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al Jazeera’s pet State Department mouthpiece

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By Michelle Malkin  •  October 22, 2006 10:30 AM

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Meet Alberto Fernandez: State Dept. apologist for jihad

Alberto Fernandez, director of public diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the US State Department, is al Jazeera’s favorite pet tool. He has been praised as “sassy” and is a fixture on Arab TV. From a Newsweek profile published in August, which proclaimed him “the face of the United States in the Middle East:”

On paper, at least, Fernandez’s job is basically that of a high-powered booker, coordinating appearances of high-level State Department officials on Arab media. But in reality, he’s the main act. According to his own conservative estimates, he has done about 200 interviews with Arabic media in the past year—with almost 60 media appearances in July alone. “As far as I am aware, he is the only Arabic speaker from the U.S. government who appears on Al-Jazeera says Abderrahim Foukara, managing editor at the network’s Washington offices. “Sometimes we’ll even have him on three or four days in a row.”

Well, last night, he appeared on the Arab news network to condemn America’s arrogance and stupidity in Iraq (hat tip: LGF). Your tax dollars at work:

A senior American diplomat has told Aljazeera that the United States has shown “arrogance” and “stupidity” in Iraq, but warned that failure would be a disaster for the entire region.

“We tried to do our best [in Iraq] but I think there is much room for criticism, because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq,” Alberto Fernandez, director of public diplomacy in the bureau of Near Eastern affairs at the US state department, said in the interview, aired on the Arabic channel late Saturday.

International media outlets are eating up Fernandez’s rant.

We shouldn’t mince words about what’s going right and wrong in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other front in the battle against global jihad and Koran-thumping violence and repression. (See, for example, Diana West’s sober assessment: A vote for civil war.)

But place, time, and manner matter. And this feckless State Department bureaucrat has lousy judgement on all three. It’s one thing to be self-critical. It’s another to lambaste your own country as “stupid” on the terrorists’ favorite propaganda outlet–just moments after a jihadi spokesman, Abu Mohammed, proclaimed:

“The resistance, with all its factions, is determined to continue fighting until the enemy is brought down to his knees and sits on the negotiating table or is dealt, with God’s help, a humiliating defeat.”

If Fernandez’s name sounds vaguely familiar, you may recall his boneheaded comments about violet jihadist and terror theologian of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi. Andrew McCarthy reported on NRO in February:

Reminiscent of Michael Corleone’s protestations to Kaye, the Brotherhood claims it is going legit any day now, so naturally it has become a favorite Islamic organization of the State Department and the CIA, at whom it bats one winsome eye while winking at suicide bombers with the other.

Months after the original, uneventful publication of the cartoons, Qaradawi used his ready platform at al Jazeera to issue one of those fatwas he’d researched at that European Council of his. This one called for a “Day of Rage.” It worked so well that, by the end of last week, the media were reporting, with a straight face, that Qaradawi was now “condemning” the savagery he’d quite consciously started. (See The Muslim Brotherhood Playbook, p.1.) The poor, misunderstood imam, it seems, had only meant to provoke “logical” rage, like boycotts of Havarti cheese and the like. After all, he’s a “moderate” who opposes violence … whenever he’s not stirring it up.

Qaradawi, it turns out, is not just a moderate. He is, in addition, “a respected scholar and religious leader worthy of the deepest respect.” Says who? Says the State Department, that’s who.

It was only last October, you see, when Alberto Fernandez, newly minted by Secretary Condoleezza Rice as director for public diplomacy at State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, made one of his obligatory “live dialogue” appearances on Islamonline.net. After cooing about the new Iraqi constitution, taking pains to stress that it expressly “recognizes the role of Islam” (thanks in no small part to State’s labors), Fernandez proceeded straight to the required gushing over Qaradawi.

But wait a second. Hasn’t Qaradawi has been banned from the U.S. for promoting terrorism? Surely the State Department can mount a full-throated defense of that, right? After all, isn’t our moral compass supposed to be the Bush Doctrine — the one that says “you’re either with us or with the terrorists”? Is it really that hard for State to say Qaradawi is a disgusting character promoting a noxious agenda, rather than a model of moderation?

Apparently. Such a choice, our chic-sensitive public-diplomacy pirector opined, was “for the Muslim Umma to decide.” As for the rest of us, Fernandez would brook no denying that it is “important to listen to intelligent and thoughtful voices from the region like Sheikh Qaradawi, … an important figure that deserves our attention.”

You can still see Fernandez’s endorsement of Qaradawi right here.

You want to know how Fernandez responded to criticism of his reckless jihadi suck-up remarks? He sniffed that they were “minor” comments, which he made just to be “polite,” and were much ado about nothing. Look:

He’s still surprised how minor comments get amplified when he does grant a rare English interview. Take the way right-wing pundits singled out one response from a 50-question live forum he did on the English-language Web site Islam Online. Fernandez referred to revivalist Sunni Muslim scholar Yusuf al Qaradawi—the founder of Islam Online—as “a respected scholar and religious leader worthy of the deepest respect.” The National Review denounced Fernandez for being a “chic-sensitive” apologist “gushing over Qaradawi,” who is banned from U.S. soil for his alleged links to terrorist groups. “It was just some BS answer, just to be polite, and they picked up on that one thing,” says Fernandez

If this is “the face of the United States in the Middle East,” we need to withdraw all State Department bureaucrats from the region, find out what else Fernandez and his Arabic-speaking colleagues have been telling the Arab media, and boot them off the airwaves. Permanently. If showing “politeness” towards suicide bomb-embracing jihadi clerics and showing contempt for our country on enemy airwaves is how we plan to win “hearts and minds,” we’re screwed.

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