Tuesday 25th of June 2024

losing hearts & minds .....

losing hearts & minds .....

Karen Hughes, one of the bushit administration's longest-serving employees & a member of his "inner-circle" from his days in Texas, resigned yesterday as Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy & Public Affairs for the State Department.  

Hughes was tapped by Bush in 2005 to "improve America's image" & "foster a sense of common interests & common values between Americans and people of different countries."  

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised Hughes's work, saying: "If I could put on one sheet all of the things that Karen has achieved, I would do so, but it would take me a quite long time to talk about her achievements." White House Press Secretary Dana Perino added that "[Karen Hughes] has done amazing work." In reality, Hughes leaves a State Department that is struggling to mend its reputation following the Blackwater USA scandal & that is, by the administration's own standards, failing at one of its most important tasks: winning the "hearts and minds" of people around the globe.  

In March 2006, then Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stated: "If I were grading, I would say we probably deserve a D or a D-plus as a country as to how well we're doing in the battle of ideas that's taking place in the world today." 

During Hughes's tenure at the State Department, one of her primary objectives was to "improve America's image abroad." Yet America's image has been in an almost continual decline globally since Hughes took the position.  

A PIPA poll shows that since 2005, when Hughes took the position with the State Department, the percentage of people globally who believe that the US represents a positive influence on the world dropped from 40 to 29 percent, while the percentage of people who feel the United States has a negative influence rose from 46 to 52 percent. In the Middle East, opinion of the United States has dropped dramatically during the Bush presidency.

The United Arab Emirates, Egypt & Turkey, who have all historically been supportive of the US, give approval ratings of 25, 11 & seven percent, respectively. The majority of Iraqis favor immediate withdrawal of US troops.

Hughes's position was primarily a public relations job & the State Department has not made her task any easier lately. Following the deadly September shootout in Baghdad involving Blackwater, The New York Times reported that Iraqi citizens made virtually no distinction between US troops & Blackwater guards, so that any black mark on Blackwater's record would directly affect Iraqi perceptions of the US. 

Even with this knowledge, the State Department "promised" legal immunity to Blackwater guards, despite Iraqi calls for prosecution and justice. "Three senior law enforcement officials said all the Blackwater bodyguards involved - both in the vehicle convoy & in at least two helicopters above - were given the legal protections as investigators from the [State Department] sought to find out what happened." These revelations occured as the Iraqi government demanded "the right to launch its own prosecution of the Blackwater bodyguards." The Iraqi people have made clear their opinion on foreign mercenaries operating without oversight in their country, but the bushit administration seems intent on ignoring their opinions to protect Blackwater, further harming the perception of the United States' in Iraq.  

Even within the State Department, the bushit administration is failing to win "hearts and minds." "Facing staff shortages in Iraq, the State Department announced Friday that diplomats would have no choice but to accept one-year postings in the hostile environment or face losing their jobs."  

Foreign Service members yesterday voiced opposition to subjecting themselves to the life-threatening disaster that US troops face every day. In a "contentious" hour-long "town hall meeting," several hundred US diplomats "vented anger & frustration Wednesday about the State Department's decision...with some likening it to a 'potential death sentence.'" Jack Crotty, a senior foreign service officer explained: "It's one thing if someone believes in what's going on over there & volunteers, but it's another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment. I'm sorry, but basically that's a potential death sentence & you know it." 

And, if more proof of the decline in the popularity of the US is required, consider the fact that the number of foreign visitors to the United States has plummeted since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York & Washington because foreigners don't feel welcome, according to tourism professionals.  

The decline has cost the US "94 billion dollars in lost visitor spending, nearly 200,000 jobs & 16 billion dollars in lost tax revenue."