• State Department Quashed Investigations into McGurk Sex Caper

    October 21, 2014 // 8 Comments

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    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    mcgurk cheats


    Long-time readers of this blog will remember the name Brett McGurk. Embarrassing emails he sent using a U.S. government computer system in Iraq surfaced in 2012, just as he was heading into confirmation hearings to become America’s ambassador to Baghdad. We now learn that the State Department’s efforts to investigate the incident were quashed, in part by some of the same people involved in State’s handling of the post-Benghazi fall out.

    The McGurk Story

    McGurk worked in Iraq under multiple U.S. ambassadors and through both the Bush and Obama administrations. He was present at nearly every mistake the U.S. made during the years of Occupation. In return for such poor handling of so many delicate issues, McGurk was declared “uniquely qualified” and Obama nominated him as America’s ambassador to Baghdad in 2012.

    Unfortunately, around that same time a series of near-obscene emails appeared online, showing a sexual relationship between the then-married-to-someone else McGurk, and a then-married-to-someone else female reporter assigned to Baghdad. The emails suggested a) that official U.S. government communications were being used to arrange nooky encounters; b) that McGurk may have shared sensitive information exclusively with this one reporter as pillow talk; c) that he may have ditched his security detail to engage in his affair and d) rumors circulated that a McGurk sex tape, featuring a different woman, existed.

    McGurk withdrew his nomination for ambassador and was promptly appointed by the State Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, a position without the title of ambassador but one with a significant role in policy making. Conveniently, the position was not competed and did not require any confirmation process. McGurk just walked in to it with the thanks of a grateful nation.

    An Investigation

    Still, senior officials behaving poorly can damage the credibility of a nation, and so State’s Office of Diplomatic Security (DS) was asked to investigate McGurk’s actions. State’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) later stepped in to look at the question of whether or not “undue influence” was applied by senior Clinton officials to that Diplomatic Security investigation so as to allow McGurk to emerge squeaky clean.

    It seems we now know what may have happened with that investigation. It was, in the words of CBS News, quashed.

    As part of a release of OIG reporting into various State Department acts of debauchery, prostitution, child solicitation and other such acts, we learn this:

    The third DS internal investigation in which OIG found an appearance of undue influence and favoritism involved the unauthorized release in mid-2012 of internal Department communications from 2008 concerning an individual who was nominated in early-2012 to serve as a U.S. Ambassador. (The nominee’s name was withdrawn following the unauthorized release.) DS commenced an internal investigation related to the unauthorized release of the internal communications. The then Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Secretary of State [Cheryl Mills] was alleged to have unduly influenced that investigation.

    OIG found no evidence of any undue influence by the Chief of Staff/Counselor. However, OIG did find that the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of DS [Eric Boswell] had delayed for four months, without adequate justification, DS’s interview of the nominee, and that delay brought the investigation to a temporary standstill. OIG concluded that the delay created the appearance of undue influence and favoritism. The case was ultimately closed in July 2013, after the nominee was interviewed and after DS conducted additional investigative work.


    Some are More Equal Than Others

    Small world: Both Cheryl Mills and Eric Boswell of the McGurk case were deeply involved in State’s post-Benghazi actions.

    Now, let’s break down some important parts of the OIG report. First, Diplomatic Security commenced its work by trying to track down the person who released the naughty emails, claiming they were “internal Department communications” even though they dealt with purely personal matters. Never mind what the emails revealed, DS’ first move was to try and hunt down the whistleblower.

    While OIG could not find evidence of undue influence per se, they certainly found an “appearance” of such. Finally, we learn that the center of all this, the man seeking a senior position inside State, McGurk, was never even interviewed for four months by Diplomatic Security, and no adequate reason was given for why that delay was allowed to take place. In the short-attention span of Washington and the media, four months might as well be four years.

    Where are They Now?

    It would be easy to dismiss all this as business as usual in Washington (it is), or sour grapes on my part (a little) or even an I-Told-You-So on my part given the role I played in seeing McGurk’s indiscretions reach a wide audience (guilty).

    But this is not just about me, no matter how much that was part of my motivation to write about the topic. It is, at the end of the day, about how our nation’s policies are created, managed an enacted, because the people and systems I’ve written about here do that.

    So where are they all now? McGurk, as we know, is deeply involved in America’s new war in Iraq. The reporter who appeared to have slept with her source still works for a major media outlet. Eric Boswell, who quashed the investigation into McGurk, was reassigned and then allowed to retire post-Benghazi. Cheryl Mills remains one of Hillary’s closest advisors and is expected to play a significant role in any Clinton administration.


    BONUS: The OIG report cited above was first surfaced by the best State Department blog out there, Diplopundit.



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  • Competence v. Loyalty at State: The Return of McGurk

    March 11, 2013 // 27 Comments

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    Posted in: Embassy/State

    They say one definition of mental illness is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

    McGurk Gets a Job?

    Such is the story of the State Department and Brett McGurk. Having failed to appoint him U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (due to McGurk’s overall incompetence and sexual dalliance), the State Department simply gave him a sequester-proof salary and a made-up desk job and waited a bit before, now, apparently anointing him as the new Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) of State for both Iraq and Iran. The DAS job does not require Senate confirmation, the thing that tripped up McGurk the last time around.

    The Back Channel tells us that McGurk will likely be tapped as the next State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran. The State Department plans to combine the two offices because, well, McGurk likely can’t tell the difference between the two countries anyway, damn foreigners, and because there isn’t anything really that important going on in either place to justify its own DAS. The blog calls the appointment a “done deal.”

    Where to Begin?

    McGurk spent a good portion of the last ten years working for the U.S. Government in Iraq, advising several ambassadors and leading the failed negotiations to secure permanent U.S. bases there. You’d kinda think having that on your resume– I am partially responsible for everything that happened in Iraq for the last ten years, including America’s tail-between-its-legs retreat— might make it hard to get another job running Iraq policy. Who goes out of their way to hire the coach that lost most of his games?

    The other side of McGurk’s failed attempt at being ambassador was his questionable personal life, which in turn raised issues of judgement, decorum, discretion, and class. Like with Petraeus, it was sexual misconduct that brought the real questions of competence and ability to light.

    Six members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time called on Obama to withdraw McGurk’s nomination, meaning that as DAS McGurk already enjoys a warm relationship with his key committee on the Hill. His appointment after the Senate nixed him will also no doubt enhance the State Department’s overall reputation during the budget process. And of course being the DAS and having everyone in your office know your sleazy backstory ensures you will be taken seriously.

    As well-documented across the internet, in addition to emails trading sex for access (a two way deal between McGurk and the then-Wall Street Journal’s Gina Chon [she resigned), we add another item, accusations of a McGurk sex tape from Iraq. The giver of the taped sex was a State Department Foreign Service Officer, gratefully female, inevitably Public Diplomacy.

    Elsewhere, the Washington Post reported that McGurk invited his then-mistress Gina Chon to be a guest lecturer at a Harvard course he taught in 2009. Harvard students attending the class had no idea that their teacher was romantically involved with Chon, who spoke to them about her experience reporting getting inside info by sleeping with her sources in Iraq, according to a student who attended.

    State Department at Work

    Only the Department of State today stands proudly alone declaring that no one else in the entire U.S. government, or the entire United States for that matter, is qualified to serve as ambassador to Iraq Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for both Iraq and Iran but a guy who has done nothing in his 39 years of life but be politically appointed to Iraq jobs (none earned, elected or competitively chosen, just appointed), making a selfish hash out of even that.

    McGurk is Not the Exception But the Rule

    McGurk’s supporters cite his years of experience in Iraq. But would you choose a heart surgeon who lost most of his patients on the operating table simply because he had been doing it for ten years? Experience is merely time served; competence requires judgement to be exercised.

    The issue of McGurk, however, is sadly not one in isolation at Foggy Bottom. While it is clear, ten years after, that the U.S. efforts in Iraq in general and the State Department-led reconstruction in the specific were almost complete failures, let’s look at (as an example) the chain of command that oversaw my own Provincial Reconstruction Teams’ efforts and see what happened to them all since:

    Me: Blacklisted by State

    My Boss: Now an Army contractor advising on reconstruction in Afghanistan

    His Boss (Not McGurk): A Deputy Assistant Secretary of State

    That Guy’s Boss: Appointed an Ambassador

    Her Boss: Appointed an Ambassador

    Ambassador to Iraq at the Time: Dean of the Korbel School of Diplomacy in Colorado

    His boss, Secretary Clinton: Waiting to become president in 2016.


    And that’s the saddest news of all: while the McGurk saga is perhaps a more extreme instance, and certainly more fun with its tawdry sex aspect than mere bureaucratic failure, the upward movement of failed people at the State Department exists almost as a policy. That policy, spelled out in a few words, is simple: people are rewarded for longevity at best, for keeping their mouths shut at worst, and competence is never really part of the calculus. While there are certainly competent people in senior positions within the State Department, they all had to primarily pass the tests of loyalty and time-served first.

    John Kerry? Yes, it’s your legacy calling, saying it has gone into hiding for its own protection…




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  • McGurk Pulls Out

    June 18, 2012 // 9 Comments

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    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    For perhaps the first time, ambassador nominee Brett McGurk has withdrawn himself. In a letter sent Monday to Obama and Hillary, McGurk said he was removing himself from consideration for the job with a “heavy heart.” He said he was doing so after consulting with his most recent wife, Gina Chon, because he believed it was in the “best interests of the country, and of our life together, to withdraw my nomination and serve in another capacity.”

    And with that pull out, we conclude our double-entendre jokes in this matter.

    Brett, all joking aside, I feel for you man. I know how it is to have State turn on you, push you out of a job and all that. Despite some water under the bridge between us, I think maybe we could get along, you know, maybe hang out now that both of us have afternoons free. Whattaya say, we leave the wives at home and hit a few rooftop bars, see what comes up, um, goes down, aw dammit, I just did it again didn’t I?

    But we’re moving on. Who’s next to claim the head job at the world’s largest and most expensive embassy? The previous landlord, Jim Jeffrey, quit the job so quickly that he didn’t even wait for his replacement to arrive. Now everyone else in Iraq falls under a State Department policy requiring the outgoing person to stay on for a week overlap with his/her replacement, but like lots of things at State, that only applies to the little people.

    So who will it be? One rumor is that Obama will nominate Meghan O’Sullivan. Sully, like McGurk, is another Bush administration left over covered in Iraqi blood. She was an assistant to Paul Bremer in the Coalition Provisional Authority, Senior Director for Iraq at the National Security Council and Special Assistant to Bush and Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan. Like McGurk, she was deeply involved with all the wonder and goodness that US accrued in nine sad years of occupation in Iraq.

    Let’s collectively hope the rumor isn’t true. While there is certainly some cosmic karmic justice in making all the bright young things that dragged us into the Iraq War clean up their own mess out there, isn’t there anyone Obama can find who might bring some new thinking to the task? Right now we have a white elephant embassy that is too expensive ($6.5 billion a year), too huge (16,000 staff) and too useless, because the Iraqis want no part of us and it is too dangerous for State’s warriors to leave campus and visit nearby Baghdad. At the same time Iraq has devolved into a de facto Malaki dictatorship, with growing ties to Iran at no extra charge.

    Oh– and if anyone has any saucy Meghan O’Sullivan emails to share, please forward them to the usual suspects.



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  • McGurk’s Latest Wife Whines: I’m a Victim Here

    June 17, 2012 // 10 Comments

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    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    Gina Chon, previous mistress of ambassador-to-sleazeland Brett “The Stick” McGurk, for some ridiculous reason (probably because Dancing with the Stars was booked) did an interview with the Washington Post.

    The article states:

    Chon said in her message that the leaked e-mails were promoted to news outlets by a “disgruntled” employee on the eve of McGurk’s confirmation hearings, apparently in an attempt to undermine his nomination. She did not identify the State Department employee.

    I hope she isn’t referring to me, for I am not disgruntled in any way. Quite happy to be here, had a decent career with State until fairly recently, a career that I entered through a very competitive process and maintained over 24 years of up or out promotions– unlike McGurk who has been appointed to all his Iraq jobs.

    OK. But what about those emails Gina?

    She described her relationship with McGurk as “a fairly simple tale of two people who met in Baghdad, fell in love, got engaged and later married.” Their e-mails, she said, “reflected flirtatious banter and nothing more.”

    Of course Chon resigned/got fired for sharing her stories with McGurk ahead of publication, something known as “unethical” in the universe she and Brett don’t live in.

    But really, wow. Lots of people spent a year (or several) in Iraq and managed to stay married. Most of their flirtatious banter isn’t the sophomoric crap her emails reveal, with talk of blue balls and masturbation and sexy time hookups whilst ditching one’s spouse. There are also reports that Ms. Chon cheated on her spouse with a second dude.

    Added the disgruntled Chon:

    The question I continue to have is when will the conversation return to issues?

    Good idea. Let’s have a conversation about the unparalleled success of McGurk skateboarding America through nine failed years of war and occupation in Iraq. Take a look at his crap from 2006-2007, newly discovered blog posts, where he spinelessly defends the Bush policies and predicts happy sunshine for Team America in Iraq.

    Let’s also talk about whether not speaking any Arabic is a good or bad thing for McGurk. Let’s ask what experience he has had managing a $6.5 billion enterprise with 16,000 employees. Let’s ask what job if any he has held other than appointed political hack. Let’s talk about how many Iraqi groups see him as so close to PM Malaki that they initially refused to even work with him. Let’s talk about the little paid-for nooky at Harvard. Let’s talk about whether using US Government email to conduct an extra-marital affair suggests you have the discretion, maturity and personal credibility to be an ambassador. Let’s talk about John McCain’s objections. Let’s talk about Inoufe’s objections.

    Let’s talk about all those issues, and whether they add up to someone who deserves to be an ambassador.

    And as if to make sure the story drags on for another news cycle, Chon also spoke to CNN. Better yet, some apology email Chon sent to her “friends” ended up leaked to CNN by one of them. The embattled spouse told CNN:

    People have jumped to unfair and inaccurate conclusions using our own words against us.

    Oh, the old “using our own words” defense. We call that taking responsibility for what you say and write. And this woman worked for a major newspaper?

    Bottom line: If you did it yourself, you can’t claim yourself as the victim. The issue is not the leaking of the emails, it is the content of the emails and the fact that McGurk and the State Department tried to hide them from the Senate and the American People. I’m sorry it took a sex scandal to rouse the Senate from its nap to pay attention to this nominee, but it needs to pay attention to this nominee.

    Hang on Gina, your 15 minutes are about to end, and the reality TV offer can’t be far behind. Is that Bristol Palin on line one already?




    Bonus: with the Arab press all over this story (see here and here as examples) how effective could McGurk hope to be as ambassador anyway?



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  • You Stay Classy McGurk

    June 15, 2012 // 7 Comments

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    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    In addition to sleazy emails trading sex for access (a two way deal between disgraced Brett “The Stick” McGurk and disgraced Wall Street Journal “journalist” Gina Chon), we add another pack of stained sheets to the pile.

