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Tilting at Windmills

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April 14, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

FIGHTING THE RIGHT BATTLE....Marc Lynch reports that Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt appeared on al-Jazeera the other day, and he's pleased:

There's been something of a war going on in the administration between those (like Karen Hughes) who think that American officials should go on al-Jazeera, since that's where the Arab political action and largest audience is; and those (like, broadly speaking, the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President) who see al-Jazeera as the enemy and think American officials should have nothing to do with it. Thanks in large part to Hughes, there has been a really dramatic increase in the number of American officials appearing on al-Jazeera in the last few months. And she's taken a lot of heat from al-Jazeera's critics in the administration for it.

Whatever else you can say about Hughes, she's on the side of the angels in this dispute. Of course we should be appearing on al-Jazeera as frequently and as aggresively as we can. After all, that's where our target audience is: Muslims in the Middle East who need to be convinced that America is not the Great Satan.

If you retreat from the battlefield before the fighting even begins, you're guaranteed defeat. So kudos to Hughes for apparently pounding some sense into Donald Rumsfeld and her other Pentagon friends who are so reluctant to acknowledge the real nature of the war we're fighting.

Kevin Drum 11:53 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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Comments

Yeah, that Alan Colmes makes a huge difference when he appears on Fox News.

Listen, I'm fine with whatever talking heads you want to appear on Al-Jazeera. I just don't expect it'll have any great effect. Actions speak louder than words, and and U.S. actions in the gulf have spoken far more clearly and loudly than anything we could say on Al-Jazeera or anywhere else.

Posted by: jimBOB on April 14, 2006 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

A small specificication for Kevin: Al Jazeerah's audience would be Arabs (Christian & Muslim) in the Middle East - the non-Arabic speaking Muslims such as Iranians (and Turks if one includes Turkey in the Middle East) don't really watch it.

Posted by: collounsbury on April 14, 2006 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless of the merit of appearing on al-Jazeera, the appearance of any member of this administration is likely to just make matters worse.

This is the gang that couldn't shoot straight. I expect that Karen Hughs is more likely to commit some cultural or political gaffe than persuade anybody, Middle Easterner or not, of anything.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on April 14, 2006 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK
Whatever else you can say about Hughes, she's on the side of the angels in this dispute.

Er, no, she's not. That she happens to be engaging in one bit of non-stupid communication strategy does not put her on the side of "angels", or even "people of good intent."

Posted by: cmdicely on April 14, 2006 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Hughes is right, persuasion is the way.

But there isn't much evidence that this administration believes in or is capable of genuine dialogue.

There is plenty of evidence that they believe in and are capable of violence.

Posted by: obscure on April 14, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

As to impact, I would say from years of watching the channel and seeing Israeli officials appear (now there is a hard row to hoe), that long term there is an impact. One can tell a point of view, rather than leaving it completely in the hands of the opposition.

Of course it helps to have skilled people who know what they're doing as well.

Posted by: collounsbury on April 14, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, how come your commenters are spewing such putrid venom at Karen Hughes for talking to Arabs? Unfortunately liberals still believe in the soft bigotry of low expectations that Arabs don't thirst for the freedom and democracy we have in America and believe they must forever live under Islamofascist dictatorships.

Posted by: Al on April 14, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Yet more proof that Rumsfeld is an idiot and should go.

Planting stories in Iraqi news media, something that is sure to be discovered and further discredit the United States in the Muslim world: good.

Having a real debate and engagement with the Muslim world through their most noteworthy news source and communicating with them in good faith: bad.

This is Rumsfeldian analysis.

This is idiocy.

Lemmings-R-Us unite in defending Rumsfeld's stupidity.

I LOVE IT!

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 14, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Changing media appearances is quite a different thing from changing policy choices. I realize that is what Karen Huges is paid to do, but lets not delude ourselves into thinking that the Bush Whitehouse has suddenly changed the same middle-east policy that has angered so many Al-Jazeera viewers.

Posted by: Jon Karak on April 14, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

How is putting bloviating American propagandists on Al Jazeera, lying their teeth off to an unreceptive audience, possibly going to help?

You trust our Hughes and her pals with DIPLOMACY, Kevin? This is assinine. Assinine.

