• John McCain, Human Rights and Our National Mental Illness

    May 9, 2017 // 27 Comments »

    mccain obama bff



    There’s that lay definition of mental illness where you come to believe you’re the only sane person left in the room. I think that’s where I am right now.


    In last week’s address to State Department employees, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated out loud what has been America’s foreign policy forever, the idea that basing our policy too heavily on values creates obstacles to advancing our national interests. Tillerson basically restated the Kissinger line of realpolitik, which is what the U.S. had been doing since WWII even without a snooty name to it: offering lip service to rights and human values and democracy as expedients while supporting scum bag dictators as they fit our real needs.

    That’s how you got the CIA overthrowing regimes in Iran and throughout Central and South America, why the U.S. supported terrible autocrats in South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines, and where the roots of American backstopping of non-democratic regimes such as in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria lay. The plan was pretty clear: make nice speeches (“Women’s rights are human rights”) in China calling out America’s adversaries while doing nothing to promote those same ideals in America’s allies in places like Saudi Arabia.



    But as with so many traditional American travesties that have long existed but were not spoken of pre-Trump, things are different now. And so in a full-on flag waving Op-Ed, America’s Crusty Old Man McCain uncorked a lengthy rebuttal to Tillerson’s plain speaking. McCain got in every cliche from the oldest John Wayne movies to the latest Chevy truck commercials in standing up for ‘Merica the world’s human rights policer. Here’s a taste of what he wrote:

    Human rights exist above the state and beyond history… They inhabit the human heart, and from there, though they may be abridged, they can never be extinguished. We are a country with a conscience. We have long believed moral concerns must be an essential part of our foreign policy, not a departure from it. We are the chief architect and defender of an international order governed by rules derived from our political and economic values. Our values are our strength and greatest treasure. We are distinguished from other countries because we are not made from a land or tribe or particular race or creed, but from an ideal that liberty is the inalienable right of mankind and in accord with nature and nature’s Creator.

    Depriving the oppressed of a beacon of hope could lose us the world we have built and thrived in. It could cost our reputation in history as the nation distinct from all others in our achievements, our identity and our enduring influence on mankind. Our values are central to all three.


    I can’t be the only one stunned by the irony here.

    McCain’s seminal experience — surviving as a prisoner of war under torture in North Vietnam — was as part of a horrific war the U.S. waged against the agrarian nation in Vietnam for… no clear purpose. Millions of civilians were killed to “free” them, with aerial bombing taking away their rights to life in the crudest fashion. The Vietnamese people voted after WWII to become a single (Communist) nation, and the United States intervened to put a stop to that. Every single prediction of the time that was made to justify that war turned out to be wrong; Vietnam today prospers, and continues to seek ways to join closer to the world system McCain imagines the U.S. created as something akin to an act of God.


    But don’t believe me. Let’s ask the relatives of those killed and maimed by America in Vietnam if they agree with McCain that “We are a country with a conscience.”

    After that, let’s chat up some of the Koreans tortured by the U.S.-supported dictator Chung-hee Park, or Filipinos under U.S.-supported Ferdinand Marcos, or the families of those murdered by American drones across the Mideast. Or maybe those still currently under American torture at Guantanamo. Let’s ask the ghosts of those killed by American weapons in (deep breath) Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Grenada… oh, you go look up the rest. Or call John McCain’s office and ask his staff for a complete list.

    And of course I’m focusing on foreign policy hypocrisy here. But America the nation of conscience practices hypocrisy at home as well. Despite being among the wealthiest nations globally, America stands alone without a comprehensive health care system. And so suffers 6.1 deaths for every 1,000 live births, higher than Hungary, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Finland and Japan had less than half the rate of the United States. America has the highest rates of incarceration in the world, and stands by as 1 out of 5 children live short of food. Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries. Our elections are undemocratic mish-mashes of gerrymandering, voter fraud, foreign hackers, and the influence of massive amounts of corporate money and payoffs. America clung to slavery as a economic foundational element long after most of the world moved forward.


