• Voices from the PRT Diaspora

    October 9, 2011

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

    A comment from another former PRT contractor:

    I was in Iraq as an adviser from about March 2004 to August 2005 and I know what you mean. I have been an idealist all my life and went to Iraq to turn it to the next Germany, Japan etc through a Marshall Plan sort of aid program. I thought my lifelong dream to be one of the idealist Americans who changed the world has finally come.

    I hate the Middle Eastern regimes that treat woman so ruthlessly and thought that if we can use Iraq as a base to show how wonderful it is to have a civilized free enterprising democracy then we can change the whole world. As you can imagine I was so depressed by the time I chose to call it quits (after many bouts of fights with almost everybody there) and return to the USA. There was no leadership, there was no vision.

    Yet have to say that I met some idealistic people who worked so hard but the rest of them were trying their best to give money (welfare) to US corporations through some gimmick. I worked with some military (especially a General) who I thought was remarkable, shared my view and worked hard under harsh conditions risking their lives. So there are heroes in this effort and my love for the USA increased many folds because of people like that. That’s the only positive thing came out of that experience.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Saigo Takamori said...



      I’m quite sure you’ll ignore the following request, but as an FSO colleague who’s a frequent reader of your blog, I’m going to make it anyway: please take down the Wikileaks reference and links from your blog. You are wrong to have posted the link, and are wrong to have called attention to leaked classified material. In a recent interview, you hinted that “well, it’s already online, so there’s no problem.” But, you know full well that those cables were not declassified by the USG and that you still have a duty to protect classified information.

      As an FSO and Iraq veteran I disagree with how you’ve handled your blog and book, but you’re well within your rights to criticize our efforts in Iraq. Yet, as a security clearance holder, encouraging your fanbase to view classified material is reprehensible. As I wrote in an earlier comment on your blog, I have FSNs in Iraq whose lives have been threatened because of Wikileaks. You may feel duty-bound to tell the truth on our mistakes in Iraq, but you don’t need to post links to classified material to make your point.

      So, do the right thing for your colleagues in the Department who care deeply about the safety of our FSNs, and please delete that post.


      10/10/11 1:30 PM | Comment Link

    • MattieB said...


      Dear Mr. Takamori,
      There’s a very simple way to safeguard sensitive sources in classified cables: don’t name them. That’s right, don’t name them and then write “strictly protect.” It’s the worst kind of shabby, careerist reporting. Had you and so many others written “a reliable source said..” instead of showing off at their expense, the people you claim to want to protect would not be jeopardized.

      Van Buren offered to take down the wikileaks link, in writing, to DS. There was no reply.

      Are you sure you are “The Last Samurai?” I don’t really associate a self-righteous lack of personal integrity with the historic figure of Takamori. But it’s your nom de plume, so go ahead and roll with it.

      10/10/11 3:51 PM | Comment Link

    • Administrator said...


      Saigo, my samurai brother, the few people who see this blog are unlikely to threaten anyone. You might better ask the New York Times, every TV station on earth, Google and every newspaper every where to delete their Wikileaks links and references. They reach literally billions of people every day.

      They also won’t bother to print your letters like I do, so I sort of understand why you feel the need to sound off here. If it makes you feel like you are helping, go ahead an keep writing in anonymously, carefully concealed behind your nome de internet.

      Peter (my real name)

      10/10/11 5:12 PM | Comment Link

    • aha said...


      I don’t think any member of the “fanbase” requires any encouragement from Mr. Van Buren. The materials are online for everyone to see. Well, that is, unless you are a US Govt employee who is not authorized to look at any of these cables. Except if you are at home, viewing it during your private time, from your private computer. I think the laws still says you can do that without being thrown into jail. But really, the more idiotic thing is this — AQ and its minions are free to Google all those “supposedly” cables from the Department of State, but analysts even at the CRS are not allowed to look or use them in their analysis for Congress.

      Oh, look! The emperor has no clothes! Except that everyone in the USGovt is supposed to pretend that he is still wearing some type of underpants?

