Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

O Those Unkept (Or Is It "Unkempt"?) Promises

Claudia Rosett in OpinionJournal today:

But by the yardstick of most criticism now leveled at President Bush for freeing Iraq, by the rhetoric of John Kerry, who has deemed the venture a failure involving "one miscalculation after another," by lights of the chronic dismay over every setback or mistake in the face of 1,001 uncertainties, one might start to think America and its allies had on a whim invaded Sweden, reducing the place to the kind of condition you'd expect after about a quarter-century under Saddam.

Do you think she's exaggerating? At another point in the article she suggests that she is. But she really isn't exaggerating one bit when she calls attention to how preposterous the media bar-raising has become, as exemplified by this quote from an article that appeared in what was actually presented as "news" reporting in the Los Angeles Times:

Outside, the squat schoolhouse glistens with fresh lime-green paint, courtesy of the renovation spree launched by the U.S.-led coalition. Inside, the floors are buckled, the blackboards are scarred, and the bathrooms are little more than open-air sewage pits. There is one working water fountain for 1,125 students, who must pick their way through a parking lot strewn with mounds of trash to get to the school's front doors.

"They promised to make it a paradise," said Hana Abbood, a teacher of Arabic language at Shura. "But all they've changed is the paint."

To many Iraqis in the area, the sorry state of the school is a symbol of how the coalition has failed them.

There you have it. The Los Angeles Times is holding the Coalition's feet to the fire for failing to make good on its famous promise to make Iraq a paradise within a year. Thank goodness somebody has the courage to "out" Messrs. Bush and Blair for this kind of thing. And it's no accident that the people at the Los Angeles Times, that sworn enemy of "junk journalism," are just the guys to do it. The Times includes no analysis of what the Coalition leaders actually said because the Times has determined that none is needed.

Nor does the Times make the slightest effort to connect the preposterous expectations of the Iraqis they interview with the country's infinite history of having no democracy in which any (invariably corrupt) government operative could be held to account. The Iraqi people therefore have had no experience whatsoever in thinking seriously about what they should expect from their government or their economy, and therefore always assume the worst. The Times misidentifies as a problem created by the war and the occupation what is really an inevitable consequence of a local culture utterly lacking in enterprise and democratic understanding that dominates the entire Middle East outside of Israel and Turkey - and that leads people to invariably assume the worst. Why not make that assumption? Those governments aren't accountable to the people, and most individual initiative is only punished and the wealth it creates looted by the political class. It's exactly that dispirited culture and its consequences that the Coalition needs to address. And it is properly addressed not by bringing in more and faster welfare-flavored goodies to passive Iraqis waiting for blessings from on high - but by facilitating a system of Iraqi democracy and personal and social initiative.

The Times even passes up the opportunity to point out that Los Angeles has it's own school-of-broken-promises: the never-to-be-finished $160 Million plus Belmont High School, built just a few blocks from the Times HQ with proceeds of a dubious bond offering that was vigorously supported by the Times, just as the Times has vigorously opposed school vouchers and all other meaningful efforts to address the pathetic state of Los Angeles public schools. What do the Los Angeles and Iraq experiences have to say about the promise of democracy? Could there be a message in cynical Iraq about traditional American welfare-style liberalism? The Times couldn't be bothered even asking any such questions that might "bring the war home" in uncomfortable ways for the left. The Times is too busy arguing the need to bring in the US government financed benefits faster to Iraq.

There. The Times did it and they're glad. Cawabunga-Gonzo!

And, O yeah, ... this guy's not exaggerating, either. I'll bet Fox News viewers don't even know that the Coalition promised to make Iraq a paradise within a year! - unless they're lucky enough to read the Los Angeles Times.

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