Morley Safer: The Bush Administration's Ignorance of History Is Astounding

Roundup: Media's Take

Roselyn Tantraphol, in the Hartford Courant (April 18, 200):

The increasing level of violence gripping Iraq does not signal a repetition of the Vietnam War, but has been the result of an administration that turns a blind eye to historical lessons,"60 Minutes" correspondent Morley Safer said Saturday.

And the unfolding events have been reported by"a captive media" that failed to aggressively probe reasons for the march to war - and one that subsequently came to depend on the government through the embedded journalist program, he said.

In warning against becoming beholden to the government, he said:"We don't want anything from the government but that furtive little fellow called the truth - which, by the way, they'll never give you, which you have to go out and find by talking to people."

The hour of candid comments was held as part of the 10th National Writers' Workshop. The annual conference draws journalists, writers and instructors.

The fighting in Vietnam was driven by the domino theory, the belief that the war would prevent other countries in the region from falling to communism."Everything about Iraq is totally different," Safer said."In this one, we went to war and made the countries around fall like dominoes - the wrong way."

Safer, who covered the Vietnam War for CBS, brought up former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's mea culpa on the Vietnam War."McNamara's plea was that he had no idea that Vietnam had a history of longing for self-determination, a history of resisting foreign invasion."

"The stupidity is unbearable," Safer said. Libraries are full of books on that history, he said - and"reading one would have been enough."

Safer sees a similar problem with the Bush administration, noting the criticism Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld received last year when he referred disparagingly to France and Germany as"old Europe." In the Bush administration, Safer said,"there is a kind of pride in the ignorance."

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