Much controversy has surrounded the mission of Ambassador Karen Hughes, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and Public Affairs at the US Department of State, to the Middle East. Most of Arab media said the visit is useless, because they don't believe that this woman will be able to improve the US government's ruined image in the region.
“[I]t seems not only foolish but impossible to think that any change could have been effected in so short a time,” Arab News said. Abdul-Rahman Al-Rashed, a Saudi columnist who is said to be pro-American, has called Hughes “George W. Bush’s cleaner in the Arab region.” He thinks she is “deluding herself if she thinks anyone will believe her or show interest in the good deeds she will enumerate.”
After visiting Egypt, Hughes went to Saudi Arabia, where she had met with King Abdullah, Crown Prince Sultan, ministers, officials, students and their families, intellectuals, and journalists. There were six different meetings, and Saudis were told to speak their minds because Hughes is not only an American official, but also a close friend of the president whom he trusts and listens to
The Saudi blogger Fouad Al-Farhan was invited to one of these meetings at the house of the prominent Saudi scholar Dr. Osama Angawi in Jeddah. His main motivation to attend the meeting was what he found on the internet about the special bond between Hughes and Bush, and because “it is rare to get the chance to meet someone who is close to the most human being I hate on earth,” he said.
Al-Farhan was surprised by the large number of guests, but he did not care because he went there to deliver his message. However, he could not stand the existence of many Saudi liberals and Saudi women, so he left the meeting before it was even started. “I felt that those people cannot represent the Saudi society,” he said.
At the end of his post (Arabic) about the meeting, Al-Farhan says he did not know if he made the right decision when he left, and asks the readers: “What do you think?”