned remark critical of Kerry – either that, or a gentlemanly noncommital, “move on” nudge from the president. Both might be played to effect by CNN on its next newscast, but it is hard to see how any of us are the wiser for that answer.

And, in a broader sense, the same should probably be said about the war against terroism in general. I don’t think Bush nor any Americans who have thought about it expect the “war on terrorism” to be through in the next four years; those pots have sat boiling too long in too many places. It is going to take a while to put these fires out. That would mean, it seems to me, that Bush isn’t the story, at least not the whole story. What we need to know is how Allawi sees his future, the future of his country, the future of his neighbors. We need to know as much as we can. But, as Steyn concludes, “Say what you like about the old left, but at least they were outward-looking and internationalist. This new crowd–Democrats and media alike–are stunted and parochial, their horizons shriveling more every day.”