    Sex on the Roof

    I hope no one missed commenter “William” who added to this blog:

    Yes, it is true, he had sex on the roof. Everyone knew it. I was there, not on the roof, but afterwards when everyone was talking about it and he was walking around like cool man on campus.

    He does lack key leadership jobs and it appears his expierience has been handed to him, but he found these positions because people like him and he does a good job. I will give him that – he is likable and does good work. He also has a talent for attracting the ladies.



    Sex at The Yard

    Meanwhile in sleaze land, the Washington Post reports that McGurk invited his then-mistress Chon to be a guest lecturer at a Harvard course he taught in 2009. Harvard students attending the class had no idea that their teacher was romantically involved with Chon, who spoke to them about her experience reporting getting inside info by sleeping with her sources in Iraq, according to a student who attended.

    (Sigh) Needless to say, both the Stickman and Chon were married to others when they arranged to have Harvard pay for Chon to spend some quality time with Brett on the university’s dime. Another classy move McGurk!

    No one at State was working on a warm Friday afternoon to comment on whether McGurk’s actions constitute the same “notorisouly disgraceful conduct” it beats off on its own employees for doing.




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  • Senate GOP Calls on Obama to Pull McGurk (Nomination)

    June 13, 2012 // 1 Comment

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    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq



    Six Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today called on President Obama to withdraw his nominee for US ambassador to Iraq, Brett “The Stick” McGurk.

    Beavis and Butthead Do “Foreign Affairs”

    The Wall Street Journal has already shown it has more respect and dignity than the White House, firing/allowing to resign Gina Chon, the female half of the McGurk scandel.

    The Army has also shown it has more respect and dignity than the White House, finding a Colonel who had an extra-marital affair guilty Wednesday of two charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, neither status McGurk seems destined for. The Army stated that the Colonel’s conduct “disgraced officers and the Army.” The State Department continues to claim McGurk is uniquely qualified for the job.

    The State Department, at least with its low-level staff, has also shown it has more respect and dignity than the White House, pursuing discipline charges against Foreign Service personnel who had extra-marital affairs leading to “notoriously disgraceful conduct.”

    Only the White House stands alone declaring that no one else in the entire US government, or the entire United States for that matter, is qualified to serve as ambassador to Iraq but a guy who has done nothing in is 38 years of life but be politically appointed to Iraq jobs (none earned, elected or competitively chosen, just appointed mind you), making a selfish hash out of even that by cheating on his wife while tossing nuggets to a now-disgraced reporter.

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee is due to vote on McGurk’s nomination on June 19. If they pass him, his nomination goes to the full Senate for a vote sometime before hell freezes over.

    Meanwhile (naughty boy voice on) White House straight man Jay Carney said “We believe that the United States will be greatly served by Mr. McGurk’s experience in Iraq, which is substantial.” Heh Heh, he said he had “substantial experience.” And we all know what that means, eh Butthead?



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  • McGurk’s Wife Resigns from Wall Street Journal

    June 12, 2012 // 3 Comments

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    Posted in: Iraq

    USA Today reports that Gina Chon, the most recent wife of Brett McGurk, ambassador-to-wanna-be-but-it-ain’t-gonna be nominee for Iraq has “been forced out of her job at the Wall Street Journal,” just days after saucy emails between her and her McGurk appeared on the Internet.

    USA Today politely adds that “The e-mails are also threatening to upend former White House adviser Brett McGurk’s nomination to the Baghdad post.”

    In a statement, the paper said that Gina Chon, a former Baghdad correspondent for the Journal, failed to notify her editor of her relationship with McGurk after the two became involved in 2008, and violated the company’s policy by sharing unpublished news articles with McGurk, then a member of the U.S. National Security Council in Iraq.

    “In 2008 Ms. Chon entered into a personal relationship with Mr. McGurk, which she failed to disclose to her editor,” the paper said in a statement. “At this time the Journal has found no evidence that her coverage was tainted by her relationship with Mr. McGurk.” A spokeswoman for the Journal declined to disclose details about the articles shared with McGurk.

    Well, at least she didn’t use that time-honored excuse of resigning to spend more time with her family.

    Now, it is time for McGurk to also do the honorable thing and bow out.

    Meanwhile, in the real world, HuffPo has a good article explaining how the most clear outcome of the US invasion of Iraq was to recreate the country as the newest ally of Iran, further hurting US efforts in the Middle East. McGurk should think himself lucky not to be ever-more tied to what is becoming one of the worst slow motion foreign policy train wrecks in American history.




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  • State Department: McGurk “Uniquely Qualified” to be Ambassador

    June 9, 2012 // 8 Comments

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    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    In the face of a ferocious head wind of criticism against Ambassador-to-Iraq wanna be Brett McGurk, State’s official comment is that he is “uniquely qualified” to serve as the top American diplomat in Iraq and urged the Senate to confirm him quickly.

    The Senate did not respond with alacrity. Several Republican senators, including Sen. John McCain, have criticized McGurk for his failure to negotiate a residual US force in Iraq after combat troops left in December 2011, an action that is directly responsible for several billion dollars in extra security costs for the State Department. A spokesman for Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., says that there are “concerning issues” about McGurk’s nomination and that the senator will not meet with him until those have been addressed. Inhofe spokesman Jared Young said the senator, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has not decided whether to place a formal hold on the nomination — which could kill it — but is withholding judgment until the matter is “cleared up.”

    We suggest whoever has to “clean up” this mess wear a condom and wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

    Why Not

    Reasons not to confirm McGurk cover the spectrum:

    He used official government email to hook up with a journalist in Iraq while married to someone else. Poor judgment, lack of maturity and discretion, reckless personal life, “notoriously disgraceful conduct” that State disciplines its own staff for.

    In those same emails (which State essentially confirmed as authentic, stating “they are out there for everyone to see” and that the reporter “subsequently became his wife.”) McGurk dangles information for nooky to his reporter squeeze. McGurk saw no ethical issues in that deal, and saw no ethical issues in his now wife having sex with one of her journalistic sources. Why won’t he apply the same standards to his work as ambassador?

    McGurk has held no job since graduation except to work on Iraq. He has been handmaiden to all the wonder, glory and success that has been the US in Iraq.

    McGurk has never run an embassy, or anything else other than his own mouth, and is seeking to be in charge of the world’s largest and most expensive embassy as his training assignment. That embassy costs us $6.5 billion a year and employs over 16,000 people. This is not a place for a beginner, even with help.

    Iraq is in political upheaval at present, with many elements gathering against current Prime Minister Malaki. McGurk is very, very close to Malaki and unlikely to be seen as a neutral, honest broker inside Iraq.

    McGurk lied to his wife, messed around with a reporter, wrote her emails about his “blue balls” and masturbation in language that would be unimpressive from a high school kid. He is rumored to be in a sex tape, with another woman, a State Department employee now in Qatar we’re told. McGurk obviously has enemies inside State, with no assurance that the leaks are over with. Exactly what credibility will he have with his staff? How about his female staff?

    McGurk speaks no Arabic and, based on his meandering answers in his confirmation hearing, can’t memorize facts and figures.

    McGurk’s presence as ambassador would send a clear, sad message to all State Department employees that double standards of behavior apply, and that if you’re senior enough you can get away with things underlings get fired for.

    Is America sending the right message to Iraq and the world when this is the best we can come up with for an ambassador’s job?


    Bonus: Neither State nor McGurk has explained why it took a leak and then the efforts of some dedicated bloggers to bring out this information from State’s own archives? Why did State hide this until it was forced to admit it? What else is being withheld, and why does State withhold information from the Senate?

    In my own case, State’s Diplomatic Security combed through my emails back years looking for dirt. Did they not look into McGurk’s? If not, why not? If so, why did they cover this up?

    State, for its part, amazingly said “McGurk had been subject to rigorous vetting before being nominated for the job.” Hah hah, I guess that vetting should have been just a teensy, tiny bit more robust, eh? How can they say such things with a straight face?

    Bonus Bonus: Marrying the woman you used to cheat on your wife does not erase the fact that you lied, broke your vows and cheated on your wife.


    Seriously.

    Iraq is a messy, complex place. 4484 Americans died there, over a hundred thousands Iraqis lost their lives. The Embassy in Iraq costs the US taxpayers between $6.5 and $4 billion a year, and has over 16,000 people working for it. This is not the place for an amateur, or for someone who can’t keep his zipper up and his mind on the job.

    We need someone serious, mature and committed in this tough job, and we’re being fed Bluto from the Delta House. Zero point zero.

    There are thousands of men and women in and out of government who speak Arabic, will present themselves as neutral brokers in Iraq and who can bring a fresh perspective to US policy there. Many of them have extensive executive experience, either running embassies themselves or in heading corporate ventures. None of them have their squishy sleezy emails leaked online by people who think they are unqualified enough to risk their careers to stop them, and the majority of them don’t sleep around on their spouses. Most of them are mature enough to not use government email to talk about whacking off.

    And if all that isn’t enough, who says the leaks are over with, and that there isn’t more to come to embarrass us all again, now or when McGurk is in Baghdad?

    Out of all those people, why why why is the State Department convinced only McGurk is qualified for this job?




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  • Inhofe won’t meet with McGurk

    June 8, 2012 // 6 Comments

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    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    USA Today reports on the latest twists and turns in the McGurk saga:

    An aide to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla, the second-ranking GOP member on the Senate Armed Services committee, said that the senator was concerned about the sexytime e-mails and a separate unsubstantiated allegation of inappropriate behavior by McGurk in Baghdad. The senator has decided to put off considering McGurk’s nomination and canceled a meeting with the nominee after learning of the e-mails. “Until those issues are cleared up, he will not meet with Mr. McGurk,” said an Inhofe spokesman.

    The Washington Free Beacon reports “One source on Capitol Hill with knowledge of the nomination confirmed that the State Department had acknowledged the emails came from their system.”

    As for Ms. Chon, the object of McGurk’s email affections, the Wall Street Journal says that “Ms. Chon, currently a reporter in Money & Investing, asked for a formal leave of absence from The Wall Street Journal in March when it appeared her then-fiancé might be nominated as ambassador to Iraq. The request was granted at the time, and the leave is scheduled to begin later this summer.” That seems to confirm that McGurk divorced his wife, to whom he was married whilst romancing Chon, and is now married to Chon.

    The Journal apparently did not find reason to comment on whether it condoned its reporters being romantically involved with their sources, even as it back-backhandedly confirmed that its reporter was romantically involved with her source.

    Senator McCain has previously taken issue with McGurk, because of failed negotiations with the Iraqis last year to keep residual US forces in the country beyond 2011. McGurk led those negotiations. McCain and others had also questioned whether McGurk, who unlike his post-Saddam era predecessors has never held a previous ambassadorship, was ready for the job of running the world’s largest embassy.

    And just to sweeten the deal, the Iraqi National Accord, the most prominent opposition bloc in Iraq’s parliament, has earlier written to Congress to oppose his nomination and say he was too close to Shiite politicians. The group has since backed off a notch, saying they’ll work with whoever the US sends to Baghdad ’cause they kind of have to, but it does set the wrong tone.


    Readers of my book, We Meant Well, will remember an incident where an innocent romantic email from a male State Department contractor to a female soldier kicked off a major incident that ended up with the contractor being swiftly fired for misuse of the official email system for personal use. If McGurk is allowed to end up as ambassador, that would be only the latest in a long series of double standards of conduct at the State Department.

    The rule at Foggy Bottom is the higher the rank, the less the spank when it comes to naughtiness. That is not to imply, of course, that McGurk is into bondage and discipline play…



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  • McGurk’s Arabian Nights

    June 8, 2012 // 4 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Iraq

    (The following article appeared on the Washington Free Beacon, with emphasis added.

    Also, an anonymous source has told me that the reported McGurk sex tape, which shows a sex act on the roof of the Republican Palace, included a female Foreign Service Officer kneeling, not Ms. Chon (photo, left). The female FSO in question is serving outside of Iraq, though still in the Middle East. At the time of the alleged tape, and the emails, McGurk was married to a non-State Department woman named Caroline Wong. Though the Free Beacon article states McGurk is now married to Chon, Wong’s Facebook page still lists her as a McGurk.

    Meanwhile, Gawker says that McGurk wasn’t Ms. Chon’s only conquest during her days in Iraq. She was also seen squiring then-ABC News correspondent Terry McCarthy around Baghdad.

    Of course State has likely already started an investigation– into the leaks, not its employees’ conduct.

    Busy world. When I served in Iraq, we tended to spend a lot of time at the gym. Dunno how these others got any work done.)

    President Obama’s ambassadorial nominee to Iraq appears to have conducted a lascivious extramarital affair with a Wall Street Journal reporter while the duo were stationed in Iraq, according to a collection of often-explicit emails posted on the website Cryptome earlier this week.

    The emails raise questions about the administration official’s fitness for the ambassadorship and whether he may have traded access to sensitive information for sexual favors.

    The 2008 emails between Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon and former National Security Council member Brett McGurk, Obama’s nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq, expose a torrid love affair that unfolded over a period of several months.

    Neither Chon nor the State Department responded to request for comment.

    One source on Capitol Hill with knowledge of the nomination confirmed that the State Department had acknowledged the emails came from their system.


    The explicit details contained in the missives indicate that McGurk, who was married at the time, dangled unprecedented access and information before Chon in return for a series of increasingly intimate sexual encounters. McGurk is now married to Chon.

    McGurk was nominated by Obama in March to be the next U.S. envoy to Iraq. He served as an adviser to the last three U.S. ambassadors to Iraq, and later played the role of chief negotiator in the 2008 agreement that permitted U.S. troops to remain in that country.

    In 2011, he led failed talks aimed at prolonging the U.S. troop presence.

    The recently unearthed emails reveal that McGurk’s extramarital relationship with Chon began during the arduous 2008 negotiations over the U.S.-Iraq security agreement—the sensitive details of which McGurk often hinted at over his unclassified exchanges with Chon.

    McGurk expressed pride in the clandestine relationship more than four months after the fact, when he resends to Chon the series of sexually charged emails and brags about his prowess.

    “Cleaning out my emails and this is my all time favorite—from my first message to you through our Chinese dinner to the blue ball banter and then my coming over to hook up with you for the first time on June 23, [2008]—a night the world should celebrate!” McGurk wrote to Chon on December 13, 2008. “I am so fucking smooth!”

    The reporter-source relationship began in earnest on June 20, 2008, after the pair met at a dinner party and traded a set of flirty emails.

    “Thanks again for the dinner conversation,” McGurk wrote to Chon. “I’ll tell you what I know, if you can teach me something about cars.”

    Chon responded in kind, attempting to lure McGurk away from his State Department handlers for a one-on-one schmooze session.

    “It would be good to get together on a more casual basis without public affairs people, if you know what I mean,” wrote Chon.

    From that point, Chon and McGurk engaged in an increasingly erotic back-and-forth in which Chon attempts to extract insider information and McGurk pontificates about his “blue balls,” a term that refers to sexual frustration.

    “If treated to many glasses of wine—you could be the chosen vultures,” McGurk says to Chon before offering her advice on a story. “On local elections—you should speak with [Iraqi politician] Sami al-Ankari.”

