April 19, 2004

Our New Ambassador to Iraq

Our new ambassador to Iraq:

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: AP - Middle East: President Bush plans to name John Negroponte, the United States' current ambassador to the United Nations, as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, an administration official said Monday. The president planned to make the announcement in the Oval Office later Monday, the official said.

He doesn't speak Arabic. He doesn't speak Kurdish. He doesn't speak Farsi. And he was the only person in Honduras in the early 1980s who managed to remain ignorant of the operations of Death Squads.

Posted by DeLong at April 19, 2004 10:58 AM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post

The perfect candidate for a perfect President for the perfect war. Bring him on!!

Posted by: tstreet on April 19, 2004 11:01 AM


I think a Stanislaw Lem title expresses the content of this manuever a little better---"Perfect Vacuum". Brad, I assume you have read Lem. Do you have a favorite novel or story collection?

Posted by: marky on April 19, 2004 11:20 AM


Wait a min, is this April 1? Might as well have Kissinger as Chair of the 9-11 Commission! Or Pointdexter in charge of our personal information!

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on April 19, 2004 11:25 AM


Do you have anyone in mind who does speak Arabic? (I think one who speaks Kurdish and/or Persian but NOT Arabic would be a mistake).

I'm just curious if anyone has heard anyone more qualified, linguistically or otherwise, (but realistically appointable by the Bush administration), bandied about?

Also, any discussion anywhere of what is good about Negroponte, i.e. why choose him of all people?

Posted by: A-ro on April 19, 2004 11:27 AM


Simple enough A-ro - the reason why Negroponte is a "good" appointee is that he is competent to crush dissent by whatever means it takes. Try here for an article and some disucssion on this.


Posted by: Ian Welsh on April 19, 2004 11:31 AM


I'm just curious if anyone has heard anyone more qualified, linguistically or otherwise, (but realistically appointable by the Bush administration), bandied about?
Well, there is this Joe Wilson guy....

Posted by: wolf on April 19, 2004 11:34 AM


Doesn't Richard Murphy speak Arabic? If what we want is an Arabic speaker with extensive knowledge of the Mideast, the State Department is full of them. That is not what we want. Negroponte seems a particularly apt choice now because he was part of the team that took the UN to task for being so wrong, in theory and substance, regarding Iraq and the need to go to war.

Perhaps, behind the scenes, Negroponte has established some sort of collegial bond with UN principles and staff that will serve a good purpose. On the surface, though, it looks like a tested loyalist is being sent in to keep a lid on things. My guess is that the only thing on which he'll be able to keep a lid is chatter coming out from his own embassy.

Posted by: K Harris on April 19, 2004 11:38 AM


You are missing his most important skill: Running death squads among the locals.

Posted by: Matthew Saroff on April 19, 2004 11:46 AM


This pending appointment seems to me to be not only a poor choice in terms of ability and background but also public relations. Outside of the US Negroponte undoubtedly has a poor (to put it mildly) reputation, and the fact that he's the one who's been picked for this important position speaks volumes about our ethics and our agenda in Iraq. With all the problems we're having there, Negroponte's appointment sends exactly the wrong message to the world generally and Iraqis in particular.

It would not surprise me to find that insurgency rises dramatically once Negroponte is on the job, and with Negroponte more or less in charge, I can envision an escalation in hostilities that leaves many more US soldiers and Iraqis dead.

Posted by: Jon on April 19, 2004 11:52 AM


"Do you have anyone in mind who does speak Arabic?"

Hume Horan (former ambassador to Saudi Arabia) comes to mind.

Posted by: Russil Wvong on April 19, 2004 12:05 PM


This clearly demonstrates that there is a wise and beneficient God whom judges all and punishes Evil-Doers in the flames of Hell ; )

Somehow it all fits. The man who played a role in the UN fiasco now has to preside over the results while begging the UN for support. It is perfect in its symettry. While the man who had something to do with the death squads in Central America meets the suicide bombers of the Middle East. And the Bush administration continues to flail around without a clue anmd digs the hole deeper.

Posted by: Lawrence Boyd on April 19, 2004 12:15 PM


Great ... more mass graves on the way.

