State Department Fixing the Facts Based on Policy in Iraq
State Department personnel in Iraq may be in danger as transition plans leave gaps in security and medical care
Peter Van Buren at HuffPost November 22, 2011
Please see Peter Van Buren’s blog We Meant Well
The State Department can often times be so inward looking that it fixes the facts based on the policy need, making reality fit the vision whether that naughty reality wants to or not. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it can be tragic.
When I arrived at my second Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Iraq, we were told to call the area we worked in the “Sunni Triangle of Death.” The meme was “Look at us bad boys, reconstructing the nasty Sunni Triangle of Death. It proves State is not a sissy.” About six months later we were told to stop calling the place the “Sunni Triangle of Death,” because since we had been working for half a year, we needed to show some progress. “Triangle of Death” did not signify progress so the Embassy banned the term to fit the policy meme, even though nothing had really changed. No real harm done, I guess.
Around election time, the initial plan was for PRT staffers to observe the March 2010 voting up close, mostly so the Embassy could claim the election was legitimate based on the happy-talk reports we understood we were to file. That was part of the warp, but the real kicker was that to show our faith in Iraqi security, we were told we were not to wear body armor at the polling stations. The Embassy felt that photos of us all geared up, as we believed we needed to be based on local security conditions, would not play well with their PR campaign that all was well. There was a lot of back channel grumbling, and a few threats to refuse to observe, and the Embassy quietly just changed plans and canceled most of the rural observations. Again, narrowly, no real harm done.
Now, as the State Department rushes to replace all of the military support it needs to exist in still-dangerous Iraq without the Army, there are fears that the warping of reality may indeed endanger lives in Baghdad
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