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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

Through The Fog, Darkly

All in all, it has been a not very good week across the American landscape.

On a personal front, I have been struggling with a bit of bronchitis, which I had been trying to ignore until my attorney, Mary Ann Zimmer, decided to be both motherly and authoritarian, and made me promise to phone my doctor, which I did, who upon hearing me, prescribed an anti-biotic. Like many Americans this winter, I have been struggling with some kind of minor disease which, while not flattening me, has never quite allowed me out of its thrall, thus resulting feeling as if my brain and I are living in a slightly different dimension from the rest of the world.

It has been as if everything and everyone is a little distance away from me, separated from me by a light green fog.

Thus it almost seemed to me that the events of this week were surreal – that those pictures out of Iraq were really just part of the active dream life triggered by my low grade fever and not actually what was happening.

Unfortunately, reality hit me around Wednesday that those pictures were not a fevered dream but an ice cold embarrassment, a brutal shock to the American system and sensibility. The pride of our country, our citizen soldiers, were caught on film abusing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners in Saddam’s most infamous prison, Abu Ghraib, the one which we liberated, didn’t we?

Between bronchial hacks and nose blows, I pounded out an e-letter to the White House asking Mr. Bush to get his ass on Arab television and say I’m sorry on behalf of all of us. He did go on Arab television but never got around to saying I’m sorry. Obviously, my letter did not get to the President in time.

I am adult enough to understand that war time is always a complex time and that no matter how hard you try; something is going to go wrong. But it certainly had not been my expectation that it would go this wrong in this way.

We rode into Iraq on a self-righteous horse and have managed to ride it into a disaster of our own making, out of our own stupidity. We claimed a righteous purpose in liberating Iraq and in claiming it, needed to live up to it. That should have been part of the occupation plan.

Apparently the word did not get out or down to certain troops.

I have found myself watching Rumsfield ruminate, appearing more annoyed at being asked to explain than regretful or apologetic about what he had to explain.

I feel my officials are prevaricating.

All this prevaricating and ruminating is just additional evidence that this MBA driven administration didn’t pay attention in its management classes nor learned one of the fundamentals of American politics.

Mistakes can be made; just live up to them.

The last half of the 20th Century was pockmarked by Presidents who failed to accept responsibility and found themselves in “a fine kettle of fish.” Nixon was one; Clinton was another. Reagan bungled Iran Contra but stood up and said, “I accept responsibility.” Because he did, he got off lightly. Because they didn’t, Nixon and Clinton suffered humiliation, one losing the Presidency and the other coming close.

Following our government’s messy handling of the worst public relations situation we could have in Iraq, news broke that Disney is refusing to allow Miramax to distribute Michael Moore’s new film, “Fahrenheit 911”, which promises to be critical of the President.

I’m not a particular fan of Mr. Moore. But, last I looked, we still had freedom of the press in the U.S. and whether or not Mr. Moore criticizes the President is not really important. He has that right and Miramax, a unit of Disney, should be allowed to distribute the film.

Next year I will be sure to vote my Disney shares against Mr. Eisner.

So, as I write this, the sour taste in my mouth is not the result of sinuses draining but of the bilious response of my body to events in the world about which I have strong feelings but limited influence.