As Colin Powell arrived for a two day visit to Panama, Nicaragua and Honduras, the US embassy in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, distributed a background memo for the media.
The memo described the country as a place where "democracy usually takes a back row to personal political interests" (wow! That couldn't happen in the USA, could it?).
The memo said, "the country crawls along as the second-poorest country in the hemisphere, after Haiti, battered by storms of nature, and of their own making, with little hope of things changing in the future." It said that wealthier Nicaraguans "prefer to dress in Ralph Lauren shirts, drive Ford SUVs [four-wheel-drives], watch American movies and when going out for a meal, brag that they go to [fast-food chain] TGI Friday's."
Talk about winning hearts and minds.
Out Of Touch?
The Christian Science Monitor suggests the US intelligence operation in Iraq is hampered by a lack of contacts on the ground. "The FBI has a large number of agents here, for example, investigating recent car bombings and the increasing rocket attacks. But the American prowess with high-tech surveillance and investigative wizardry is often useless in a country where records and phone service are in a shambles, and where low-tech person-to-person contact reigns."
"How are you going to find out if someone is rigging up a generator to be a rocket launcher?" says Adm. Stansfield Turner, former director of the CIA. "Not by a satellite photograph or intercept - you're going to find it because some Iraqi sees it and tells you. We're at a crossroads where, if we don't in the next few weeks persuade the Iraqi on the street that we're going to straighten things out for him, we won't get intelligence."