    The truth? You can’t handle the truth. The truth is the United States maintains a bloody, warist, hypocritical record that would at least find a touch of purity in admitting we conduct our foreign policy with the greatest of self-interest. The only question left is to ask who is crazier at this point: McCain, who may believe the hogwash he is peddling, or the Americans who read it uncritically.




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    America’s Increasingly Irrelevant Concierge Abroad

    September 3, 2012 // 2 Comments »

    (This article was published on the Huffington Post August 22, 2012)


    A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows that more than one fourth of all U.S. State Department Foreign Service positions are either unfilled or are filled with below-grade employees. What should be staggering news pointing out a crisis in government is in fact barely worth a media mention, in that State’s lack of personnel is silently tracking its increasing irrelevance to the United States. State is sliding into the role of America’s Concierge abroad.

    Numbers are Much Worse Than at First Glance

    In fact, broken down, it is much worse. At the senior levels, the leaders of America’s diplomacy, the number is 36 percent of positions vacant or filled with “stretch” assignments, people of lower rank and experience pressed into service. At the crucial midranks, the number is 26 percent unfilled. Entry level jobs are at 28 percent, though it is unclear how some of those can be filled with stretch assignments since they are already at the bottom.

    In fact though, it is much worse. Within State’s Foreign Service ranks, there exists the Consular Bureau and everyone else. Consular stands quite separate from other Foreign Service Officers in that Consular employees have very specific, worker-bee jobs processing passports and visas and are not involved in “traditional” diplomatic tasks such as maintaining inter-government relations, writing reports, negotiating treaties, rebuilding Afghanistan and all that (Consular operations are also almost 100 percent fee-funded, and thus operate free of the shrinking foreign affairs budget). These Consular jobs are filled because they have to be, cash cow that issuing visas is for increasingly foreign-tourism-dependent America. That means broken down by function, it is likely that there are even larger gaps in vacancies in traditional diplomatic roles than even the sad percentages suggest.

    These vacancies and stretches at State are largely unchanged from the last time the GAO checked, in 2008. The GAO says in its report that “although the State Department is attempting to compensate by hiring retirees and placing current civil service employees in Foreign Service jobs, it “lacks a strategy to fill those gaps.'”

    (State has 10,490 Civil Service employees and was only able to convert four employees into Foreign Service Officers (FSOs). That’s a 0.03813 percent conversion rate to help bridge the gap. Another perspective: why some Civil Servants might pass on the chance to become FSOs.)

    In response to GAO, State only said it agreed that its workforce planning “should be updated” to include a strategy to address staffing gaps and a plan to evaluate the strategy. Yawn.



    So What?

    State’s somnolent response to what should be a crisis call (anyone wish to speculate on what the response might be to a report that the military is understaffed by 36 percent at the senior levels?) tells the tale. It really doesn’t matter, and even State itself knows.

    What vibrant, it-really-matters institution could persist with staffing gaps over time as gaping as State’s? If an organization can continue to mumble along with over one out of four slots un/underfilled, that kinda shows that you don’t matter much.

    And such is now the case with the US Department of State.



    The Militarization of Foreign Policy

    The most obvious sign of State’s irrelevance is the militarization of foreign policy. As I’ve wrote in May 2011, “There really are more military band members than State Department Foreign Service Officers. The whole of the Foreign Service is smaller than the complement aboard one aircraft carrier.” Despite the role that foreign affairs has always played in America’s intercourse abroad, the State Department is now a very small part of the pageant. The Transportation Security Administration has about 58,000 employees; the State Department has 22,000. The Department of Defense (DOD) has nearly 450,000 employees stationed overseas, with 2.5 million more in the U.S.

