Sunday, May 30, 2010

America's message to the "barbarian" Middle East

Al Jazeera's Jassim Azzawi hosted another amazing "Inside Iraq" discussion this week, which focused on Iraq's current position at a "crossroads". Of course, Fisk and Al Tikriti represent the local, Middle Eastern perspective, while Burkman is there to "speak for the Americans." And well, he did...

Not only did he call all the people in the Middle East "barbarians" living in the desert in the 6th century, but he also "admitted" that Bush and Cheney lied to the American people about the WMDs in Iraq, because they had to "change" the region. He also mentioned - just by the way - that Syria is not as important to American foreign policy, because it does not have oil.

Honest? Fair enough. Too blunt? Certainly. And, too sad for American public diplomacy, no matter the conceptualization of it. Yes, Burkman, a "premier political consultant and strategist" in Washington, certainly does not represent the official perspective of the American government. And yet, his profile and involvement, as well as the views he expresses, conspicuously reflect the line of the previous administration. What is more, he represents opinions held by a sizable chunk of the U.S. population. Is this the message that some of the American people want to send to the Arab world?

Of course, this instance is a show of freedom for diversity of opinion and freedom of expression in the U.S. But I am sure that the Arab (and not just Arab) viewers of this program do not get that far in appreciating these values when the message itself is so culturally insensitive and preposterous. Azzawi knew well whom to invite to his show - and thus prove, once again, on Al Jazeera the ridiculousness of the American situation in Iraq - but then, Burkman was well aware of it himself, I am sure. Yet, he decided to tow the line of his previous bosses. And once again, the American point of view was undermined as too uninformed, extremely narrow, and insensitive.

If only the Americans themselves watched this...


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