Jewish World Review April 8, 2003 / 6 Nisan, 5763

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Leonard Pitts, Jr.
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Truth during war seen through prism | I've been looking for a suitable quote to anchor this column about truth, lies and the Information Ministry of Iraq.

Problem is, I've got so many to choose from. Like California Gov. Hiram Johnson's famous admonition that, ''The first casualty when war comes is truth.'' Or Winston Churchill's observation that, ``In wartime, truth is so precious that she should be attended by a bodyguard of lies.''

But it occurs to me that the flavor of Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf's press briefings is probably best captured by an old Richard Pryor line about a brazen man caught cheating by his wife. The man swears he wasn't cheating at all.

''Who you going to believe?'' he demands. ``Me, or your lying eyes?''

Similarly, Sahhaf told reporters last week that American forces ''are not even [within] 100 miles,'' even as U.S. troops were seizing Saddam International Airport, 12 miles outside of Baghdad. ''They are not near Baghdad!'' Sahhaf said. ``Don't believe them.''

One is reminded of the Wizard of Oz crying out to Dorothy and friends, ''Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!'' For those of us who have been following the minister's briefings, it was another virtuoso performance. Sahhaf has continued to deny American military success even as evidence of that success becomes too near and, you'd think, too obvious, to ignore. He will probably still be swearing U.S. forces are nowhere near Baghdad on the day he is taken away at gunpoint.

Certainly, there's nothing surprising in Sahhaf's less-than-intimate relationship with truth. Still, it offers a telling window into the mind-set of the regime he represents. In Iraq, evidently, people are conditioned to believe something because the government tells them to. In Iraq, the obvious and the apparent are secondary to what Saddam Hussein and his functionaries say. In Iraq, if you are given a choice between the government and your lying eyes, you'd better curse your lying eyes.

Again, this is not uncommon for your average dictatorship. Still, Sahhaf's fresh demonstration that denial is more than a river in Egypt comes against a fascinating backdrop. Meaning the ongoing debate over how we should regard this war.

Reams have been written and many broadcast hours used in analyzing the various biases and prisms through which this affair is viewed. American media have been accused of cheerleading, the BBC of being too sharply critical. Record numbers of us have turned to Al Jazeera and other Arab news websites in search of a different perspective than we will find on CBS, CNN or in the pages of The New York Times.

This is a healthy thing. It is, in the purest sense, a search for truth. Or, perhaps more to the point, a recognition that truth -- especially in as fluid and chaotic an enterprise as war -- is often a subjective thing. It's a diamond with many facets. What you see depends on where you stand.

We are all prisoners of our own perceptions, all live in boxes constructed of our own backgrounds, beliefs, values and aspirations. And once you understand that, it only makes sense to try to get beyond that, seek to understand what they are thinking in those boxes on the other side.

Information is a weapon in time of war, a means of encouraging or demoralizing both soldiers and civilian populations. It's called propaganda, and that's what Baghdad is engaged in. Quiet as it's kept, Washington is, too. You and I are the prize in a battle for hearts and minds.

That's what makes the search for truth difficult. It's also what makes it important.

In all likelihood, though, the truth we seek -- to the degree it is knowable at all -- probably won't be found until years after this business has been completed. But thanks to Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, there's one thing, right now, that we can say for sure.

We may not know where the truth is, but we definitely know where it is not.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s column by clicking here.