    “At the same time,” I wrote, “Congress continues to hack away at State’s budget.” The most recent “round of bloodletting saw State lose some $8 billion while DOD gained another $5 billion. The found fiver at DOD will hardly be noticed in their overall budget of $671 billion. The $8 billion loss from State’s total of $47 billion will further cripple the organization. The pattern is familiar and has dogged State-DOD throughout the war of terror years.” No more office supplies for you! “What you do get for your money is the militarization of foreign policy,” I wrote.

    As Stephen Glain wrote in State vs. Defense: The Battle to Define America’s Empire, the U.S. military combatant commands are already the putative epicenters for security, diplomatic, humanitarian and commercial affairs in their regions. Local leaders receive them as powerful heads of state, with motorcades, honor guards and ceremonial feats. Their radiance obscures everything in its midst, including the authority of U.S. ambassadors.

    Glain’s point is worth quoting at length:

    This yawning asymmetry is fueled by more than budgets and resources [though the Pentagon-State spending ration is 12:1], however. Unlike ambassadors, whose responsibility is confined to a single country or city-state, the writ of a combatant commander is hemispheric in scope. His authority covers some of the world’s most strategic resources and waterways and he has some of the most talented people in the federal government working for him.

    While his civilian counterpart is mired in such parochial concerns as bilateral trade disputes and visa matters, a combatant commander’s horizon is unlimited. “When we spoke, we had more clout,” according to Anthony Zinni. “There’s a mismatch in our stature. Ambassadors don’t have regional perspectives. You see the interdependence and interaction in the region when you have regional responsibility. If you’re in a given country, you don’t see beyond its borders because that is not your mission.”



    America’s Concierge Abroad

    The increasing role of the military in America’s foreign relations sidelines State. The most likely American for a foreigner to encounter in most parts of the world now, for better or worse, carries a weapon and drives a tank.

    State’s attempt to stake out a new role as America’s reconstruction agency abroad has failed in Iraq, failed in Afghanistan, and is failing in Haiti.

    Cronyism and lack of tolerance for dissent lead to an almost clumsy lack of thoughtfulness: an ambassador who demands internet access in his bathroom, $200 million wasted on a training program unwanted by its recipients, or the failed attempt to buy Kindles for a whopping $1,320 a piece.

    Among the many disclosures made in the 250,000 alleged State Department documents dumped on to Wikileaks was the uber revelation that most of State’s vaunted reporting on foreign events is boring, trivial and of little practical value (though well-written and punctuated properly). Apart from a few gossipy disclosures about foreign leaders and sleazy U.S. behind-the-scenes-deals with Middle Eastern dictators, there were few dramatic KABOOMs in those cables. Even now, State is struggling in the Bradley Manning trial to demonstrate that actual harm was done to national security by the disclosures.

    That leaves for the understaffed Department of State pretty much only the role of concierge abroad. America’s VIPs and wanna-be VIPs need their hands held, their security arranged, their motorcades organized and their Congressional visits’ hotels and receptions handled, all tasks that fall squarely on the Department of State and its embassies abroad. “Supporting” CODELS (Congressional Delegations’ visits to foreign lands) is a right of passage for State Department employees, and every Foreign Service Officer has his/her war stories to tell. For me, while stationed in the UK, I escorted so many Mrs. Important Somebody’s on semi-official shopping trips that I was snarkily labeled “Ambassador to Harrod’s Department Store” by my colleagues. Others will tell tales of pre-dawn baggage handling, VIP indiscretions that needed smoothing over (including skinny dipping), and demands for this and that by so-called important people that rivaled rock star concert riders — no green M&Ms!

    Best Cappuccino in ‪Tripoli

    Take a look at this photo, of Senator McCain visiting our embassy in Libya. The cut line reads “US Amb. to ‪#Libya‬ Chris Stevens – one of America’s finest diplomats also makes one of the best cappuccinos in ‪#Tripoli‬.”

    McCain no doubt meant the comment as a compliment, and looking at the ambassador’s face, he is quite pleased with himself to be serving coffee to the senator. Can anyone imagine a photo from Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa showing a Marine general in a similar stance?

