Sunday, March 06, 2005

Missing the Point in Syria

The remarkable recent events in Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the Palestinian territories threaten to completely transform the political culture of the Middle East. Which makes me wonder why the N&O ran the story of Syria's pledge for a partial pullback of troops on page 18A today.

Are the editors worried that readers will make the logical conclusion that all of these changes have happened since the U.S./Brit-led coalition of 33 countries deposed Saddam Hussein? Are they a little touchy that just such a revolution in liberty was predicted by the Bush administration? Are they afraid of the inevitable comparisons between these events and those in the former Soviet sphere after the Reagan-inspired fall of the Iron Curtain (an event I witnessed while stationed in Germany) in 1989?

Who knows why they buried what should have been on the front page. More aggravating, however, was for the N&O to choose an article written by one their news services (in this case the Cox News Service) that ended with this comparison of Syria's occupation of Lebanon with the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories: Despite the Israeli government's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, there is no similar plan to do the same in the West Bank - and no pressure from Washington to force it to do so.

So an article that should have focused on Syria's withdrawal and the success of the Bush policies in the Middle East instead compares the Syrian occupation of a region from which they have never been threatened to the Israeli occupation of a region from which they have been attacked by both conventional forces and terrorists repeatedly since 1948!

And the statement the N&O ran is not only non-analogous, it is also untrue. The Bush administration has repeatedly encouraged Israel to withdraw from not only Gaza but also the West Bank. They have made it clear, however, that they do not expect Israel to withdraw until they can be assured that terrorists will not be able to use the West Bank to attack with impunity.

Poor judgment in article placement and article choice by the N&O.