Posted by: David on April 19, 2004 12:30 PM


Here OT, but:
I think that the frenchies like Brad:http://www.lesechos.fr/GU/jjjdj20040419/lec1_idees/4097376.htm
Go, go Brad go!

Posted by: Goucho on April 19, 2004 01:13 PM


Do you think Lugar's committee will approve him?

The hearings could be interesting.

Posted by: bakho on April 19, 2004 01:15 PM


Negroponte was facing ... difficulties ... in being confirmed for the UN job just ahead of the September 11 attacks. Those difficulties, resulting from accusations that he had covered up Honduran government attrocities, evaporated after the attacks. We can only hope that, whatever he may personally think of death squads, allowing them to operate is a bad career move.

Posted by: K Harris on April 19, 2004 01:16 PM


What Saroff said. This may signal, not at all subtly, an intention to deal with our Iraq problem by escalating our use of violence. I would expect harsh attacks on American domestic dissent to accompany this. It's one of the few options Bush has for reelection, and it's consistent with everything else he's done. I hope that the Kerry people have what it takes to push back hard.

Posted by: Zizka on April 19, 2004 01:19 PM


It's a very first step toward the right direction

Posted by: Goucho on April 19, 2004 01:32 PM



American soldiers 563
British soldiers 26
Coalition soldiers 44
633 Since May 2

American 702
British 59
Coalition 44
805 Since March 20, 2003


American soldiers 2374 March 18, 2004 -
3040 March 20, 2003 - March 18, 2004

Note: American forces average 130,000
British forces average 11,000
Coalition forces average 15,000

Posted by: lise on April 19, 2004 01:33 PM


What are people complaining about? Negroponte
has plenty of Middle East experience, hasn't he?
After all, he was involved in Iran/Contra.

Posted by: Matt on April 19, 2004 01:33 PM



The Wrong War

Follow me, said the president. And, tragically, we did.

With his misbegotten war in Iraq, his failure to throw everything we had at Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and his fantasy of using military might as a magic wand to "change the world," President Bush has ushered the American people into a bloody and mind-bending theater of the absurd.

Each act is more heartbreaking than the last. Pfc. Keith Maupin, who was kidnapped near Baghdad on April 9, showed up on a videotape broadcast by Al Jazeera last Friday. He was in the custody of masked gunmen and, understandably, frightened.

"My name is Keith Matthew Maupin," he said, looking nervously into the camera. "I am a soldier from the First Division. I am married with a 10-month-old son."

Private Maupin is 20 years old and should never have been sent into the flaming horror of Iraq. Now we don't know how to get him out.

On the same day that Private Maupin was kidnapped, 20-year-old Specialist Michelle Witmer was killed when her Humvee was attacked in Baghdad. Ms. Witmer's two sisters, Charity and Rachel, were also serving in Iraq. All three women were members of the National Guard.

American troops are enduring the deadliest period since the start of the war. And while they continue to fight courageously and sometimes die, they are fighting and dying in the wrong war.

This is the height of absurdity....

Posted by: lise on April 19, 2004 01:35 PM



The Vietnam Analogy

Iraq isn't Vietnam. The most important difference is the death toll, which is only a small fraction of the carnage in Indochina. But there are also real parallels, and in some ways Iraq looks worse.

It's true that the current American force in Iraq is much smaller than the Army we sent to Vietnam. But the U.S. military as a whole, and the Army in particular, is also much smaller than it was in 1968. Measured by the share of our military strength it ties down, Iraq is a Vietnam-size conflict.

And the stress Iraq places on our military is, if anything, worse. In Vietnam, American forces consisted mainly of short-term draftees, who returned to civilian life after their tours of duty. Our Iraq force consists of long-term volunteers, including reservists who never expected to be called up for extended missions overseas. The training of these volunteers, their morale and their willingness to re-enlist will suffer severely if they are called upon to spend years fighting a guerrilla war.

Some hawks say this proves that we need a bigger Army. But President Bush hasn't called for larger forces. In fact, he seems unwilling to pay for the forces we have.

A fiscal comparison of George Bush's and Lyndon Johnson's policies makes the Vietnam era seem like a golden age of personal responsibility. At first, Johnson was reluctant to face up to the cost of the war. But in 1968 he bit the bullet, raising taxes and cutting spending; he turned a large deficit into a surplus the next year. A comparable program today — the budget went from a deficit of 3.2 percent of G.D.P. to a 0.3 percent surplus in just one year — would eliminate most of our budget deficit....

