It's So Hard To Say "We're Sorry"

It's So Hard To Say "We're Sorry"

It's So Hard To Say "We're Sorry"
An email conversation about the news of the day.
July 16 2002 11:49 AM


Good morning, Peter:


Looks like it's going to be another hot and muggy one here in the city. Picked up the paper at my corner deli and am already in a sweat. The first thing that caught my eye was the picture of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in Afghanistan, looking genuinely shaken. The pic shows him gazing at a kid in a hospital in Mazar-i-Sharif—a kid who was presumably injured in America's botched air strike in Oruzgan Province that locals say killed more than 50 civilians in a wedding party. Though Wolfowitz was in Afghanistan to discuss security issues with President Karzai, he issued the closest thing to an American apology to date. This is not something one would expect from the administration's most prominent hawk. Travel is broadening, I guess. Do you think, after the military concludes its investigation, the Bush team will actually issue an official apology? Clinton was quick to apologize about everything (except, of course, his own personal transgressions). The Bush team doesn't seem so inclined. Too bad. As Clinton seemed to grasp, an apology can be an extension of diplomacy by other means.

In your last correspondence, you say "maybe the only place on earth where ideology is practical, warranted and used—where what you see is unfortunately exactly what you get—is the bitter, unforgiving and insoluble Middle East." That wasn't my experience. When I covered Beirut in the early to mid-'80s, it seemed ideology was distorted to suit whatever practical—and most often corrupt—interests the various politicians and religious leaders wanted to advance. It was a place where the more you knew, the less you understood. Everything boiled down to "the friend of my enemy is my enemy." Now in a place where there were 17 different major sects advancing their own agendas, each forming alliances to counter other alliances, things got kind of tricky.