    “I’ll see what I can pull off regarding the wine,” Chon responds, complaining about Iraq’s strict regulation of alcohol, which is generally prohibited under Islamic law.

    “I can insert a rider into the [Status of Forces Agreement] exempting prosecution of our consumption of alcohol at the Rasheed [hotel] on Sunday night,” McGurk responds.

    It is unclear if his offer to alter official arrangements between the U.S. and Iraq for personal gain was a joke.

    One day later, McGurk again offers to flex his political muscle so that the duo can enjoy their date.

    “I’m in a negotiation now and will float the idea of a separate annex on Japanese sushi exports,” he says, referring to the security parleys he spearheaded with Iraqi leaders.

    McGurk—who is rumored to be the senior U.S. official caught on video receiving fellatio on the rooftop of Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace—offers to throw his weight around in order to get Chon into a high level powwow with U.S. and Iraqi political bigwigs.

    “Turns out I totally have rank to get you in here, but it would not be fair for a master negotiating tactician like me—to intimidate and inexperience and innocent negotiator like you,” McGurk writes. “My strategy is to break you down (day by day) until Friday when I will have achieved maximum leverage. Plan on dinner tomorrow around 8.”

    Chon virtually bats her eyelashes in response.

    “If you are a master tactician, why would you tell me each aspect of your strategy? Doesn’t seem very smart to me, but I’m just innocent and inexperienced, at least on some things,” she writes.

    At another point, McGurk seems to realize that it may not be wise to exchange such communications via his official State Department email address.

    “Our consultations are top secret and deniable, remember?” he writes on June 23, 2008. “Hey, can you text message on your [Blackberry]? … It’s a better way to engage in sensitive deliberations like ours.”

    McGurk also appears to tease Chon with a private dinner alongside top Iraqi politician Massoud Barzani.

    “On tonight, let me see what I can do,” McGurk writes. “I had a very good day with the Iraqis—the best yet. Can’t tell you about it of course.”

    “Stop being such a tease!” Chon fired back. “This is like a journalist’s version of blue balls and it’s really not fair.”

    “Well it’s only fair,” McGurk retorts, “since I had a very real case of blue balls last night! I think they’re still blue.”

    Chon seemingly offers to relieve the tension.

    “Poor baby,” she writes. “Well, you can come by here afterwards.”

    “They really hurt and won’t stop pouting,” McGurk then gripes. “I may go see the nurse.”

    “Don’t worry—I’ll provide plenty of warning before coming by. I need to figure out how to lose my goon squad,” he adds, apparently referring to his security detail. “They tend to mar my most secret and clandestine missions.”

    Later in the exchange, McGurk indicates that he masturbated in order to relieve his sexual frustration.

    “I did a nice self-healing exercise before dinner, btw; so the blueness has receded.”

    The following morning, Chon indicates that the two consummated their courtship.

    “Hope you weren’t hurting too much today,” she writes. “I think I need to take a nap, right after I eat a whopper and onion rings.”

    The eyebrow-raising exchanges raise questions about McGurk’s judgment and could come up during his Senate confirmation process.

    Some lawmakers, in fact, have already expressed their reservations about McGurk. They object to, among other things, his failure to achieve a follow-up security agreement in 2011.

    “I will have very significant questions about his qualifications and his positions on the issues. … He’s not my choice,” Senate Armed Services Committee ranking Republican John McCain (R., Ariz.) told Foreign Policy magazine’s Josh Rogin in March.

    McGurk expressed grave concerns over the unstable political situation in Iraq during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday.

    McGurk could not be reached for comment.



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  • McGurk Senate Hearing: Nobody Cares Anymore

    June 7, 2012 // 7 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq

    Yesterday’s Senate confirmation hearing for ambassador-to-be to Iraq Brett McGurk was depressing. Nobody really cares anymore about Iraq. I was reminded of sitting in elementary school, when for every Apollo moon shot launch we’d stop class to watch on a rolled-in B+W TV; it was a big deal. A few years later, space shuttle launches barely made the news at all.

    No one cared anymore.

    Real Issues Ignored

    There are real issues surrounding McGurk’s nomination. Should the helm of the world’s largest embassy go to a 38 year old whose career is nothing but handmaiden to previous Iraq failures? McGurk’s not so private private life is a walking EEO crisis. US ambassadors to Baghdad tend to only stay on the job for a year or so at a time, a disruption to steady leadership. Iraq itself consumed 4484 American lives and trillions of dollars, for what? Senator McCain, who previously voiced some concern about McGurk, didn’t even bother to show up for the hearing.

    Nobody Cares to Ask Any Follow-Ups

    In contrast to past hearings on Iraq, which featured main stream media coverage and packed halls, McGurk’s was sparsely attended, and unreported even in the hometown Washington Post. His confirmation was efficiently combined with two others, the critical posts of Sri Lanka/Maldives and Tajikistan, all taken care of in a short 90 minutes.

    A good portion of the hearings was wasted by the chair, Senator Casey, pointlessly blathering about each nominee’s vague ties to his home state of Pennsylvania. Questions to McGurk could not have been softer softballs, though he still stumbled over the Arabic names of Shia groups, completely exaggerated Iraqi oil output and lightly promised to do his best when he did not know what else to say. There were no follow-ups or cross examination for any of his answers. “The Iraqi government has not been able to degrade al Qaeda in Iraq,” McGurk said. “That’s a serious concern that we need to work with them on.” Yep, sure is, especially considering there was no al Qaeda in Iraq before the US invasion. Might have been worth a follow up query or two, yes?

    A Few Tidbits

    We did, almost by accident, learn a few things. McGurk finally ditched his Gordon Gecko hairstyle for a grownup cut. The US Mission to Iraq swallowed $6.5 billion taxpayer dollars in 2011, and will eat $4 billion this year. McGurk also said the State Department will cut the US mission in Iraq, some 16,000 souls, by 25 percent by next fall. The State Department had been denying this plan ever since a NY Times story broke it earlier this year.

    McGurk did perhaps inadvertently throw out a single truthful statement. “There is no proportionality between our size and our influence (in Iraq). In fact, we spend a lot of diplomatic capital simply to sustain our presence.”

    The other issues discussed briefly– oil revenue sharing, whither the Kurds, how to create an inclusive Sunni-Shia government– are the same problems that have plagued Iraq since 2003 and are the same unresolved issues that have been abandoned by the US. It was 2007 all over again, not that anyone cared to even acknowledge that.

    And That was That

    What once had been labeled America’s most important foreign policy issue, what still is the world’s largest embassy, what was a crusade that killed thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands Iraqis, a failed policy that is still sending waves through the volatile Middle East, is now so unimportant that it is lopped together with the Maldives as another bit of perfunctory business for the Senate to rap out before summer recess.

    Nobody cares anymore.



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  • McGurk Senate Confirmation Hearing: Do the Emails Matter?

    June 6, 2012 // 10 Comments

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    US ambassadors in Iraq (and Afghanistan, and Pakistan…) seem to have the lifespan of Spinal Tap drummers.

    Our current man in Baghdad, James Jeffrey, is packing now and of the 220 million people in the US population, the only one the State Department can seem to come up with as a replacement is Brett McGurk. McGurk has his Senate confirmation hearing today.

    Linked In

    So let’s look at the resume of the guy America wants as the new ambassador to its pile of failed foreign policy doo doo, Brett McGurk:

    After law school and clerking, McGurk was a legal advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

    Advisor to the last three US Ambassadors to Iraq: Jim Jeffrey, Christopher Hill and good ol’ Ryan Crocker.

    National Security Council, director for Iraq and later as senior director for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Lead negotiator for the 2008 US-Iraq security agreement that extended the U.S. troop presence there until the end of 2011 and leader of the failed negotiations in 2011 to extend the US troop presence in Iraq even longer. On this last point Senator McCain has voiced concerns over McGurk’s nomination. Asked if he would try to block the nomination, McCain said, “I have to see what happens in his hearing.”


    McGurk is 38 years old and has never done any job other than help muck up Iraq on behalf of the United States. Dude only graduated in 1999. Despite essentially doing nothing but Iraq stuff his entire adult life, McGurk has also avoided learning any Arabic. You’d kind of think that maybe that wouldn’t be the resume for the next guy in charge of cleaning up some of his own mistakes, like maybe you’d want someone who had some… depth or experience or broad knowledge or understanding of something other than failure in that God-forsaken country. Normally when you are a hand maiden to failure you don’t get promoted, but then again, this is the State Department. This is almost as good as Harriet Miers.

    How could this possibly not work out?

    Well, it seems McGurk is not as popular at the State Department as he would probably like to believe. The objections among the voiceless unwashed at State are that he is associated with pretty much everything that went wrong since 2003 and not in line with the “new beginning” meme State is still trying to sell, and he is so close to divisive Iraqi Prime Minister Malaki that it will be even harder for State to engage across the political spectrum in the “new” Iraq.

    The leaks out of Foggy Bottom have not been kind to McGurk. Some have claimed he is party to a sex tape filmed on the Republican Palace roof (I haven’t seen it, so don’t write in).

    The Alleged Emails from 2008

    Now, the latest leak shows the intrepid McGurk in his own words, or actually what purport to be his romantic-y emails from Baghdad in 2008 (I didn’t post them, I don’t know where they came from, don’t write in). The messages, to a reporter some have linked romantically to McGurk, are full of references to “blue balls” and “exercises” to relieve same, and plans for the two to meet up if McGurk can shake his security “goons.”

    If these emails are authentic, and I have no way to verify them (let’s ask State!), they raise questions about McGurk’s relationship with a reporter covering the news McGurk was creating, as well as his discretion and judgment. These emails would also raise questions about why the State Department would seek to withhold information that might be of interest to the Senate in assessing McGurk’s suitability to be ambassador to Iraq.

    I myself could care less what two adults agree to do, married or not, but State has disciplined its own Foreign Service Officers for extra marital affairs, and cautions against using official email for too-personal correspondence. Always want to keep an eye on double-standards so they don’t negatively influence morale among the troops.

    In the end, I’m sure that Iraq will just keep on being all it can be, as long as America sends her its best.



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  • Nooooooooooooooo! Iraq Asks U.S. for Marshall Plan Reconstruction Funds

    May 1, 2017 // 15 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq


    Iraq’s Foreign Minister this week asked the United States to develop a financial plan for the reconstruction of the country after ISIS, similar to a program developed for Western Europe after the Second World War.

    In discussions with Special Presidential Envoy to the Coalition Brett McGurk, Ibrahim al-Jaafari stressed the need for “collective support from the international community to contribute to the reconstruction of infrastructure after the defeat of terrorism.” Jaafari suggested “the adoption of a project similar to the Marshall Plan which contributed to rebuilding Germany after the Second World War.”

    Iraq will need billions of dollars to rebuild after ISIS. Large portions of major cities were destroyed in the war, infrastructure was neglected under ISIS, villages are riddled with mines and booby-traps. The deputy governor of Anbar estimated that his province would need $22 billion alone for reconstruction.
    Um, never mind invoking the Marshall Plan. What needs to be cited here is that the United States already spent billions to reconstruct Iraq, from 2003-2010. I know. I was there. It was my job to help spend some of those billions. We accomplished less than nothing. In fact, our failure to reconstruct Iraq then lead in a direct line to the Iraq of now. I cannot believe I am writing this. Again.

    See, in fact, I wrote a whole book about it: We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, in 2011. I just sent a copy to Special Presidential Envoy to the Coalition Brett McGurk, and asked him to pass it on to the Iraqi Foreign Minister after he’s done reading it.
    But in case Brett or the Minister don’t get around to reading a whole book, here’s a shorter version.

    I spent a year in Iraq as a U.S. Foreign Service officer, leading two of the then-vaunted Provincial Reconstruction Teams. We were charged with nothing less than winning the war for America by rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, creating a functioning democracy and stable economy that would preclude terrorists like ISIS (well, it was al Qaeda then) from gaining a foothold, and thus ensuring Iraq would be an ally of the United States in the war on terror. This is the same mission statement that the Iraqi Foreign Minister would want tagged to his proposed reconstruction plan.

    When my book came out in September 2011, most people I met with threw out skeptical comments: “Well, maybe it will work out like in Germany and Japan,” they said. When I met with staffers from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2012, they said, “We’d like to believe you, but everything that State tells us contradicts your thesis that the money spent was just a big waste.”

    But now it’s official. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction concluded “$60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost.”

    Then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said “that $55 billion could have brought great change in Iraq,” but the positive effects of those funds were too often “lost.”

    Then Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, the country’s top Sunni official, told auditors that the rebuilding efforts did not “achieve the purpose for which it was launched. Rather, it had unfavorable outcomes in general.” Like ISIS.

    There “was usually a Plan A but never a Plan B,” said Kurdish official Qubad Talabani, son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
    Shiite, Sunni, Kurd. Trust me, about the only thing everybody agrees on is the United States spent a bundle of money between 2003-2011 and got nothing for it but ISIS.

    According to the Associated Press, the United States has spent more than $60 billion in reconstruction grants on Iraq. That works out to about $15 million a day. Overall, including all military and diplomatic costs and other aid, the United States has spent at least $767 billion since the U.S.-led invasion began.

    And guess who was one of the people in charge of the last Iraq reconstruction? Special Presidential Envoy to the Coalition Brett McGurk. Maybe this time around he’s smart enough to not get fooled again. In fact, I’ve recommended a book for him to read to help out.

     

    McGurk Bonus: McGurk spent a good portion of the last 14 years working for the U.S. Government in Iraq, advising several ambassadors and leading the failed negotiations to secure permanent U.S. bases there. You’d kinda think having that on your resume – “I am partially responsible for everything that happened in Iraq for the last ten years, including America’s tail-between-its-legs retreat” — might make it hard to get another job running Iraq policy. Who goes out of their way to hire the coach that lost most of his games?

    The other side of McGurk’s failed attempt at being ambassador to Iraq was his questionable personal life, which in turn raised issues of judgement, decorum, discretion, and class. It was his sexual misconduct that brought the real questions of competence and ability to light. For no apparent gain, but whatever, Iraq.

     

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  • The Baghdad Bombings, Islamic State and What America Still Hasn’t Learned

    July 8, 2016 // 12 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq, Military

    Baghdad_Sign from 2004


    The suicide bombings in Baghdad by Islamic State, timed for maximum violence, are only the latest reminders that the United States should not downplay the group.

    Since the wave of Islamic State suicide bombings in May – killing 522 people inside Baghdad, and 148 people inside Syria – American officials have downplayed the suicide bombing strategy as defensive. Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy in the fight against Islamic State, said the group “returned to suicide bombing” as the area under its control shrinks. The American strategy of focusing primarily on the “big picture” recapture of territory seems to push the suicide bombings to the side. “It’s their last card,” stated a compliant Iraqi spokesperson in response to the attacks.

    The reality is just the opposite. Just a day after the June 26 liberation of Fallujah, car bombs exploded in eastern and southern Baghdad. Two other suicide bombers were killed outside the city. An improvised explosive device exploded in southwest Baghdad a day earlier. And now the latest, with a death toll approaching 200.

