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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Obama administration making nookie nookie with al-Jazeera

When al-Jazeera opened its English-language network in 2006, it was all but banned from the United States. This likely pleased the Bush administration (which never actively opposed al-Jazeera's entry into the US), but it distresses the Obama administration. And now, the Obama administration is trying to do something about it.
The new policy of engagement has been apparent in recent weeks as a State Department media outreach office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has sought to place Arabic-speaking diplomats on Al Jazeera to lay out Washington's talking points about the protests roiling the region.

State Department officials, including chief spokesman Philip J. Crowley and Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, have gone on Al Jazeera more than a dozen times in the last month. Another recent guest was Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Al Jazeera is crucial because so many households in the Middle East turn to it in times of turmoil, said Dana Shell Smith, deputy assistant secretary for international media engagement, an office created last summer to reach out to such outlets.

"If we are not in the conversation, people will be speaking for us or about us," said Shell Smith, who speaks Arabic. "We need to make sure we are out there speaking for ourselves."
And you thought that's why the US government maintains Alhurra. How silly of you.
A State Department policy review completed in December has resulted in more diplomats and administration officials appearing on Al Jazeera, which reaches about 60 million viewers across the world.

The State Department has assigned staff in media hubs such as London, Dubai and Brussels to field requests from Al Jazeera and other Arabic-language media.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all have appeared on the network's Arabic and English channels in the last year.
But 60 million people is small change for a television network. How many watch CNN? The BBC? Fox (which the Obama administration has boycotted)?

And why does the US have such bad relations with al-Jazeera?
The U.S. government has a tense history with Al Jazeera. Many U.S. citizens got their first exposure to it after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when it broadcast a taped message from Osama bin Laden, its logo emblazoned in the corner of the screen.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld once accused it of spreading "vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable" reports about U.S. actions in Iraq.
I guess those things don't bother Obama. I guess al-Jazeera's role in Palileaks -which has put the last nail in the coffin of the 'peace process' - doesn't bother him either.

Read the whole thing. This is yet another instance of the Obama administration coddling up to America's enemies while boycotting its friends.

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