    Well, no, you can’t. And that tells the story.



    Understaffed, with roughly a quarter of its jobs unfilled and no plan to do anything about it, fits the State Department just fine. It is, sadly, a perfect example of an evolutionary process of government right-sizing, fitting the resources well to the actual job. RIP State, you rest now; it’s almost over.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    State Department: America’s Increasingly Irrelevant Concierge

    July 18, 2012 // 10 Comments »




    A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released July 16 shows that overall more than one fourth of all State Department Foreign Service positions are either unfilled or are filled with below-grade employees. What should be staggering news pointing out a crisis in government is in fact barely worth a media mention in that State’s lack of personnel is silently tracking its increasing irrelevance to the United States, sliding into the role of America’s Concierge abroad.

    Numbers are Much Worse Than at First Glance

    In fact, broken down, it is much worse. At the senior levels, the alleged leaders of America’s diplomacy, the number is 36 percent vacant or filled with “stretch” assignments, people of lower rank and experience pressed into service. At the crucial midranks, the number is 26 percent. Entry level jobs are at 28 percent, though it is unclear how some of those can be filled with stretch assignments since they are already at the bottom.

    In fact though, it is much worse. Within State’s Foreign Service ranks, there exists the Consular Bureau and everyone else. Consular stands quite separate from the other Foreign Service Officers in that Consular employees have very specific worker bee jobs processing passports and visas and are not involved in the “traditional” diplomatic tasks we know and love such as maintaining inter-government relations, writing reports, negotiating treaties, rebuilding Afghanistan and all that. Many of these jobs are filled because they have to be, cash cow that issuing visas is for increasingly foreign tourism dependent third world America. That means broken down by function, it is likely that there are even larger gaps in vacancies in traditional diplomatic roles than even the sad percentages suggest.

    These vacancies and stretches at State are largely unchanged from the last time the GAO checked in 2008. GAO says in its report that “Although the State Department is attempting to compensate by hiring retirees and placing current civil service employees in Foreign Service jobs, it ‘lacks a strategy to fill those gaps.’”

    (State has 10,490 Civil Service employees and was only able to convert four employees to the Foreign Service. That’s a 0.03813 percent conversion rate to help bridge the gap, so much for that idea. Want another perspective? Here’s why some Civil Servants might pass on the chance to become FSOs.).

    In response to GAO, State said it agreed that its workforce planning should be updated to include a strategy to address staffing gaps and a plan to evaluate the strategy.

    So What?

    State’s somnolent response to what should be a crisis call (anyone wish to speculate on what the response might be to a report that the military is understaffed by 36 percent at the senior levels?) tells the tale. It really doesn’t matter, and even State itself knows.

    What vibrant it-really-matters institution could persist with staffing gaps over time as gaping as State’s? Seriously friends, if your organization can continue to mumble along with over one out of four slots un/underfilled, that kinda shows that you don’t matter much.

    And such is now the case with the US Department of State.

    The Militarization of Foreign Policy
    The most obvious sign of State’s irrelevance is the militarization of foreign policy. There really are more military band members than State Department Foreign Service Officers. The whole of the Foreign Service is smaller than the complement aboard one aircraft carrier. Despite the role that foreign affairs has always played in America’s drunken intercourse abroad, the State Department remains a very small part of the pageant. The Transportation Security Administration has about 58,000 employees; the State Department has about 22,000. The Department of Defense (DOD) has nearly 450,000 employees stationed overseas, with 2.5 million more in the US.

    At the same time, Congress continues to hack away at State’s budget. The most recent round of bloodletting saw State lose some $8 billion while DOD gained another $5 billion. The found fiver at DOD will hardly be noticed in their overall budget of $671 billion. The $8 billion loss from State’s total of $47 billion will further cripple the organization. The pattern is familiar and has dogged State-DOD throughout the war of terror years. No more taxi vouchers and office supplies for you! What you do get for your money is the militarization of foreign policy.