    Washington should know better than to underestimate the power of small weapons to shape large events. After Donald Rumsfeld labeled Iraqi insurgents as “dead enders” in 2003, they began taking a deadly toll of American forces via suicide bombs. It was the 2006 bombing of the Shi’ite al-Askari Golden Mosque in Samarra that kicked the Iraqi civil war into high gear. It was improvised explosive devices and car bombs that kept American forces on the defensive through 2011.

    To believe suicide bombings represent a weakening of Islamic State is a near-total misunderstanding of the hybrid nature of the group; Islamic State melds elements of a conventional army and an insurgency. To “win,” one must defeat both versions.

    ISIS differs from a traditional insurgency in that it seeks to hold territory. This separates it from al Qaeda, and most other radical groups, and falsely leads the United States to believe that retaking strategic cities like Fallujah from Islamic State is akin to “defeating” it, as if it is World War Two again and we are watching blue arrows move across the map toward Berlin. McGurk, following Fallujah, even held a press conference announcing Islamic State has now lost 47 percent of its territory. That may be true, but it also does not really matter.


    Simultaneously with holding and losing territory, Islamic State uses terror and violence to achieve political ends.

    Islamic State has no aircraft and no significant long-range weapons, making it a very weak conventional army when facing down the combined forces of the United States, Iran and Iraq in set piece battles. It can, however, use suicide bombs to strike into the very heart of Shi’ite Baghdad (and Syria, Jordan, Yemen, and Turkey – as Tuesday’s bombing reminds us), acting as a strong transnational insurgency.


    Why does such strength matter in the face of ISIS’ large-scale losses such as Fallujah?

    Violence in the heart of Iraqi Shi’ite neighborhoods empowers hardliners to seek revenge. Core Sunni support for Islamic State grows out of the need for protection from a Shi’ite dominated military, which seeks to marginalize if not destroy the Sunnis. Reports of Shi’ite atrocities leaking out of the ruins of Sunni Fallujah are thus significant. Fallujah was largely destroyed in order to “save” it, generating some 85,000 displaced persons, mirroring what happened in Ramadi. Those actions remind many Sunnis of why they supported Islamic State (and al Qaeda before them) in the first place.

    Suicide strikes reduce the confidence of the people in their government’s ability to protect them; Prime Minister Abadi was ridiculed at the site of the most recent attack, and a member of his cabinet forced to resign. In Iraq, that sends Shi’ite militias into the streets, and raises questions about the value of civil institutions like the Iraqi National Police. Victories such as the retaking of Ramadi and Fallujah, and a promised assault on Mosul, mean little to people living at risk inside the nation’s capital.

    American commanders have already had to talk the Iraqi government out of pulling troops from the field to defend Baghdad, even as roughly half of all Iraqi security forces are already deployed there. This almost guarantees more American soldiers will be needed to take up the slack.

    Anything that pulls more American troops into Iraq fits well with the anti-American Islamic State narrative. Few Iraqis are left who imagine the United States can be an honest broker in their country. A State Department report found that one-third of all Iraqis believe the Americans are actually supporting Islamic State, while 40 percent are convinced that the United States is trying to destabilize Iraq for its own purposes.

    The suicide bombings — in Iraq and elsewhere — are not desperate or defensive moves. They are not inconsequential. They are careful strategy, the well-thought out application of violence by Islamic State. The United States downplays them at great risk.



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  • Poof! Our Wars are All Forgotten

    May 23, 2016 // 13 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Iraq, Libya, Military, Syria

    snapchat

    One of the most popular apps these days is Snapchat. It allows the sender to set a timer for any photo dispatched via the app, so that a few seconds after the recipient opens the message, the photo is automatically deleted.

    The evidence of what you did at that party last night is seen and then disappears. POOF!


    I hope you’ll forgive me if I suggest that the Iraq-Syria War against the Islamic State (ISIS) is being conveyed to us via Snapchat. Important things happen, they appear in front of us, and then… POOF!… they’re gone. No one seems to remember them. Who cares that they’ve happened at all, when there’s a new snap already arriving for your attention? As with most of what flows through the real Snapchat, what’s of some interest at first makes no difference in the long run.

    Just because we now have terrifyingly short memories does not, however, mean that things did not happen. Despite the POOF! effect, events that genuinely mattered when it comes to the region in which Washington has, since the 1980s, been embroiled in four wars, actually did occur last week, last month, a war or two ago, or, in some cases, more than half a century in the past. What follows are just some of the things we’ve forgotten that couldn’t matter more.


    It’s a Limited Mission — POOF!

    Perhaps General David Petraeus’s all-time sharpest comment came in the earliest days of Iraq War 2.0. “Tell me how this ends,” he said, referring to the Bush administration’s invasion. At the time, he was already worried that there was no endgame.

    That question should be asked daily in Washington. It and the underlying assumption that there must be a clear scope and duration to America’s wars are too easily forgotten. It took eight long years until the last American combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq. Though there were no ticker tape parades or iconic photos of sailors smooching their gals in Times Square in 2011, the war was indeed finally over and Barack Obama’s campaign promise fulfilled…

    Until, of course, it wasn’t, and in 2014 the same president restarted the war, claiming that a genocide against the Yazidis, a group hitherto unknown to most of us and since largely forgotten, was in process. Air strikes were authorized to support a “limited” rescue mission. Then, more — limited — American military power was needed to stop the Islamic State from conquering Iraq. Then more air strikes, along with limited numbers of military advisers and trainers, were sure to wrap things up, and somehow, by May 2016, the U.S. has 5,400 military personnel, including Special Operations forces, on the ground across Iraq and Syria, with expectations that more would soon be needed, even as a massive regional air campaign drags on. That’s how Washington’s wars seem to go these days, with no real debate, no Congressional declaration, just, if we’re lucky, a news item announcing what’s happened.

    Starting wars under murky circumstances and then watching limited commitments expand exponentially is by now so ingrained in America’s global strategy that it’s barely noticed. Recall, for instance, those weapons of mass destruction that justified George W. Bush’s initial invasion of Iraq, the one that turned into eight years of occupation and “nation-building”? Or to step a couple of no-less-forgettable years further into the past, bring to mind the 2001 U.S. mission that was to quickly defeat the ragged Taliban and kill Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. That’s now heading into its 16th year as the situation there only continues to disintegrate.

    For those who prefer an even more forgotten view of history, America’s war in Vietnam kicked into high gear thanks to then-President Lyndon Johnson’s false claim about an attack on American warships in the Gulf of Tonkin. The early stages of that war followed a path somewhat similar to the one on which we now seem to be staggering along in Iraq War 3.0 — from a limited number of advisers to the full deployment of almost all the available tools of war.

    Or for those who like to look ahead, the U.S. has just put troops back on the ground in Yemen, part of what the Pentagon is describing as “limited support” for the U.S.-backed war the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates launched in that country.

    The new story is also the old story: just as you can’t be a little pregnant, the mission never really turns out to be “limited,” and if Washington doesn’t know where the exit is, it’s going to be trapped yet again inside its own war, spinning in unpredictable and disturbing directions.


    No Boots on the Ground — POOF!

    Having steadfastly maintained since the beginning of Iraq War 3.0 that it would never put “American boots on the ground,” the Obama administration has deepened its military campaign against the Islamic State by increasing the number of Special Operations forces in Syria from 50 to 300. The administration also recently authorized the use of Apache attack helicopters, long stationed in Iraq to protect U.S. troops, as offensive weapons.

    American advisers are increasingly involved in actual fighting in Iraq, even as the U.S. deployed B-52 bombers to an air base in Qatar before promptly sending them into combat over Iraq and Syria. Another group of Marines was dispatched to help defend the American Embassy in Baghdad after the Green Zone, in the heart of that city, was recently breached by masses of protesters. Of all those moves, at least some have to qualify as “boots on the ground.”

    The word play involved in maintaining the official no-boots fiction has been a high-wire act. Following the loss of an American in Iraqi Kurdistan recently, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter labeled it a “combat death.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest then tried to explain how an American who was not on a combat mission could be killed in combat. “He was killed, and he was killed in combat. But that was not part of his mission,” Earnest told reporters.

    Much more quietly, the U.S. surged — “surge” being the replacement word for the Vietnam-era “escalate” — the number of private contractors working in Iraq; their ranks have grown eight-fold over the past year, to the point where there are an estimated 2,000 of them working directly for the Department of Defense and 5,800 working for the Department of State inside Iraq. And don’t be too sanguine about those State Department contractors. While some of them are undoubtedly cleaning diplomatic toilets and preparing elegant receptions, many are working as military trainers, paramilitary police advisers, and force protection personnel. Even some aircraft maintenance crews and CIA paramilitaries fall under the State Department’s organizational chart.

    The new story in Iraq and Syria when it comes to boots on the ground is the old story: air power alone has never won wars, advisers and trainers never turn out to be just that, and for every soldier in the fight you need five or more support people behind him.


    We’re Winning — POOF!

    We’ve been winning in Iraq for some time now — a quarter-century of successes, from 1991’s triumphant Operation Desert Storm to 2003’s soaring Mission Accomplished moment to just about right now in the upbeat third iteration of America’s Iraq wars. But in each case, in a Snapchat version of victory, success has never seemed to catch on.

    At the end of April, for instance, Army Colonel Steve Warren, a U.S. military spokesperson, hailed the way American air power had set fire to $500 million of ISIS’s money, actual cash that its militants had apparently forgotten to disperse or hide in some reasonable place. He was similarly positive about other recent gains, including the taking of the Iraqi city of Hit, which, he swore, was “a linchpin for ISIL.” In this, he echoed the language used when ISIS-occupied Ramadi (and Baiji and Sinjar and…) fell, language undoubtedly no less useful when the next town is liberated. In the same fashion, USA Today quoted an anonymous U.S. official as saying that American actions had cut ISIS’s oil revenues by an estimated 50%, forcing them to ration fuel in some areas, while cutting pay to its fighters and support staff.

    Only a month ago, National Security Adviser Susan Rice let us know that, “day by day, mile by mile, strike by strike, we are making substantial progress. Every few days, we’re taking out another key ISIL leader, hampering ISIL’s ability to plan attacks or launch new offensives.” She even cited a poll indicating that nearly 80% of young Muslims across the Middle East are strongly opposed to that group and its caliphate.

    In the early spring, Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy to the global coalition to counter the Islamic State, took to Twitter to assure everyone that “terrorists are now trapped and desperate on Mosul fronts.” Speaking at a security forum I attended, retired general Chuck Jacoby, the last multinational force commander for Iraq 2.0, described another sign of progress, insisting that Iraq today is a “maturing state.” On the same panel, Douglas Ollivant, a member of former Iraq commander General David Petraeus’s “brain trust of warrior-intellectuals,” talked about “streams of hope” in Iraq.

    Above all, however, there is one sign of success often invoked in relation to the war in Iraq and Syria: the body count, an infamous supposed measure of success in the Vietnam War. Washington spokespeople regularly offer stunning figures on the deaths of ISIS members, claiming that 10,000 to 25,000 Islamic State fighters have been wiped out via air strikes. The CIA has estimated that, in 2014, the Islamic State had only perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 fighters under arms. If such victory statistics are accurate, somewhere between a third and all of them should now be gone.

    Other U.S. intelligence reports, clearly working off a different set of data, suggest that there once were more than 30,000 foreign fighters in the Islamic State’s ranks. Now, the Pentagon tells us, the flow of new foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria has been staunched, dropping over the past year from roughly 2,000 to 200 a month, further incontrovertible proof of the Islamic State’s declining stature. One anonymous American official typically insisted: “We’re actually a little bit ahead of where we wanted to be.”

    Yet despite success after American success, ISIS evidently isn’t broke, or running out of fighters, or too desperate to stay in the fray, and despite all the upbeat news there are few signs of hope in the Iraqi body politic or its military.

    The new story is again a very old story: when you have to repeatedly explain how much you’re winning, you’re likely not winning much of anything at all.


    It’s Up to the Iraqis — POOF!

    From the early days of Iraq War 2.0, one key to success for Washington has been assigning the Iraqis a to-do list based on America’s foreign policy goals. They were to hold decisive elections, write a unifying Constitution, take charge of their future, share their oil with each other, share their government with each other, and then defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq, and later, the Islamic State.

    As each item failed to get done properly, it became the Iraqis’ fault that Washington hadn’t achieved its goals. A classic example was “the surge” of 2007, when the Bush administration sent in a significant number of additional troops to whip the Iraqis into shape and just plain whip al-Qaeda, and so open up the space for Shiites and Sunnis to come together in an American-sponsored state of national unity. The Iraqis, of course, screwed up the works with their sectarian politics and so lost the stunning potential gains in freedom we had won them, leaving the Americans heading for the exit.

    In Iraq War 3.0, the Obama administration again began shuffling leaders in Baghdad to suit its purposes, helping force aside once-golden boy Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and pushing forward new golden boy Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to — you guessed it — unify Iraq. “Today, Iraqis took another major step forward in uniting their country,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice said as Abadi took office.

    Of course, unity did not transpire, thanks to Abadi, not us. “It would be disastrous,” editorialized the New York Times, “if Americans, Iraqis, and their partners were to succeed in the military campaign against the Islamic State only to have the politicians in Baghdad squander another chance to build a better future.” The Times added: “More than 13 years since Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, there’s less and less reason to be optimistic.”

    The latest Iraqi “screw-up” came on April 30th, when dissident Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s supporters broke into the previously sacrosanct Green Zone established by the Americans in Iraq War 2.0 and stormed Iraq’s parliament. Sadr clearly remembers his history better than most Americans. In 2004, he emboldened his militias, then fighting the U.S. military, by reminding them of how irregular forces had defeated the Americans in Vietnam. This time, he was apparently diplomatic enough not to mention that Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese 41 years ago on the day of the Green Zone incursion.

    Sadr’s supporters crossed into the enclave to protest Prime Minister Abadi’s failure to reform a disastrous government, rein in corruption (you can buy command of an entire army division and plunder its budget indefinitely for about $2 million), and provide basic services like water and electricity to Baghdadis. The tens of billions of dollars that U.S. officials spent “reconstructing” Iraq during the American occupation of 2003 to 2011 were supposed to make such services effective, but did not.

    And anything said about Iraqi governmental failures might be applied no less accurately to the Iraqi army.

    Despite the estimated $26 billion the U.S. spent training and equipping that military between 2003 and 2011, whole units broke, shed their uniforms, ditched their American equipment, and fled when faced with relatively small numbers of ISIS militants in June 2014, abandoning four northern cities, including Mosul. This, of course, created the need for yet more training, the ostensible role of many of the U.S. troops now in Iraq. Since most of the new Iraqi units are still only almost ready to fight, however, those American ground troops and generals and Special Operations forces and forward air controllers and planners and logistics personnel and close air support pilots are still needed for the fight to come.

    The inability of the U.S. to midwife a popularly supported government or a confident citizen’s army, Washington’s twin critical failures of Iraq War 2.0, may once again ensure that its latest efforts implode. Few Iraqis are left who imagine that the U.S. can be an honest broker in their country. A recent State Department report found that one-third of Iraqis believe the United States is actually supporting ISIS, while 40% are convinced that the United States is trying to destabilize Iraq for its own purposes.