03/25/03: Perspective on life and freedom
03/18/03: 'Sacre Bleu!' Let Freedom Ring
03/14/03: Yes, Virginia, there is a way to determine the truth
03/11/03: A statement that fits to a 'T'
03/07/03: Driven to madness
03/04/03: Not an appreciation of Mr. Rogers
02/28/03: When TV picks at rural poor, viewers are left with even less
02/14/03: We've been through anxious times like these before
02/11/03: Virtual community failed "Ripper' is no surprise
02/07/03: 'The One' for the 'Get-Yours' generation
02/04/03: Depressing news from TV nation
01/31/03: Let's hear it for women with meat on their bones
01/21/03: Illinois governor may have saved us from ourselves
01/14/03: We must pay close attention as corners are cut and rights abridged in our names
01/10/03: This mother wouldn't let us ignore grisly ugliness of racism
12/17/02: Michael Jackson's disappearing act
12/06/02: After affirmative action, what next?
12/03/02: We deserve a break today from McDonald's lawsuits
11/19/02: On question of Megan's Law, information trumps other concerns
11/12/02: Winona, just say, 'I'm sorry'
11/08/02: Your local police, brought to you by Joe's Bar and Grill
11/05/02: A father, a son and an essay
10/29/02: Things like this don't happen
10/22/02: Real monsters look just like women and men
10/18/02: Snoop's new tune rings hollow
10/15/02: A reminder of life's random cruelty
10/08/02: He toils in the name of change because he can't just stand by
10/01/02: Sharpton, crossing swords with the white corporate dragon, needs to learn what the civil rights movement really was about
09/25/02: A skewed sense of compassion
09/18/02: On death and a pop-culture mindset
09/10/02: Inconvenience me, PLEASE!
09/06/02: Latest CBS joke isn't funny
09/03/02: A rewarding life as a working stiff
08/30/02: We infants in men's clothing
08/27/02: Sept. 11 - How much is too much?
08/23/02: Cut it out already, media!
08/20/02: Brace yourself for attacks of the stealth ads
08/16/02: Russia, please, pretty please let the rocker hitch a ride into space
08/12/02: Racial 'colorblindness' is silly
07/30/02: Oh, to be famous
07/19/02: In Pop-Music Thriller, Jacko Takes on Sony
07/09/02: The password is 'frustration'
06/25/02: My Head And Heart Are At Odds - I Can't Watch Video Of Pearl's Beheading
06/21/02: Your kid's going to pay for cheating --- eventually
06/18/02: Stuffy 'correctness' robs races of give and take
06/07/02: A gift of the Masai
06/04/02: Now what? Use your 9/11 pain to combat complacency
05/24/02: Has your life changed since 9/11?
05/19/02: New world disorder is nothing to smile about
05/14/02: White men can jump, so why do black kids come up short in the classroom?
05/03/02: Catholic Church should be ashamed for blaming abuse victims
04/19/02: A reminder of how small the world has become
04/16/02: 100 death-penalty mistakes and counting
04/12/02: Until all the bad guys wear black hats
04/10/02: Connecting with history with hope for future
04/08/02: Just me and the boys: A black father's road trip
03/26/02: It's time to give up fighting the good fight and join the masses
03/22/02: It's not the art, it's the artist who's troubling
03/19/02: Don't ask, don't tell when it comes to police work
03/15/02: Do we have an inalienable right to TV?
03/12/02: What will we learn about ourselves as war toll grows?
03/08/02: Marriage madness --- oh, please!
03/05/02: A risk free life
03/01/02: Pentagon's idea of lying to media was breathtaking' in its stupidity
02/16/02: Will the Afghans forgive the U.S. for the beating of innocents?
02/15/02: In search of manhood, some make a fatal decision
02/08/02: Time for blacks to give the same respect they demand
02/05/02: A question of character and "unlawful combatants"
01/31/02: There's only so much a parent can influence a child
01/29/02: Mike Tyson is incapable of embarrassment
01/25/02: Acts of patriotism or acts of desecration?
01/18/02: Waiting for tears in the rain at Ground Zero
01/15/02: A little cultural respect works both ways
01/11/02: Can blacks be racist?
01/07/02: What price for the priceless?
12/21/01: An intriguing study on race
12/18/01: To err is me
12/14/01: Admit it, folks, If you've ever been 16, you can probably relate to Walker
12/11/01: Blacks-on-blacks poll is a healthy project
12/07/01: The best defense against government excesses
12/05/01: Better hoist caution flag
12/03/01: Martin Luther Ka-CHING!
11/27/01: Beauty reflects an ugly truth
11/22/01: Another reason to be thankful
11/19/01: If only they knew our names
11/12/01: Watching a 'dying' man live
08/01/01: Should a man be put in jail for what he's thinking?
07/27/01: It's your responsibility to invade their privacy
07/20/01: Is optimism for fools?
07/17/01: Everybody should have a white man

© 2002, The Miami Herald