      The idiocy boggles the mind. The USGovt isn’t hiding these cables anymore from anyone except from its own employees. What is wrong with this picture?

      And Mr. FSO Takamori – please get off your high horse. As and FSO and veteran of Iraq, am I to understand that you never saw anything alarming there in terms of cash floating around, projects not working, absurd funding schemes, etc. etc.?

      10/10/11 5:13 PM | Comment Link

    • Saigo Takamori said...


      Peter, You miss my point. The NYTimes and Google haven’t taken an oath to protect classified information. You have. The access to information may be the same, but the duty to protect is different. Your non-USG readership may not understand the difference, but after 23 years in the service, I know you do. I would like nothing more than to communicate with you directly, but am not particularly interested in being named and shamed by you in the press and brought into your career martyrdom operation. I’m quite sure nothing would please you (and, your publisher) more than being fired by State. Your ability to criticize State would grow even stronger if they terminated you. But, I’d suggest a different course of action. In the spirit of diplomacy, why not take to your State Department colleagues in NEA? Why not try and make the changes you complain about from the inside? Since you returned from Iraq, have you had substantive conversations with the Iraq folks at State about your concerns?

      MattieB, You also miss my point. State Department reporting cables are not intelligence cables. They are reports that document meetings between US officials and foreign nationals. In some cases, when a US official meets with a pro-Democracy activist (let’s say, for example, in Syria), we want to fully document the meeting and concerns of that individual. It wouldn’t make sense to have a catalog of “unnamed sources,” for this type of reporting. Not being self-righteous, just expressing my point of view.

      Aha . . . and bringing up the rear, you, too, miss my point. I’ve stated for the record that I believe Peter has every right to speak his mind on our failures in Iraq. My problem is that he’s posted a link to a classified cable. I don’t expect you, or MattieB, to understand this. You both have no duty to protect classified information. It’s about duty. Peter may disagree, but he knows exactly what I am talking about.

      10/10/11 6:47 PM | Comment Link

    • Administrator said...


      Just FYI, Saigo, I reached out to NEA, PD and HR informally and received no response from any office about my book. Not a “no,” just nothing in return to my emails.

      I also asked NEA, a year ago when I returned from Iraq, who I should debrief with and was told the only place was with the required mental health/PTSD people, or the USIP PRT Oral History project.

      NEA PDAS wrote directly to my publisher about redactions and never even notified me she did it; I learned of it from the publisher.

      HR has only “spoken” to me via a third person, my then-boss, who did not even know at the time I had written a book.

      My Offer Still Stands: If anyone from those office or anyone inside of State would like to talk, I am in the GAL. I can tell from the IP addresses my site logs that lots of offices in State view this web site. Several State people follow my Tweets.


      10/10/11 7:09 PM | Comment Link

    • MattieB said...


      Saigo, thanks for explaining political reporting from an ELO perspective. Very enlightenening. We can always protect sensitive sources, if that, not showing off, is the aim.
      And please, please, do not refer to yourself as an “Iraq veteran.” Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq veteran. Compare Iraq casualty figures for armed forces vs. FSOs, and you might discern a faint glimmer of why your pretentions are so inadvertently comical.

      10/10/11 7:35 PM | Comment Link

    • aha said...


      Mr. FSO Takamori writes, “It’s about duty.” Well, if its about duty, how come Mr. Van Buren is the only one with balls to tell the reconstruction stories out of Iraq. Where are the other FSOs who honor duty but stayed silent as USG money is flushed down the craphole.

      When does your loyalty to your institution ends and your loyalty to your country starts? That is a loaded question? But you, Mr. FSO comes across as seeking to protect your agency at the cost of letting this country go down the drain. If more FSOs have the balls to call it as it is instead of protecting their promotion prospects, would we be in this mess. I think not. But go ahead and disagree. I’m sure you will tell me that you sacrificed in your one-year tour in Iraq. Yeah, you did but you were well compensated for it. So, I really do not think of it as a sacrifice. If you went there with your own regular salary, without your 3 R&Rs, without linked assignments, without promotion dangled before your nose – if you went there because you volunteered to go out of your sense of duty and without all the nice perks, then I would consider it a sacrifice. Otherwise, you are just another paid hack, who goes to Iraq to better your future and your pocketbook.