    The new story is again the old story: corrupt governments imposed by an outside power fail. And in the Iraq case, every problem that can’t be remedied by aerial bombardment and Special Forces must be the Iraqis’ fault.


    Same Leadership, Same Results — POOF!

    With the last four presidents all having made war in Iraq, and little doubt that the next president will dive in, keep another forgotten aspect of Washington’s Iraq in mind: some of the same American leadership figures have been in place under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and they will initially still be in place when Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump enters the Oval Office.

    Start with Brett McGurk, the current special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS. His résumé is practically a Wikipedia page for America’s Iraq, 2003-2016: Deputy Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran from August 2013 until his current appointment. Before that, Senior Advisor in the State Department for Iraq, a special advisor to the National Security Staff, Senior Advisor to Ambassadors to Iraq Ryan Crocker, Christopher Hill, and James Jeffrey. McGurk participated in President Obama’s 2009 review of Iraq policy and the transition following the U.S. military departure from Iraq. During the Bush administration, McGurk served as Director for Iraq, then as Special Assistant to the President, and also Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008 McGurk was the lead negotiator with the Iraqi Government on both a long-term Strategic Framework Agreement and a Security Agreement to govern the presence of U.S. forces. He was also one of the chief Washington-based architects of The Surge, having earlier served as a legal advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority from nearly the first shots of 2003.

    A little lower down the chain of command is Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland.  He is now leading Sunni “tribal coordination” to help defeat ISIS, as well as serving as commanding general of the Combined Joint Task Force. As a colonel back in 2006, MacFarland similarly helped organize the surge’s Anbar Sunni Awakening movement against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    And on the ground level, you can be sure that some of the current colonels were majors in Iraq War 2.0, and some of their subordinates put their boots on the same ground they’re on now.

    In other words, the new story is the old story: some of the same people have been losing this war for Washington since 2003, with neither accountability nor culpability in play.


    What If They Gave a War and No One Remembered?

    All those American memories lost to oblivion. Such forgetfulness only allows our war makers to do yet more of the same things in Iraq and Syria, acts that someone on the ground will be forced to remember forever, perhaps under the shadow of a drone overhead.

    Placing our service people in harm’s way, spending our money in prodigious amounts, and laying the country’s credibility on the line once required at least the pretext that some national interest was at stake. Not any more. Anytime some group we don’t like threatens a group we care not so much about, the United States must act to save a proud people, stop a humanitarian crisis, take down a brutal leader, put an end to genocide, whatever will briefly engage the public and spin up some vague facsimile of war fever.

    But back to Snapchat. It turns out that while the app was carefully designed to make whatever is transmitted quickly disappear, some clever folks have since found ways to preserve the information. If only the same could be said of our Snapchat wars. How soon we forget. Until the next time…



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  • Fighting in Iraq Until Hell Freezes Over

    October 7, 2014 // 3 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military, Syria



    I wanted to offer a wry chuckle before we headed into the heavy stuff about Iraq, so I tried to start this article with a suitably ironic formulation. You know, a déjà-vu-all-over-again kinda thing. I even thought about telling you how, in 2011, I contacted a noted author to blurb my book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, and he presciently declined, saying sardonically, “So you’re gonna be the one to write the last book on failure in Iraq?”

    I couldn’t do any of that. As someone who cares deeply about this country, I find it beyond belief that Washington has again plunged into the swamp of the Sunni-Shia mess in Iraq. A young soldier now deployed as one of the 1,600 non-boots-on-the-ground there might have been eight years old when the 2003 invasion took place. He probably had to ask his dad about it.  After all, less than three years ago, when dad finally came home with his head “held high,” President Obama assured Americans that “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.” So what happened in the blink of an eye?

    The Sons of Iraq

    Sometimes, when I turn on the TV these days, the sense of seeing once again places in Iraq I’d been overwhelms me. After 22 years as a diplomat with the Department of State, I spent 12 long months in Iraq in 2009-2010 as part of the American occupation. My role was to lead two teams in “reconstructing” the nation. In practice, that meant paying for schools that would never be completed, setting up pastry shops on streets without water or electricity, and conducting endless propaganda events on Washington-generated themes of the week (“small business,” “women’s empowerment,” “democracy building.”)

    We even organized awkward soccer matches, where American taxpayer money was used to coerce reluctant Sunni teams into facing off against hesitant Shia ones in hopes that, somehow, the chaos created by the American invasion could be ameliorated on the playing field. In an afternoon, we definitively failed to reconcile the millennium-old Sunni-Shia divide we had sparked into ethnic-cleansing-style life in 2003-2004, even if the score was carefully stage managed into a tie by the 82nd Airborne soldiers with whom I worked.

    In 2006, the U.S. brokered the ascension to power of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia politician handpicked to unite Iraq. A bright, shining lie of a plan soon followed. Applying vast amounts of money, Washington’s emissaries created the Sahwa, or Sons of Iraq, a loose grouping of Sunnis anointed as “moderates” who agreed to temporarily stop killing in return for a promised place at the table in the New(er) Iraq. The “political space” for this was to be created by a massive escalation of the American military effort, which gained a particularly marketable name: the surge.

    I was charged with meeting the Sahwa leaders in my area. My job back then was to try to persuade them to stay on board just a little longer, even as they came to realize that they’d been had. Maliki’s Shia government in Baghdad, which was already ignoring American entreaties to be inclusive, was hell-bent on ensuring that there would be no Sunni “sons” in its Iraq.

    False alliances and double-crosses were not unfamiliar to the Sunni warlords I engaged with. Often, our talk — over endless tiny glasses of sweet, sweet tea stirred with white-hot metal spoons — shifted from the Shia and the Americans to their great-grandfathers’ struggle against the British. Revenge unfolds over generations, they assured me, and memories are long in the Middle East, they warned.

    When I left in 2010, the year before the American military finally departed, the truth on the ground should have been clear enough to anyone with the vision to take it in. Iraq had already been tacitly divided into feuding state-lets controlled by Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds. The Baghdad government had turned into a typical, gleeful third-world kleptocracy fueled by American money, but with a particularly nasty twist: they were also a group of autocrats dedicated to persecuting, marginalizing, degrading, and perhaps one day destroying the country’s Sunni minority.

    U.S. influence was fading fast, leaving the State Department, a small military contingent, various spooks, and contractors hidden behind the walls of the billion-dollar embassy (the largest in the world!) that had been built in a moment of imperial hubris. The foreign power with the most influence over events was by then Iran, the country the Bush administration had once been determined to take down alongside Saddam Hussein as part of the Axis of Evil.

    The Grandsons of Iraq

    The staggering costs of all this — $25 billion to train the Iraqi Army, $60 billion for the reconstruction-that-wasn’t, $2 trillion for the overall war, almost 4,500 Americans dead and more than 32,000 wounded, and an Iraqi death toll of more than 190,000 (though some estimates go as high as a million) — can now be measured against the results. The nine-year attempt to create an American client state in Iraq failed, tragically and completely. The proof of that is on today’s front pages.

    According to the crudest possible calculation, we spent blood and got no oil. Instead, America’s war of terror resulted in the dissolution of a Middle Eastern post-Cold War stasis that, curiously enough, had been held together by Iraq’s previous autocratic ruler Saddam Hussein. We released a hornet’s nest of Islamic fervor, sectarianism, fundamentalism, and pan-nationalism. Islamic terror groups grew stronger and more diffuse by the year. That horrible lightning over the Middle East that’s left American foreign policy in such an ugly glare will last into our grandchildren’s days. There should have been so many futures. Now, there will be so few as the dead accumulate in the ruins of our hubris. That is all that we won.

    Under a new president, elected in 2008 in part on his promise to end American military involvement in Iraq, Washington’s strategy morphed into the more media-palatable mantra of “no boots on the ground.” Instead, backed by aggressive intel and the “surgical” application of drone strikes and other kinds of air power, U.S. covert ops were to link up with the “moderate” elements in Islamic governments or among the rebels opposing them — depending on whether Washington was opting to support a thug government or thug fighters.

    The results? Chaos in Libya, highlighted by the flow of advanced weaponry from the arsenals of the dead autocrat Muammar Gaddafi across the Middle East and significant parts of Africa, chaos in Yemen, chaos in Syria, chaos in Somalia, chaos in Kenya, chaos in South Sudan, and, of course, chaos in Iraq.

    And then came the Islamic State (IS) and the new “caliphate,” the child born of a neglectful occupation and an autocratic Shia government out to put the Sunnis in their place once and for all. And suddenly we were heading back into Iraq. What, in August 2014, was initially promoted as a limited humanitarian effort to save the Yazidis, a small religious sect that no one in Washington or anywhere else in this country had previously heard of, quickly morphed into those 1,600 American troops back on the ground in Iraq and American planes in the skies from Kurdistan in the north to south of Baghdad. The Yazidis were either abandoned, or saved, or just not needed anymore. Who knows and who, by then, cared?  They had, after all, served their purpose handsomely as the casus belli of this war. Their agony at least had a horrific reality, unlike the supposed attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that propelled a widening war in Vietnam in 1964 or the nonexistent Iraqi WMDs that were the excuse for the invasion of 2003.

    The newest Iraq war features Special Operations “trainers,” air strikes against IS fighters using American weapons abandoned by the Iraqi Army (now evidently to be resupplied by Washington), U.S. aircraft taking to the skies from inside Iraq as well as a carrier in the Persian Gulf and possibly elsewhere, and an air war across the border into Syria.

    It Takes a Lot of Turning Points To Go In a Circle

    The truth on the ground these days is tragically familiar: an Iraq even more divided into feuding state-lets; a Baghdad government kleptocracy about to be reinvigorated by free-flowing American money; and a new Shia prime minister being issued the same 2003-2011 to-do list by Washington: mollify the Sunnis, unify Iraq, and make it snappy. The State Department still stays hidden behind the walls of that billion-dollar embassy. More money will be spent to train the collapsed Iraqi military. Iran remains the foreign power with the most influence over events.

    One odd difference should be noted, however: in the last Iraq war, the Iranians sponsored and directed attacks by Shia militias against American occupation forces (and me); now, its special operatives and combat advisors fight side-by-side with those same Shia militias under the cover of American air power. You want real boots on the ground? Iranian forces are already there. It’s certainly an example of how politics makes strange bedfellows, but also of what happens when you assemble your “strategy” on the run.

    Obama hardly can be blamed for all of this, but he’s done his part to make it worse — and worse it will surely get as his administration once again assumes ownership of the Sunni-Shia fight. The “new” unity plan that will fail follows the pattern of the one that did fail in 2007: use American military force to create a political space for “reconciliation” between once-burned, twice-shy Sunnis and a compromise Shia government that American money tries to nudge into an agreement against Iran’s wishes. Perhaps whatever new Sunni organization is pasted together, however briefly, by American representatives should be called the Grandsons of Iraq.

    Just to add to the general eeriness factor, the key people in charge of putting Washington’s plans into effect are distinctly familiar faces. Brett McGurk, who served in key Iraq policy positions throughout the Bush and Obama administrations, is again the point man as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran. McGurk was once called the “Maliki whisperer” for his closeness to the former prime minister. The current American ambassador, Robert Stephen Beecroft, was deputy chief of mission, the number two at the Baghdad embassy, back in 2011. Diplomatically, another faux coalition of the (remarkably un)willing is being assembled. And the pundits demanding war in a feverish hysteria in Washington are all familiar names, mostly leftovers from the glory days of the 2003 invasion.

    Lloyd Austin, the general overseeing America’s new military effort, oversaw the 2011 retreat. General John Allen, brought out of military retirement to coordinate the new war in the region — he had recently been a civilian advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry — was deputy commander in Iraq’s Anbar province during the surge. Also on the U.S. side, the mercenary security contractors are back, even as President Obama cites, without a hint of irony, the ancient 2002 congressional authorization to invade Iraq he opposed as candidate Obama as one of his legal justifications for this year’s war. The Iranians, too, have the same military commander on the ground in Iraq, Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’s Quds Force. Small world. Suleimani also helps direct Hezbollah operations inside Syria.

    Even the aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf launching air strikes, the USS George H.W. Bush, is fittingly named after the president who first got us deep into Iraq almost a quarter century ago. Just consider that for a moment: we have been in Iraq so long that we now have an aircraft carrier named after the president who launched the adventure.

    On a 36-month schedule for “destroying” ISIS, the president is already ceding his war to the next president, as was done to him by George W. Bush. That next president may well be Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state as Iraq War 2.0 sputtered to its conclusion. Notably, it was her husband whose administration kept the original Iraq War of 1990-1991 alive via no-fly zones and sanctions. Call that a pedigree of sorts when it comes to fighting in Iraq until hell freezes over.

    If there is a summary lesson here, perhaps it’s that there is evidently no hole that can’t be dug deeper. How could it be more obvious, after more than two decades of empty declarations of victory in Iraq, that genuine “success,” however defined, is impossible? The only way to win is not to play. Otherwise, you’re just a sucker at the geopolitical equivalent of a carnival ringtoss game with a fist full of quarters to trade for a cheap stuffed animal.

    Apocalypse Then — And Now

    America’s wars in the Middle East exist in a hallucinatory space where reality is of little import, so if you think you heard all this before, between 2003 and 2010, you did. But for those of us of a certain age, the echoes go back much further. I recently joined a discussion on Dutch television where former Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra made a telling slip of the tongue. As we spoke about ISIS, Hoekstra insisted that the U.S. needed to deny them “sanctuary in Cambodia.” He quickly corrected himself to say “Syria,” but the point was made.

    We’ve been here before, as the failures of American policy and strategy in Vietnam metastasized into war in Cambodia and Laos to deny sanctuary to North Vietnamese forces. As with ISIS, we were told that they were barbarians who sought to impose an evil philosophy across an entire region. They, too, famously needed to be fought “over there” to prevent them from attacking us here. We didn’t say “the Homeland” back then, but you get the picture.

    As the similarities with Vietnam are telling, so is the difference. When the reality of America’s failure in Vietnam finally became so clear that there was no one left to lie to, America’s war there ended and the troops came home. They never went back. America is now fighting the Iraq War for the third time, somehow madly expecting different results, while guaranteeing only failure. To paraphrase a young John Kerry, himself back from Vietnam, who’ll be the last to die for that endless mistake? It seems as if it will be many years before we know.




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  • Ten Reasons Airstrikes in Iraq are a Terrible Idea

    June 23, 2014 // 6 Comments

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iran, Iraq, Military




    The smell of blood is once again in the air in Washington, this week for airstrikes and other forms of violent intervention in Iraq (reference: many of the same people– McCain and Graham in particular– were only recently calling for airstrikes or other military action in the Ukraine, and before that Syria, and before that…)

    Here are some of the many reasons airstrikes (or any other form of U.S. military action) in Iraq are just a terrible idea.


    1) Air strikes will not resolve anything significant.

