The 2000 election must not be forgotten.
The world needs more ballots, not more bullets.
Cracks in the Coalition
The rest of the world begins to sour on the war.
Abortion Under Attack
Chipping away at the right to choose.
But Venezuela's "revolution" faces many obstacles.
Selling the War.
The IRA moves forward with decommissioningbut some loyalists don't want peace.
New Yorkers elect Bloomberg as their next mayor.
There's a Police Riot Goin' On
Anti-war marchers feel the chill in Connecticut.
Climate of Fear
Long Island activist is charged as a "terrorist."
Fred Korematsu made a federal case out of it.
MUSIC: No joy for New Order.
The Vagina that Roared
BOOKS: Susanna Kaysen's "sore spot."
FILM: Fat Girl and French Feminism.
Mind out of Time
The seven ages of Bob.
November 9, 2001
Selling The War
he war in Afghanistan is being fought on two fronts, and the news from the
front lines, which span the globe, doesnt look good.
In Afghanistan, the military war appears to have hit a rut. (Were the country
less arid, we would resurrect the quagmire metaphor.) Despite relentless bombing,
bin Laden and the Taliban survive. The so-called propaganda war
isnt going much better. The United States is confronting an increasingly
skeptical global audience. In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News,
an unnamed administration official put it this way: We are clearly losing
the hearts and minds issue.
So the Defense Department has hired The Rendon Group, a Washington PR firm,
to manage public opinion in 79 countries. According to company literature, Rendon
provides distinctive approaches to communications challenges. Selling
the world on the U.S. decision to cluster-bomb Afghanistan poses a distinct
challengeparticularly for Rendon employees who, because of their admiration
and respect for cultural diversity do believe in people.
Nothing is less people-friendly than cluster bombs, weaponry designed to eliminate
what the military calls soft targets. The United States has dropped
an undisclosed number of cluster bombs on Afghanistan, yet it is loath to admit
that any civilians might have been hit. On October 24, U.N. employees at a mine-clearing
office in Herat, Afghanistan, reported that hundreds of residents of a nearby
village were afraid to leave their homes out of fear of unexploded cluster bomb
When dropped from a plane, each cluster bomb opens up and disperses about 200
bomblets, about 90 percent of which detonate upon hitting the ground.
The other 10 percent dont. These live bomblets pack 30 times the explosive
force of anti-personnel land mines and can explode at the slightest touch. Further,
because these munitions are so unstable and so powerful, they cannot be disposed
of with standard mine-clearing techniques.
During the war against Serbia, the United States and its allies dropped 1,400
cluster bombs. As a result, an estimated 30,000 unexploded bomblets littered
the Yugoslavian countryside. The ongoing carnage from those bomblets led the
International Committee of the Red Cross last year to call for an international
ban on cluster bombs. The bombs are particularly threatening to children, who
might be attracted to the bombs colorful casings. In Afghanistan, that
risk is compounded because unexploded cluster bomblets are the same yellow color
as the emergency food packages. As a result, the United States has prepared
radio messages warning the noble Afghan people not to confuse
the cylinder-shaped bomb with the rectangular food bag. (Try explaining
that to a starving 6-year-old.)
Back at home, the propaganda war is off to a better start. On October 2, the
State Department filled a crucial post, appointing ad executive Charlotte Beers
as undersecretary of public diplomacy. (The Office of Public Diplomacy was originally
established during the Reagan administration to pressure the press and public
into supporting the administrations covert war in Central America.)
The Office of Public Diplomacy seems already to be hard at work. In late October,
CNNs standards and practices department sent out a memo that read in part,
We must remain careful not to focus excessively on the casualties and
hardships in Afghanistan that will inevitably be a part of this war, or to forget
that it is the Taliban leadership that is responsible for the situation Afghanistan
is now in. The memo went on to suggest that reporters might also want
to tell viewers that the war is in response to a terrorist attack that
killed close to 5,000 innocent people in the U.S.
Beers, a former executive at the J. Walter Thompson ad agency, began her career
selling the American public on the virtues of Uncle Bens Rice. Now she
must hype the vices of Uncle bin Laden.