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US Diplomatic Honesty Gets Hit & ME Reaction

Some might say invading on a fabricated tissue of mendacity, moving
viceroys into presidential palaces, dismantling an entire army,
dismissing civil servants, distributing crony reconstruction contracts,
inserting puppet governments, shooting civilians at checkpoints,
sexually abusing prisoners, torturing, murdering and raping could be
construed as a teeny-weeny bit "arrogant".

from the October 24, 2006 edition -
http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1024/p10s01-woiq.html



   Senior US diplomat's candor gets play in the Middle East, ire at home

*Alberto Fernandez has recanted comments that US moves in Iraq show
'arrogance' and 'stupidity.'*

*By Dan Murphy* | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

*CAIRO*

When senior State Department official Alberto Fernandez said in an
interview on Al Jazeera Saturday that US policies in Iraq have been
marked by "arrogance" and "stupidity," he was expressing a sentiment
widely held in the Arab world.

To many Arabs, it was a stunning moment of candor. It led front pages of
newspapers across the region. Mr. Fernandez - whose fluent Arabic and
dozens of regional television appearances have made him the voice of
American policy to millions in the Middle East - struck the sort of tone
that public policy experts say the US needs if it is to regain some of
its credibility in Arab eyes.

The only problem was, his comments were immediately disavowed by the
Bush Administration. Now the future of Fernandez - one of America's most
potent public diplomacy weapons in the region - is clouded, and the Arab
view of an America that admits to no mistakes has become more entrenched.

Fernandez's primary job is to book American officials on Arab programs,
but with most officials reluctant to appear on Arab-language television,
particularly on Al Jazeera, which many US officials view with barely
disguised loathing, he's been mostly booking himself, doing at least 100
interviews this year.

In a laudatory piece on his efforts in Newsweek this August, Fernandez
poked fun at himself. "I'm Cuban,'' he told the magazine, referring to
his heritage. "We can't close our big mouths."

But after his latest foray, State Department officials in Washington say
Fernandez has, in effect, been told to recant his remarks. At first,
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Fernandez's comments were
mistranslated.

Then, when an unimpeachable translation of his remarks was produced by
the Associated Press, Fernandez was told by his bosses to disavow his
comments. In a statement released by the State Department, Fernandez is
quoted as saying: "I seriously misspoke by using the phrase 'there has
been arrogance and stupidity by the US in Iraq.' This represents neither
my views, or those of the State Department."

Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert and political science professor at
Williams College whose latest book, "Voices of the New Arab Public,"
examines the role Al Jazeera and other media play in shaping Arab views,
says it appears that Fernandez is being slapped down by the
administration for his comments. He worries that could end up seriously
undermining American outreach efforts in the region.

"If you can say: 'Yeah, the security situation in Iraq isn't very good
and we've made a lot of mistakes, but now we have to get everyone on
board to find solutions,' you're going to be much more effective," says
Lynch. "The real impact to worry about here is whether future public
diplomacy people take away the message that if they display the
slightest amount of honesty, they're doomed."

By now, the view that the US has made major mistakes in Iraq is hardly
news. It's something that's been acknowledged in print by former senior
officials of the US administration there, and retired military generals
who served there.

Lost in the furor over Fernandez's remarks - from right-wing blogs
calling for his head to those on the left using it as fodder to claim
that US policy in Iraq has been a disaster - has been the meat of his
comments, which were designed to encourage constructive engagement in
the region.

"There is no doubt that there is plenty of room for blame ... but we
haven't focused enough on the future and the possibility of failure in
Iraq,'' Fernandez told Al Jazeera in remarks later translated by the
Associated Press. "We must all focus on saving Iraq for the sake of the
Iraqi people and for our sakes, us in the West, and also you in the Arab
world. I know that sometimes there is a kind of gloating in the Arab
world that America has problems in Iraq ... [but] we must think of the
Iraqi people, the Arabs, the Muslims, and the citizens of Iraq more than
gloating about the United States."

"[Fernandez] has developed a reputation for being candid and blunt, and
he'll often say things that aren't particularly popular at home, but
that's earned him a reputation for being a little looser and a little
more honest, and I think that helps him to get his point across," in the
Middle East says Mr. Lynch. "The stuff he's getting pilloried for was
setting the stage for getting across a message that's very important for
the United States."