    The short answer is through nine years of war and occupation U.S. air power in Iraq, employed on an unfettered scale, combined with the full-weight of the U.S. military on the ground plus billions of dollars in reconstruction funds, failed to resolve the issues now playing out in Iraq. Why would anyone think a lesser series of strikes would work any better?

    We also have a recent Iraqi example of the pointlessness of air strikes. The Maliki government employed them with great vigor against Sunnis in western Iraq, including in Fallujah, only six months ago, and here we are again, with an even more powerful Sunni force in the field.


    2) But air strikes now are crucial to buying the Iraqi government time to seek a political solution.

    See above about nine years of ineffectiveness. Today’s crisis is not new; Iraqi PM Maliki has been in power since 2006 and has done nothing to create an inclusive government. Indeed, he has done much to actively ostracize, alienate, jail and destroy his Sunni opposition. Maliki currently is his non-inclusionary own Minister of the Interior and Minister of Defense. Replacing Maliki, another regime change the U.S. now apparently supports, is no magic cure. Maliki’s successor will most likely come from his own majority party, and inherit his own ties to Iran and the many Shia groups needed to stay in power. Even with good intentions, a new Prime Minister will walk into office in the midst of a raging, open war against Sunni forces, not exactly the best place to start towards a more inclusive government. This argument of buying the Iraqis time is the same falsehood that fueled the unsuccessful Surges in Iraq (2007) and Afghanistan (2009). History matters, and it is time to accept that despite arguable tactical progress, in the longer view, the Surges did not work. And long views are what matter.

    Even David Petraeus, once America’s golden boy as architect of the Iraq Surge, warns against military intervention now in Iraq.


    3) John Kerry flying around the world diplomizing on Iraq is an air strike of its own.

    Worth noting is also the uselessness of American diplomacy. Since 2006 the U.S. has maintained its largest embassy in the world in Baghdad, with thousands of State Department and military personnel, alongside no doubt a healthy intelligence presence. It is clear that all those diplomats have not accomplished much in service to Iraqi reconciliation under even the more peaceful conditions in the past. It is unrealistic to expect more now.

    As for recruiting allies to intercede somehow with America in Iraq, that seems equally unlikely. The British, America’s former stalwart companion in global adventures, refused to get involved in American action last September in Syria. British involvement in the 2003 invasion remains controversial at home, and it is hard to see the Brits getting fooled again.



    4) Air strikes are surgical.

    Oh please. Check with the wedding parties in Yemen destroyed, and funeral gatherings massacred in Pakistan. Bombs and missiles are not surgical tools. They blow stuff up. It is impossible to avoid killing people near the other people you set out to kill, what the U.S. blithely refers to as collateral damage. And even that assumes you are aiming the weapons even close to the right place to begin with. Bad info that identifies the wrong house means you kill an innocent family, not a ISIS command cell.

    And even if you take the coldest American view possible that collateral damage is just an unavoidable cost of war, you fail to understand the real cost. Every innocent killed sets the population further against the U.S. and the people the U.S. seeks to support, both in Iraq and throughout the greater Middle East. Videos of dead children propagate well over social media.


    5) Air strikes are not a counterinsurgency tool.

    See nine years of war and occupation in Iraq, or forever years of war in places like Vietnam. You cannot bomb away a political movement. You cannot kill an idea that motivates millions of people with a Hellfire missile.


    6) Air strikes mean the U.S. is taking sides in a pit bull fight.

    The U.S. strikes would presumably be in an attempt to support the “Iraqi government and army.” The problem is that those entities are elusive. The Maliki government enjoys uneven public support, so supporting it alienates swaths of the Iraqi population and nearly requires them to take up arms against the U.S. and its puppets. The forces Maliki is putting into the field include a growing number of Shia militias under the control, such as that even is, of individual warlords and religious leaders. These are fighters who actively killed Americans just a few years ago, but somehow we’re on their side now. Maliki’s collection of forces are also bolstered in various ways by Iran. Somehow we’re on their side now too. Air strikes are part of a pattern of failed short-term thinking by the U.S.


    7) Air strikes are just more of “whack-a-mole” foreign policy.

    These entanglements are much more serious than to be dismissed as “well, politics makes for strange bedfellows” or “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Such trite phrases are typical of a U.S. foreign policy that only sees discrete crises within clear geopolitical borders. As long as the U.S. fantasizes that it can support Sunni fighters in Syria while striking them in Iraq, and as long as the U.S. believes it can bolster Iranian goals and credibility in Iraq while pushing back against it elsewhere in the Gulf, the worse things will get in the broader region.

    The same applies to the U.S.’ global “whack-a-mole” geopolitical strategy. Russia invades the Ukraine? A devoted by Washington to that. Boko Harem kidnaps girls? Ten days of Twitter memes. Iraq simmers for years? Let’s act now (and only now) before the next shiny object distracts our leaders.


    8 ) But air strikes are necessary because the U.S. must “do something.”

    Nope. There is nothing that says the U.S. must “do something” in response to all world events. There are many reasons to say even if we are compelled to do something, a military “solution” is not necessarily, or even often, the right thing to do. Imagine if you are outside a burning house, with a can of gasoline in your hand. With the compulsion to do something, is it better to throw the gas can into the flames, or stand back. Sometimes the best answer is indeed to stand back.

    9) ISIS is a threat to the U.S. and has to be air struck to stop another 9/11.

    ISIS is far from the Super Villains the U.S. media has seen necessary to depict them as. The groups fighting on the “Sunni” side, such as it is, are a collection of tribal, Baathist, religious, warlord and other conglomerations. Their loosely organized goal is to hold territory that criss-crosses the borders of Iraq and Syria. Absent some odd event, they are likely to withdraw or be chased out of central Iraq and hold on out west, where they have existed as a state-like thing for some time now. Central Iraq is way too far from their home base to retain supply lines (though they have been doing well capturing weapons from the retreating Iraqi forces), and Shia militia strength is more powerful the closer ISIS, et al, get to Baghdad.

    The threat line is most ardently espoused by who else, Dick Cheney, who brought out his own go-to scary thing, saying “One of the things I worried about 12 years ago – and that I worry about today – is that there will be another 9/11 attack and that the next time it’ll be with weapons far deadlier than airline tickets and box cutters.”

    ISIS and/or its Sunni supporters in Iraq have held territory in western Iraq for years without being a threat to the U.S. Homeland. Little changes if they hold a bit more, or less territory.

    ISIS is not a transnational terror group, and unless the U.S. drives them into an alliance with al Qaeda (as the U.S. did in the early years of the 2003 invasion with the Sunnis), they are unlikely to be. They fight with small arms in small groups under loose leadership. They will not be invading the U.S.

    10) Bottom line why air strikes are a terrible waste.

    The U.S. lost the war in Iraq years ago, probably as early as 2003. It is time to accept that.




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  • Whither Iraq? What’s Happening Had to Happen

    June 13, 2014 // 17 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military




    The events unfolding now in Iraq are inevitable. They are the latest iteration of all the good we failed to do from day one of America’s ill-fated invasion in 2003.

    Some History

    Iraq before our invasion was three separate pseudo-states held together by a powerful security apparatus under Saddam. If you like historical explanations, this disparate collection was midwifed by the British following WWI, as they drew borders in the MidEast to their own liking, with often no connection to the ground-truth of the real ethnic, religious and tribal boundaries.

    That mess held together more or less until the U.S. foolishly broke it apart in 2003 with no real understanding of what it did. As Saddam was removed, and his security regime dissolved alongside most of civilian society, the seams broke open.

    The Kurds quickly created a de facto state of their own, with its own military (the pesh merga), government and borders. U.S. money and pressure restrained them from proclaiming themselves independent, even as they waged border wars with Turkey and signed their own oil contracts.

    Sunni-Shia Rift

    The Sunni-Shia rift fueled everything that happened in Iraq, and is happening now. The U.S. never had a long game for this, but never stopped meddling in the short-term. The Surge was one example. The U.S. bought off the Sunni bulk with actual cash “salaries” to their fighters (the U.S. first called them the Orwellian “Concerned Local Citizens” and then switched to “Sons of Iraq,” which sounded like an old Bob Hope road movie title.) The U.S. then also used Special Forces to assassinate Sunni internal enemies– a favored sheik need only point at a rival, label him al-Qaeda, and the night raids happened. A lull in the killing did occur as a result of the Surge, but was only sustained as long as U.S. money flowed in. As the pay-off program was “transitioned” to the majority Shia central government, it quickly fell apart.

    The Shias got their part of the deal when, in 2010, in a rush to conclude a Prime Ministerial election that would open the door to a U.S. excuse to pack up and leave Iraq, America allowed the Iranians to broker a deal where we failed. The Sunnis were marginalized, a Shia government was falsely legitimized and set about pushing aside the Sunni minority from the political process, Iranian influence increased, the U.S. claimed victory, and then scooted our military home. Everything since then between the U.S. and Iraq– pretending Maliki was a legitimate leader, the billions in aid, the military and police training, the World’s Largest Embassy– has been pantomime.

    Post-America Iraq

    But the departure of the U.S. military, and the handing over of relations to the ever-limp fortress American embassy, left Iraq’s core problems intact. Last year’s Sunni siege of Fallujah only underscored the naughty secret that western Iraq had been and still is largely under Sunni control with very little (Shia) central government influence. That part of Iraq flows seamlessly over the artificial border with Syria, and the successes of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in a war zone that now takes in both countries should not be a surprise.

    The titular head of Iraq now, Nuri al-Maliki, is watching it all unravel in real-time. He has become scared enough to call for U.S. airstrikes to protect his power. It is highly unlikely that the U.S. will comply, though covert strikes and some level of Special Forces action may happen behind the scenes. That won’t work of course. What the full weight of the U.S. military could not do over nine years, a few drone killings cannot do. It’s like using a can opener to try and catch fish.

    What Might Happen Next

    Things are evolving quickly in Iraq, but for now, here are some possible scenarios. The Kurds are the easy ones; they will keep on doing what they have been doing. They will fight back effectively and keep their oil flowing. They’ll see Baghdad’s influence only in the rear-view mirror.

    The Sunnis will at least retain de facto control of western Iraq, maybe more. They are unlikely to be set up to govern in any formal way, but may create some sort of informal structure to collect taxes, enforce parts of the law and chase away as many Shias as they can. Violence will continue, sometimes hot and nasty, sometimes low-level score settling.

    The Shias are the big variable. Maliki’s army seems in disarray, but if he only needs it to punish the Sunnis with violence it may prove up to that. Baghdad will not “fall.” The city is a Shia bastion now, and the militias will not give up their homes. A lot of blood may be spilled, but Baghdad will remain Shia-controlled and Maliki will remain in charge in some sort of limited way.

    The U.S. will almost certainly pour arms and money into Iraq in the same drunken fashion we always have. Special Forces will quietly arrive to train and advise. It’ll be enough to keep Maliki in power but not much more than that. Domestically we’ll have to endure a barrage of “who lost Iraq?” and the Republicans will try and blast away at Obama for not “doing enough.” United States is poised to order an evacuation of the embassy, Fox News reported, but that is unlikely. “Unessential” personnel will be withdrawn, many of those slated to join the embassy out of Washington will be delayed or canceled, but the embarrassment of closing Fort Apache down would be too much for Washington to bear. The U.S. will use airstrike and drones if necessary to protect the embassy so that there will be no Benghazi scenario.

    What is Unlikely to Happen

    The U.S. will not intervene in any big way, absent protecting the embassy. Obama has cited many times the ending of the U.S. portion of the Iraq war as one of his few foreign policy successes and he won’t throw that under the bus. The U.S. backed off from significant involvement in Syria, and has all but ignored Libya following Benghazi, and that won’t change.

    The U.S. must also be aware that intervening to save Maliki puts us on the same side in this mess as the Iranians.

    Almost none of this has to do with al Qaeda or international terrorism, though those forces always profit from chaos.

    The Turks may continue to snipe at the Kurds on their disputed border, but that conflict won’t turn hot. The U.S. will keep the pressure on to prevent that, and everyone benefits if the oil continues to flow.

    The Iranians will not intervene any more than the Americans might. A little help to Malaki here (there are reports of Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the fighting), some weapons there, but Iran is only interested in a secure western border and the Sunni Surge should not threaten that significantly enough to require a response. Iran also has no interest in giving the U.S. an excuse to fuss around in the area. A mild level of chaos in Iraq suits Iran’s needs just fine for now.

    Lost

    There are still many fools at loose in the castle. Here’s what Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics said: “There is hope… that this really scary, dangerous moment will serve as a catalyst to bring Iraqis together, to begin the process of reconciliation.”

    Brett McGurk, the State Department’s point man on Iraq, brought out a tired trope, on Twitter no less: “The U.S. has a permanent Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq. We have suffered and bled together, and we will help in time of crisis.”

    The war in Iraq was lost as it started. There was no way for America to win it given all of the above, whether the troops stayed forever or not. The forces bubbling inside Iraq might have been contained a bit, or a bit longer, but that’s about all that could have been expected. Much of the general chaos throughout the Middle East now is related to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and how that upset multiple balances of power and uneasy relationships. The Iraq war will be seen as one of the most significant foreign policy failures of recent American history. That too is inevitable.



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  • State Dept Whistleblower Email Hacked and Laptops Stolen from Lawyer’s Office

    January 29, 2014 // 24 Comments

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    Probably just a coincidence but…

    The personal Gmail account of a State Department whis­tle­­blower, Richard P. Higbie, a diplomatic security agent, was hacked, and four years worth of messages — some detailing alleged wrongdoing at the agency — were deleted. The emails allegedly included evidence about misconduct by top officials at the Department, communications with other potential whistleblowers, and correspondence with members of Congress who are investigating allegations of misconduct by State Department employees to include use of prostitutes, soliciting child sex and more. See the sleazy details here.

    According to the New York Times, information hacked raises a flurry of questions about the management of the State Department under Hillary Rodham Clinton. Higbie, a senior criminal investigator and the second-highest-ranking agent with the service’s Dallas office, has an employment lawsuit against the State Department, alleging it retaliated against him.


    Another Coincidence

    Another coincidence is that in July 2013 Higbie’s lawyer’s office was broken into, though only three laptops were taken. Other valuables in clear sight were left untouched. The burglars entered the law offices by busting through a wall. The burglars were seen on surveillance video, and the lawyers claim they know where the laptops may be via IP tracking software, but so far no arrests have been made.

    Another Coincidence

    Another coincidence is that at the time of the break-in and stolen laptops, Higbie’s lawyers were also representing another State Department whistleblower, Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator for the Department’s inspector general. She revealed in June a pattern of alleged cover-ups by top department officials. The alleged cover-ups included keeping quiet separate IG investigations that found that members of then-Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton’s security detail had engaged hookers and that the U.S. ambassador to Belgium solicited underage prostitutes. These were among a string of investigations by the service, responsible for protecting dignitaries and investigating crimes within the Department, that were allegedly derailed by senior officials, including one instance of interference by Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills. Mills is expected to play a significant role in a Hillary administration, and was also rumored to have squashed any investigation into the sexual shenanigans of State Department employee Brett McGurk.

