"If only they knew how nice we are they wouldn't be so nasty." That, in a nutshell, was the theory behind the "public diplomacy" campaign launched a while back by the State Department. The woman who headed it (now gone) came from the advertising business. She did what she knows best. She mounted a television campaign featuring testimonials by various American Muslims, showing how happy and accepted they are in the United States. These were intended for showing throughout the Arab/Muslim world.
How well did the campaign work? Did Uncle Sam's "image" improve in that part of the world? SearchLogic.com helped us find out. We were given the password to its unique computer search engine, Militant Islam 2003. This consists of 75,000 -- you read that right, 75,000 -- websites covering the activities and views of radical Islamists. They may be a small minority of the world's Muslims, but they are vocal and very busy.
SearchLogic.com, a Boulder, Colorado company, developed the search engine after the September 11, 2001 attacks. There are sections on Jihad in Islam, Hot Spots, Islamist News Sources, Militancy Sites and one devoted just to Iraq.
These are not your average cuddly Muslims next door. Jihad Online for March 10 reports a statement issued by the al-Azhar Islamic Research Complex in Cairo, to wit: "Insistence on waging a war against Iraq is nothing but a beginning of a series of attacks directed to the rest of the Arab world. This is evidenced by the declaration of anti-Islamic forces to the effect that once Iraq is subdued, the situation in the region will be rearranged in favor of U.S. and Jewry interests."
On the slickly-produced, magazine-like pages of The Islamist is a long article titled "Struggle in Islam," with this passage: "America, being the only superpower, has found in Islam a new enemy to occupy a post vacated by the former Communist bloc. Islam, however, differs from communism, and Western powers realize that, unlike communism, they cannot afford to directly engage Islam. Communism was termed 'the Evil Empire,' but Western powers wish to avoid using a similar strategy of direct collision with Islam."
Another of its articles is headed "Manufacturing Self-Sufficiency." You expect it to be exhorting the citizens of Muslim countries to strive to replace China as the world's leading makers of kitchen gadgets. But no, it is about something else: "Allah has obligated that the Muslims be in a constant state of preparation, with the aim of striking fear in the hearts of the enemies of Islam. This would entail developing our own weapons and the most advanced factories to facilitate the aim of self-sufficiency."
You would expect, of course, that the remnants of the Taliban would be unmoved by the U.S. "public diplomacy" campaign, but you would not expect them to have a professionally-designed and active website after being dislodged from Afghanistan, but they do. It even includes an al-Qaeda Jihad movie. Among other things, the site notes, "Everyone knows the 'War Against Terrorism' is only against Muslims."
Ummah.com quotes from an interview given elsewhere by former NATO commander General Wesley Clark, to the effect that Iraq poses no direct threat to the U.S. It then posits this: "We can fairly restate Bush's declaration (about Iraq as a threat) as follows: 'The U.S. must not allow Saddam Hussein to ever, ever threaten our friend Isction.'"
Throughout a two-hour sampling of websites gathered by Militant Islam 2003 one finds these consistent threads: self-pity; a mantle of victimhood at the hands of the U.S.; obsession with Israel; disdain for Muslims who reach an accommodation with the modern (i.e. Western) world; a longing for a "pure" Islam which they imagine once existed.
It is chilling stuff and demonstrates that we have much more to do to change the equation than turn out feel-good television spots. SearchLogic.com, which is an independent company, makes no comment about the materials included in its engine. It simply presents them. In doing so, it is rendering a real service, albeit a commercial one. They charge several thousand dollars a year to subscribers, which number several major news organizations and universities.
Now that the TV campaign has gone with the wind, the "public diplomacy" unit might try Take-a-Radical-Islamist-to-Lunch Week.