Chris Hill was America’s Ambassador in Iraq for a year or so, 2009-2010, following his amazing success as chief negotiator to North Korea while they developed their nuclear arsenal. Chris oversaw the US actions in Iraq following the March 2010 elections, directing a robust US response that ended up as “Jesus H. Christ you guys, just form some sort of government so we can call it a democracy and get out of here!”
That government-forming process, which ultimately required the Iranians to step in and broker a deal that led to a declared government only some seven months after the voting ceased, pasted together the lame coalition that Prime Minister Maliki has been furiously tearing back apart since the minute the US military departed Iraq (Note that Maliki was afraid enough of the US military to wait for their departure, but did not give a hoot that the World’s Largest Embassy (c) was squatting in town.)
The New York Times noted that on his departure from Iraq, Chris “rejected criticism that the [election] deadlock reflected his own ineffectiveness or waning American influence.” Other media also laid blame on Chris for failing to represent America’s interests well in Iraq.
But that’s all just water under the bridge, as Chris asserts in his new Op-Ed.
About the nicest thing one can say about that Op-Ed is that it sounds like it was written by a grad student coming down off a Red Bull sprint (Chris is Dean of the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver; founder Josef Korbel is the father of Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State and Chris’ old chum. Small world among the 1%.) In case you don’t care to read the whole Op-Ed thing, it can be summed up as follows: everything bad happening in Iraq is their own damn fault and America’s almost nine year occupation in general, and Chris’ tenure as Ambassador in the specific, had nothing to do with it. Now get off my lawn!
But if you insist, we’ll poke a bit further.
Chris tries to show off his intimate knowledge of Iraq. He says “spending time in Baghdad reveals that Sunni and Shia Iraqis have learned to live together, that intermarriage is common, and that the issues that concern people are more secular than sectarian.” R-i-g-h-t. Many Sunnis living in Sadr City? Any Sunni-Shia tensions in al-Doura? Duh.
But it is OK because Chris knows that “the reality of Iraq is that most people, especially outside of cosmopolitan Baghdad, see themselves as Sunni or Shia. And that reality is further shaped by the following fact: for decades, Iraq was brutally and not very effectively ruled by the minority Sunnis, whose last leader was Saddam Hussein. The Shia, understandably, don’t want them back.” Now let’s check Wikipedia, just who disposed of Saddam and unleashed all those sectarian tensions without a plan on containing them?
Chris just rambles on about how the two sides should just get along, reiterating the basic premise of US-Iraq policy, hoping that somehow things will just work out.
Man up Chris:
–The oft-stated US major accomplishment of getting rid of Saddam was all over in 2003. We called it regime “change” but in reality it was just regime “destruction,” only the first half of the change thing.
–The US invasion and failure of the reconstruction left Iraq in horrific condition, setting the stage for additional years of suffering. Such suffering fuels insurgency and lack of support for any central government. It is a poor legacy.
–The utter lack of US planning for postwar occupation unleashed sectarian violence and enabled sectarian conflict that is playing out long after the US went home. The US is responsible for letting the genie out of the bottle.
I’m not the only one who thinks Chris’ Op-Ed is a bad joke. Read what Reider Visser has to say.