We have seen this movie before, but let’s allow the US Army’s own “public diplomacy” writer describe it to us once again:
Service members and U.S. embassy employees took part in a sports day event at the U.S. embassy in Kuwait, Feb. 16, as a part of the English Access Micro-scholarship Program. The program is a U.S. State Department-funded, two-year English-language program for Kuwaiti youth to not only learn the English language but to learn about American culture as well.
The story is that the US Embassy and the US military gather up a bunch of local kids as props, play at playing soccer, wrap it in the sweet coating that this is also some weird kind of English lesson, and make nice.
“This is a very important part of the program,” said Airman Travis Holmes, a cable and antenna maintenance technician with the 386th Communication Squadron, 386th Expeditionary Wing. “I like being around the kids. This gives them a chance to get away from the stereotypical thoughts about Americans and get to know us one-on-one.”
Missing from the article is why/how the US military is in Kuwait. Following 1991′s Desert Storm, the US never left Kuwait. Instead, the US appropriated as much land as it wanted to build vast military bases, adding jewels to the necklace of foreign military enclaves that stretches around the world. Much of the war with Iraq was run out of Kuwait. Imagine how welcome a Chinese Army base might be in say Kansas City.
“These sports days are important for a couple of reasons,” said Grace Choi, the public diplomacy officer for the embassy and event coordinator. “It encourages these young people to participate in some of the core values we have at the embassy, like being healthy and maintaining healthy habits. And, because they’re doing it in English, it helps reinforce some of the things that they have been learning in class.”
The United States holds these kinds of feel-good events all the time, everywhere. We want to be loved as occupiers, want to believe that we are welcomed as liberators instead of merely tolerated as conquerors. In that sense, these sorts of staged propaganda pieces are indeed a success– we’re not trying to convince the Kuwaitis to love us, we’re trying to convince ourselves that the Kuwaitis love us.
I took the photo, above, in Iraq, at a US-sponsored event to bring together our soldiers and some Iraqi orphans for a day of sports, food and fun.
Also, this same week, NATO apologized after it said its troops mistook two Afghan boys for insurgents and shot them dead. One wonders how many English lessons and soccer matches it will take to overcome that incident?
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