Posted by: reef the dog on April 14, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Al, honey - it's getting old

Posted by: cleek on April 14, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

oh, i doubt that she's had any success pounding sense into rumsfeld; however, her relationship to fredo is closer than his, so i suspect that's how she's managed to prevail in this particular instance.

karen knows teevee; diplomacy not so much.

Posted by: linda on April 14, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK
How is putting bloviating American propagandists on Al Jazeera, lying their teeth off to an unreceptive audience, possibly going to help?

Maybe it'll make Arabs less hostile to US civilians by making them sympathetic with what we have to put up with?

Posted by: cmdicely on April 14, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: Of course we should be appearing on al-Jazeera as frequently and as aggresively as we can.

What do you mean "we"?

Are Americans who know that Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq was and is an illegal war of unprovoked aggression based on lies, and a corrupt misuse of the US military to enrich the Bush and Cheney families, their cronies and financial backers, which has directly resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, going to be appearing on al-Jazeera TV?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 14, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed, Al Jazeera should have more American voices.

Posted by: MountainDan on April 14, 2006 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Kimmit's appeared on US TV a bit, and it hasn't done much to convince Americans to be enthusiastic about the US operation in Iraq.

Do Karen Hughes and Kevin Drum think he'll be any better at convincing al-Jazeera's audience?

Posted by: cmdicely on April 14, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Next maybe she can get Cheney to watch something besides Fox.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on April 14, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Of course your comments ignore the fact America IS the Great Satan.

Posted by: steve duncan on April 14, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

America is the Great Satan, as far as the oil slaves are concerned, and no amount of lying by American war pigs should fool them into thinking any differently. I hope Al Jazeera is asking difficult questions.

Posted by: Hostile on April 14, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

It appears that you are suggesting Dick Cheney is retreating from the battlefield "if you will". Then again - he avoided the battlefields of Indochina as a young man.

Posted by: pgl on April 14, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

A six-foot tall broad from Texas usually wins any battle she engages with a smarmy little weasle like Rummy. I'm no Karen Hughes fan, but I'm with Kevin n this one...She's the one on the side of the angels here.

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 14, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Once upon a time comments here were rational, or at least bordering on rational.

Posted by: collounsbury on April 14, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

What do you mean "we"?

Hey, how about a little attribution?

Posted by: Spanky on April 14, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Some US military people who ought to be interviewed on al-Jazeera are Major General Paul D. Eaton, General Anthony C. Zinni, Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, Major General John Batiste, Major General John Riggs and Major General Charles H. Swannack Jr.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 14, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

By the same argument, liberals SHOULD appear Fox??

Like it will do much good?

Posted by: Darwin on April 14, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Its hard to keep misguided grudges once
the Person you are holding the grudge against
opens there mouth and proves your misguided
grudges were wrong.


Its easyer to keep someone you do not know
in the role your mind placed them in.
Than it is to keep them in a role of your
creation once you get to know them.


GET IT??? This Admin never has and never will.
WHAT IS SAD IS THEY REFUSE TO FIND FACT BECAUSE
IT MAY GET IN THE WAY OF PREDETERMINED GOALS.

It is easyer to sell what you wish people to
believe. Than sort out what is true.

Posted by: Honey P on April 14, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Once upon a time comments here were rational, or at least bordering on rational.

When was that?

Posted by: Al on April 14, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

So has Karen Hughes gone on the dark side, buying the liberal idea that talking to the terrorists is the right way to deal with them?

Posted by: lib on April 14, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

It's actually pretty mind-boggling that anyone, even anyone as stupid as the Administration, could fail to see the wisdom of putting one's flacks on the other side's TV. If they were Al-Qaeda, wouldn't they try to get their spokesman on Fox? Though of course Al-Qaeda is a much better and more balanced news channel than Fox.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 14, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Brooksfoe, we're talking about al-Jazeera, which is a news organization that has no ties to al Qaeda.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on April 14, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Hughes has a point that we should engage. However, as Reef the Dog notes above, her lying and propagandizing won't help.

Although her mission has merit, she as a liar and spinner is totally incapable of carrying it out.

Posted by: ugly_duck on April 14, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

So I guess bombing the studios is now off? Or only when Karen's in the house?

Posted by: Calling All Toasters on April 14, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

"So I guess bombing the studios is now off? Or only when Karen's in the house?"