    As Stephen Glain wrote in his book, State vs. Defense: The Battle to Define America’s Empire, the combatant commands are already the putative epicenters for security, diplomatic, humanitarian and commercial affairs in their regions. Local leaders receive them as powerful heads of state, with motorcades, honor guards and ceremonial feats. Their radiance obscures everything in its midst, including the authority of US ambassadors.

    Glain’s point is worth quoting at length:

    This yawning asymmetry is fueled by more than budgets and resources [though the Pentagon-State spending ration is 12:1], however. Unlike ambassadors, whose responsibility is confined to a single country or city-state, the writ of a combatant commander is hemispheric in scope. His authority covers some of the world’s most strategic resources and waterways and he has some of the most talented people in the federal government working for him.

    While his civilian counterpart is mired in such parochial concerns as bilateral trade disputes and visa matters, a combatant commander’s horizon is unlimited. “When we spoke, we had more clout,” according to Anthony Zinni. “There’s a mismatch in our stature. Ambassadors don’t have regional perspectives. You see the interdependence and interaction in the region when you have regional responsibility. If you’re in a given country, you don’t see beyond its borders because that is not your mission.”


    America’s Concierge Abroad

    The increasing role of the military in America’s foreign relations sidelines State. The most likely American for a foreigner to encounter in most parts of the world now, for better or worse, carries a weapon and drives a tank.

    Among the many disclosures made in the alleged 250,000 alleged State Department alleged documents dumped on to Wikileaks was the uber revelation that most of State’s vaunted reporting on foreign events is boring, trivial and of little practical value (though well-written and punctuated properly). Apart from a few gossipy disclosures about foreign leaders and sleazy US behind-the-scenes-deals with crappy MidEast dictators, there were few dramatic KABOOMs in those cables. Even now State is struggling in the Bradley Manning trial to demonstrate that actual harm was done to national security by the disclosures.

    Lop off a quarter or so of the Foreign Service for Consular work, which hums by more or less independent of the rest of the State Department.

    That leaves for the understaffed Department of State pretty much only the role of concierge. America’s VIPs and wanna be VIPs need their hands held, their security arranged, their motorcades organized and their Congressional visits’ hotels and receptions handled, all tasks that falls squarely on the Department of State and its embassies abroad. “Supporting” CODELS (Congressional Delegations’ visits to foreign lands) is a right of passage for State Department employees, and every Foreign Service Officer has his/her war stories to tell. For me, while stationed in the UK, I escorted so many Mrs. Important Somebody’s on semi-official shopping trips that I was snarkily labeled “Ambassador to Harrod’s” by my colleagues. Others will tell tales of pre-dawn baggage handling, VIP indiscretions that needed smoothing over, and demands for this and that by so-called important people that rivaled rock star concert riders— no green M&Ms!

    Best Cappuccino in ‪Tripoli

    Take another look at the photo above, of old man McCain visiting our embassy in Libya. The cut line read “US Amb. to ‪#Libya‬ Chris Stevens – one of America’s finest diplomats also makes one of the best cappuccinos in ‪#Tripoli‬.”

    McCain meant the comment as a compliment, and looking at the ambassador’s face, he is quite pleased with himself to be serving coffee to the Senator. Can anyone imagine a similar photo from Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa showing a Marine general in a similar stance?

    No, you can’t.

    Understaffed, with roughly a quarter of its jobs unfilled and no plan to do anything about it, fits the State Department just fine. It is, sadly, a perfect example of an evolutionary process of government right-sizing, fitting the resources well to the actual job. RIP State, you rest now, it’s almost over.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    McGurk’s Wife Resigns from Wall Street Journal

    June 12, 2012 // 3 Comments »

    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.




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    McGurk’s Arabian Nights

    June 8, 2012 // 4 Comments »

    (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.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    McGurk Senate Hearing: Nobody Cares Anymore

    June 7, 2012 // 7 Comments »

    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.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    McGurk Senate Confirmation Hearing: Do the Emails Matter?

