Monday, July 18, 2005

Winning the hearts and minds

It seems that things are getting worse in Iraq, almost by the day, with a number of people talking about civil war and chaos, including Ali al-Sistani. The flypaper theory hasn't worked out so well, as it turns out - witness the bombings in London. And even if it were true that the terrorists were doing what the administration wanted - going to Iraq and lining up in front of U.S. soldiers to be shot while throwing flowers at them - the likelihood of them doing no harm to the Iraqis in the process seems low.

In any event, any war must include propaganda - even wars that were fairly popular, such as the Milagro-Beanfield War, or the War of the Roses, or Wargames. So some time back, you might remember, George Bush took dramatic action: he appointed Karen Hughes to be in charge of our outreach to the Arab and Islamic world, doing so because of her qualifications including loyalty, sycophancy, and general servility. (She doesn't seem to have started yet, but hey, not like there's a war going on.)

So the administration is concerned about our image in the world. And given the general control that the White House has over the Republican party - witness the politicians sent out to defend Rove - one might think they could exercise some discipline in the ranks. But then there's Tom Tancredo. I once thought he was an intriguing character, largely because his unabashed dislike of brown people might help to throw a wrench in the Republican efforts to win over Latinos. Turns out, though, that his dislike doesn't only apply to immigrant groups loathed by the basest base of all - he actually said that if terrorists used a nuclear weapon on the U.S., we might respond by, say, nuking Mecca.

"Talk show host Pat Campbell asked the Littleton Republican how the country should respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.
"Well, what if you said something like -- if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered.
"You're talking about bombing Mecca," Campbell said.
"Yeah," Tancredo responded.
The congressman later said he was "just throwing out some ideas" and that an "ultimate threat" might have to be met with an "ultimate response."

Some fun could be had with this - Bush could be asked if he condemned this, Dean could talk about Republican congressmen advocating mass-murder, etc., etc., but in all serious, this is not good. When that Boykins chap was saying, "My god is the true god, Islam's is an idol," you can bet your bottom dollar that it got all sorts of mileage in the Islamic world - and rightly so. Now you've got someone who was actually elected to Congress appearing to advocate the nuclear annihilation of Mecca based on the behavior of terrorists.

I suppose it might be funny if it weren't so fucked up. Any time someone criticizes the war effort, or talks about how repugnant the behavior of some US troops guarding unarmed prisoners has been, the chattering masses of Brooks, Leos, Broders, and Limbaughs scream bloody murder - why? It is a propaganda weapon, they say - it puts our troops at risk. Here you've got a member of the president's party, who is an elected official, doing something with a lot more negative propaganda value than what Durbin did. And I would be willing to bet money that he doesn't much more than a slap on the wrist from the powers that be in the Republican party, and that Rush Limbaugh and his ilk see his rhetoric and up him a Medina.
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