The Wench Who Wrecked a Thousand Ships
Blogger Spinx has a post up on Egyptian intellectual reaction to Hughes--inconsequential.
Corine Lesnes, LeMonde's Washington correspondent, relays the Arab perception of her--a clueless, bigoted and blinkered lightweight.
Washington struggles to improve its image in the Muslim and Arab World.
According to accounts in the press, she was not shy in displaying her amazement. What? Everyone doesn’t want to live like an American? During her first trip abroad ad the United States Image Ambassador, Karen Hughes had to face up to a new dimension in her mission.
Not only is attraction for America on the wane because of the war in Iraq, as Turkish students reminded her. The American dream and the civilization of the automobile doesn’t not attract all Saudi women either, despite the fact that they do not have the right to drive.
In Ankara, the last stop of her three-nation visit, the Deputy Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy was very directly challenged. As long as the war in Iraq continues, America cannot improve its image, said one association official during one encounter--and this was cited by the Associated Press. I am not anti-American but I am anti-war and anti-violence, said another. A third questioned the current philosophy behind US diplomacy: It is impossible to export freedom and democracy from one country to another.
At each encounter, Mrs. Hughes, who is close to President George Bush, answered by explaining that “no one likes war” but that her country believes that it is “sometimes necessary.” At each stop, she was hit with questions about Guantánamo, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Palestine…. A reported published on Wednesday 28 September in Washington by a committee of public diplomacy advisors headed by Colin Powell’s former departmental secretary, examines the phenomenon: America is less of a ray of hope than a dangerous force which must be resisted. This perception, repeated in the media and on the Internet, diminishes our capacity to promote freedom, democracy and personal dignity.
In Jeddah, the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mrs. Hughes was greeted at Dar al-Hekma University by five hundred female students dressed in black from head to toe. Members of the audience asked Americans to rethink their prejudices. The global perception of the Arab woman is that she is unhappy, said one student, cited by the New York Times. Well, we happen to be ecstatically happy. Another member of the audience, a professor, explained that it is not because women don’t have the right to vote or to drive doesn’t mean that they are in prison. We have never been forbidden to talk to the opposite sex. A women physician said she had no desire to drive.
Mrs. Hughes, 48, who likes to present herself as a typical mother with traditional American values, did not fail to stun her audience with her replies. Personally, she said, driving a car represents an important part of my freedom. The diplomat did not add, however, that Americans were recently chipping away at their freedom by driving less to reduce their consumption of gasoline as requested by the authorities. At the conclusion of the meeting, an Architecture student, veiled from head to toe, ventured to say: We can change, we will change but we don’t need someone to impose it on us from the outside.