• My New York Times Mini Op-Ed

    February 11, 2012

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

    (This piece appeared originally in the New York Times on February 9, 2012)

    The State Department’s reduction of staff in Iraq is the final act of the American invasion. The war is now really over.

    The U.S. has finally acknowledged that Iraq is not its most important foreign policy story.
    Designed as a symbol of America the Conqueror, the United States Embassy in Baghdad included buildings for an international school that never opened. It featured apartments stocked with American-size refrigerators waiting for the first Baghdad Safeway. A lawn was planted to beautify the embassy, outdoor water misters installed to cool the air so even the stark reality of the desert was not allowed to interfere with plans.

    Instead, the debris of failure to resolve the demons unleashed by the fall of Saddam crushed the U.S. Literally only days after the U.S. military withdrawal, the world’s largest embassy watched helplessly as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki tried to arrest his own vice president, who fled to Kurdistan where Iraqi government forces are powerless to intervene. Sectarian violence came back on the boil, returning if not with 2007’s vengeance, then at least with its purpose.

    The U.S. has finally acknowledged that Iraq is not its most important foreign policy story, and that America’s diplomats cannot survive on their own in the middle of a civil war. The embassy will eventually shrink to the small-to-medium scale that Iraq requires (think Turkey or Jordan). America’s relationship will wither into the same uneasy state of half-antagonistic, half-opportunistic status that we enjoy with the other autocrats in the Middle East. Maliki will continue to expertly play the U.S. off the Iranians and vice versa. U.S. military sales and oil purchases will assure him the soft landing someday of a medical visa to the United States à la Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, and not the sanctioned disposal awaiting Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

    My book about the failed occupation and reconstruction of Iraq is called “We Meant Well.” Given the recent events, my next volume will be entitled “I Told You So.”

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Amy DeMeo said...


      Dear Mr. (courageous) Van Buren:

      I think it would be a GREAT idea to get yourself and your book on C-Span’s Book TV.
      I just finished reading your article on RSN re: whistleblowers. It is clear to me that you are a hugely courageous & unselfish and (my definition of) moral & ethical person. Something extremely hard to find these days, though I do understand why many cannot afford to be so if they want to protect themselves & their loved ones.

      You need to make friends with the ACLU, with the Rachel Maddow & Keith Olbermans of the world because the more you get in the public spotlight the less they will try & harm you.

      Thank you for your truly patriotic service.
      Amy DeMeo

      02/12/12 12:20 PM | Comment Link

    • Administrator said...


      Thank you Amy. TV is a hard market to break in to but I’ll keep trying.

      02/12/12 3:32 PM | Comment Link

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