Steve Sachs Duke


Sunday, January 30, 2005


Conspiracy Theory: The Associated Press reports -- in an article improbably headlined "French Deliver Tsunami Aid With Panache" -- the following news:

Critics of the U.S. military's work in Indonesia say Washington has seized on the disaster as a pretext for advancing its strategic interests in the archipelago and improving ties with the Indonesian military.

Those ties effectively were cut in 1999 after Indonesian troops and their proxy militias killed 1,500 East Timorese after the half-island territory voted for independence in a U.N.-sponsored independence referendum.

During her recent Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the tsunami provided a "wonderful opportunity" for the United States to reap "great dividends" in the region.

I found Rice's quote rather surprising, so I went ahead and looked up the context. After a long question about American public diplomacy, Sen. Voinovich asks:

VOINOVICH: ... And we were in England, and we were in Southeast Europe, and then at the NATO meeting in Venice. And I was just shocked at what I got back from our friends about how badly we're thought of today in that part of the world.

And I just wonder, what are you going to do to try and change that?

I think what we're doing in the tsunami right now is wonderful. I think it's -- but we have got to show people that we love them, that we are for democracy, that we want them to enjoy the same thing but we haven't any hidden motives.

What are you planning on doing in that area to respond to that?

RICE: Senator, first of all, I do agree that the tsunami was a wonderful opportunity to show not just the U.S. government, but the heart of the American people. And I think it has paid great dividends for us.

Sometimes what happens is that we've had to ask people to do very difficult things and we've had policies that people don't like.

I think in some corners there are people who've been unhappy with the way that we've dealt with the Middle East, with the strong support for Israel, with our strong belief that terrorism has got to stop there.

But we somehow have to get the message out that this is also the first president to call, as a matter of policy, for a Palestinian state, and somehow we're not getting that message out as well.

What I plan to do is that I'm going to put a major emphasis on public diplomacy in all of its forms. That means in getting our message out.

I don't think there's any plausible reading of her comments as an attempt to suck up to the Indonesian military -- rather than just an answer to Voinovich's question using his own words.

The AP continues:

The dispatch of the USS Abraham Lincoln's strike force has been viewed in some quarters as an effort not only to help survivors, but also to burnish America's image among Islamic communities worldwide by delivering aid to the largest Muslim country in the world.

The French maintain they do not have strategic interests in the region.

Hmm. I was wondering what all those TotalFinaElf concessions were doing...

How can the AP get by with reporting that the French "do not have strategic interests in the region," without so much as blinking an eye? Were they trying for sarcasm? And for that matter, who are the "critics of the U.S. military's work in Indonesia," and is there any particular reason why they have to remain unnamed? Are they fearing for their safety? (My college paper wouldn't use anonymous sources for mudslinging, unless there were good reason why they had to stay anonymous.)

In other words, this whole piece strikes me as just bad journalism, especially for the AP. Requests for clarification can be sent to




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