Wednesday, April 9
The Ring of Truth?
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, April 2003
DOHA, Qatar--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 tank.
But not, unfortunately, as effective.
... 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). .... ... 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 found last week that fewer than one person in seven trusted 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."