Monday, October 24, 2005

American Charm Offensive Gone Awry. You had to be there. David Welsh, US Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East, was on AlJazeera, and receiving live calls from Arabs around the world. Welsh, as you may have noticed does have some charisma; the charisma of a …tomato, let's say. While he was receiving the “questions, —if you can call it that, from the audience, he looked as comfortable as I looked when they pulled my wisdom teeth out, but not on live TV. He did what every inexperienced and unsavy public official would do: just attack the audience. His main problem was that he was using the cliched lines of US propaganda, but to an Arab audience, it just did not click, let us say, not even after the wonderfully successful trip by Karen Hughes which in fact turned Arab public opinion in favor of US and Israeli wars. In fact, during the trip, Fox News reported that Arabs took to the streets in several Arab capitals wishing, nay demanding, that US and Israeli bombs fall on their heads. Several asked for the looting, mayhem, and plunder of "liberated"” Iraq to be brought to their own countries. No word from Hughes about that demand. Welsh was producing his plastic lines, and one guy called from Iraq. From Iraq, for potato's sake. Welsh, clearly used to just reproduce the same lines, started telling the angry caller from Iraq, from Iraq for potatoe'’s sake, that things are in fact good in Iraq, while the Iraqi caller was insisting that US policy is based on naked lies, etc. OK. Several people called to mock US concerns and crocodile tears over Hariri'’s death, and one wrote an email asking about the sudden US interests in Lebanon. One person accused the US of being behind the murder of Hariri, and others accused the US of surrendering Iraq to Iran. One caller asked about US policy toward human rights violations in Tunisia. Welsh answered by praising the economic "reforms"” in Tunisia. This was a festival of failed propagandistic rhetoric that I have not seen in a long time. It is clear to me that this show probably brought down the favorable Arab public opinion toward the US from 2 % to 0.5%. Good job David. Keep it up.