Full HTML version of this story which may include photos, graphics, and
related links <http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1024/p10s01-woiq.html>

==============================================
{sample of mid east reactions.. fyi }




 What arrogance and stupidity?
 <http://archive.gulfnews.com/opinion/columns/region/10076975.html>

http://archive.gulfnews.com/opinion/columns/region/10076975.html

10/23/2006 08:19 PM | By Linda S. Heard, Special to Gulf News

What could US State Department official Alberto Fernandez possibly have
meant when he blamed his own government for "arrogance" and "stupidity"
in Iraq? The White House is so overcome with disbelief that its
spokesmen are claiming Fernandez' words were lost in translation as he
was, after all, speaking in Arabic for the benefit of Al Jazeera's viewers.

That must be it then. Fernandez probably meant "conceited" and just
plain "dumb" when we take into the account the richly textured nuances
of the Arabic language. But let's stick with the official version.
According to the Encarta Dictionary, "arrogance" equates to "a strong
feeling of proud self-importance that is expressed by treating other
people with contempt or disregard". How does that fit?

Some might say invading on a fabricated tissue of mendacity, moving
viceroys into presidential palaces, dismantling an entire army,
dismissing civil servants, distributing crony reconstruction contracts,
inserting puppet governments, shooting civilians at checkpoints,
sexually abusing prisoners, torturing, murdering and raping could be
construed as a teeny-weeny bit "arrogant".

Moving on to "stupidity" which the Encarta defines as a "lack of
intelligence, perception, or common sense" it seems to me that the Bush
administration is guilty as charged. The belief that Iraqis would relish
being referred to as "rag-heads" by their trigger-happy occupiers and
turn into Sweden overnight showed an extreme lack of intelligence,
perception and common sense on the part of Washington's armchair warriors.

Now a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Senator Jack Reed
has added a new addition to the pessimistic lexicon describing Bush's
Iraq policy as a "failure".

*Anarchy and chaos*

Waging a war of choice and sacrificing 665,000 lives - not to mention
$336 billion - in the name of democracy when all that has been achieved
is anarchy and chaos could, indeed, fall into the failure category.

Aficionados of the neoconservative creed may still believe the end is
worth the means but, in truth, the future looks gloomy. According to the
United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than three million Iraqis
forced to flee their homes are facing "a very bleak future".

At the same time, Iraq's health service has disintegrated due to the
deaths of over 2,000 doctors and nurses while 18,000 medical personnel
have fled.

Billions earmarked to reconstruct clinics and hospitals have disappeared
into the ether and essential equipments and drugs are simply not
available. Patrick Cockburn, writing in the Independent, says Iraq's
hospitals are now "a battleground in the bloody civil war".

Even America's Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush is no longer able to
spin the situation on the ground. During a television interview, he
hesitantly agreed with New York Times' columnist Thomas L. Friedman's
comment (published also in Gulf News on October 19 titled "Barney and
Baghdad") that Iraq was the "jihadist equivalent" of the Tet Offensive
in Vietnam - credited for turning public opinion against the war .

The president was only making the point that "the enemy is trying to
affect the psyche of Americans", later explained one of the loyal White
House spinmeisters in a valiant attempt at damage control.

But there surely comes a point when no amount of sugar-coating will
work. A leaked report from the Iraq Study Group, set up by Congress and
headed by James Baker, rejects the argument for "staying the course". It
even goes as far as to suggest Iraq's neighbours, Iran and Syria, should
be drawn into the equation. America's allies are emerging out of their
sycophantic stupor too.

*Terrorist threat*

A respected Australian former diplomat Richard Woolcott said the war has
increased the terrorist threat to his country. While calling for an
urgent exit strategy he accused the US, Britain and Australia of "having
made a catastrophic foreign and security policy blunder" that has them
"trapped in a dilemma of their own making".

Head of the British Army General Sir Richard Dannatt went a step further
calling for the withdrawal of occupation troops whose presence, he says,
exacerbates security problems.

"We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their
country are quite clear," he said. "As a foreigner, you can be welcomed
by being invited into a country, but we weren't invited, certainly by
those in Iraq at the time. Let's face it. The military campaign we
fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in."

Finally someone at the top has not only got it but is prepared to put
his neck on the line to deliver the message. In the face of so much
overwhelming evidence and analysis put forward by respected diplomats,
generals, intelligence agencies and think tanks will Bush reconsider his
strategy?

Despite conferring with his top advisers and generals last week, the
answer is a resounding no. The mission is "clear and unchanging" said
Bush. "Our goal is victory" and we will "not pull our troops off the
battlefield before the mission is complete".

Where is Alberto Fernandez when he's needed? If that isn't arrogance and
stupidity then I don't know what is. How many Iraqi civilians and
soldiers need to be sacrificed just to save George W. Bush's face? With
the mid-term elections on the horizon let's hope Bush and the loyalists
within his government and party get to pay a long overdue price.



/Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can
be contacted at lheard@gulfnews.com/

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