If we knew then what we know now…
To the editor:
There is an absolute absurdity that keeps circulating in the halls of banality. Its primary function is to deflect responsibility for the actions of our nation, our people and our leaders and the press. It resurfaced a few weeks back with Jeb Bush and Mrs. Clinton, and again, recently, in NPR’s Brian Lehrer and All Things Considered, on Sunday, May 24 — but make no mistake, it is not limited to Mrs. Clinton, the Bushes and NPR’s people. So here it is: “If we knew then, what we know now…” (Finish with: “would we have invaded Iraq?”)
It is an American tragedy that the question was formed. It shows an induced loss of memory among those of us who are over 60, and ignorance on the part of everyone else.
So let’s go back to the Eisenhower years, specifically, May 1, 1960. That was the day one of our U2s was shot down twelve miles above the Soviet Union — we were stunned that the Russians had that ability. Recall its pilot, Gary Powers… put on display by Khrushchev to the utter embarrassment of President Eisenhower who could no longer deny our flying over Russia. I leave it to the reader to figure out what one of our high altitude U2 planes (hint) with cameras was doing over Russia. (End episode I.)
Let’s go forward to October, 1962. President Kennedy is on television. He is explaining the identity of objects and the significance of shadows in an 8 x10 photo of the ground in Cuba. The photo was taken by our aircraft flying over Cuba. Kennedy was about to take serious action and he wanted the American people to know why he was going to take the actions he was about to take: blockade Cuba and demand the removal of Russian missiles. (End episode II.)
Suffice now to recall that during the 50 years of the cold-war, we and the Soviets developed sophisticated technology with which to photograph each other’s country. On CBS news, Walter Cronkite described our technological capacity to photograph from space a pack of cigarettes in a man’s shirt.
The great advance in our ability to photograph the ground from space came with satellites whose speed would keep them over the same spot on Earth. We and the Russians knew every square inch of everything that was the other’s.
Let’s move ahead to 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. George Bush is President of The United States.
Over the years, our media has served the wrong sets of questions. Rather than demanding: “Given our technology, how could we not have known about WMD in Iraq?” it insisted that while we know now, maybe, just maybe, back then maybe we did not know. But what we know now, we don’t know only now. We are not in a privileged position now compared to back then.
Sending our troops running around in the desert on wild goose chases established nothing new. What we know now is precisely what we knew back then.
John M. Giannone, ST