    June 6, 2012 // 10 Comments »

    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.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    US Military Spare Parts went to Qaddafi in 2009

    August 25, 2011 // 57 Comments »

    We recently recapped the weird history of US-Libyan relations, focusing on how, after years of hating on and bombing Qaddafi, soon after the Iraq war commenced we suddenly decided we liked him. The US opened diplomatic relations in 2009 and had all sorts of warm feelings for the once-pariah state. Then somehow in 2011 he started hating on and bombing Qaddafi again.

    New cables, on Wikilks, now give us a hint at how cozy the US-Libyan relationship (briefly) was.

    To start, Libya needed lots of spare parts for its military after years of embargoes. The US was happy to assist. An unclassified cable from 2009 outlined that the US sold “Miscellaneous parts, components, accessories, and attachments for the L100 aircraft and T56 engines belonging to the Libyan Air Force,” conveniently through a Portuguese middleman. Wonder if any of those refitted aircraft played any part in the recent unpleasantness in Libya? The cable asked Embassy Lisbon and Embassy Tripoli to check up on these exports, as they had (duh) military usage and cordially concludes “Department is grateful for Post’s assistance in this matter.”

    The more amusing cable is from August 2009, just two short years ago. It recounts the visit to Libya of Congressional super heroes John McCain,Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. The boys had a nice visit with Qaddafi and his son it seems. The cable notes “Lieberman called Libya an important ally in the war on terrorism, noting that common enemies sometimes make better friends.” Old Man McCain assured his hosts “that the United States wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its security. He stated that he understood Libya’s requests regarding the rehabilitation of its eight C-130s and pledged to see what he could do to move things forward in Congress. He described the bilateral military relationship as strong and pointed to Libyan officer training at U.S. Command, Staff, and War colleges as some of the best programs for Libyan military participation.”

    The cable continued to say that “Qadhafi commented that friendship was better for the people of both countries and expressed his desire to see the relationship flourish. He thanked the Senators for their visit and described America as a race rather than a nationality, explaining that many Libyans are dual citizens because they were born in the United States. Senators McCain and Graham conveyed the U.S. interest in continuing the progress of the bilateral relationship and pledged to try to resolve the C-130 issue with Congress and Defense Secretary Gates.”

    It was no surprise Qaddafi wanted to talk hardware with McCain. The preparatory cable sent to McCain from Embassy Tripoli just before his trip reminded that “Libya has stated its number one priority, in return
    for relinquishing WMD, is a security guarantee by the US against foreign aggression. To that end, Libya has expressed an interest in purchasing lethal weapons from US firms.”

    Ho ho ho, that sure seems ironic now, after six months of a US bombing campaign.

    Qaddafi was always polite. In November 2008, the US Embassy in Tripoli received what it called a “telefax,” (what your grandfather would call a fax) from the man congratulating Obama on his election win. The “telefax” said:

    I have the pleasure to send a congratulation note for the first time to an American president, and on behalf of all Africa, and of Cen-Sad, the base of the African pyramid, and on behalf of the Arab Maghreb Union, and in the name of all Arab leaders as I am their dean. Since relations are resumed between our two countries, we have the right to congratulate you from the bottom of our hearts because you are the son of Africa.

    Blacks were deemed weak and were oppressed, and were taken to the American continent as slaves and indentured servants. The main point is that Blacks shall not have an inferiority complex and imitate the Yankees.

    The Embassy took the “telefax,” retyped it into a cable, and sent it to Washington, which explains what real diplomats do at work for you students reading this and contemplating a foreign service career. Above all, they do not re-send “telefaxes” when retyping one can do.


    Anyone interested in researching the ongoing dump of diplomatic messages should check out cablegatesearch.net, which provides effortless full-text search.

    Another excellent way to keep informed on new cable releases is via Twitter. Use the #wlfind tag.




