Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Up until only a few weeks ago, Price Floyd was the media affairs director at the U.S. State Department.  Now that he’s left that post, he reflects back on why the United States has failed to convince the world of the virtues of U.S. foreign policy. 

It’s not for lack of trying — U.S. state department officials have been on an international P.R. blitz for years.  The problem, Floyd writes, is that what the U.S. says it does cannot be reconciled with the shit that it actually, you know, does:

We have eroded not only the good will of the post-9-11 days but also any residual appreciation from the countries we supported during the Cold War. This is due to several actions taken by the Bush administration, including pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol (environment), refusing to take part in the International Criminal Court (rule of law), and pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (arms control). The prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and the continuing controversy over the detainees in Guantanamo also sullied the image of America.

Collectively, these actions have sent an unequivocal message: The U.S. does not want to be a collaborative partner. That is the policy we have been "selling" through our actions, which speak the loudest of all.

As the director of media affairs at State, this is the conundrum that I faced every day. I tried through the traditional domestic media and, for the first time, through the pan-Arab TV and print media — Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, Al Hayat — to reach people in the U.S. and abroad and to convince them that we should not be judged by our actions, only our words.

I was not a newcomer to these issues. I had served at the State Department for more than 17 years, through the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, numerous episodes of the Middle Eastern peace process and discussions in North Korea on its nuclear programs.

During each of these crises, we at least appeared to be working with others, even if we took actions with which others did not agree. We were talking to our enemies as well as our allies. Our actions and our words were in sync, we were transparent, our agenda was there for all to see, and our actions matched it.

This is not the case today. Much of our audience either doesn’t listen or perceives our efforts to be meaningless U.S. propaganda.

We need a president who will enable the U.S. to return to its rightful place as the "beacon on a hill" — a country that others want to emulate, not hate; a country that proves through words and deeds that it is free, not afraid.

Read the whole thing.