Friday, September 30, 2005

Karen Hughes blows up New York subway: kills 20 

Since the dawn of thought there have been great insoluble philosophic conundra: form/substance, existence/essence, The Holy Trinity, angels on the head of a pin, etc. Since the 2000 election we've been able to add one more to the list: Whether the Bushites are evil or extremely stupid. We may now have some evidence to tilt the balance firmly in one direction and settle this controversy once and for all.

Currently competing for Douglas Feith's title of "fucking stupidest guy on the face of the planet" is Karen Hughes. Karen as you know was Bush's chief election propagandist. She has now been tasked with propagandizing the entire Middle East because the people we've been killing and torturing are too dumb to understand that the people torturing and killing them are really very nice. It's a branding problem you see.

Branding is a very complex concept which many people go to school for years to learn how to do. You really have to have an MBA to understand it all. But perhaps a brief analogy would help the lay reader. Imagine that, say, Pepsi wasn't putting cola into Pepsi cans but was instead filling them with hydrochloric acid. People who bought the cans and drank the acid tended to have their insides disintegrate and die convulsively vomiting blood. Other people who had remained alive would think that Pepsi was maybe a little worse than Coke and probably wouldn't buy it. Pepsi loses popularity. Pepsi has what's known in the biz as a "branding problem". This must be solved by a technique known as "rebranding". In this example the best way to rebrand Pepsi would be to print a new colorful graphic on the can and instead of calling it "Pepsi" call it something else, something more positive, like "Pepsi Good". That way no one will ever imagine that it is the acid that is causing them such excruciating pain. After all it says "good" on the can, how could it be bad?

Mrs. Hughes is doing a similar thing with U.S. foreign policy:

This week, Hughes embarked on her first trip as undersecretary. Her initial statement resembled an elementary school presentation: "You might want to know why the countries. Egypt is, of course, the most populous Arab country... Saudi Arabia is our second stop; it's obviously an important place in Islam and the keeper of its two holiest sites ... Turkey is also a country that encompasses people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, and yet is proud of the saying that 'All are Turks'."


Hughes's simple, sincere and unadorned language reveals the administration's inner mind. Her ideas on terrorism and its solution are straightforward. "Terrorists," she said, "their policies force young people, other people's daughters and sons, to strap on bombs and blow themselves up." That is: somehow, magically, these evil-doers coerce the young to commit suicide. If only they would understand us, the tensions would dissolve.

"Many people around the world do not understand the important role that faith plays in Americans' lives," she said. When an Egyptian opposition leader inquired why Mr Bush mentions God in his speeches, Hughes asked him whether he was aware that "previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our constitution cites 'one nation under God'."

"Well, never mind," he said.

With these well-meaning arguments, Hughes has provided the exact proofs for Bin Laden's claims about American motives. "It is stunning to the extent Hughes is helping bin Laden," says Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who has conducted extensive research into the motives of suicide terrorists and is the author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. "If you set out to help bin Laden," he says, "you could not have done it better than Hughes."
Pape's research debunks the view that suicide terrorism is the natural byproduct of Islamic fundamentalism or some "Islamo-fascist" ideological strain, independent of certain highly specific circumstances.

"Of the key conditions that lead to suicide terrorism in particular, there first must be the presence of foreign combat forces on the territory that the terrorists prize. The second condition is a religious difference between the combat forces and the local community. The religious difference matters in that it enables terrorist leaders to paint foreign forces as being driven by religious goals.

"If you read Osama's speeches, they begin with descriptions of the US occupation of the Arabian peninsula driven by our religious goals and that it is our religious purpose that must be confronted. That argument is incredibly powerful, not only to religious Muslims but also secular Muslims. Everything Hughes says makes their case."

To return to our analogy this would be as if Pepsi had actually made a can with a drab graphic with the new name "Pepsi Bad". Then people would have no choice but to think that the Pepsi acid was indeed liquefying their bowels and killing them. Obviously Karen doesn't know too much about branding even though she's head of branding in a major federal agency. Clearly Ms. Hughes needs to spend less time in church and more time in the boardroom.

Note, however, that she is not evil. If she was truly evil she would suggest that Pepsi put cola in their cans instead of acid. This idea is so obviously Hitlerian it needn't be discussed here.


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