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February 17, 2006
Stop talking!

I'm working. I don't have time to blog right now.

But, when irritating things are said, it's hard to ignore them.

Rumsfeld: Al Qaeda has better PR

How can you spend $1.6 billion and then claim you don't have decent PR? (Maybe you should be buying some different columnists and pundits. Doesn't sound to me like the current crop is giving value for the money.)

Says U.S. government still functions as 'five and dime' store

Five billion here, ten billion there....

He lamented that vast media attention about U.S. abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq outweighed that given to the discovery of "Saddam Hussein's mass graves."

They think it's a PR problem that USofA citizens find crimes committed by our government of more concern than crimes committed by someone else? And they think that the solution isn't, you know, not committing crimes, but 24/7 ad buys to reassure the public that it's the most democratic brand of torture?

Instead of living up to the highest possible standards, this group is content with not quite reaching the bottom of the barrel. This, in a nutshell, is what I find most objectionable about their tactics.

Aside from that, I have to insist that if we hadn't invaded Iraq and created what's largely viewed as the world's largest terrorist training camp over there, we wouldn't be facing any kind of "PR battle."

Before the Bush Administration, we didn't have to convince ourselves and most of the rest of the world that we weren't the bad guys.

Posted by AnneZook at 02:35 PM


Comments

It's hard to believe that the government really needs more spin.... Sad thing is, they're trying to defund Voice of America, which would be the perfect outlet for their spin! They can't even spin straight....

The mass grave comment is interesting: we knew before going into Iraq that there were mass graves; we've found fewer than we expected. And he still thinks that should trump our own atrocities? We didn't even have the good sense to be secretive about it.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at February 17, 2006 05:46 PM

Yes. This Administration is counting, as always, on the public's inability to remember things like this from one month to the next, much less from year to year.

Posted by: Anne at February 17, 2006 07:31 PM

I'm with you up to the last two 'graphs. And if you'd just said that the Bush Administration had increased our "PR" problems a hundred, a thousand, fold, I'd be with you.

But this is way over-stating, I think:

...we wouldn't be facing any kind of "PR battle."

Before the Bush Administration, we didn't have to convince ourselves and most of the rest of the world that we weren't the bad guys.
That's just not true, particularly if we're talking about the Muslim/Arab world. The U.S. has had immense problems, for varying reasons, some good, some bad, in being seen as an imperialist nation ever since the Mexican-American War, then Manifest Destiny, the Spanish-American War, the conquest of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philipines, the engineering of the creation of Panama, and then on through the 20th century litany of Latin American interventions, through the supporting of various anti-communist right-wing dictators during the cold war, and on and on, as you know perfectly well. So, right there, we, as a nation, of course had huge PR problems with much of the world, particularly from 1952 onwards, the Guatamalan coup ousting Arbenz, the ousting of Mossedeq, and on and on and on.

Then there was the hatred of the U.S. in the Mideast and Islamic world since 1967, and 1973, and onwards, for giving varying, but increasing degrees of support for Israel (most of which I agree with, but to imply that this didn't cause huge problems for the U.S. before Bush is just, well, minimizing, shall we say).

And skipping the minor detail of Vietnam, and then the Reagan era, invading Panama and Grenada, the contras, etc., and jumping up to the Clinton Presidency, it's hardly as if, say, China was thrilled when we bombed their embassy (which I certainly do think was a genuine mistake -- but it was a pretty damn big mistake) in Serbia. I supported the Kosovo intervention, and bombing to oust Milosevic, but this didn't make us universally beloved by the world.

And, yeah, we were pretty well-hated in much of the Islamic and Arab world during the Clinton era. Did Bush make it endlessly, nearly infinitely worse? Of course. Which is why I'd agree with you if you'd said anything like that.

But to stretch it into "Before the Bush Administration, we didn't have to convince ourselves and most of the rest of the world that we weren't the bad guys" just crosses over into counter-factual, I'm afraid. It just isn't true, put anything like that absolutely. I'm sure you know this, once you stop to reconsider.

And after we get rid of Bush, until the desire to wipe out Israel, deny the Holocaust, etc., is mostly gone from the world, the U.S. is still going to be hated by a lot of people, and even when that happens, there will be plenty of people still mad at us in China, in Latin America, and elsewhere. Some for good reasons, based on bad things the U.S. has done in the past, some for not good reasons, such as some foreign governments using us a a convenient target of rallying nationalism, but it will still be the case for a long time to come, no matter how nice we are in our government's policies.

So, as regards this:

I have to insist that if we hadn't invaded Iraq and created what's largely viewed as the world's largest terrorist training camp over there, we wouldn't be facing any kind of "PR battle."
I have to respectfully suggest that this may be a considerable overstatement, perhaps? "Any"? How about just "nearly as much"?