    Another Coincidence

    The lawyers for both State Department whistleblowers made an interesting comment concerning the break-in at their offices. ““We do not believe the federal government officially authorized the actions. We are very suspicious and do believe it definitely has the insinuations of a political crime. Meaning, the individuals who broke into our office were looking for information that has significant ramifications.”

    Legal folks are familiar with the term cui bono, commonly used to suggest that the person or people guilty of committing a crime may be found among those who have something to gain. That said, any speculation that the email hacks and the break-ins have anything at all to do with protecting the reputation of Hillary Clinton are without evidence. For now.

    2016!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



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  • Veteran’s Day: State Department Sleaze Flows Unabated and Unpunished

    November 11, 2013 // 12 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    We pause to honor America’s veterans today, and recognize their sacrifices. At the same time, we wish to let those still on active duty, living in the mud, eating MREs away from their families and of course putting their lives at risk, what some have called “America’s Other Army,” the Department of State, has been up to home and abroad.

    That said, we’ve tried to keep up with the near-continuous flow of sleaze at the State Department, but it a tough job. Luckily, the New York Post has also been keeping track, and presents us with some updates.

    (This blog’s catalog of sleaze is here if you need to refresh your memory)

    From the Post:

    — Chuck Lisenbee, a former Beirut security officer who was being probed for allegedly sexually assaulting local guards, is now a special agent in Washington for the Office of Diplomatic Vehicles, Enforcement and Outreach, according to a State Department phone directory. Agents were only given three days to investigate the allegations against him, according to a memo seen by the Post.

    An alert blog reader has submitted in the comments below: “More details on Lisenbee: he first got into trouble when he tried to make out with a fellow (male) ARSO in Baghdad. His depredations against local guards in Liberia were then discovered. Lisenbee started every lunch with prayer because “Jesus Christ, my lord and savior, is the most important thing in my life” (exact quote heard by this source on at least 50 occasions). ”

    — Brett McGurk — a former senior adviser to the ambassador to Iraq — was appointed the deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran in August, according to the State Department Web site. He was President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Iraq but withdrew after his extramarital affair with a Wall Street Journal reporter was exposed. Apparently, investigators never interviewed McGurk because Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, intervened. (this blog has A LOT more on McGurk’s dalliances; and you’ll see a lot more of Under Furher Cheryl Mills in the Hillary Clinton administration)

    — Former Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman was allowed to retire in July. A State Department investigator believed Gutman solicited “sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” according to the Post. The IG’s Office is reviewing the charges and the Department’s procedures and plans to release a followup report. Howard Gutman and members of Clinton’s security detail were also accused of hired prostitutes.

    — An alert blog reader has submitted in the comments below: “Remember old Linda Howard, profiled on this blog for holding her Ethiopian housekeeper as a slave. She lost a big lawsuit over that. The U.S. Attorney was unable to prosecute her and her husband, Russell, because Linda’s sex parties in Yemen were really popular and the “semi-pro” Ethiopian girls in attendance made a lot of money at them. As a result, they didn’t make terribly good witnesses. The Howard’s are currently hiding out in an undisclosed SouthEast Asian country (Russell used to be a diplomatic courier in the Australian Foreign Service).”


    Meanwhile, a quick update also on America’s Favorite Diplomatic Security agent, Chris Deedy. Deedy shot and killed an unarmed man in Hawaii while there on official State Department business (albeit off duty when he pulled the trigger multiple times), guarding Hillary Clinton during APEC meetings. The judge declared a mistrial, released the jury and stated she was thinking about scheduling a retrial for May or June 2014. The killing took place in 2011. At last report, the victim remains dead. Much more here about this story; Deedy remains a full-time paid employee of the State Department.

    The Honolulu Star Advertiser and HawaiiNewsNOW have filed a complaint in state Supreme Court to force the judge to release transcripts of the parts of the Deedy trial where she kicked everyone out of the courtroom, saying the judge violated the U.S. Constitution by holding closed-door court proceedings.

    Deedy’s support group is also busy, asking readers to donate their frequent flyer miles and hotel points so Deedy can fly and stay in Hawaii for free. Jump on over to their site if you want to pony up.

    Also, Benghazi.



    And don’t miss more State sleaze later this week, with a blog post we’ll call “Sex, Lies and Rotten Meat at the American Consulate in Naples.”



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  • State Department Sleaze Accumulates without Real Response

    June 16, 2013 // 56 Comments

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State


    Breaking Bad! Two new sleazy State Department actions– a sweetheart consulting deal for one of Hillary’s best buds and accusations of an affair and hookers for a senior State official. See below!

    Attempted suicide after a harsh interrogation? Hiring armed guys with criminal backgrounds? Senior officials having sex with subordinates, prostitutes and minors? Investigations into all of the above covered up or halted? That’s the news, not from Gitmo or some banana republic, but from your U.S. Department of State. Better get out the hand sanitizer, this blog post gets filthy fast.

    A Sad Pattern of Sleaze from America’s Diplomats

    Ever since the story broke on CBS News that the State Department covered up numerous allegations of wrong-doing to protect its public image, the details of said wrong-doing have been leaking out.

    The reasons to care about this are many, and all the Hillary-love and attempts to just call it (just) a Republican witch hunt are a smokescreen. The obvious reason to care is that these people represent America abroad, and we need to ask what image they are projecting. In addition, such crimes and personal traits as alleged below make them vulnerable to blackmail, either by other members of the USG (promote me, give me a better assignment, or else…) or foreign intelligence (turn over the secrets or the photos go to the press). The fact that the organization apparently cannot police itself internally raises questions about competence (and the former SecState saying she was wholly ignorant of all this sludge is not a defense that actually makes her look presidential), and about what if anything it is accomplishing on America’s behalf.

    Here’s a roundup to date:

    — As a special shout-out to We Meant Well regulars, USA Today claims it has a memo detailing how Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, allegedly interceded in an investigation by Diplomatic Security into an affair between failed-Iraq ambassador-designate Brett McGurk and Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon.

    — Cheryl Mills again: Mills, a longtime confidante of Hillary, reportedly played a key role in the State Department’s damage-control efforts on the Benghazi attack last year and was also named in accusations that department higher-ups quashed investigations into diplomats’ potential criminal activity. Cheryl Mills, who served in a dual capacity in recent years as general counsel and chief of staff to Clinton, was accused of attempting to stifle congressional access to a diplomat who held a senior post in Libya at the time of the attack.

    — U.S. ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman accused of soliciting “sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children.” The ambassador “routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” according to documents obtained by NBC News. State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy ordered an end to the investigation. “The ambassador’s protective detail and the embassy’s surveillance detection team [Note: A State Department team that conducts counterespionage surveillance, watching State Department officials to see if they are being watched by foreign spies] . . . were well aware of the behavior.”

    The ambassador explained that sometimes he fights with his wife, needs air and he goes for a walk in the park because he likes it. The Atlantic reported that the park Gutman trolled, Parc Royal Warandepark, was well-known as a place to pick up adult homosexual and adolescent boy prostitutes.

    A Belgian newspaper described the park: “I see young children go to adult waiting. Later, another adult waits, often to extort money from the victim after. I’ve been awakened by cries and my terrace, I saw someone being beaten. I had my legs were shaking. Time to call the police, I saw the victim painfully get up and go.”

    — A State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” with foreign nationals hired as embassy guards. State’s former regional security officer in Beirut, Chuck Lisenbee, allegedly sexually assaulted guards and was accused of similar assaults in Baghdad, Khartoum and Monrovia. Justine Sincavage, then-director of Diplomatic Security Service, called the allegations a “witch hunt” and gave agents “only three days” to investigate, and no charges were brought, according to USA Today.

    — Members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries,” a problem the report says was “endemic.” Three members of Clinton’s security detail admitted to hiring prostitutes while on foreign trips and were given suspensions of one day. An investigator for Diplomatic Security launched an investigation into similar allegations against four other members of Clinton’s security detail but was ordered by Kimber Davidson, chief of the special investigations division, and Rob Kelty, his deputy, to shut down the investigation.

    — The State Department has hired an “alarming number of law-enforcement agents with criminal or checkered backgrounds” because of a flawed hiring process, a stunning memo obtained by The New York Post reveals. “Too many people entering the [Diplomatic Security and Information Management] communities end up as subjects of [Special Investigation Division] investigations and HR adjudications, become Giglio-impaired and can play only limited roles thereafter,” according to the memo. “Giglio” refers to a US Supreme Court case dealing with jury notification that witnesses have made deals with the government to induce testimony. Some Diplomatic Security field offices “have major problems just waiting to be discovered,” the memo adds.

    — In one case, aggressive interrogation techniques by Diplomatic Service agents “drove an employee to attempt suicide” when accused of raping his maid in Bangkok, Thailand, a memo suggests. “After “being told he would end up in a Thai prison, his wife would lose her job and his children would be pulled out of school, [the man] attempted suicide by jumping out of the 16th-story window at a hotel in Bangkok.” The guy lived, and was flown back to Washington for in-patient psychiatric care, where the agents continued to harass him. The rape charges were ultimately dropped.

    — The same Diplomatic Security memo cites eight cases involving Diplomatic Security agents who resorted to “false, misleading or incomplete statements in reports,” “privacy-act violations” or “lack of objectivity” in investigations.

    — Diplomatic security agents learned that James Combs, a senior diplomatic security agent in Baghdad and formerly of the DS Office of Professional Standards, was having an extramarital affair with a subordinate and had numerous affairs with men over a 30-year span without the knowledge of his wife. This presented “counterintelligence concerns,” but the investigation never reached a conclusion.

    — A security contractor in Baghdad died of an overdose of methadone, which he was taking to counteract an addiction to the painkiller oxycodone. An underground drug ring may have been supplying the drugs, but State’s regional security officer did not allow a special investigations agent to pursue that possibility.

    — In Miami, agents investigating a car accident by diplomatic security agent Evelyn Kittinger learned that she had been claiming full pay for several years “but had actually only worked very few hours.” State Department supervisors told the investigator to advise her to resign to avoid facing criminal charges and a major fine.

    — Another report states that a top State Department official stymied investigators trying to get to the bottom of four killings in Honduras involving DEA agents and local police. The incident ended in the deaths of two pregnant women and two men last year, after Honduran national police opened fire from a State Department-owned helicopter on a small boat. Honduran police said drugs were involved, but locals said the boat was full of fishermen.

    –ADDED: Sen. Charles Grassley is probing longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s employment status, asking how she got a sweetheart deal to be a private six-figure consultant while still serving as a top State Department official. Abedin, one of Clinton’s most loyal aides, is of course married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who’s in the midst of a vigorous effort to beat off his own sexting scandal and become mayor of New York. Abedin hauled in as much as $350,000 in outside income on top of her $135,000 government salary. She was redesignated a “special government employee” who was able to haul in cash as a private contractor while still on the government dole.

    –ADDED: Consulate General Naples’ Kerry Howard says she was bullied, harassed and forced to resign after she exposed Consul General Donald Moore’s alleged office trysts with subordinates and hookers. “When our diplomats disrespect the Italians by hiring and firing them because they have seen too much — or use them for ‘sex-ercise’ — we have to question why we have diplomats abroad at taxpayer expense,” said Howard. As a senior foreign-service officer, Moore makes as much as $179,700 a year. His first office romance supposedly occurred within days of his arrival in Italy, when he allegedly bedded a consulate employee, a single mom who fell in love with him. Moore was honored as “Consular Officer of the Year” (Barbara Watson Award) in 2005.

    — A Foreign Service Officer, Michael Todd Sestak, 41, has been arrested and charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit bribery and visa fraud. Dude was a senior visa official in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and supposedly pocketed some $2 million dollars for his work.

    It appears that Foggy Bottom has sprung multiple leaks as hard-working folks grow tired of their bosses being allowed to do just about anything without punishment. What is going on? I don’t recall this much garbage coming into the daylight ever before. I assume it was happening all the same forever, but not this much in the public eye. I think it is time for Kerry to say something about at least trying to control his organization.

    And of course someone should throw Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy out. He *may* be getting the message that in this internet age if you don’t give people a realistic internal avenue to fix things they’ll just go outside. That’s kinda what I did… So there is no doubt much more to come…


    State Department Responds

    The State Department spokesman said, “We hold all employees to the highest standards.” Spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters repeatedly this week that the accusations are “unsubstantiated.”

    So that’s that apparently. No reporter has seen it useful to ask why for more than four and a half years, the State Department has had no appointed inspector general, the longest such vacancy of any federal agency. Or why, during his entire time in office, Obama has not nominated anyone to fill the slot. Or why during her four years as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not demand an inspector general for her organization.

    Hillary Responds

    A spokesman said Clinton was completely unaware of any of the investigations mentioned in the Office of the Inspector General’s reports and memos, including the case involving her personal security detail allegedly soliciting prostitutes. “We learned of it from the media and don’t know anything beyond what’s been reported.”

    It means nothing that a candidate who will no doubt cite her endless efforts on behalf of women everywhere remained unaware of sex crimes occurring, well, under her.

    Opposition researchers and taxpayers alike, once again, Hillary Clinton’s defense is that she was totally unaware of what was going on in the organization she lead and managed, up to and including the actions of her own lifelong advisor and chief of staff, as well senior officials who reported directly to her. She’ll make a great president!

    Oh wait– these are just “allegations.” They need to be investigated. Well, the problem of course is that one of the allegations is that powerful trolls inside State prevented or derailed any investigations, and indeed the over-arching allegation is that Diplomatic Security, charged with investigations, is riddled with political considerations that prevent full and transparent investigations. So that’s a pretty weak excuse to blow off everything said.

    That said, maybe some are false. OK, but if even a small number of these serious accusations are true (rape, murder, minors) then even that suggests an organization operating without internal controls and the best defense its leader can come up with is her own ignorance. Not a good thing.




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  • Dear Playboy Adviser: (Petraeus Edition)

    November 14, 2012 // 20 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Military

    (The following emails were found in an electronic trash can outside CIA headquarters. No attempt has been made to contact The Daily Show or to verify their authenticity)

    Dear Playboy Adviser:

    I am an older professional man; call me “Dave” (maybe not my real name). Bored with my marriage of many decades to a woman who looks like she could be my mother, it seemed OK to me to have an affair with this dame writing a book about me, and, OK, maybe a few other broads. Turns out they are all bat shit crazy and now I’m in trouble where I used to work. I just want to get back in the saddle, put myself back out there while I’m still young enough, but I’m worried. Is Viagra still the best or should I try Cialis? This all seems like just a personal matter but the media is all over it like some big f’ing deal.

    All in,
    Stick Man



    Dear Stick Man:

    Writing from a Gmail account SkinnyLoveHunk@gmail.com created by someone named NotGeneralPetraeus at CIA HQ is a poor way to conceal your identity, just saying.

    David Petraeus, you are a disgraceful slut. You lied to your wife, messed around with a “reporter,” wrote her naughty emails we all know are going to leak eventually and make us sick. If you did not resign, exactly what credibility would you have with your staff? How about your female staff? What kind of leader and role model are you trying to be? You wrote yourself in your “12 Rules for Living” that Rule No. 1 is “Lead by example from the front of the formation.” You were the head of the freaking CIA– did you think no one would notice?

