And now the most absorbing two minutes in television, the latest from the wartime grapevine:
Shock, not joy, seems to have been the prevailing reaction to yesterday's events in Baghdad from people across the Arab world, whose media, it seems, had little prepared them for what they saw. Indeed, Al-Jazeera TV producer Dima Khatib told Larry King she and her colleagues were "very surprised" to see Iraqis "receiving the Americans and British with smiles and flowers." Reuters quotes a teacher in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa as saying, "I still cannot believe that the Americans entered Baghdad so easily." A history teacher in Egypt said he hears people asking angrily why Saddam's forces "crumbled like a biscuit." A shopkeeper in the West Bank asked, "Where is the Iraqi army? Have they evaporated?" And a housewife in Syria broke down in tears, saying, "It is humiliating." A government employee in Cairo concluded, "Now no one believes Al-Jazeera anymore."
Moving the Mark?
Meanwhile, back here in the United States, some of the doubters in the U.S. media seemed to be trying to move the goal posts. Just after the war started three weeks ago, for example, ABC's Ted Koppel said military success would be difficult and we can "forget the easy victories of the last 20 years." But once coalition troops took control of Baghdad yesterday and images of elated Iraqi civilians reached around the world, Koppel said, "Those are the benign, photogenic events that can delude us into misunderstanding what lies ahead." And Koppel concluded, and I'm not making this up, by actually saying, "Now comes the hard part."
While the Iraqis in Baghdad may have been overjoyed yesterday at the collapse of Saddam's government, former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean was less certain. He told a political forum here in Washington last night, "We've gotten rid of him. I suppose that's a good thing."
And after calling President Bush "grossly arrogant" for setting a "dangerous precedent" three weeks ago, former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite say he has not been swayed "one iota” by the events and images of yesterday. Cronkite, once considered the most trusted man in America, told the Greensboro News & Record that others have been influenced because TV hasn't shown the "bloodletting, which is essential to seeing the horror of war, why we shouldn't be at war." Cronkite did admit, though, he was "something of a pacifist." Now he tells us.