A different March Madness

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(Host) As Congress looks into events leading up to 9-11 and the media debates the use of graphic depictions of violence, commentator Bill Seamans reflects on current American attitudes about the war on terror.

(Seamans) “We expect it to be very exciting because we want to know so much…” Those words were spoken by Republican Chairman Thomas Kean talking about Condoleezza Rice’s expected testimony before his 9-11 panel on Thursday. Kean’s statement is part of what I think is the regrettable hype leading up to Rice’s TV appearance predicting that millions will be tuning in as if it were the final game of the March Madness college basketball season.

What we want to know is what our commander in chief knew and when he knew it in the covert war against terrorism leading up to the 9-11 tragedy. Also what he said and when he said it that led us on to Iraq. It is also regrettable that Mr. Bush, regardless of the precedent of separation of powers, has not volunteered to step forth and testify in public himself, instead of volunteering Condi Rice. Bush’s critics say he’s commander in chief when things go right but sends someone else to face the public when things go wrong.

It also is regrettable that based on the track record nobody will be held accountable for what happened on 9-11. Expect the final report to say it was regrettable “systemic” failure. The intelligence community will bear the burden, despite the fact that their caveats – their efforts to prevent misinterpretation of their reports – were repeatedly overlooked or ignored.

It is regrettable that a similar public hearing is not asking how we can prevent the tragedy that is happening right now in Iraq from worsening even more for an objective that seems more and more elusive day by day.

The massacre of those Americans whose burned bodies were suspended from a bridge broke through our national sense of denial. The question raised was whether the pictures should have been used because they shocked the American public rather than asking how more such scenes can be avoided. Should we ask whether those pictures of the bodies hurt the welfare of certain politicians seven months before the presidential election more than they hurt our national purpose in Iraq. David Sanger of the New York Times said, “In the Bush campaign casualties are something to be alluded to obliquely, if at all.” Did those photos of the reality of the brutality of war expose a sublimated, unexpressed sense of national guilt as we couch-potatoed through the March basketball madness and the new baseball season while other young Americans are being killed or maimed in Iraq.

I’ll give the final word to David Broder of the Washington Post who said, “As the debates about the meaning of Iraq go on – no one should forget for one minute the lives that have been changed forever by that war.”

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former corrspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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