    You presence in any senior position would send a clear, sad message to all employees that double standards of behavior apply, and that if you’re senior enough you can get away with things underlings get fired for. The Army publicly fires commanders all the time for adultery, and the CIA quietly pulls security clearances from employees who cannot show personal discretion and judgement. If you’re lying to your wife, who else are you willing to lie to for your own crappy satisfaction? Your agency needs to know it can trust you. And don’t invoke your own Rule No. 4, “There is an exception to every rule, standard operating procedure, and poli­cy; it is up to leaders to determine when exceptions should be made and to explain why they made them.” That does not apply to your marriage vows, mister.

    (To be fair, none of your 12 Rules specifically bans nailing your biographer, but it is implied)

    Is America sending the right message to the world when this is the best we can come up with? What, you think, this is the State Department?

    Now, you disgust me. Zip it up and go away please.

    The Adviser

    Special to NotGeneralAllen@gmail.com: Take a look at that emblem you carry; it says Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful. That’s your guide on what to do when you’re not sure what to do. And if you’ve got time to write 20,000-30,000 pages of sexytime emails to a married broad in Florida, you’ve got time to win the freaking war. Do your job, loser.




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  • Here’s a Threat toward Syria from Your Next SecState Susan Rice

    August 31, 2012 // 3 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq



    Remember when the State Department, and the United Nations, had something to do with diplomacy and treaties and peaceful resolution of conflicts?

    Susan Rice doesn’t.

    On Der Twitter:




    Rice has a Facebook page, so feel free to leave a bloody hand print or a comment there. She is a bubbly sort. Perky. Why here, on August 8, she Facebooked:

    Tonight, less than a year after the end of Qadhafi’s brutal reign, Libya seats its newly elected Congress. Another step forward.


    Luckily I was able to link her social media ejaculation to her own State Department’s travel advice on Libya:

    The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Libya.

    Libya’s General National Congress replaced the Transitional National Council in August 2012 and will lead the country until elections are held on the basis of a new constitution. Despite this progress, violent crime continues to be a problem in Tripoli, Benghazi, and other parts of the country. In particular, armed carjacking and robbery are on the rise. In addition, political violence, including car bombings in Tripoli and assassinations of military officers and alleged former regime officials in Benghazi, has increased.


    And God help us, Susan Rice wants to replace Hillary as SecState in the maybe next Obama administration. Where’s Brett McGurk when his country needs him?



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  • Great Moments in Public Diplomacy, No. 342

    June 14, 2012 // 5 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    No one can say that the State Department isn’t making the most of Twitter in its pubic diplomacy efforts. Actually, no one can say it, because they’ll get fired if they do.

    Let’s look at some of today’s State Department Twitter while it is still running down the inside of America’s thigh:



    Oooooh, Biden on Iraq. A lot going on there, renewal of Sunni bombing of Shia pilgrims, bloodiest day of 2012 so far, whither the Malaki power struggle, what’s going on with McGurk’s nomination, etc.

    So I hit the jump on State’s Tweet to soak it all in and here’s the “read out” in full:

    The Vice President today hosted a periodic Cabinet-level meeting on Iraq. Participants discussed the current political situation in Iraq and recent progress toward implementing the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement in two areas that are central to our partnership: security cooperation and energy cooperation. The Vice President, and all participants, also condemned the violence that occurred in Iraq today and offered their condolences to the Iraqi people.


    Um, guys? Credibility is key to succeeding in social media. You want someone other than your boss to read what you write, ‘kay? Please try again.



    So here’s another State Department Tweet:



    Alright! The good old State Department is out there helping Americans find jobs, a bully idea in an election year. They say they are producing “real results for the America people” so let’s hit the jump and see what those real results are…

    (sound of tumbleweed rolling across screen)

    After the jump, you end up on a State page glorifying the Dear Leader (Hillary this time) and including one of her speeches where she claims “Our diplomatic efforts are producing real returns for the American people and building a more prosperous future for our economic partners.”

    There is… not… one… example. None.

    Instead, we learn that the State Department is going to spend a bunch of tax money to hold “Global Economic Statecraft Day” parties at all its embassies. This is a made-up special day, kind of like National Eat More Citrus Day. What’ll happen as a result of all these lovely parties? Hillary lists the robust plans: “public dialogue, a partnership announcement, or a meeting to discuss export opportunities.”

    I don’t have a crazy man’s dictionary at hand, but my definition of producing real results seems different than having dialogues, making announcements or holding a meeting.” I’d like a job please, ma’am, instead.

    No wonder I can’t seem to succeed at State. I just don’t get social media.



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  • I Volunteer to be Ambassador to Iraq

    June 13, 2012 // 3 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    With the McGurk nomination in trouble, despite State claiming he is uniquely qualified, prudent planning suggests State should have a replacement in the wings. I hereby volunteer and submit I too am uniquely qualified.

    1. I spent a year in Iraq and screwed up most of what I tried to do, like McGurk. Advantage: McGurk, he was there longer and messed up a lot more things.

    2. Unlike McGurk, there are no sweaty messages in my email archives. As part of its dirt-digging investigation into me because of my book and this blog, the State Department reviewed years of my emails, as well as my old travel vouchers and credit reports. They did not find anything worth punishing me over. Advantage: me.

    3. As I already work for the State Department, so this is a lateral transfer with less paperwork. Since my current assignment is telework, I could actually technically continue to do that while serving as ambassador, a two-for-one deal for State. Advantage: me.

    4. I’ve not cheated on my wife. I don’t use government email to send high school-like naughty notes. I have never used the term “blue balls” seriously. I do not write emails about beating off. I am a w-a-y better writer. Big advantage: me.

    5. Like McGurk, I don’t speak Arabic and have never run an embassy. Like McGurk, I don’t have a clue how to handle a $6.5 billion budget and manage 16,000 employees. Advantage? Tie.

    6. McGurk seems to only know one reporter well. Through my book and blog, I have met many reporters (though have slept with none of them). Advantage: me.

    7. I am not related to our eighth president Martin Van Buren, but I would be willing to lie about it to Congress. Advantage: me.

    8. McGurk has never held a job outside of working on Iraq. I’ve had 24 years at State and, while in college, had a summer job cleaning sewers. That last bit, my friends, does indeed make me uniquely qualified.



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  • Something Stinks at Foggy Bottom

    June 11, 2012 // 4 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq

    For those lucky enough to live outside of DC, the Department of State is located in an area of town called Foggy Bottom; that’s even the name of the subway station nearest the building. Back in the 18th century the area was literally a fetid swamp, hence the name.

    It appears now that the swamp gases are rising through the concrete, because something in connection with the McGurk ambassador to Iraq nomination stinks.

    State claims that McGurk is “uniquely qualified” for the job, and that he was the subject of “rigorous vetting.” Yet now-authenticated, salacious emails, which call into question his judgment, maturity, discretion and ethics popped up online, straight out of State’s own archives and blew his once certain Senate approval on to a back burner, at best.

    As part of any political vetting process, especially in the age of the web, the candidate is asked at some point “Is there anything else? Anything out there that might come up we need to know about? Any skeletons in the closet, old affairs, angry ex’, anything?” Because today, if it is out there, it will surface.

    And one of three things happened.

    McGurk either lied to State and did not tell them about his affair, his trading info for sex, his lack of judgment (bad), or

    McGurk with his own ethical compass did not think he did anything wrong and did not tell State (maybe worse), or

    McGurk did tell State the whole story and State covered it up, hoping to mislead the Senate into confirming McGurk (very bad)


    Anybody got a fourth possible scenario? I don’t.

    We are left with the choices of a man either without ethics and shame, or one willing to lie to get ahead, or an institution at State so set on pleasing its political bosses in the White House that it is willing to deceive the Senate and help place an unqualified man in one of its most important posts.

    There are too many well-qualified, honest people out there who could be ambassador to Iraq for the Senate to waste any more time on McGurk. He should now announce his need to spend time with his new wife, and State should come clean on its role in covering up this stench.

    State should abandon its investigation into the leak of the emails and instead investigate its own vetting process.

    Let’s try something new here: put the interests of America in front of self-interest. It will be a welcome change for the State Department.



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  • Army vs. State: Got leadership?

    June 10, 2012 // 2 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Military





    173rd Airborne Commander has an affair, cheats on wife = Relieved of command, Army moves to Court Martial.



    State Department adviser has an affair, cheats on wife = Nominated for Ambassadorship, State Department defends him claiming he is “uniquely qualified.”

    Got leadership?



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  • Letter from Tehran

    April 25, 2012 // 2 Comments

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Embassy/State, Iran, Iraq

    Hello American people, your friend Nouri al Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, writing to you here from Tehran, which is the capital of Iran since many Americans I heard are ignorant of basic geography. For example, did you know that Iraq’s borders, which cause so much Sunni-Shia-Kurd trouble for you, were basically drawn up artifically by your old friends the British? Hah hah, this is true.

    I am in Tehran this week, as you can see from the photo, meeting with my old friends the Iranians. I had a few minutes here and wanted to drop you in America a line to say “hi.” Your Barack invited me to the White House last December as a propaganda ploy as the US was magnanimously returning my country to me, but since I have been naughty since then I doubt I will be invited back again to greet you in person.

    Ahmadinejad said that Tehran-Baghdad ties are exemplary. “Tehran, Baghdad share ‘unbreakable’ relationship’.” Like me, his English not so good, you forgive, OK.

    I started thinking about you when I was reading a book about what you call the “Vietnam War.” People over there call it the Third Indochina War, as they fought the Japanese, the French and then the Americans in succession, much as we in Iraq call the most recent invasion by you the Third Gulf War, after Saddam fought the Iranians in the 1980’s (you were on Iraq’s side), then Iraq fought the US in 1991 and of course then you invaded us because of 9/11 in 2003. Your wonderful naivete about history just amuses me.

    You know, in Vietnam your government convinced generations of Americans to fight and die for something bigger than themselves, to struggle for democracy they believed, to fight Communism in Vietnam before it toppled countries like dominoes (we also love this dominoes game in Iraq!) and you ended up fighting Communism in your California beaches. Everyone believed this but it was all a lie. Then in 2003 the George W. Bush (blessed be his name) told the exact same lie and everyone believed it again– he just changed the word “Communism” to “Terrorism” and again your American youth went off to die for something greater than themselves but it was a lie. How you fooled twice?

    Soon of course the Obama will say something similar and you’ll do it again. Maybe in Syria, maybe here in Iran, maybe somewhere that is not even connected to the lie as was with Iraq and 9/11.

    But I am rude. I need to say now “Thank You” to the parents of the 4484 Americans who died in this Iraq invasion so that I could become the new autocratic leader of Iraq. Really guys and the girls, I could not have achieved this status without you.

    You see, during the Saddam years I was forced to live in exile in Iran. This is true! Your war allowed me to come back to Iraq and become Prime Minister. In March 2010 you had another American election festival for us in Iraq, and I lost by the counting of votes. However, because your State Department was desperate for some government to form here and they could not broker a deal themselves, they allowed the Iranian government to come and help me (as we are old friends you now know) and arrange a deal with the Sadrists (they were once terrorists on one of your lists). So then I won.

    Within days of your troops leaving Iraq in December 2011 (a deal I also need thanks to say to your randy man Brett McGurk for he negotiated it with me, thanks ‘Randy, we party again soon, maybe in Doha where I hear you have friends, yeah!) I had my main opponent’s staff tortured and sent that bastard dog Hashimi on the run. Soon I take over the good big ministries and arrest a few, watch a mayor commit suicide in my jail and now here I am, working back toward as much power as Saddam held just a few years ago.

    My Iraq is good friends with my Iran thanks to you, and I am returning some favors allowing Iranian arms to criss-cross Iraq into Syria. It is what friends are for, no? “If Tehran and Baghdad are powerful, then there will be no place for the presence of enemies of nations in this region, including the U.S. and the Zionist regime,” the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as telling al-Maliki, which is me.

    Anyway, I gotta run. Being a autocrat is busy days you know, as being one man in control means I have to do so much. I am now working with Iran to rebuild Iraq, some of that reconstruction you claimed to have done but now we really do need to fix some stuff up, so this time it is for serious.

    There’s my picture when I was at your Arlington National Cemetery with the Obama. I looked so serious but I was thinking about hot women! But yes, my thanks again for sacrificing 4484 of your young men and women for me. I can never repay this debt, not that I would even think of seeking to repay you anything you ignorant pigs.

    With love,

    Nouri al Maliki (follow me on Twitter!)







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  • New Ambassador to Iraq Done Little with Life But Iraq Mistakes

    March 28, 2012 // 10 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    Rule No. 1: When you find yourself in a hole, first thing to do is stop digging it deeper.

    So, with all the good news in Iraq these days (didn’t you see, Disney is buying up land for an oil-based water park), you’d think that some new thinking might be just the thing.


    Looking back on events since 2003 (looting, dissolution of civil society, disbanding the army and police, losing trillions of dollars, Sunni-Shia-Kurd slaughter, civil war, Stalingrad on the Tigris in Falluja, more civil war, Abu Ghraid, failed reconstruction, failed US base strategy, failed US elections strategy, failed US oil strategy, failed US Kurd reconciliation strategy, World’s Largest and Most Expensive White Elephant Embassy, Iran-sympathetic autocracy emerging, etc) it sure seems that the US has made its share of mistakes.

    So let’s look at the resume of the guy Obama wants as the new American Ambassador to this pile of failed foreign policy doo doo, Brett McGurk:

    After law school and clerking, McGurk was a legal advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

    Advisor to the last three US Ambassadors to Iraq: Jim Jeffries, Ryan Crocker, and Christopher Hill.

    National Security Council, director for Iraq and later as senior director for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Lead negotiator for the 2008 US-Iraq security agreement that extended the U.S. troop presence there until the end of 2011 and leader of the failed negotiations in 2011 to extend the US troop presence in Iraq even longer.

    McGurk is 38 years old and has never done any job other than help fuck up Iraq on behalf of the United States. Dude only graduated in 1999. Despite essentially doing nothing but Iraq stuff his entire adult life, McGurk has also avoided learning any Arabic. You’d kind of think that maybe that wouldn’t be the resume for the next guy in charge of cleaning up some of his own mistakes, like maybe you’d want someone who had some… depth or experience or broad knowledge or understanding of something other than failure in that God-forsaken country. Normally when you are a hand maiden to failure you don’t get promoted, but then again, this is the State Department. This is almost as good as Harriet Miers.

    How could this possibly not work out?

    Oh yeah, a lot of Iraqis don’t like McGurk because he is seen as a toady for Prime Minister Malaki, our brother freedom fighter in Baghdad. “Many Iraqi players outside Maliki’s circle view McGurk as an advocate for the prime minister. That may not be a fair characterization, but the perceptions are there on the ground. There’s the possibility that this sentiment could undermine our perception of neutrality and therefore our ability to effectively mediate disputes between all Iraqi factions,” one expert said.



    Also, Gordon Gecko called and wants his hairstyle back. Party on, McGurk!




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