• Winning Our Own Hearts and Minds, Again

    March 7, 2013

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Military

    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.

    BONUS!

    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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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...

      1

      03/7/13 5:50 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      2

      Speaking of snowjobs, there was more outrage in DC that the hippy-dippy weathermen fucked the snowmaggedon prediction than when the CIA fucked its prediction of finding WMDs in Iraq. The difference is we expect the weatherman to be right some of the time. Not only is the USG the most corrupt, but the most incompetent too.

      03/7/13 5:56 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      3

      quote:”The program is a U.S. State Department-funded, two-year English-language program for Kuwaiti youth to not only learn the English language ..”

      Hmmm, do they start the day with the Pledge of Allegiance? Wouldn’t surprise me.

      “but to learn about American culture as well.” unquote

      Really? Didn’t the drone scare them?

      god what I’d give for a rolling eyes smiley.
      American culture. Priceless. A McDonald’s hamburger and ‘merican Idol on the TehVeh.

      03/7/13 7:01 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      4

      “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.”

      It’s probably more so it gives *our* side a chance to get away from stereotypical thoughts and get some kind of exposure to Arab cultures. A reform that’s very much needed. I hope AIPAC is noting my comments accurately *winks*

      I’m not sure how these programs are being done these days, but it used to be the kids were taught English by other Middle Easterners, not American – basically taught American english and some culture by non-Americans, which limits understanding about American culture. The English Language Fellows Program, which used to be run through the same office that sponsors the English Access program, provided support for curricula and teacher training but it’s a drop in the bucket what’s really needed. The program initially was to be geared for kids from the lower margins of society, those who could never hope to come to the US such including kids in palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon for example, but the reality of recruitment could be a topic for another column.

      “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.” Unfortunately the activities and photo ops get ruined by the stream of silly statements uttered by public affairs personnel who probably never met an in-country grantee until they were asked to comment on the program, much less venture outside the first rate hotels in the capital – if they can get outside the embassy that is.

      The recipients of our cultural affairs programs could probably be alot healthier and be able to maintain healthy habits if 1)we did better due diligence where our development funds went to, 2) better due diligence identifying what programs are really needed programs – from the perspective of the community of the host country and without self-serving local politicians and greedy american contractors’ input who probably never been to the country, 3) didnt allow programs to be used as cover for other purposes — as what happened with the innoculation program in Pakistan that was compromised in pursuit of bin Ladin (whose location wasn’t really that much of a secret in the region), 4) and other serious issues that could be another forum topic like cutting funding for UNESCO and organizations that deliver humanitarian aid

      03/7/13 9:07 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      5

      And to add this – The recipients of our cultural affairs programs could probably be alot healthier and be able to maintain healthy habits if State didnt torpedo the careers of its very own employees who were worked to make sure programs operated efficiently and correctly.

      State employees should not be penalized for 1) working to ensure tax-payer money was spent on legitimate programs and who tried reform the squandering of millions of tax-payer dollars, or 2) who tried to shield grantees and their kids we want to play soccer with – from being put in physical risk being stranded in third countries thanks to the unofficial policies of DC-based supervisors at State who have no regrets citing “no one cares” what happens to these grantees, in contrast to the smiley face photo opps

      03/7/13 9:20 PM | Comment Link

    • Links 7/3/2013: Ubuntu and Mir Criticisms, Android Big in China | Techrights said...

      6

      […] Winning Our Own Hearts and Minds, Again […]

      03/8/13 2:43 AM | Comment Link

    • teri said...

      7

      I should think we would be spending our money more wisely if we taught Americans to learn some foreign languages.

      At least the cultural lessons will be short and sweet, since we have no culture to speak of. Got no couth either.

      03/8/13 10:31 AM | Comment Link

    • Lafcadio said...

      8

      PVB: that picture of yours is priceless and totally emblematic of everything that went wrong with Iraq.

      03/8/13 10:36 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      9

      Speaking of having seen this movie before:

      “North Korea amplified its threatening rhetoric as the U.N. Security Council approved new sweeping sanctions, vowing to launch a first-strike nuclear attack against the United States and threatening to engulf Washington in a “sea of fire.”

      I assume we will be hearing from Rice-erroni about the “mushroom cloud-smoking gun.” Or was she just blowing smoke out of her ass?

      03/8/13 2:35 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      10

      State should hire Dennis Rodman as a English syntax instructor for the Middle East. He sounds like he might already be fluent in Farsi or whatever foreign language he uses in interviews.

      03/8/13 2:35 PM | Comment Link

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