Friday, December 28, 2012

Chris Hill and really bad nominees

Al Mada reports on the face to face meeting in Erbil that US Ambassador to Baghdad Robert S. Beecroft had with KRG President Massoud Barzani.  The two discussed the crisis between Baghdad and Erbil (Nouri sent Tigris Operation Command forces into disputed areas in what appears to be an attempt to seize them for Baghdad while the KRG then sent in the Peshmerga leading to a military stand-off) and the crisis Nouri's created by having 150 workers (staff and bodyguards) for Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi rounded up -- 10 have been charged with 'terrorism' and 50 have been released).

Hopefully, Beecroft is doing a good job but with his visit to Erbil, to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, it brings up something else: Chris Hill.

The Pig-Pen Ambassador

That's Isaiah's  The World Today Just Nuts "The Pig-Pen Ambassador" from April 5, 2009.

Chris Hill was Barack's first nominee for US Ambassador to Baghdad.  He was confirmed.  He shouldn't have been.  He was an idiot who thought he knew everything and idiotically saw issues like the disputed and oil-rich Kirkuk as "just a simple land dispute" issues.  He had no understanding of the history of the issue because had no understanding of the history of the people or the country -- and this was after he had been briefed extensively.  (He boasted in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he had been briefed extensively and for days on Iraq and its issues.)

On every major and every minor point, he was wrong.  It's rare that any nominee ever sounds so stupid in a confirmation hearing -- they aren't pop quizes.  The nominee is briefed ahead of time, the nominee is taken around to meet various senators on the Committee, especially ones who are thought to be friends of the nomination and especially those thought to be enemies of the nomination (in the first case so that the nominee knows there's someone on their side, in the second case hoping that a face-to-face will result in removing some of the sting out of a senator's line of questions).

With no firm or even loose grasp of any issue, Hill must have had something else that insisted he was a great nominee, right?  For example, he spoke Arabic, right?


He didn't speak the language.  He was ignorant of the culture and the history and unwilling to learn.  So it's no surprise that he was publicly -- and in front of Iraqis -- insulting the country long before he left, going on about how much he hated Iraq and how 'backward' it was.  That's the US Ambassador.  That is not the face the US wants to project.  The US had a name on the ground in Iraq who did understand a great deal.  That was Gen Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq at the time.  He personally interacted with the various political leaders, had a wealth of experiences to call on and was an asset.  So Chris Hill proceeded to sideline him.

Chris Hill demanded that Odierno not be allowed on TV to talk about Iraq because Chris' vanity was so great that if Odierno was on Meet The Press, Chris was convinced that was why he wasn't on Meet The Press himself.  It never occurred to Hill that he wasn't booked because he was (a) a nobody who had failed to distinguish himself in the role of ambassador and (b) ignorance tumbled out of his mouth every time his lips parted.

When Hill was nominated the press was all over itself, licking one another, purring and cooing, humping and moaning.  I had no opinion of Hill until I attended the confirmation hearing (see the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th one) and it became very clear that he was uninformed, ignorant and full of himself (with no reason to be).   [Just for the record, Beecroft did much better in his confirmation hearings, he was actually qualified for the job.  You can see the September 19th and 20th snapshots for coverage of his confirmation hearing. And for a really good examination of the failures of Chris Hill, refer to Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor's The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama.]

The press didn't give a damn about Iraq, didn't give a damn about what the job entailed, didn't give a damn about qualifications.  It just wanted to collectively run as a pack and pretend that a nominee was qualifed.  In part because it made them feel like a part of the nomination process and the administration's power (when they are not supposed to be either) and in part because it's so much easier to focus on handicapping the nomination (most nominations go through, despite all the heavy panting of the press) than it is to actually explore a person's qualifications or a the duties required for a post.

