I would think millions were moved by Shiho Fukada’s photo above, printed on the front page of the New York Times. The kneeling man is a Chinese Communist Party official, pleading with parents who have lost their children in the earthquake to stop their protest march. Thousands of kids are dead, in most cases their parents’ only children. The quake collapsed their schools while government buildings right next door stood firm. Who were the officials who cut corners to allow shoddy construction? Judging from the response, evident in this photograph, and reported in the accompanying stories, the government is very worried.
We know China is a dictatorship, and America is a democracy. But isn’t it a little confusing that when Chinese officials screw up, there will be some real accountability? At the end of this some provincial officials who took bribes to grease the building of shoddy schools and dormitories will hang. And by contrast, we have our Iraq War architects: Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank, Rumsfeld enjoying his millions, and Doug Feith holding forth on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and Cheney and Bush going on to fancy GOP sinecures, Bill Kristol awarded a column at the Times. The “fellows” at AEI and the liberal hawks at Carnegie and Brookings still getting money streamed at them.
In his classroom, Fritz Stern once told me (quoting someone else, I think) that history is not a moral gymnasium where virtue is rewarded. But we do like to think that in a democratic system there is some reward for doing the right thing, some punishment for wrong doing. In America, we have yet to have our reckoning over Iraq.