. . . Monday November 29, 2004

Break from Reality

In his latest column, the once very enthusiastic about Iraq Tom Friedman laments the lack of leadership and organization being shown by America:

Here’s this week’s news quiz. It’s just one question, but it’s a big one: Who’s in charge of U.S. policy in Iraq? No, seriously, give yourself a simple test. Just look in a mirror and mouth these words: “Overall coordinator and strategist of U.S. policy in Iraq today,” and tell me whose picture comes into your head.

George Bush? Donald Rumsfeld? Porter Goss? Dick Cheney? Condi Rice? Steve Hadley? Colin Powell? General Casey? Karl Rove? Bono? Arnold Schwarzenegger? Tommy Franks? David Stern? (He should be in charge.)

This is an interesting question and Friedman brings up the very important point that. “We are losing a public relations war in the Muslim world to people sawing the heads off other Muslims.” But I think there is a broader question here that almost all of us prefer to avoid.

Have we made ourselves less safe?

That is the broad question we don’t want to ask. And there are several subsets of that question that also seem impossible to face head-on.

During the campaign, nearly every outlet from newspapers, to cable TV, to bloggers expressed shock at how much false information Americans seemed to be buying into when it came to Iraq. Huge swaths of voters believed that we found a WMD program and that Saddam was connected with 9-11.

Our misinformed public can be in part explained by the relentless distortions being offered by the Bush media juggernaut.

But that doesn’t explain all of it.

By the time November rolled around, Americans had plenty of access to information. During the the veep debate, Dick Cheney himself explained that there was no connection between Saddam and 9-11. And forget what anyone was saying. The stories about how misinformed the public seemed to be were everywhere and impossible to miss.

On some level, people didn’t want to be informed.

We don’t want to be informed and we really don’t want to ask those other questions. See if we consider that we didn’t face any threat from Iraq and then we consider that by invading Iraq we may very well have made our country less safe (there is, after all, no evidence to the contrary) then we are left once again with a question that no one on either side of the aisle wants to confront: What have we done?

I’m not sure that this a direct hit in terms of what’s going on. But I am convinced that there is some deep and important psychological explanation for the break that still exists between a now very clear reality and the perceptions held by a massive percentage of Americans.

Concentration is important!