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U.S. Department of State
Remarks at the National Press Club

Charlotte Beers, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

Washington, DC
December 18, 2002

[ ... ]

QUESTION: Actually, I have two questions. The first question is concerning how much do you think a possible US war against Iraq will very much influence your program and all your propaganda campaigns you're making in the Muslim world and Arab world? And the second question is concerning this registration process which the Arabs and Muslims are now going through. On one hand you're showing videos and films, you know, saying things are great and wonderful, but I've been to one of these INS Centers and I've been seeing people handcuffed by plastic things.

I read a story the people ran out of plastic handcuffs because people are being arrested there and fingerprinted and photographed. And, like, that's another aspect and I wonder how much this also affects your propaganda campaign?

UNDER SECRETARY BEERS: Well, I can't wander into the world of "what if" in terms of projections of Iraq. I think that at the moment we're in a position of evaluating that situation and there's no point in speculating about that. But I'm glad you brought up the visa issue because other people have mentioned to us that -- this is a program about how satisfying and how many opportunities there are in the United States. And it is, in a way, because you can't have an American-Muslim tell their story without them conveying that as they chose to tell it in their own words.

But there's no question that we have a big communication issue in terms of the visa program. We'll make no apologies for changing this program. We do have to get a process that our people feel comfortable with, but we also, oh, all of those people who want entry to the United States, a practice we really need to encourage, to give them a system to understand what they are going through to be better prepared for when they come in. And we're working with a communication group to put that information out, at the very least around embassies, but also for our colleges and universities and our businesses so that we can at least make this policy clear and give people an opportunity to anticipate it and make themselves ready for the process as we send it through.

Almost every morning at the 8:30 meeting Secretary Powell asks, "How is the load, the backlog on the visa people and are we making sure that we're honoring our effort to process, to be fair and to communicate our new policies as they evolve?"

Yes --

QUESTION: My question has partly been asked by my colleague from Ali-Ahram, but the fact is that of the 20 countries now, a list which has been prepared of who's, a certain category of citizens have to be -- register themselves with the INS and get fingerprinted. It's very humiliating. And I think it is also, it may undermine a good deal of the work that you are trying to do, number one. Number two, are you satisfied that you have been able to establish a case, especially in the Islamic world that Iraq poses a physical threat to the United States?

UNDER SECRETARY BEERS: Well, the first one is is on the visa issue, I don't think there's any question that the change in the visa policy is going to be viewed by some as difficult and you -- what was the word you used? Humiliating.

But the President said recently in a meeting when I watched him blow his whole schedule and talk for 25 minutes to the Afghan women that his number one job he considered to be the protection of the American people. And I think the visa policy is driven by that concern and confidence that we need to put together a program that will work.

I think the American people demand this of us.

And your second question was how well have we communicated the issue on Iraq. Our issue is that Iraq must be disarmed. And that's really where we stand and we've communicated the way we are feeling about that as broadly as we can and we have a very multilateral action on that and I think that that's the best we can ask of our public diplomacy efforts -- talk about what we think, explain how we got there, include all the necessary partners in it and make sure that people understand it as well as they can. But that never guarantees us agreement.

Thank you very much for being here.



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