On one level, President Bush's Sunday night speech was unremarkable. It was a simple declarative address on what has been accomplished in the war on terrorism and what remains to be done. But on another level, it was stunning. In framing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (as well as the other actions in the war on terror) as a noble cause and a great success, the speech sounded shockingly unfamiliar, given the wholly different themes regularly projected on television newscasts.
Bush reported how Fedayeen and terrorist scum have ambushed our soldiers. They've killed civilian aid workers at the United Nations; they've bombed the embassy of Jordan, a peaceful Arab country; and they've murdered a Shiite cleric and over 100 Muslims at prayer.
But the actions of our enemies are rarely scorned by our media elite. Instead, they're reported as problems for, or mistakes by, the Bush White House.
The tone of newscasts in the weeks since the last unmissable big success -- killing Uday and Qusay, and even these successes were criticized -- has been largely gloom and doom, Vietnam and quagmire. Two nights before Bush spoke, Dan Rather was pounding Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, saying "rank-and-file Americans are asking 'are we into quicksand? Is this going to be another quagmire?'" Rumsfeld, for once, was far too neutral, saying "time will tell," before noting that we've been in Iraq for less than six months.
Dan Rather's "rank-and-file Americans" are asking these questions only because the media can't stop focusing on them. Rumsfeld should have dismissed the whole Vietnam analogy as ridiculous, because:
1. We lost 58,000 American soldiers in Vietnam. Our casualties in Iraq now aren't on the same planet as the losses in that war.
2. We didn't liberate Vietnam from communist dictatorship and then have trouble reorganizing it along peaceful and democratic lines. If we were in Month Six and still struggling to depose Saddam Hussein -- while losing thousands of lives in the process -- the comparison would be more realistic. In Vietnam, we withdrew in defeat and left with the whole country united under tyranny and concentration camps. In Iraq, we liberated the entire country from tyranny and torture chambers in three weeks.
The anchors are now anxious to make us forget this.