The envoy that time (and Bush) forgot

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images Forgive for a moment a short trip down memory lane: Back in the last half of June, Hamas had just kicked Fatah out of Gaza, the surge wasn’t working, a huge truck bomb decimated a Baghdad mosque, early leaders of the “Anbar Awakening” were killed in a suicide bombing, and one of ...

598145_071119_bush_05.jpg
598145_071119_bush_05.jpg

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Forgive for a moment a short trip down memory lane: Back in the last half of June, Hamas had just kicked Fatah out of Gaza, the surge wasn't working, a huge truck bomb decimated a Baghdad mosque, early leaders of the "Anbar Awakening" were killed in a suicide bombing, and one of U.S. President George W. Bush's steadfast Republican supporters broke ranks with him on Iraq. Not a great month by anyone's count, least of all President Bush.

Amidst these dismal headlines, the White House managed to regain control of the headlines with a big announcement on June 27. That day, Bush declared that he would appoint the first U.S. envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a group of 57 countries that promotes "solidarity and cooperation among Islamic states."

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Forgive for a moment a short trip down memory lane: Back in the last half of June, Hamas had just kicked Fatah out of Gaza, the surge wasn’t working, a huge truck bomb decimated a Baghdad mosque, early leaders of the “Anbar Awakening” were killed in a suicide bombing, and one of U.S. President George W. Bush’s steadfast Republican supporters broke ranks with him on Iraq. Not a great month by anyone’s count, least of all President Bush.

Amidst these dismal headlines, the White House managed to regain control of the headlines with a big announcement on June 27. That day, Bush declared that he would appoint the first U.S. envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a group of 57 countries that promotes “solidarity and cooperation among Islamic states.”

Bush’s aims for the appointment were simple:

[T]o “listen and learn” and share U.S. views with delegates from Muslim nations. The appointment is intended “to demonstrate to Muslim communities our interest in respectful dialogue and continued friendship,” [Bush] said. 

Great, right? A small gesture, but nice all the same. Except for the fact that five months later, nada. Zip. Zilch. No envoy.

The gesture is obviously symbolic, a band-aid for a deeply wounded U.S. image in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world. But why even bother to announce such an appointment, which is supposed to express the United States’ intention to reach out to Muslims and at least appear interested in their points of view, and then not do it? It seems so careless. I asked the White House’s press office when we might be able to expect an announcement, and I was told in true Yogi Berra fashion, “when we announce it, we’ll announce it.” I got the feeling they forgot.  

June, 2007, was the month of unfulfilled promises, it seems. On June 5, Bush declared that he’d ordered Condoleezza Rice to cable every U.S. ambassador in an unfree nation with the following message: “Seek out and meet with activists for democracy. Seek out those who demand human rights.” Sounds nice, right? The Post‘s Jackson Diehl checked in on the status of the cable in early August. It still hadn’t been sent.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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