Posted by: lise on April 19, 2004 01:37 PM


Nice corroborative evidence from Spencer Ackerman ( http://www.tnr.com/blog/iraqd ):

"This is from chapter 9, 'Conclusions,' of a CIA Inspector General's report titled 'Selected Issues Relating to CIA Activities in Honduras in the 1980s" and declassified in 1998:

" '[------] on November 22, 1983 that the Ambassador [Negroponte] was particularly sensitive regarding the issue and was concerned that earlier CIA reporting on the same topic might create a human rights problem for Honduras. Based on the Ambassador's reported concerns [------] actively discouraged [------] [------] from following up the information reported by the [-------] source.' "

What can I say? [------]!!

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 19, 2004 01:56 PM


Bush plans to name John Negroponte, the United States' current ambassador to the United Nations, as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq

Because he did such a fine job in his last job, what?

I'm just curious if anyone has heard anyone more qualified, linguistically or otherwise, (but realistically appointable by the Bush administration), bandied about?

'Qualified person appointable by Bush' is a contradiction in terms.

Posted by: agrajag on April 19, 2004 02:00 PM


So we are appointing John Negroponte as the Iraqi ProConsul. Was Pinochet too busy to take the job? Negroponte has proven ability in the nun-raping and killing field, and he is competent at machine gunning of villages of brown people, but if you really want the best General Rios Montt is currently available with his entire team.

Rios Montt for Iraq in 04’ Tanned, Rested, and Ready with the genital electrodes!

(repost from Yglesias)

Posted by: CalDem on April 19, 2004 02:05 PM


He doesn't speak Arabic. He doesn't speak Kurdish. He doesn't speak Farsi. And he was the only person in Honduras in the early 1980s who managed to remain ignorant of the operations of Death Squads. Oh, and he later decided there was no reason to push AIDS drug distribution in Africa because the drugs had to be given several times a day and Africans had few watches.

Posted by: anne on April 19, 2004 02:15 PM



Militaries, even superb ones like America's, have institutional biases. For example, armies tend to fight a counterinsurgency the way they fight war—with massive force. The American Army is smart, and trained in counterinsurgency, but does tend to revert to what it does best. The problem is that this military strategy has terrible political consequences—creating broader support for the insurgency—as Algeria, Vietnam, Northern Ireland and countless other examples show.

Posted by: drk on April 19, 2004 02:20 PM


Perhaps the preferred term for Negroponte now is "Viceroy."

I cannot think of anyone in the past 60 years who would have left the post as US Ambassador to the UN in favor of running an embassy in a mid-sized country. Unprecedented.

For example, Madeline Albright left the UN to become Secretary of State.

Of course, the new embassy is apparently going to be Washington's largest.

These facts suggest something central about Bush priorities. Of course, we already knew them.


Posted by: Rodger on April 19, 2004 02:20 PM


Obviously Chalabi must have turned the position down. He is obviously the ideal choice. Consider his qualifications:

-U.S. citizen
-speaks all the requisite languages
-doesn't need a plane ticket to assume post
-has full neocon confidence and approval
-knows his way around Bagdad
-has always wanted to rule Iraq
-is hated by virtually all of populace
-no big loss if assasinated
All Negroponte is is a CIA hit man. How low will they stoop?

Posted by: hexnut on April 19, 2004 02:30 PM


Of course, this means the job of ambassador to the UN is now open.

Is Jesse Helms itching to get back to work? He'd be perfect.

Posted by: Grumpy on April 19, 2004 03:37 PM


How can you be ignorant of something you organize?

Posted by: SW on April 19, 2004 04:04 PM


Chalabi is a US citizen? I would like to see the support for that.

Posted by: KevinNYC on April 19, 2004 04:18 PM


As noted a couple comments aboved, the news reports on Negroponte's appointment as Ambassador also include the tidbit that we're building our largest embassy in Baghdad.

That makes sense - -
after all, they're going to need to a BIG helipad on that roof.

Posted by: Bob O on April 19, 2004 06:59 PM


I think I've figured out our Iraq strategy. Bush and his evangelical friends are trying to hasten Armegeddon. It all fits.