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    The Curious Case of Benjamin Qumu

    April 26, 2011 // Comments Off on The Curious Case of Benjamin Qumu

    Benjamin ButtonAbu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamuda Bin Qumu has lived an odd life, his own choices and actions constantly crisscrossing with the ever-fickle policies of the US.

    Qumu, the Guardian tells us, started his adult life in Libya as a thug, quickly ending up in jail for ten years for alleged “murder, physical assault, armed assault and distributing narcotics.” The US was in a state of semi-war with Libya at the time, though Qumu was unlikely aware of the changes in the US presidency that took place while he racked up years on the inside.

    He escaped somehow in 1993 and fled to Afghanistan, where, with US weapons and support, he fought the Russians while under the control of the good folks we’d come to know later as the Taliban and al Qaeda. Qumu likely did not know his weapons came from the US, but his existence depended on them.

    Under somewhat murky circumstances as the Afghan franchise closed down, Qumu found his way to Sudan, working for some of the same people he worked with in Afghanistan. Only by the time of his arrest and shipment to Guantanamo in 2001, the US no longer supported those guys. Osama and Sheik Khalid, once spunky revolutionaries comparable to our Founding Fathers and fat with US money, were now evil men. Qumu found himself in the Cuban lockup under US guard.

    History took another turn for Qumu in 2007, when the US and Libya renewed their vows and became diplomatic friends again. As part of the budding romance, Qumu was released from Guantanamo and sent back to Libya. The Libyans promptly threw him in jail, labeling him a “dangerous man with no qualms about committing terrorist acts.” Nonetheless, he was released from Libyan prison in 2008 under an amnesty.

    Now Qumu turns up again, this time helping lead whomever the “rebels” are in Libya, trying to overthrown Gaddafi, with US weapons and assistance. Qumu, once a bad guy, then a good guy, then a bad guy, is now a good guy again in the eyes of the US, practically ready to move in with John “More Blood, Please” McCain.

    Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Head… Will… Explode

    April 22, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    mccain obama bffIs there a physical limit to how much irony one person can absorb? Does it accumulate in your thyroid like radiation?

    John McCain (R – Predator), arrived in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on Friday morning. Several demonstrators waved American flags as a crowd of about 100 Libyans greeted the Arizona lawmaker.

    Some chanted, “Thank you John McCain! Thank you Obama! Thank you America! We need freedom! Gadhafi go away!” as McCain visited the city’s Freedom Square. “Let’s be honest: Our objective in Libya is regime change,” said McCain.

    This is the same McCain who in 2009 led a delegation of US senators to meet with Gaddafi to discuss the possible delivery of non-lethal defense equipment. The visit and Washington’s offer of military equipment was seen as another sign of the improving ties between the former longtime adversaries. “We discussed the possibility of moving ahead with the provision of non-lethal defense equipment to the government of Libya,” McCain said at a news conference.

    Reaching a tad deeper into the irony hat, we find on April 1, 2007, the same McCain strolled through the open-air Shorja market in Baghdad in an effort to prove that Americans are “not getting the full picture” of what’s going on in Iraq. In a press conference after his Baghdad tour, McCain told a reporter that his visit to the market was proof that people could “walk freely” in parts of Baghdad.

    Better yet, following McCain’s market walk, then Presidential candidate Hope Obama said “”Progress in Iraq cannot be measured by the same ideological fantasies that got us into this war,” again calling for a phased withdrawal to begin May 1, 2007, and be complete by March 31, 2008.

    A year after the McCain market walk, the area was taken over by Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi army. Obama was elected president of change. A few years after that, the troops are still in Iraq as the US begs to let them stay past 2011 and presto! we’re at war in Libya with McCain on the ground again calling for more blood.

    Also, please note in 2007 when McCain was in Iraq, the US and Libya were reaffirming friendly relations after having restored diplomatic recognition and reopened our Embassy.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

IP Blocking Protection is enabled by IP Address Blocker from LionScripts.com.