Brave Nuke World

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The U.S. public diplomacy team is starting to take shape. Dina Habib Powell , a former White House personnel director, was sworn in Monday as assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. Powell is expected to be a major player in yet another major effort to improve the U.S. image abroad.

Former White House counselor Karen P. Hughes is coming back to town for a hearing Friday on her nomination to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.

The hope is that this duo will finally kick-start the diplomatic marketing effort -- which everyone from Vice President Cheney on down agrees is in need of a serious overhaul.

And maybe just to smooth the way for the new team, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) has stirred up a bit of a fuss in the Muslim world with his musings last week about nuking Mecca.

The lawmaker, on a radio talk show Friday, was asked how this country might respond if terrorists used nuclear weapons on American cities.

"Well," Tancredo said, "what if you said something like -- if this happens in the United States and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites."

"You're talking about bombing Mecca," talk show host Pat Campbell said.

"Yeah," Tancredo said, saying, "I'm just throwing out there some ideas" and "talking about the most draconian measures" in response to such a threat. "Other than that, all you could do was tighten up internally," he said.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee called on Tancredo to back off the "damaging and irrational rhetoric," noting that he had just last week ripped into a senior Chinese government official for threatening to use nuclear weapons if Washington gets too in-its-face on Taiwan.

"For a senior government official to exhibit such tremendous stupidity by making such a brazen threat," Tancredo said of China, "is hardly characteristic of a modern nation."

Well, he got that right.

Yesterday, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli was asked by a reporter if he wanted to "weigh in" on Tancredo's reflections. "I guess we periodically see remarks or comments that are insulting to Islam," Ereli said. "And such remarks, wherever they come from, are insulting and offensive to all of us."

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