Media Matters has the details.
Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes heads off to the Middle East this weekend for a round of public diplomacy. Think Progress has obtained this internal memorandum sent from Hughes to National Security Council Principals earlier this month entitled “Thinking ‘bigger.’”
A key section of this memo offers the Bush administration’s strategy for “Public Diplomacy to Counter Insurgency in Iraq.” Far from “thinking bigger,” the recommendations for defeating the insurgency are small-minded, unambitious, and disconnected from reality. Here are Hughes’ three ideas:
– Create a fund to support media projects by Iraqis, such as documentaries, short films, animation, audio-visual productions and other material that would show Iraq’s reality to pan-Arab and pan-Islamic audiences.
– Revive book publishing in Iraq to fill the intellectual vacuum…and support…Iraq’s hard-pressed intellectuals.
See the full memo HERE.
These are all nice ideas in theory, but the problems affecting Iraqi society go much deeper and are far more serious that the administration wants to admit. Iraq is in a state of endemic chaos, marked by four raging internal conflicts, ethnic cleansing, and few significant advances in Iraq’s economic reconstruction.
These recommendations fail to scratch the surface of the underlying problems and do not address what the recent Iraq NIE described as “a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world.” Hughes’ memo sadly reveals that the administration is not “thinking big” enough about the problems resulting from our current occupation of Iraq. To get things right in Iraq, we need to embrace a complete shift in strategy and adopt a policy of strategic redeployment.
I went to see this “controversial” fake documentary about the October 2007 assassination of George W. Bush and I can ensure you that, contrary to Robert Reich’s fears, it’s in no way incitement to kill the president or advocacy of the same. It rather soberly posits that elevating Dick Cheney to the White House through acts of political violence would not achieve anything worthwhile. For the first two-thirds or so of the film, moreover, it’s got a lot of very clever, highly enjoyable filmmaking techniques, using clever editing and pastiche techniques to insert fictional people into scenes with the real White House staff, repurposing footage of Ronald Reagan’s funeral as Cheney’s eulogy for Bush, things like that. Near the end, it really drags as they develop a not-so-interesting plotline about the investigation into the assassin’s identity.
54 percent of Americans think the economy is getting worse. And Friday, the Commerce Department reported that “U.S. economic growth slowed during the summer to its lowest growth rate in three years” — 1.6 percent — “amid a slump in the housing sector.”
The conservative response? Blame the media. On Fox News yesterday, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said “a bigger story is that so much of the media – and I don’t put Fox News in this category – has constantly talked down this economy.” “Believe me, if we were in the mid-90s, Bill Clinton was president,” Blunt said, “I am convinced there would be a totally different national media coverage by most of the media of this economy.”
The economic data points to a slumping economy that is squeezing the poor and the middle class. Wages are stagnating, poverty rates are climbing, family debt is rising, and the housing market is slowing.
Transcript: Read more
Business seems to be heding its bets more firmly, ramping up late donations to the Democrats who, it seems, a lot of major business PACs expect to take over the House. This, of course, raises the question of exactly how in hock to K Street Democrats intend to make themselves if they do take over. Thanks to the party’s more diverse interest-group base, the Democrats are inevitably going to be less of a front for the business lobby than the GOP but there’s still a widish range of possibilities out there.
Tyler Cowen remarked offhand the other day that “The long-term consequences of a slightly lower growth rate are in any case troubling, no matter how well a society works at any moment in time.” Will Wilkinson made the case for economic growth at some length on the Cato blog. And, certainly, a rapidly growing economy is an excellent thing to have and I’m not the sort of person inclined to say, “hey — we’re really rich by historical standards, let’s leave well enough alone.” Still, it doesn’t make much sense to look at something and proclaim it good and important without saying good and important compared to what. The issue, always, is what kind of tradeoffs people think we’re making, or could make, and what are the merits of those tradeoffs.
To take an example, at least part of the reason France is poorer than the United States is that the French policy environment is designed in a variety of ways (workweek limitations, vacation mandates, etc.) to encourage people to spend less time working and more time engaged in leisure than is the American policy environment. France could generate more GDP by shifting policies to encourage people to spend more time doing paid, market workand less time doing other stuff.
The American policy climate is much more work-oriented but we, too, have failed to adopt work-maximizing policies. Surely if we thought about it creatively, we could come up with lots of ways to get people doing more paid work and less other stuff.
I’m perhaps the least craft-handy person on the planet, so let me attest that Martha Stewart’s paper snowflake instructions are really helpful. If, that is, for some reason you find yourself wanting to make some paper snowflakes. Also — Dick Cheney still loves torture and George W. Bush’s foreign policy is so terrible that even top State Department aides need to keep saying it’s terrible.
“Vice President Cheney said yesterday that he was not referring to an interrogation technique known as ‘waterboarding’ when he told an interviewer this week that dunking terrorism suspects in water was a ‘no-brainer.’” Read the transcript and judge for yourself.
President Bush has consistently said that his strategy in Iraq is dictated by military officials on the ground. Last night on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, columnist Mark Shields revealed that one of the “highest ranking men” in the military has recommended removing all U.S. troops from Baghdad. Here’s the key excerpt:
MARK SHIELDS: The highest ranking or certainly one of the highest ranking men in the United States military today has recommended that we remove all troops from Baghdad, all American troops from Baghdad…All of the troops out of Baghdad, secure the road to the airport, secure the oil fields and the borders, and say that the pacification and the maintaining of order in Baghdad is the responsibility of the Iraqis. That is the recommendation of probably one of the most — probably the most respected man in uniform today.
JIM LEHRER: You mean in uniform, serving on active duty today?
MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.
JIM LEHRER: So who did he make this recommendation to?
MARK SHIELDS: He made it to the civilian leadership of the United States.
If Shields’ report is true it represents an acknowledgment by the military that the conspicuous presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is actually making the situation worse. This is one of the core rationales of the American Progress plan, Strategic Redeployment.
The annual ‘Treehouse of Horror’ Halloween episode of FOX’s The Simpsons, set to air Nov. 5, will “parody the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.” Titled “The Day the Earth Was Stupid,” the segment “recalls the panic caused by Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, only this time aliens Kang and Kodos capitalize on the confusion by invading Springfield.”