Posted by: Dan on April 19, 2004 08:23 PM


Re Negroponte's comments on AIDS and Africa: studies have shown that the AFricans do BETTER than Americans at sticking to a drug regimen.

Posted by: marky on April 19, 2004 08:57 PM


Oh c'mon, guys. Today's WaPo says that Honduras stuff is all "ancient history". And Negroponte has done a great job at the UN, everybody just looooves him there. Oh, and he's got real diplomatic insight into 'how things work' and won't have to be brought up to speed.

Uh oh.

Posted by: DSchultz on April 20, 2004 09:23 AM


The first cut on Negroponte from news organizations is along the lines of "ever polite," "well respected in his professional capacity" and so on. Either they all got the same press release or Negroponte has been handed a boat-load of faint praise by others at the UN.

The largest chancery in the world is because we will be running one of the largest construction projects, regional security efforts (Syria and Iran are neighbors now, how nice) and the like. We already have the largest CIA mission in the world there, and they need a place to stay. Even without being snotty about it (sorry), the job is just huge, so there are going to be lots of folks doing it. Mortars would seem a worry, though.

Posted by: K Harris on April 20, 2004 09:31 AM


"You are missing his most important skill: Running death squads among the locals."

Geez, yes, that certainly is an unheard revelation. Kudos for this truth squirming out from the suppression inherent admidst the system!

Without this post, who would have known?

(Minor differences between "running" and "denying" must be ignored, of course; moral taint is moral taint; any court would agree.)

Posted by: Gary Farber on April 20, 2004 11:22 PM


"Denying" -- for the purpose of "shielding from criticism or attack" (as that New Republic item points out) -- is quite vile enough, Gary.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 20, 2004 11:34 PM


The "personnel pool" the administration pumps is comical. Remember some many months ago when the pentagon had this brain storm to commence with a "Futures market" in which investors could hedge bets; or investment markers on what would be the next terrorist event or catastrophe. It would be like the stock market- and fun to play too, You could watch the news at night the same way you follow the football scores Monday morning... In other words, if you felt Paris would be leveled or attacked biologically, or with a big bomb of some kind and it did happen; man, you would pop for big bucks. Remember this from the news, so much has happened, so much absurdity that one could forget that one- I have not- so after much hoopla and consternation- the plan, and idea was dropped. I think a senator surmised that it would give a chance to terrorits (Or CIA) to plan an event, then make $$$ off of it. So it was scrapped. The originator of this idea was a pentagon employee who I forgot his name because he was buried in history as part of the Iran-Contra scandel, I think he almost went to jail, "almost" as in almost won the Iraq war last March...so point is, here is a person who should not be hired again, and was in fact a person who embarrased our country with the Iran Contra scandel - and of course this prudent administration gives him a cozy pentagon job- how puuuuuurfect!!! So now the rats have crawled back in after chewing there way through the steel door we thought was barred in place to keep the rats out. I say, let Ollie North leave his podium and take over as: Governor of Spandau Prison, in Germany, no...wait..wrong history chapter...send him to Iraq; nooo, wait

let's hire him as a Bush speechwriter, whoops, they already did that---did you hear Bush's last press conference.Did anyone notice Goergie Junior was slurring his words as a drunk would do? anyone notice the slurring of words????anyone???

Posted by: Dave S. on April 21, 2004 10:23 AM



DARPA Programs:
From Boston Globe, by Hiawatha Bray (Bray@globe.com)
"Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency"

"Earlier this year congress moved to scale back another program to scan commercial databases filled with information on millions of Americans, in an effort to spot terrorist activities...the political outrage that the man heading them up, former national security advisor, John Poindexter, has been forced to reisgn"

Darpa wanted to use information gleaned from past incidents of terrorism to identify patterns of financial or travel activities that may provide a tip-offs. Then they wanted to see if powerful comouters could spot the same pattern buried in vast amounts of commercial data...

The idea was based on nobel prize winning economist Vernon Smith, who stated that futures market can accurately gauge information about upcoming events..

so, it may work in predicting terrorist happenings in the future,

plus, "we" can get rich in the process.

The web site of Darpa for this was taken down in a few days after it went up many months ago

ohhh, the plans of mice and men...

Posted by: Dave S on April 23, 2004 12:06 PM


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