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Arab Governments win the battle for the “Hearts and Minds” in America! Print E-mail
By Omran Salman
November, 2007


The news of the resignation of Karen Hughes, the official responsible for American Public Diplomacy, who had the task of improving the image of America abroad, especially in the Middle East, was received with relative quiet. This was in contrast to the news of her appointment to the position in 2005, which enjoyed wide coverage and high hopes. 
  
But Hughes failed in her mission, though with distinction, and it is expected, or so it is hoped, that this failure will deliver a severe shock to American diplomacy that may perhaps awaken it from the delusions and bureaucracy that are firmly established in the corridors of the Department of State.

In any case it was not destined that Hughes would succeed in "winning the hearts and minds of the Arabs" in all circumstances, and this has nothing to do with her skills or her competence.
  
 According to Reuters article that reported her resignation, Hughes is known for her fast-talking, enthusiastic style, a trait that was not always well received, particularly in the Middle East.
  
 But this is not the reason, of course. The distorted image of the United States – in the Arab world, at least – is not due to lack of information about the motives and nature of American foreign policy, and not because the Arab citizens have insufficient information about American life, or the laws or institutions of the United States.
  
The residents of the Arab world do not live on another planet, and they are not isolated from the revolution of rapid communication, technology and the internet, where anyone can push a button and get the information he wants. Many Arabs have visited the United States or have a relatives or friends living in America.
  
The real reason is that the distortion of the image of the United States has become a political objective of Arab governments in their struggle for survival, and a tool to banish the specter of democracy and change in the Arab region. 
  
Those carrying out the smear campaign are primarily autocratic Arab regimes, as represented by Ministries of Information. They decided to make the United States pay the price for toppling one of their regimes – the regime of Saddam Hussein – and then calling for reform in the region. 
  
To this end they poisoned the views and ideas in the Arab world and filled the minds of the people with such extraordinary superstitions, fantasies and conspiracy theories, which begin with the accusation that the CIA and the Jews masterminded the attacks of September 11 and do not end with the "crusader war" that President George Bush declared on the Islamic world. 
  
What those conducting American Public Diplomacy do not realize is that, in the Arab world, there is little that take place by chance. 
  
When Karen Hughes visited a school in an Arab capital, to meet with the pupils, or a social institution to meet with its employees, she thought that people were speaking naturally and revealing what they actually believe – their opinions, in fact – especially toward the United States. 
  
Such things may happen in America, where people are free in what they believe and what they say, but it is naive to assume that the same thing happens in the Arab world.
  
In the Arab world there are a number of authorities that intervene to shape people’s views and impose on them what they say. First, there is the information authority, for the most part owned by the government or by agencies close to it, and this information, whether it comes through what resembles news or opinions, teaches people negative views of the United States day and night. 
  
Then there is the imam of the mosque, and he is generally a government official, and it is not possible for him to leave the curses of the Jews and the Nazarenes (Christians) and global arrogance – at its head America, of course! -- out of his sermons. 
  
And then there is the school – a government institution – which programs the pupils from childhood on to be hostile toward everything non-Arab and non-Muslim, and programs them to believe in declaring other Muslims apostates and infidels, and in the jihad, and in the restoration of the caliphate and revival of Arab and Islamic glory – to which the West stands as a barrier! 
  
Instead researching the true reasons for the distortion of America’s image in the Arab world and presenting a list of the organizations and individuals who are engaging the distortion – which in any case takes place in the light of day and openly – instead of that, those who carry out American Public Diplomacy have allowed the Arab governments and their corrupt and despotic agencies deceive them, and then on their part have attempted to deceive American public opinion.
  
What they do not know is that they have become a joke in the Arab world, subject to jest and ridicule from all sides.
  
What is the most surprising is that some American politicians have adopted the same sermons repeated by Arab governments, about how the problems of the United States in the Arab world are caused by its the position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
  
Others go on about the necessity of dealing with Islamist groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, in hope of recovering "America’s lost prestige." 
  
Thus, instead of the United States winning the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims, the Arab governments and Muslim Brotherhood have ensnared the hearts and minds of many of the diplomats in the American Department of State, and some of the influential research institutes in Washington.
  
Omran Salman is editor-in-chief of Aafaq website
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