December 03, 2005

You really have to wonder.

How many political 'litmus tests' does Dubya's administration have, anyway?

Dubya's administration has taken the use of these litmus tests to an extreme that would have been hard to imagine back before the prez stole his first election in 2000. In the past few years, we've found out that appointees in the Interior Department get advanced [or hired in the first place] based on whether they support the prez's environmental policies and appointments to government scientific bodies are given based on whether appointees follow Dubya's strange psueudoscientific orthodoxy. We've even found out that nobody gets into event where Dubya appears unless their politics have been thoroughly vetted. And those examples just came off the top of our head — some research would no doubt turn up many more.

Today, however, the particular litmus test we're concerned with concerns how Dubya's administration is enforcing 'message discipline' about its policies in Iraq. According to a wire service report by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay, interviews with officials and internal emails show that the State Department has been refusing to allow anyone who's criticized Dubya's handling of Iraq to represent the US abroad.

In one recent case, a leading expert on conflict resolution who's a former senior State Department adviser was scheduled to participate in a U.S. Embassy-sponsored videoconference in Jerusalem last month, but at the last minute he was told that his participation no longer was required.

State Department officials explained the cancellation as a scheduling matter. But internal department e-mails show that officials in Washington pressed to have other scholars replace the expert, David L. Phillips, who wrote a book, "Losing Iraq," that's critical of President Bush's handling of Iraqi reconstruction...

In another instance of apparent politicization, a request by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, to arrange a visit by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who lived in Indonesia when he was young, was delayed for seven months. The visit never occurred.

A prominent translator of Islamic poetry who toured Afghanistan to rave reviews last March fell out of favor when he later criticized the Iraq war in front of a department official, two U.S. officials said.

According to Strobel and Landay, anyone who's being considered for the State Deparment's overseas speaker program is checked out to see whether they've said or written anything that criticizes administration policy. While one of the usual anonymous officials said that there was no requirement that a potential speaker be a Republican, they 'better not have said anything against them.' And while there apparently isn't a list of banned names, there definitely is a list of people who've been approved for the speaker program.

He [the anonymous official] and others agreed to discuss the State Department practices only on condition of anonymity, saying they feared retaliation for exposing them.

Late this week, after Knight Ridder inquired about the litmus tests, Alexander Feldman, the head of the department's International Information Programs bureau, which runs the speakers program, sent a memo to his employees warning that "no one is to speak to the press without following the procedures" and getting approval. Knight Ridder obtained a copy of the memo.

We suppose that the administration's vetting of potential speakers should be seen as a victory of sorts for Iraq war opponents. If opposition to Dubya's Iraq policies (both at home and abroad) wasn't increasing daily, we doubt that even the current administration would be paying this much attention to how the US is presented abroad in a low-profile program. And we're certain that State Department officials wouldn't be trying so hard to keep from getting caught at using yet another litmus test.

Via Knight Ridder Washington Bureau.

Posted by Magpie at December 3, 2005 02:52 PM | Propaganda | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |