JUNE 23, 2008
U.S. taxpayers have spent nearly $500 million on a failed Arab-language television and radio network created to promote a positive image of the United States that has instead bashed America and highlighted Islamic militants.
The Bush Administration’s precious Al Hurra (the free one) Network has been marked by disasters since it was launched four years ago, yet it continues to get major funding from the U.S. government. It was created with tremendous fanfare as a method of reversing hateful, anti-U.S. propaganda that was hampering the administration’s diplomatic efforts in the Middle East.
It began with a $67 million budget that has steadily increased over the years and nearly doubled for 2009. Lawmakers have continued allocating the money even though Arabic speakers at the State Department, including a top public diplomacy officer, have documented problems in writing. One such memo said that Al Hurra was stocked with radical Shi’a Islamists who favored their political brethren and intimidated members of other parties.
Besides trashing the U.S., the network has aired anti-Israeli viewpoints, showcased pro-Iranian policies and given substantial air time to America-bashing terrorists, including a renowned extremist who called for the death of American soldiers in Iraq and the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah.
The problems are so rampant that a ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has called for an investigation of the network. In a hard-hitting letter to the committee’s chairman, the veteran congresswoman points out that Al Hurra has indulged in the same incitement that it was intended to counter.
The letter lists several instances in which the network aired reports intended to incite U.S. opposition, including videos that advocate assassinating President George W. Bush, drowning Jewish people in “Arab spit” and scenes of Islamists leading chants of “death to America.”
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