Thursday, October 11, 2007

Retro Garlic: Karen Hughes, Our National Tupperware Lady

Well, Well, Well ... Our soccer-Mom-loving, globe-trotting, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Karen Hughes, is getting some much-deserved attention today.

Sidney Blumenthal, over on Salon, penned "An open letter to Karen Hughes", urging Ms. Hughes about "Your duty is to defend America's reputation in the world. To do so, you must persuade the Bush administration to renounce its abhorrent and hypocritical policy on torture."

The letter is an invitation to Hughes, to attend the opening of a new documentary, "Taxi to the Dark Side", which Blumenthal tells our intrepid diplomat "The film has been described by the New York Times as "a meticulous examination of American policy on the interrogation of prisoners. It traces the scandals at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere to official changes of policy originating in the vice president's office and approved by the secretary of defense. We see documents listing approved methods of interrogation, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning."

Then he explains;

Your complicity in the torture policy is one reason that I am writing you. Despite the futility of those inside the administration in bringing the problem to you, you still remain in place to redress it. As the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, responsible for defending America's reputation in the world, you must engage the issue that has most seriously damaged our image. Your obligation will continue so long as you hold your post. Those who care about the good name of the United States will not cease viewing you as a last resort, even if you disdain or ignore them, because they cling to the desperate hope that a nagging conscience or its sudden awakening will compel you actually to do your job.

And, he compliments Hughes on getting her crony position;
The genius of your appointment is that the president and his advisors understood ahead of time that they would need your services to repair the nation's reputation. After all, this position has never existed before; and it has never been so drastically needed. While it is true that there have been organizations within the government, such as U.S. Information Agency, under directors such as Edward R. Murrow and John Chancellor, that built libraries and conducted international educational exchanges, the idea of a public diplomacy czar is novel. Having someone to paper over the country's mistakes by telling people what they should think despite the reality would in the past have been considered undemocratic. Form and content, it would have been said, needed to complement each other. But your position is one in which form and content (words and deeds) stand in opposition to each other. Ironically, therefore, your job has never been more important than now.

Then, some parting advice;
While you are rethinking how to calm fears and rebuild America's image as a global leader perhaps you ought to begin to think of yourself not as a tool of the Bush administration but as a citizen of the world, not as a propagandist, constantly trying to formulate a hollow ideological phrase or distraction, but as someone who can admit mistakes and correct them.

If you receive this letter as simply a partisan broadside and can't envision your transformation into a true diplomat at large, an envoy of healing, perhaps you should just resign. Nothing will be served by continuing on your current course. Nothing different will happen. You might as well return to Texas now. To date, your diplomacy has consisted of excuses for leaving the damage to the next president to remedy.

The Retro Part

The Garlic also noted Ms. Hughes rise to power, from Bush aide to Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, shortly after we launched, in which one Arab League official offered "When America starts talking about planting the seeds of democracy, that's usually our sign to start building our bomb shelters";

Bush Appointment Has Mid-East Fearful With New Hughes Role

Then, a few months later, after she was confirmed, we got the real scoop on her work;

Hughes Makes Official Debut With Mid-East Jaunt; Fall Tupperware Line Just In; Says Flood Victims could have "saved heirlooms"

Karen Hughes, Our National Tupperware Lady!

Bonus Karen Crony Links

Juliette Kayyem: Karen of Arabia

The Moderate Voice: Ripken Diplomacy

The Belgravia Dispatch: Great Moments in Public Diplomacy

Fred Kaplan: Karen Hughes, Stay Home!; What on earth is she doing in the Middle East?

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