Blackwater, Habeas Corpus and the Global Muslim Backlash
Seldom do disparate breakings news stories converge to paint a larger picture. Even as news of atrocities by American military contractor Blackwater rocked Baghdad, Republicans in the Senate blocked the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act, ensuring that the most draconian features of the Bush administration's detainee policies remain in place. Meanwhile, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) lamented the presence of "too many mosques in this country." It's no wonder a recent Pew Research Center poll revealed plummeting approval ratings for the United States within Muslim countries worldwide.
In Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki lashed out as Blackwater USA for its role in the deaths of 11 Iraqi civilians in a firefight last weekend. While the company defended its actions, al Maliki insisted he would not tolerate "the killing of our citizens in cold blood." The controversy over the killings and the suspension of Blackwater by the Iraqi government has forced the U.S. embassy to halt diplomatic missions outside the Green Zone.
Back in Washington DC, Senate Republicans showed their similar willingness to devalue the lives of Muslims. The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act, co-sponsored by Pat Leahy (D-VT), Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) sought to undo some of worst excesses of President Bush's Military Commissions Act. But by a 43-56 vote, Senate Republicans prevented debate from coming to a close, just the latest filibuster in the GOP's ongoing strategy of obstruction.
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Congressman Peter King added insult to injury by baselessly questioning the loyalty of Muslim Americans. As the Politico reported this morning, King claimed there are "too many mosques in this country," adding:
"There are too many people sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully and finding out how we can infiltrate them."
These episodes serve to provide more grist for the mill when it comes to global opinion of the United States. As a June Pew Research poll showed, America's global standing continues to deteriorate through the Muslim world. Despite some upticks in U.S, favorability in Jordan and Lebanon since 2002, the trend among friend and foe alike is disturbing:
"Opinions of the American people have declined over the past five years in 23 of 33 countries where trends are available. In Indonesia and Turkey, where favorable views of the U.S. have declined markedly over the past five years, opinions of Americans have fallen sharply as well. In Indonesia, positive opinions of Americans have fallen from 65% in 2002 to 42%; in Turkey, favorable opinions have declined 19 points."
Introducing Karen Hughes as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy in September 2005, President Bush described the vital role he saw for his administration's propaganda in the war on terrorism:
"I've asked the State Department to improve our government's capabilities to confront terrorist propaganda quickly, before myths have time to take root in the hearts and minds of people across the world. Listen, our enemies use lies. They use lies to recruit and train and indoctrinate. So Karen and her team have a vital task. They must ensure that the terrorist lies are challenged aggressively, and that our government is prepared to respond to false accusations and propaganda immediately."
As events this week once again showed, it's not just the lies of Al Qaeda which are costing America hearts and minds across the Islamic world. Sadly, it is the truth which so damages our cause.