Posted by: Gary Farber at February 17, 2006 08:47 PM

Gary - What I should have said, what my intent was, was to say that we "wouldn't be facing this PR problem." Meaning, we wouldn't be having to convince the world, including the Middle East, that our own illegal detentions, secret prisons, invasions of nonaggressive countries, and torture are morally superior to the behavior of militant religious extremists.

I'm aware that much of the USofA's history in the Middle East (and elsewhere) is not admirable. Most days I think all of this should be taken into account when deciding how we should behave. We have...much to answer for (and we're not the only country that does).

Other days, I swear I'd be perfectly happy if we'd just stop messing up now. I know that we can't change the past and I'd be content to know that our current and future mission was to do as little harm as we can while offering what aid and assistance other people want.

(The whole "Israel" issue in the Middle East is an entirely different can o'worms and this is a tiny comment box. I'll just point out, briefly, that Hamas didn't win the Palestinian election because the Palestinians are committed, heart and soul, to anti-Israel extremism. Hamas won because they're less corrupt than the previous government and because they've proven to the Palestinians that they can provide the social services that people want and need in order to go about their daily lives.)

I think we fall back on warfare because our own military and consequently the rest of our government really hasn't gotten past the pre-Cold War mindset. The one where we weren't locked into a long-term face-off with Evil Communism but were trying to kill it on battlefields. (I blame the rise of and the power of the neocons for this, but that's a different rant, too.)

We didn't kill Communism and we're not going to kill Islamic extremism.

You can't bomb ideas out of existence, but we keep trying.

Posted by: Anne at February 19, 2006 10:24 AM

"What I should have said, what my intent was, was to say that we "wouldn't be facing this PR problem.""

So I thought. :-) (As I've said, I'm very picky about wording; it's not particularly clear which is cause and which is effect in my having spent earlier years of my life as a copyeditor and proofreader, but I'm sure that my natural tendencies went perfectly with the work, and vice versa.)

"I'll just point out, briefly, that Hamas didn't win the Palestinian election because the Palestinians are committed, heart and soul, to anti-Israel extremism."

I realize you don't often, if at all, read my blog (and I confess that I've not scanned nor memorized more than a fraction of your own writing over the years, or recently -- okay, after torture, I confess that the amount I've memorized would be both unintentional and quite tiny indeed), but since the subject has arisen, just a few of my latest views and comments are (tangentially) here, (directly) here, here, here, here, here, here, and here,
if perhance you wishes to devote any time to finding out that this is not precisely news to me. :-)

I tend to read Israeli and Palestinian newspapers and sources on average of four days a week, as well as the usual several American papers (particularly NY Times and WaPo), several British papers, and various other foreign papers, plus a variety of magazine and journals on the Mideast, and have tended to follow Israeli/Palestinian news on that level via the internet for over a decade, and via weekly library visits, more weeks than not, for a couple of decades before that.

Just to give some context to how I tend to follow the relevant news.

I realize you're not aware of this, of course, though I'm a bit unsure what it was that I said that prompted the need to explain the PA elections to me. :-)

(General note, by the way: I tend to post about 99 times to disagree with something for every 1 time I post to agree with something, and I tend to, alas, be very flat in my statements when I disagree in writing with something/someone, so it's, alas, all too common that I wind up inadvertently pissing people off due to my lack of better control over my perceived tone (I'm somewhat better about this in person, though not perfectly so, to be sure); so if I do wind up sounding obnoxious, or as if I'm being snotty in disagreeing with something, I hope you'll keep in mind that in most cases I don't actually mean anything that way; not that I deserve to have excuses made for my lacking better control over my tone, but I'm just sayin' that I know it's a big weakness and flaw in my approach to writing and interacting in written form with people, despite my struggling to do better on those fronts for decades. But, in other words, if I post a string of disagreements with you, it doesn't actually mean I think you're a big stoopidhead and mostly wrong. :-) As a rule, I don't actually bother to engage with people I think those things of.)

Posted by: Gary Farber at February 19, 2006 07:33 PM

You're not being overly picky about wording. I was blogging too fast and made a very sloppy error.

I do read your blog although (cough) not as often or as thoroughly as I should. I don't read any blog as often or as thoroughly as I should.

I realize you're not aware of this, of course, though I'm a bit unsure what it was that I said that prompted the need to explain the PA elections to me. :-)

As so often happens with me, I wound up not so much addressing you as just ranting.

P.S. Upon occasion, I am a big stoopidhead. But I don't find you obnoxious. Just to add another, "me, too" note to this response, I generally find myself energized to comment on someone's blog when I disagree with them. Agreement is...well, if I agree, there's not much to say, is there?)

Posted by: Anne at February 20, 2006 08:25 PM