• I can’t stand by and watch Peter Van Buren’s account of the PRTs stand

    October 5, 2011

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

    It is a long, sort of nerdy, boring article, but someone named Steve Donnelly has written what he calls a rebuttal to me, my book and my view of the PRT program in Iraq.

    The piece is somewhat odd, in that he ends up agreeing with most of my points (waste, stupidity, mismanagement) while trying to say I was wrong. Whatever, it’s modern journalism.

    For example, this:

    As our group set off for Iraq, all of us felt as very well-briefed and trained as we could be under the chaotic and fast-track circumstances, although the parallels to disaster movies like Meteor, where a group of drillers are rapidly assembled and shot into space to emplace a nuclear device on a meteor threatening Earth, was not lost on any of us.

    Our biggest challenge, as was predicted, was to get out of Embassy Baghdad and up to our duty stations. Transportation out of Baghdad for the uninitiated was not easy, as Embassy staff held one mandatory “briefing” after another as different departments could tell us little but implored us to report what we found to them (not the guy in the stove-piped office next door).

    Not unlike my own points made in the excerpt now online, albeit not as clever. Actually, I’m jealous, as he said his training at State included Arabic cuss words.

    Have a look at the whole article at Foreign Policy.

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  • Recent Comments

    • MattieB said...


      So, Mr. Donnelly is a cartographer (please see Jorge Luis Borges’ On Rigor in Science, it’s what I thought of immediately as he described his labors in Iraq) and he and a handful of other civilian experts did an absolutely fantastic job, though this was an exception to the general rule, as he explains.

      He did, he writes, see staggering amounts of waste, fraud, and abuse, just as you and many others did.

      Except for this narrator insisting that he, himself, turned in absolutely superb job under difficult conditions, how is this different from “We Meant Well,” other than the letter from Mr. Donnelly not being funny?

      10/6/11 12:34 AM | Comment Link

    • Ehab Mohammad said...


      The articles are wrong, before there was Mr Duane and Mr Moka from new zeeland, and Mr Sam from Hawaii.

      there was no GIS anyplace in Iraq! he is the father and lion of the true GIS in Iraq. not these ones. before he came it was Autocad all over with not GIS. who are these ones, they did not provide us with the workshops, they did not give us the training, the meeting in erbil, the scanners plottrers printers. they did not threaten us to digitising in iran if else! all these articles are not the truth. see to his website and all will reveal.

      10/6/11 6:03 AM | Comment Link

    • TB said...


      Apparently, he doesn’t know much about movie trivia either. “Armageddon” was the movie about drillers on the astroid. “Meteor” was about the Rooskys and the US blasting the meteor with nukes, starring Sean Connery.

      10/6/11 10:03 PM | Comment Link

    • Eng H Abbas said...


      My friend also send me this article I wish to make comments also. Please accept this article. Up until 2007 there was no gis in Iraq, Eng Ammar in Mosul, all the rest of Iraq in the governorates were using autocad because of the USAID project LGP. As dear Eng Ehab has stated, until Mr Duane made us use true GIS there was no hope for GIS in Iraq. As Eng Ammar says, Mr Duane is the Father and Lion of GIS for Iraq. He is arranged the training and the equipments, printers, plotters, scanners. He arranged the first national iraq gis symposium and also the large trainings in erbil and from esri. It is Mr Duane who supports us from the start and still with the gis emails list. since he was left there was nothing further.

      10/14/11 11:05 PM | Comment Link

    • Eng. Ammar said...


      When the sun starts shine
      And the dreams send us the sign
      Then a prophet has to arrive
      His name is Duane the GIS Lion
      And a true prophet for this science
      Who truly mixed the logic with magic
      To make smile in the mid of the tragic

      10/16/11 8:41 PM | Comment Link

    • Eng Haider Omar said...


      Dear Mr Duane very supporting of our GIS work. He is the ArcGIS Lion of Iraq.

      10/18/11 6:40 AM | Comment Link

    • Duane Wilkins said...


      Thank you Gentlemen for your compliments, it was a pleasure to work with you, together we made excellent progress for Provincial GIS development in Iraq. I hope you are all going well, see you on Facebook.

      Cheers & thanks

      07/31/12 11:29 AM | Comment Link

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