Congratulations, from a former diplomat, on your appointment as Under
Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. It’s an important job,
defined by the State Department as helping “ensure that public diplomacy
(engaging, informing, and influencing key international audiences) is practiced
in harmony with public affairs (outreach to Americans) and traditional diplomacy
to advance U.S. interests and security …
At their best, public diplomacy programs provide careful arguments explaining
to the world America’s foreign policy and help to expand international
understanding. But at their worst, they can all too easily turn into base
propaganda, as was the case with the administration’s justifications for the war
in Iraq, a campaign in which you evidently took an active part as a member of
WHIG (White House Iraq Group) http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=55063
Because of your close ties to the President, you have bureaucratic clout.
This seemed as though it might be a good omen for public diplomacy, according to
commentators concerned about America’s role in the world today. Anti-Americanism
abroad has hurt U.S. national interests, and much needs to be done for the
United States to regain the respect of the opinions of mankind. Some would say:
What better person than you -- a confidante of George W. Bush -- to
make the world stop hating us?
But your appointment is already raising some serious questions about
your qualifications for a key position in the US government. Your recent Middle
East trip was widely perceived as close to a disaster. Your outreach efforts in
the region were preachy and parochial, according to observers.
Speaking to local audiences, you made elementary errors regarding
American foreign policy, declaring, for example, that George W. Bush was the
first American president to advocate a Palestinian state. And, in Egypt, you stated that the Constitution contains the phrase “one nation under God.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1581335,00.html
These are very
troubling oversights on your part.
But there are other, even more disquieting aspects about your appointment,
regrettably not raised at your Senate confirmation hearings, when “not a single
Democrat showed up to grill [you] on administration policy.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/21/AR2005082100831.html
Most disconcerting, apart from your participation in Republican political
campaigns marked by smear tactics and fear-evoking sound bites, is your role in
shaping the administration’s message regarding the war in Iraq. You were a
member of the little-known, secretive WHIG, which, according to The Wall Street
Journal (October 12), “worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to
the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion.”
The methods used by the White House to convince the American people to
support a foreign policy fiasco have now been exposed as crude propaganda.
Practically no one, on the left or the right, today believes the
administration’s hysterical warnings about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction
or an Iraqi-Al Quaeda connection.
The White House you serve trumpeted its aggressive, unilateral military
actions against Iraq in ways favored by authoritarian or totalitarian regimes:
gross simplification of the issues; repetition of logically unconnected slogans;
demonization of the outsider; omission of key facts; violence to history; and a
near-total disregard for truth. In 1915, Henry James said the war in Europe had
“used up words.” http://www.publicdiplomacy.org/19.htm#lies That is also what
the White House did in pushing the conflict against Iraq.
In your new job, you do not mention the crass propaganda you and your
colleagues employed to trick America into war. Now, you are speaking about a
three-pronged public diplomacy strategy based on: a “positive vision of hope
that is rooted in the President's freedom agenda”; work to “isolate and
marginalize the extremists and undermine their appropriation of religion”; and
fostering “a sense of common interests and common values between Americans and
people from different countries.” To carry out this strategy, you advocate the
use of the “4-E's”: engage, exchange, educate and empower.
But your high-sounding public diplomacy proclamations don’t jibe with the
virulent, atavistic White House propaganda you helped inflict on America and the
world to justify a bloody and ruinous war.
So tell us: What do you really favor -- the best of public diplomacy or the
worst of deceptive propaganda? One way to start answering this
crucial question is to disclose in detail what the goals and methods of WHIG
were all about, and to tell us if you think what WHIG did was wrong.