When You Assume, You Get Bad News

I recently returned from the wilds of western Virginia, where I swore off “media” for a blessed week. So I missed reading about the great celebrations thrown by Islam’s defenders upon the sudden but regrettably not premature deaths of the awful Hussein boys. I can only assume that clerics and sheiks from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia took the occasion to point out that the Husseins were prolific killers of Muslims. Now that Uday and Qusay are dead, Muslims in Iraq are considerably safer than they were five months ago.

There’s a pile of old newspapers on my desk, but I know I’ll never get through it, so I’ll just assume that the front pages are filled with pictures of Muslim spokesmen smiling over the fate of these murderers. And I assume that the chroniclers of complaint in the Middle East have revised their canon of crimes visited upon Muslims since the fall of Granada to include the antics of Saddam’s darlings.

What’s more, I assume that all those op-ed pages I’ll never read are filled with contributions from Muslims pointing out that Iraqis are now more free to practice their faith than they were when Saddam terrorized them. I only wish I had the time to get through all my old newspapers; I’m sure I’d be delighted to read these wonderful pieces.

One bit of news that did find its way to my self-imposed exile concerned the nation’s fine friends in Saudi Arabia, who, according to a Congressional investigation of 9/11, have been gleefully funding Islamic terrorist organizations for years. Of course, I won’t find too many further details in the newspapers on my desk, as the specific charges were deleted from the panel’s public report. National security, you see.

We do know, however, that a Saudi national by the name of Omar al-Bayoumi apparently gave heaps of money to two of the 9/11 hijackers. The report said that Mr. Bayoumi “had access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia.” What’s more, this upstanding fellow may have connections to the Saudi intelligence services; in any case, he’s back in his homeland and unavailable for further comment. And it appears that he won’t be answering the U.S. government’s questions any time soon.

Again, I’ve been quite out of touch for more than a week, so I assume that I missed the nation’s outrage and anger upon learning these not especially surprising revelations about our Saudi friends. I’m guessing that if I managed to work my way through the old papers, I’d find stories about the Bush administration’s new plan to wean us from imported oil once and for all. I assume that the leaders of America’s automotive industry have come forward to pledge that they will no longer shove S.U.V.’s down the throats of consumers, lest somebody brand them as traitors. After all, if big, hairy blond authors can get on television and accuse liberals of treason-not corruption, not stupidity, not arrogance, but treason-well, who’s to say that somebody won’t file similar charges against General Motors, Ford and Chrysler?

I’m sure these stories must have made their way into the papers while I was gone. I almost wish I had picked up a newspaper or watched a little television, just to hear about the nation’s determination to cast aside its four-wheeled indulgences in the name of national security. I spent lots of time on the interstate highways between Virginia and Rhode Island in late July, and I have to believe that the owners of all those unsafe, oil-guzzling monstrosities I saw are now reflecting on the part they’ve played in making this nation more dependent than ever on the Saudis.

I’m sure that none of this is new to you, who have been able to follow these events more closely than I have. You know all about the billions the Bush administration has set aside to fund the most important national-security initiative since 9/11-the plan to raise standards for fuel efficiency, to eliminate the kinds of loopholes that gave birth to the S.U.V. in the first place and to build-soon, like next year-an inexpensive car that will run on something other than oil. You know about the pledges the auto industry has made to cooperate in making the nation more secure-and not through a wider distribution of the self-indulgent Hummer. You know about the S.U.V. owners who are lobbying the administration to create tax incentives that will allow them to junk their personal national-security threats for more efficient vehicles-even if they’re made in Japan.

I’m just sorry I missed it all, and I regret that, given the pressures of time, I’ll never even get around to reading that pile of newspapers which contains all this exciting news.