Paul Greenberg

Yes, there is some good news out of Iraq, though you might never suspect it from the general run of stories about bomb blasts in Baghdad and deadly attacks on Iraqi and American forces elsewhere.

In case you missed it, a major political and economic achievement is now within reach of Iraq's divided and beleaguered government: a long overdue agreement on how to share that country's immense oil wealth without breaking up the country.

The deal retains the central government's control of Iraq's vast oil reserves, but splits the proceeds among its major regions - Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish - and encourages each to invite foreign investment on attractive terms. Naturally, the final details remain to be worked out. (In the Great Middle Eastern Bazaar, negotiations never end. There will always be details to work out.) Still, the deal is almost done, and that's good news.

But you won't hear much celebrating - just criticism - on the part of the war's opponents in this country, which now include much of the mainstream media. Instead, this kind of progress will be dismissed as just another plot by Big Oil/American Imperialism/Globalization. Take your choice of cartoonish villains.

At such times, it occurs that if the major news outlets had covered America's growing involvement in the Second World War in the same accent-the-negative, eliminate-the-positive fashion, you might be reading this page in German. Some American newspapers never ceased criticizing FDR and "his" war even after Pearl Harbor supposedly united the country, with Col. Robert McCormick's Chicago Tribune leading the isolationist parade.

The Tribune went beyond just opposing the war. In June of 1942, immediately after the Battle of Midway, it ran the Japanese order of battle, complete with the names and fleet assignments of specific ships. And it noted that all this intelligence had been "well known in American naval circles several days before the battle began."

Citing "reliable sources in Š naval intelligence," the Tribune headlined its front-page page story: "Navy Had Word of Jap Plan to Strike at Sea." The headline might as well have said: "Americans Break Japanese Naval Code."

The Justice Department considered bringing charges against the newspaper under the Espionage Act, but realized that doing so might only bring further attention to the security breach. Though a federal grand jury was impaneled at one point, the matter was eventually dropped. Happily, the Chicago Tribune's circulation was highly limited in Tokyo. Besides, the Japanese were confident their code was unbreakable, once again underestimating those crude Americans.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.