Monday, October 10, 2011

Peter Van Buren Gets Profiled in NYT: You're Now Really Toasts, Dude!

Remember that reminder in your A-100 class about not ending up on the pages of the Washington Post? There's a reason for it. Just about everybody reads WaPo; an appearance there is like seeing your career flashed before your eyes.

So far, except for a recent triple showing in Foreign Policy, published by the Slate Group, a division of the Washington Post, Peter Van Buren has managed to avoid landing on the pages of the hometown newspaper.  Or perhaps I should say, the hometown newspaper has so far managed to avoid covering him and his book. That's good, right?

Except that he just got profiled in Saturday's New York Times. Not so good. Plus, whatdayaknow, the NYT writer actually identified the Green Grass Ambassador. Oh dear, lord, this is not/not good. Anytime now, we'll have follow up news about the real story about that sod trucked in from Kuwait.

All I can say is expeditionary diplomacy does not/not really require green grass. But dammit, did he have to include that in the book?! It makes folks look sort of bad in bright lights: the guy who ordered the sod, and the folks who were just following orders and procured the sod, laid the sod and watered it night and day. No one hit the pause button and said, "Wait a minute, isn't $2 million worth of sod a tad too much?" If somebody did the honorable thing and resigned over the darn sod to green the embassy, we did not get the press statement on that.

Below is an excerpt from NYT's U.S. Envoy Puts Match to Bridges With Iraq Tell-All: 

Ample ink has been expended on the war, defending it, attacking it or just trying to understand it. What makes Mr. Van Buren’s account so striking is its gleeful violation of the spirit — and perhaps the letter — of the written and unwritten code of America’s diplomatic corps.
In anything but diplomatic language, he skewers the Army’s commanders and the Iraqis, the embassy, its staff, and even its ambassador at the time, Christopher R. Hill, though not by name. He takes sarcastic aim at the ambassador’s Sisyphean effort to grow a lawn in the sprawling embassy compound beside the Tigris River.
The book and the publicity surrounding it — including an Op-Ed article by him in this newspaper — have infuriated Mr. Van Buren’s colleagues. To them, he has betrayed his loyalty to the well-traveled, multilingual, highly educated professional cadre that is the Foreign Service.
“If you feel that strongly about policies you feel are misguided and harmful, you do the honorable thing and resign before tearing your colleagues apart in public,” said a diplomat who served in Iraq, speaking, as is more typically the case, on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. Van Buren’s most serious accusations involve the waste of money spent on the reconstruction, $63 billion and counting. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (Sigir) has chronicled numerous abuses amounting to billions of dollars, but Mr. Van Buren’s account abounds with the granularity of projects too small for Sigir to bother with.
As the Foreign Service requires, Mr. Van Buren submitted his manuscript for review in September 2010, shortly after he returned from Iraq. The rules state that the review must be completed within 30 days. When he heard nothing, he took that as assent.
A State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the issue is a personnel matter, said the department had in fact begun discussions with Mr. Van Buren over the book’s contents, though belatedly. Publishing without awaiting the required review amounted to a violation, the official said. It is not clear what further action, if any, the department intends to take.
Read in full here.

Separately, the State Department told that it would not comment on “whether or not there is an investigation underway.”

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