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October 13, 2005
Painful Admission Of Progress At The Gray Lady

Part of the limited amount of enjoyment one gets from reading the New York Times editorial page comes from seeing how they acknowledge what should be celebrated as good news. During Republican administrations, that usually means a healthy dose of caveats, irrelevancies, and redirected credit intended on convincing people that the good news amounts to little more than potential bad news, and if it doesn't turn out badly, it all happened in spite of the Republicans in charge. Today's acknowledgement of the success in establishing a democratic political dynamic in Iraq provides a delightful case in point:

It has been hard to make sense of America's involvement in Iraq for a long time now. Arguments that our soldiers are risking their lives to protect the United States from terrorism, or deadly weapons of mass destruction, have come to nothing. The only logical basis for staying the course has been the hope that in the end, Iraqis can be put on the road to a stable, inclusive government. That hope has come close to extinction many times. But today it seems a little more substantial.

Just days ahead of Saturday's vital constitutional referendum, representatives of rival religious and ethnic communities in Iraq hammered out their most significant political compromise. With American diplomatic prodding, the dominant Shiite and Kurdish parties agreed with a section of the Sunni Arab leadership on changes that should make it easier for Sunni voters to accept a badly flawed draft constitution because they offer assurances that it can be drastically amended a few months later.

Note the construction style in almost every paragraph; only the second paragraph, excerpted here, and the fourth stray from the mold. Each paragraph starts out with some gloomy statement on what the Times sees as reality. Each statement relates back to American efforts to create this democratic environment, either directly or indirectly; The absence of even this minimal basis for consensus before now had made it difficult to take the whole American-orchestrated constitutional exercise seriously. That combination is a blueprint for national fragmentation and prolonged civil war.

My personal favorite is this little non-sequitur: Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It isn't? Since when?

The torturous process of actually saying something meaningful about the Iraqi agreement on a new constitution in the days ahead of the vote grinds on through eight paragraphs written in this stultifying prose, as like a bad pop song with an unrelenting, unchanging bass line. It takes that long for the Times to admit that the developments this week give greater hope for unity after the plebescite and for greater Sunni participation in democracy thereafter. The editorial approaches masterpiece status for sour grapes and for burying the lede. Even its title, "A Flicker Of Hope In Iraq", makes this major step forward seem little more than a mere footnote in an encyclopedia of misery.

Cheer up! We liberated 25 million people from a genocidal dictator, helped them create a National Assembly, watched as over 8 million of them voted freely lasy January, and now see them peacefully negotiating the laws under which they will govern themselves. Perhaps the Gray Lady finds democracy too distasteful for her scrubbed hands, but the rest of us find these developments very pleasing and reason for hope of eventual unity and peace.

Or if you can't cheer up, at least hire someone who knows how to write an honest editorial.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 13, 2005 7:02 AM

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