A Catastrophic Victory

I doubt Dubya will ever stumble closer to the truth than his phrase “catastrophic victory.” He’s been bragging about the victory since he declared “Mission Accomplished’ a year ago last May. But his handlers promised that the Iraqis would greet us with rose petals. One recalls the old line, “I can understand your need to dissemble your love, dear, but why did you have to kick me down the stairs?”

Last weekend, Dubya blurted another truth in an interview in which he said “I don’t think you can win the war on terror.” It flatly contradicted what he’d been reciting on the campaign trail all along. The interview was held for release over the weekend, but there was not a peep from the White House until Sunday night, when it babbled that he was misquoted or quoted out of context. By now, they’re saying he doesn’t mean that at all. Talk about your flip-flops.

They remind me of another old line, about the fellow who complains to his shopmates that he caught his wife and a stranger in a compromising situation. So then what happened? “Aw, she lied out of it.” With our media, they can lie their way out of anything.

Take that scoop of Dan Rather’s on “60 Minutes” last Thursday: a mole in Donald Rumsfeld’s entourage passing a Top Secret memo to Israel, by way of Aipac, the superhawkish lobby in Washington. Now imagine we were back in the cold war, and secrets were being passed to a satellite of Moscow. But the damper went down on this story immediately. The Times, which has gone wild about moles over the past 60 years, played this one down, and now suggests that Rather’s scoop spoiled an investigation into an incident that may not have been serious at all.

The sound you hear is of dirt being swept under a rug. In the distance, you can hear the louder sounds of a catastrophic victory.

JOHN L. HESS is a former writer for the New York Times, a career he chronicles in his excellent new book My Times: a Memoir of Dissent. Hess is now a political commentator for WBAI.



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JOHN L. HESS is a former writer for the New York Times, a career he chronicles in his excellent new book My Times: a Memoir of Dissent. Hess is now a political commentator for WBAI.

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