And we saw that at work with Brett McGurk.

ambassador to swingtown

From June 14th, that's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Ambassador to Swingtown."  Brett another press favorite.  Brett cheated on his wife in Iraq by sleeping with a woman who was also married (and a reporter which brings up another set of ethical issues).  The press didn't want to grasp the reality that female Democratic Senators did (and they lodged their objections with the White House):  McGurk was known in Iraq as the foreigner who came in and slept with someone else's wife.  As such, Iraqi women were not going to be able to access the US Embassy in Baghdad or meet with an Ambassador McGurk.  This wasn't London, this wasn't Canada.  This was Iraq where the US government has destroyed women's rights.  This is Iraq where 'honor' killings take place.  Over half the Iraqi population is women.  They were going to be completely cut off from the US diplomatic effort if McGurk got the nomination.

Again, Democratic female Senators got it.  The White House slowly got it.  The press never did.

And we have to do one more Isaiah.

standing behind mcgurk
That's his The World Today Just Nuts "Standing Behind McGurk."  It went up the day before the nomination was pulled, when the White House was still insisting the nomination was a go.  We're including it just because David Plouffe's line still makes me laugh.
Now the press should have been leading the efforts to examine whether McGurk was suited for the role of US Ambassador to Baghdad but they refused to do their job.

That's happened over and over.

And it's happening right now as some reporters want to insist that Chuck Hagel's a nice man and therefore qualified.  Chuck Hagel is prone to rage and everyone in the Beltway knows that, whether they say it publicly or not.  He is not a 'nice' person.  But even if he were, that has nothing to do with the post of Secretary of Defense.  There is nothing in Chuck Hagel's history that suggests he can address complex problems with anything other than rote  responses. 

The US military can't afford the same-old-same-old anymore.  There is a suicide crisis. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has rightly labeld it that.  (Something Robert Gates refused to do.)  There is a crisis and culture of assault and rape, where service members are attacking their own.  And it is about attacking, it is not about sex, it is not about romance.  And it needs to be dealt with.

If the service members aren't safe -- and the latest report on the military academies (see yesterday's snapshot) clearly suggests that collectively they are not -- then the most basic job, the most important job of the Pentagon isn't being done.

If the service members that America is supposed to count on if the country is threatened are not safe, it's not fair to count on them.  I'm sure they'll step up as they always do as needed.  That's not the point.  They're not safe and they'll stuff that in and have to deal with it at some point in their lives.  So we're saying as a country, "Destroy your own health and maybe we'll pay for your care in the future and maybe we won't?"

That's not the promise.  When people enlist, they have a right to believe that they will receive training, they will be treated with respect and consideration by their colleagues and by their chain of command.  They should never have to wonder if joining the military means, for example, that they're going to be raped.

In the last 12 years, the US military has been asked to do everything -- far beyond the role of the military.  It's a real shame that during that same period, service members have not felt that there were resources to protect them and to help them.  It's a real shame they've been utilized (or used) and the return on that hasn't even been to ensure their basic rights and dignity, their right to safety on a base.

Chuck Hagel's done nothing in his career that addresses issues of suicide or rape.  He's a standard response type person who shows no strong ability to come at a problem with anything other than the most obvious solutions.

That doesn't translate into success.

I have stated Susan Rice and Patrick Murphy would both be strong candidates for the position.  They're young, they're passionate, they don't go for the obvious.  Whomever gets selected, it needs to be a choice that leaves the standard obvious realm.  These problems are not going away.  They've been addressed in standard Washington-ease.  Which means Gates gave some minor lip service and Panetta was left to try to address it in terms of the most standard responses.  I know and like Leon and that's why I say the position needs to go to a younger person.  He leaves this position much more aged and worn down than he did the CIA.  There are so many problems to be addressed in the Defense Dept.  And it's time for a bold choice.  If neither Rice nor Murphy meet your personal qualifications, fine.  Think of you think could do the job. 

But let's start focusing on the job duties and how they can be fulfilled because Chris Hill destroyed Iraq.  He set back everything Ryan Crocker had achieved.  He turned Iraqis working with Americans against Americans (again, he didn't even have the brains to at least keep his ill-thought out opinion of Iraq to himself). 

The press needs to do it's job and that's not, "Oh, this nominee is groovy and we love him/her."  That's the role of a teenager's fan magazine, not the role of a functioning press.

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