Why is it so ridiculous that America would hire an advertising executive to coordinate its propaganda campaign in Central Asia and the Middle East? Charlotte Beers broke new trails for women in the field of advertising. Now she is the State Department’s point woman for the dispersal of American propaganda. An article in Slate suggests that the move to hire Beers has been met with some sniggering from the press. I don’t know about that — mentions of Beers that I’ve read have largely (if not universally) been neutral to respectful. But if anyone taking this cynically, it’s a shame. Beers is attempting something that will, if successful, make Americans safer: the partial defanging of anti-American rhetoric in the Muslim world. Beers isn’t trying to sell Americans on the Administration’s land grab of governmental authority for the executive branch or the shameless retroactive repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax, a $25 billion dollar hand-out to some of America’s largest corporations. Beers is trying to counteract a stream of falsehoods that contribute directly to the radicalization of the Islamic world. America need not be a perfect nation — or even a very good one — to be better than the Taliban; the American way of life doesn’t need to be misrepresented to offer something appealing to the average Muslim (probably young and poor, quite possibly jobless) in the Third World. Making sure that the truth can be heard should be enough. Speaking of letting the truth be heard, last week we dropped a bomb on al-Jazeera’s Kabul headquarters. Things go horribly awry in bombing campaigns — I don’t think anyone not living out a wild-eyed fantasy thinks that American jets would intentionally bomb Red Cross warehouses and old folks’ homes without a much better senes of purpose than anything I’ve heard yet. I’ve read accusations online (ones that have apparently been echoed in the British press) that al-Jazeera is "too close" to bin Laden; someone in an online forum compared al-Jazeera to Iraqi state television. It’s nonsense, of course — al-Jazeera is the closest thing to a free and independant press in the Arab world, shut down in the West Bank and the cause of a diplomatic incident for reporting on Tunisian human rights violations. Even if an independent and often dissenting press weren’t one of the bulwarks of democracy, al-Jazeera would still serve a purpose. The dissemination of American messages will rely not just on leaflets and the Voice of America, but also on sources whose objectivity Arabs trust. Without an unfettered and critical news outlet, every attempt to communicate may well be dismissed as entirely propaganda; we don’t need fawning coverage when balanced reading of the facts will show that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are morally wrong and almost certainly doomed. I sincerely hope that the bomb was just one of the little dark jokes that wartime creates and not someone’s attempt to send a message. Hiram Johnson said, "The first tragedy when war comes is truth," but the corpses of journalists buried in two-bit dictatorships throughout the world are evidence of what all too often comes after. America does not, should not, must not, and needn’t sink to that level.