She'd better hope Rummy doesn't arrange for the bombing schedule to be "accidentally" moved up for her first scheduled appearance on Al-J.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 14, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not so sure about this, Kevin. I remember the Iranian representatives on Nightline during the Iranian hostage crisis. They said the most ridiculous things and it just enraged the Nightline viewership. Seeing as how listening to the administration's lies angers many Americans, I can only begin to imagine how enraging it must be to Arabs to hear the administration's paid liars on Al Jazeera.

As per usual, a good theory rendered useless by incompetent execution.

Posted by: exgop on April 14, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK


KEVIN DRUM: So kudos to Hughes for apparently pounding some sense into Donald Rumsfeld and her other Pentagon friends who are so reluctant to acknowledge the real nature of the war we're fighting.

Are you fighting a war? I'm not; but if I were, it sure wouldn't be against the people they're fighting against. Hughes isn't fighting a war either. Her job has always been to tell lies--not for the good of our country, but for the benefit of her boss and his bosses, the corporatists. This cannot possibly do our country any good. And were her lies to become widely believed by al-Jazeera's viewers, it would be to their detriment as well.

Oh, by the way, which war are you referring to? The Iraq War? The War On Terror? Or do you conflate the two? If we want to win the WOT we need spokespeople on al-Jazeera who will be sympathetic to the legitimate grievances of Muslims, making assurances that we are working to right our past wrongs, even as we stress the need to punish those who are responsible for violence anywhere. Only when we can show them that their interests will be served along with ours will they be motivated to cooperate in fighting terror.

Despite the widely reported celebrations in the Islamic world following 9/11, many Muslims were not only sympathetic, but they also condemned the actions of the hijackers. We squandered the greatest opportunity we ever had to bring our worlds closer together. Had we taken a law enforcement approach in apprehending those responsible, along with a humble outreach for assistance and future cooperation, our planet would not now be so close to destruction.

SECULARANIMIST: What do you mean "we"?
Kevin is a nationalist. As such, though he eats and drinks the bitter wrongdoings of this administration every day--usually condemning them--he will swallow them whole to fly the flag. Like capitalism, patriotism courses through his veins as a result of addicting injections of propaganda from the time he was born. Few of us escaped this addiction, of course. And once we kick it, it's not like we can stop going to the bar where it's served. Besides, sometimes it just feels good to say "we."


Posted by: jayarbee on April 14, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Once upon a time comments here were rational, or at least bordering on rational.

When was that?

Right before you started posting, Al - as you would realize if you stopped to read the comments.

("Mom! Al's sayin' stupid stuff on the Internet again! Make him STOP!")

Posted by: Uncle Jeffy on April 14, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Uncle Jeffy, Al is paid by the word to post here. No one would bother to type up such tripe otherwise. Just look at it as another great use of the full faith and credit of the United States by the administration.

Posted by: jimBOB on April 14, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Nice to know that Karen Hughes has a bigger dick than most of the men in the administration.

Posted by: tom on April 14, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

"When was that?" - Before your appearance here, Al.

Posted by: chasmrich on April 14, 2006 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

The more American voices offering an alternative point of view is a good thing for our longterm interests in the region. Hughes may not be an angel but she is showing something close to pragmatism with this and that's a welcome change of pace from this administration.

Posted by: Nathan on April 14, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta say I loved "The Control Room."

It's one thing for an American reporter to cover "Shock and Awe" and a whole different thing for an Iraqi.

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 14, 2006 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

The more Middle Eastern voices offering an alternative point of view is a good thing for their longterm interests in our region.

Doubtful.

Posted by: Hostile on April 14, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Kevin -- kudos to Karen Hughes.

HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA! (sniff!) -HA-HA-HA-HA!

I'm sorry, but I just couldn't say that with a straight face.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 14, 2006 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Why aren't we BOMBING al-Jazeera off the air?!?!?! I'm outraged that we are talking to the Islamo-Fascists!

Posted by: Kaptain Wingnut on April 14, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

While the military presense is necessary to win the war, the war will be won in the media and in offices and institutions.

Posted by: aaron on April 15, 2006 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

Aaron Would those be media like http:/english.aljazeera.net or http:/www.zaman.com/
I know the pen is to be mightier than the sword : some of us wonder whose pen will write larger.

Posted by: opit on April 15, 2006 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: fdgdfg on April 16, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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