Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Karen Hughes Cleaning Service | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Even if the current US administration turned into to the world’s largest cleaning company, it would still be unable to clean its reputation and improve its image in the Arab world. The mission is nearly impossible. I say this in light of the visit by Karen Hughes, the presidential adviser for public diplomacy and public affairs at the US State Department, or in clearer terms, George W. Bush’s cleaner in the Arab region.

As a superpower, the United States has enough enemies and conflicts to keep it up at night. The minority, which believes that in politics no country can be totally good or wholly corrupt, finds itself unable to change reality. Let us take Egypt as an example.

In over a quarter of a century of Washington’s backing, Cairo has received $50 billion in US aid, an astronomical amount not matched by another, with the exception of Israel.

Generous US handouts have bolstered Egypt’s regional status and the close relationship with Cairo has brought Uncle Sam a valuable friend. Yet, throughout Egypt , citizens continue to vehemently dislike the US . This negative reputation might be better understood were it held amongst Palestinians who have reason to believe Washington is the reason they continue to suffer from occupation.

Egypt suffers from a common problem whereby no one wants to be seen in public with Washington . The latter resembles a woman of ill-repute whom everyone wants to court but only in secret.

How can Karen Hughes change her country’s reputation, especially in Egypt, the country which the US administration has repeatedly backed and sponsored?

On the financial level, not much can be done, as Washington is unable to pay more than it already has. Politically, additional pressure to the only already exerted, and which has achieved important results such as the constitutional amendments and increasing civil liberties, would be impossible.

Despite the funding, backing and the pressures to reform, the hatred of all things America continues to grow in Egypt, as a reading of the state and opposition media is sure to reveal. This state of affairs is impossible to repair for a number of reasons, some to do with ideological beliefs, such as those held by the Muslim Brotherhood and leftists. Others oppose the US not out of conviction but repetition, encouraged by media organizations thought to be subservient to Washington.

It might be that Hughes believes she will meet journalists and reveal to then what they do not know about her country, its policies, and its president. She might say he was the first to recognize a Palestinian state, strongly encourage democracy and push governments to grant opposition parties more freedom. Bush also insisted local Arab market reform.

The diplomat is deluding herself if she thinks anyone will believe her or show interest in the good deeds she will enumerate. All those she will meet are sure to repeat one word, “Occupation, occupation, occupation”. Her planned meetings will end as they started. Hughes will face an important decision: repair the US’s reputation, which is nearly impossible, or modify the country’s policies, also almost unfeasible. The price to pay will be a Palestinian state, a fundamentalist Iraq, and the ignoring of the region for the next twenty years.