Even the Chinese can do better. The propaganda that is.
Nicholas D. Kristof’s “The Ring of Truth” is an engaging article on the
ridiculous propaganda warfare floundering from both sides of this conflict. When
the Iraqi Information Minister Mr. Shahaf describes how easy it was to route the
Americans, it was most certainly propaganda. And there are American propagandas
that bolster outrageous claims that no one buys into. Like the incredible Mr.
Shahaf’s exuberant hollow claim of victory in war, American war machine do not
have much credibility in the portrayal of the war as well.
It is not surprising that America is in the winning side.
It has superb technological advantage and also for last twelve years’ bitter
sanctions placed over Iraq made sure that Iraq could not mount any robust
resistance. Arundhati Roy grinded this point well:
“After using the "good offices" of UN
diplomacy (economic sanctions and weapons inspections) to ensure that Iraq was
brought to its knees, its people starved, half a million
of its children killed, its infrastructure severely damaged, after making sure
that most of its weapons have been destroyed, in an act of cowardice that must
surely be unrivalled in history, the "Allies"/"Coalition of the
Willing"(better known as the Coalition of the Bullied and Bought) - sent in
an invading army!Operation Iraqi Freedom? I don't think so. It's more like
Operation Let's Run a Race, but First Let Me Break Your Knees.”
Still the various news sources are depicting fierce
resistances in many parts of Iraq. There are a significant portion of Iraqi who
completely abhor and loathe Saddam Hossain and his autocratic regime. But this
ill-conceived war made many of them determined to fight back against the
invasion that has no practical international backing except Britain, Australia
and “microdot” islands in the Pacific. Nicholas Kristof writes, “The U.S.
effort to manufacture a huge global coalition involved an embarrassing effort to
recruit microdots in the Pacific, and the White House proudly put out a list of
supporting countries that included the Solomon Islands. When reporters asked the
Solomon Islands' prime minister about the support, he said he was
"completely unaware" of that. Even China's propaganda officials can do
better than that.“
Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
April 8, 2003
The Ring of Truth?
By NICHOLAS D.
The front line in the war for hearts
and minds in the Arab world and beyond is here, at the U.S. Central Command
headquarters and media center, and it's prettier than most battlefields. The
stage that the generals speak from each day was built for the government by a
showbiz professional at a cost of $250,000, and it's as high-tech as an Abrams
But not, unfortunately, as
One of America's most historic and
bipartisan traditions is to do an execrable job explaining itself to the world.
The average Fortune 500 company is far more sophisticated at getting its message
across abroad than the U.S. government has been.
To its great credit, the Bush
administration gets this. From President Bush on down, particularly since 9/11,
the administration has scrambled to win over folks in Yemen and Pakistan and
Indonesia as if they were Florida voters. Mr. Bush hounds cabinet members to
give interviews to Al Jazeera television, a new White House office flatters
foreign reporters by spinning them, and the U.S. began Radio Sawa to seduce
Iraqis and other Arabs with sirens like Jennifer Lopez. The brilliant system of
embedding journalists in U.S. military units includes Arab journalists.
"By improving the way you get
your message across, you have the ability to save lives," notes Jim
Wilkinson, a former White House press official who is running the Central
Command's P.R. campaign. And he's absolutely right: the battle for global
opinion is less dramatic than the one in Baghdad but no less important.
President Bush's determination to
sell the U.S., and its product of the season — the war in Iraq — to a
skeptical Muslim world is evident here in Qatar, a flat expanse of desert that
peeps out of the turquoise waters of the gulf. Telegenic generals like Vincent
Brooks were chosen to be the congenial face of the American Imperium, the
briefings are translated simultaneously into Arabic, and Al Jazeera was assigned
a front-row seat for the briefings (The New York Times is in the second row).
The generals have just borrowed a
couple of Arabic-speaking diplomats from the State Department to spin Arabs in
their own language, and the experts have been coaching pronunciations: General
Brooks is no longer pronouncing the town of Umm Qasr as Umm Qazir (which sounds
like the Arabic for "filthy mother").
So why does everybody still hate us?
Even in Britain, one of the rare countries where a traveling American isn't
tempted to seek camouflage by donning an "O Canada" T-shirt, a poll
last week found that fewer than one person in seven trusts President Bush to
tell the truth.
The central problem was underscored
for me by a Chinese journalist who sat next to me during a U.S. military
briefing here in Doha.
"This is propaganda," he
said brightly. "I was born and grew up in a propaganda country, and so I
know it well." He beamed. "Actually, they do the propaganda very well,
better than we do it. We in China can learn from this propaganda."
Fundamentally, the administration's
overseas efforts resemble those of the Chinese Communist Party: excellent
effort, lousy execution. The Bush administration knows how important this issue
is (which the Clinton administration never did), but there's a Beijing-style
rah-rah self-righteousness, too earnest by half, so the propaganda fizzles, even
from a $250,000 stage.
Moreover, as Raghida Dergham, a
columnist for Al Hayat, an Arabic newspaper published in London, notes,
"It's the policy, stupid." Arab perceptions of America are framed by
Mr. Bush's coziness with Ariel Sharon. No amount of spin can soften that; it
will take a serious and balanced Middle East peace initiative of the kind that
Tony Blair is urging.
When he was secretary of state,
James Baker was a master of both policy and spin. He had a light touch and could
spin reporters like Ping-Pong balls; these days, we Ping-Pong balls just feel
At U.S. briefings, from Mr. Bush on
down, we're always on plan, and our coalitions are always the largest in
history. The U.S. effort to manufacture a huge global coalition involved an
embarrassing effort to recruit microdots in the Pacific, and the White House
proudly put out a list of supporting countries that included the Solomon
Islands. When reporters asked the Solomon Islands' prime minister about the
support, he said he was "completely unaware" of that.
Even China's propaganda officials
can do better than that.