      And Matti has a point about calling yourself an Iraq vet. If you were in the military and served in Iraq, you would be an Iraq vet. If you were an FSO who served under protection of the US military at the embassy or the PRT, please don’t call yourself a vet. That is offensive to me and our men and women in uniform.

      10/10/11 11:21 PM | Comment Link

    • Saigo Takamori said...



      We’ll just have to agree to disagree on the reporting cables. The cables our PRT wrote were not about “showing off,” they were about reporting on the political situation in our province. I know you and others view the release of this material as a windfall for freedom and accountability, but there’s another darker side to it all. When Julian Assange told 60 Minutes that no one had been harmed because of the release of these materials, he was wrong. Peoples lives are at risk. The United States is responsible for the leak of these documents (if, indeed, Bradly Manning was the source), but we who have a duty to protect classified information (even when it’s been leaked) should be more judicious.


      I take both of your points and meant no disrespect to our military colleagues. We in the Foreign Service (when we are speaking amongst ourselves) use the word “veteran” when describing our service in Iraq and Afghanitan. I’m on an FSOs blog, and assumed it was understood. I didn’t mean to dennigrate the service of our men and women in uniform. Of course, they are the true heroes of these conflicts.

      But, for the record, I served two years in Iraq: one on a forward operation base on a PRT and another in Baghdad. So, Aha, don’t lecture me about service and don’t question my loyalty. I volunteered for Iraq because I spoke Arabic, believed we needed the best people there, I understood the region, and wanted to contribute my efforts to making the situation better. I asked to be sent to a PRT to serve along side our men and women in uniform because it was where I felt I can make the greatest impact. I don’t ask anything of you, but I ask that you at the very least respect that. I don’t like the way Peter has gone about things, but I’m on the record as saying I respect his service.

      And, before you wrap your own arguments in the flag, please understand this: there are thousands of “men and women in uniform” in Iraq, who never left the wire, never took small arms fire, never had a convoy hit by an IED, and never lived a year in a dry hooch in the desert. Heck, the Air Force enlisted folks who run the post offices around Iraq aren’t even allowed to leave the wire. The civilians from State and other agencies who are out there right now on FOBs and COBs across Iraq are worthy of our nation’s respect.


      10/11/11 3:47 PM | Comment Link

    • MattieB said...


      Oh dear. You’ve given away enough info in your boasting that I’ve guessed your identity.

      And I’m trying not to laugh. But I’m also signing off this thread.

      10/11/11 4:40 PM | Comment Link

    • aha said...


      Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

      I’m sorry I can’t stop laughing?! Mr. Van Buren, my compliments for hosting your most entertaining colleague from the U.S. Foreign Service in this thread. Thank you, man! Signing off from this thread , too, before I choke from such comedic episode.

      10/14/11 2:09 AM | Comment Link

    • Administrator said...


      I’m just one man, but I do what I can Aha.


      10/14/11 12:08 PM | Comment Link

    • TeachMe said...


      If what Mr. Takamori said is true, I am impress. With his Arabic and obvious talents, I’d like to know more what was his “greatest impact” in the tours he did in Iraq.

      And I hate to be lecturing here, but as a teacher, I’ve taught my kids that respect is earned not demanded. So the gentleman in this thread who spoke of service in a dangerous place, can explain what he did in that country, how he helped the American mission in that country. But unfortunately, if he was in my classroom, I would have to tell him too – sir, one cannot demand respect from others. One must earn it. Just saying you did this or that is not enough. After all, both Nixon and G.W. Bush served as presidents of this great country and I can say quite frankly, I have no respect for either man.

      10/15/11 9:19 PM | Comment Link

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