The claim that Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11 was always fraudulent, but at least half of the American public believe that there is a connection. While the White House never made such a claim overtly, rhetoric leading to the invasion of Iraq always implied the connection, and was bolstered by the war cheerleading of conservative cable TV and print commentators.
Viewers watching the fourth day of the war on al-Jazeera television would have seen these items:
• When coalition sources were announcing the surrender of Iraq’s 51st Division and its commander, General Khalid al-Hashimi, al-Jazeera’s Basra correspondent was interviewing al-Hashimi, who said his troops were in Basra, defending the city.
"Disgusting” and “absolutely unacceptable” were the terms used by General John Abizaid to describe Iraqi and al-Jazeera television broadcasts showing dazed and wounded American prisoners of war and corpses of American soldiers.
The 24/7 news coverage of the Iraq war is often riveting television, but it is not necessarily good journalism. The journalists embedded with coalition forces can’t do what journalists usually do: make sure they get the story correct before they go with it, and set the facts in a larger context.
If good reporting can be judged by the enemies it makes, then al-Jazeera must be doing something right. The Arabic-language TV channel provoked rebukes from the U.S. government and military officials in the early days of “The War on Iraq” (al-Jazeera’s phrase) when it rebroadcast Iraqi footage of dead and captive U.S. soldiers.
Anti-Semitism is a very real and toxic plague in history and in modern life. The suffering of the Jews is a well-known and often-told story that must never be forgotten. Jews have a right, based on experience, to fear anti-Semitism. But it also must be said that to be opposed to the policies of a particular Israeli government need not be anti-Semitic. It could simply be smart politics.
The hourglass seems to be running out on the chance for a peaceful end to the Iraq crisis. It will take a creative revision of policy—virtually a policy reversal—for President Bush to step back from war.
What kind of country are we, and what kind of country do we wish to be? Robert Bellah has asked that question many times and in many ways over the years. In Habits of the Heart he explored the American culture of individualism, and he sought to revive a tradition of citizenship and concern for the public good.
To hear President Bush speak of late, you might think he was mounting a pulpit, not a podium. With war on the horizon, the Providence of God is especially on his mind. “Events aren’t moved by blind change and chance,” he said at the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, echoing similar sentiments expressed in his State of the Union address.