Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Asymmetrical PR. Where's Karen Hughs?

The WaPo reports that:

"Human rights groups and defense lawyers yesterday called for an independent investigation into the three detainee suicides at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, questioning the military's preliminary explanation of how the men killed themselves and the way U.S. officials have characterized the deaths."

Amnesty says in a press release:

"Military authorities have shown themselves to be oblivious to the psychological suffering of the detainees. Earlier, military psychiatrists reportedly reclassified suicide attempts as "manipulative self-injurious behaviour", resulting in a decrease in the rate of suicide attempts officially recorded."

That's just typical isn't it? They've fallen for these jihadis' PR campaign. As Collen Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, pointed out to the BBC on Sunday, the suicides were a "good PR" move designed as a "tactic to further the jihadi cause." If anyone would know about good PR moves, it's obviously Ms. Graffy.

Josh White in the WaPo article says Amnesty International "in a written statement said an ongoing Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe will not be sufficient in light of comments U.S. officials have made."

What comments? Camp commander Rear Adm Harry Harris only said, "I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us." What's wrong with that? I don't get the idea from his and Graffy's statements that the administraion and the pentagon are in lala land. We can trust them, right?

Where is Karen Hughs anyway? I thought W. appointed her to win over the Arab world to our way of thinking. For sure this incident ought to further that objective.

So far, though, Hughs hasn't been too successful at convincing the "Arab Street" that we're the good guys. I found some Middle Eastern commentary from 2005 when she went on her "listening tour," and it wasn't exactly positive. [Note: You might want to go back to the drawing-board Karen.]

From worldpress.org:

The Gulf News of Dubai said:

"...why is Hughes on her visit? Anyone who has even a limited understanding of events in the Middle East can spell out loud and clear exactly what aggrieves people in the Middle East with regard to the U.S. It is their policy. Therefore, if the avowed intent prior to Hughes visit is for "no change, steady as we go" then it is best for Hughes to return home."

Al-Qouds from Jerusalem said of her failed trip to Egypt:

"In a few words, the reason for the failure is the fact that her mission is artificial, one that tries to convince the Arab street that killing tens of thousands of people in Iraq ... is a noble task ... a successful public relations campaign [however] can only be achieved by taking care of the problem instead of trying to fix its outcomes."

Al-Ahram from Cairo said:

"Karen Hughes, the U.S. envoy to the Middle East and Muslim countries, clearly hopes to patch up the U.S. image. Her instructions are to promote U.S. policy as one might any new consumer durable ... What the United States should be doing is changing policy, not dressing it up to look better ... We notice the harassment that millions of Muslim Americans had to deal with. We notice the indefinite detention of hundreds of suspects in Guantanamo. We notice the horrors committed in Abu Ghraib. We notice things that no one - not even Hughes - can justify."

The Arab News in Jidda, Saudi Arabia (Our good friends), said:

"The problem here is not American popular culture - beloved and emulated everywhere - or even American political culture, imbued with the richest ideas about freedom, democracy, and individual rights ... The problem rather is American foreign policy, that remains, where it is not bellicose, overtly and unabashedly moralistic in tone --- Let the record show that no one has identified the gushy Hughes as an "ugly American," just an inane one."

Her trip is summarized at tompaine.com, where it's reported that not only was she a big flop in the Middle East but also here at home. Fred Kaplan in USA Today is quoted as writing:

"Put the shoe on the other foot. Let's say some Muslim leader wanted to improve Americans' image of Islam. It's doubtful that he would send as his emissary a woman in a black chador who had spent no time in the United States, possessed no knowledge of our history or movies or pop music, and spoke no English beyond a heavily accented "Good morning." Yet this would be the clueless counterpart to Karen Hughes."

But, who knows, maybe she can use this Gitmo suicide thing to turn this whole thing around.


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