Category Archives: leadership

why we lost

A 3-Star General Explains ‘Why We Lost’ In Iraq, Afghanistan

November 09, 2014 5:22 PM ET
Why We Lost:  A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars
by Daniel Bolger

“I am a United States Army General, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism.”

Those are the frank opening words of a new book by retired Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account Of The Iraq And Afghanistan Wars. Bolger continues:

“It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous. Step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. So do my peers. And thanks to our problem, now all of America has a problem. To wit: two lost campaigns and a war gone awry.”

In over 500 pages, the retired three-star general describes the conflicting agendas that haunted both campaigns, as well as the difficulty of identifying the enemy and the looming specter of Vietnam.

“The bravery and sacrifice of the people that I was privileged to serve with should be saluted,” he tells NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates. “And the mistakes, the errors made by guys like me have to be accounted for and explained so we can learn and do better in the event we have to do something like this again.”

It’s a timely work, scheduled to be released on Veteran’s Day — a few days after Friday’s announcement that the president has authorized the deployment of 1500 additional troops to Iraq.

Bolger tells Grigsby Bates about the worrying signs he noticed at the very start of the campaigns, and why the conflicts were so challenging for the U.S. military.

Interview Highlights

On his earliest hints that the operations might not be successful

What I saw almost immediately was trouble figuring out who the enemy was. We knew within a day or two of the 9/11 attacks that it was al-Qaida, a terrorist network that had a headquarters element, if you would call it that, or a chairman of the board in Osama Bin Laden. And they were operating out of Afghanistan.

But that’s not who we ended up fighting most of the time. Sure, we went after al-Qaida at times. But we ended up fighting the Taliban, which were Pashtun people in Afghanistan who were trying to run that country. We evicted them in 2001. And we ended up fighting Sunni Arab insurgents in Iraq, who again — although they might make common cause with al-Qaida — those weren’t the guys who attacked us on 9/11.

On the lack of advance information about enemies on the ground

One of the things that we often say in the military is you have to fight for information, or fight for intelligence. So as we developed this picture and it became obvious that we were fighting an insurgent enemy mixed into a civil population that was suspicious of us anyway as outsiders (and that was true in both Afghanistan and Iraq), it really brought up the second point, which is what is the U.S. Military trained to do? And the U.S. Military is trained to carry out short and decisive conventional operations against a uniformed [enemy in formations].

So if you want us to go in and do something along the lines of 1991 Desert Storm, where we go against armored divisions and air force squadrons of the Iraqi forces and destroy them and capture the remainder, that’s what we’re trained to do. It’s very, very difficult to take even the great troops that we have and send them into a village to try and sort out which of the males there … might be insurgents, [or] who might be just people living in the area, [or] who might potentially be government supporters, when you don’t speak the language and you really don’t understand what’s going on in that village very well.

On what gave him confidence during the operations that they might still be successful

We really had two ways we could prosecute this war. The first was essentially to do what we did in Desert Storm. And both Afghanistan and Iraq started with a very short, successful, decisive U.S. initial invasion. And at that point, we had the option — we could have backed out and left it to the local people to sort it out. It might have been sort of ugly and it might have been sort of unsatisfying. But in both cases, we didn’t do that. We decided to stay.

“ We could have backed out and left it to the local people to sort it out. It might have been sort of ugly and it might have been sort of unsatisfying. But in both cases, we didn’t do that. We decided to stay.
– Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger

The only way you can win that is the local people have to take the lead, and they have to have the sure knowledge that they’ve got a long term U.S. commitment to help them in the things they have trouble with.

And when I made that statement at Veterans’ Day [in 2012, expressing confidence in the mission], I was hopeful that the United States would make a long-term commitment to both countries.

It seems like in Iraq, we’re gonna have a degree of commitment more than we probably thought we would in the fall of 2011 [when the U.S. Army withdrew from the country], based on their fight against ISIS and what we’re trying to do to help them now.

Afghanistan, though, I keep hearing the same noises about [how] we’re gonna draw down to just an embassy and a few hundred people there within a year or so.

On what he would have done

Given what I knew then, I would have recommended to do like we did in 1991 and turn it over to the local folks. You know, give them some backing, but not much beyond the embassy or maybe a couple hundred advisers or something. Certainly not hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground for ten years.

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kurds lay claim to land and oil

Kurds Defy Baghdad, Laying Claim to Land and Oil

10kurds_600Hadi Mizban/Associated Press:  Members of the Kurdish parliament read a draft of the proposed new constitution, which claims disputed natural resources, in Erbil on June 24.

By SAM DAGHER, Published: July 9, 2009

BAGHDAD — With little notice and almost no public debate, Iraq’s Kurdish leaders are pushing ahead with a new constitution for their semiautonomous region, a step that has alarmed Iraqi and American officials who fear that the move poses a new threat to the country’s unity.

The new constitution, approved by Kurdistan’s parliament two weeks ago and scheduled for a referendum this year, underscores the level of mistrust and bad faith between the region and the central government in Baghdad. And it raises the question of whether a peaceful resolution of disputes between the two is possible, despite intensive cajoling by the United States.

The proposed constitution enshrines Kurdish claims to territories and the oil and gas beneath them. But these claims are disputed by both the federal government in Baghdad and ethnic groups on the ground, and were supposed to be resolved in talks begun quietly last month between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, sponsored by the United Nations and backed by the United States. Instead, the Kurdish parliament pushed ahead and passed the constitution, partly as a message that it would resist pressure from the American and Iraqi governments to make concessions.

The disputed areas, in northern Iraq, are already volatile: There have been several tense confrontations between Kurdish and federal security forces, as well as frequent attacks aimed at inflaming sectarian and ethnic passions there.

The Obama administration, which is gradually withdrawing American troops from Iraq, was surprised and troubled by the Kurdish move. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., sent to Iraq on July 2 for three days, criticized it in diplomatic and indirect, though unmistakably strong, language as “not helpful” to the administration’s goal of reconciling Iraq’s Arabs and Kurds, in an interview with ABC News.

Mr. Biden said he wanted to discuss the proposed constitution with the Kurdish leadership in person but could not fly to Kurdistan because of sandstorms. Instead he spoke to Kurdish leaders by telephone on Tuesday, and Christopher R. Hill, the new ambassador in Baghdad, met with them in Kurdistan on Wednesday.

American diplomatic and military officials have said the potential for a confrontation with the Kurds has emerged as a threat as worrisome to Iraq’s fate as the remnants of the insurgency.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is already not on speaking terms with the Kurdish region’s president, Massoud Barzani. Iraqi political leaders have vociferously denounced the constitution as a step toward splintering Iraq.

“This lays the foundation for a separate state — it is not a constitution for a region,” said Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni Arab member of the national Parliament. “It is a declaration of hostile intent and confrontation. Of course it will lead to escalation.”

Kurdish officials defended their efforts to adopt a new constitution that defines the Kurdistan region as comprising their three provinces and also tries to add all of hotly contested and oil-rich Kirkuk Province, as well as other disputed areas in Nineveh and Diyala Provinces. Iraq’s federal Constitution allows the Kurds the right to their own constitution, referring any conflicts to Iraq’s highest court.

Susan Shihab, a member of Kurdistan’s parliament, said she no longer had faith that the rights of Kurds under the federal constitution from 2005 would be respected.

“What is missing the most in the new Iraq is confidence,” she said.

At the same time, though, some Kurds acknowledge that they have grown frustrated with the halting talks to resolve territorial disputes and other issues involving Kurds’ political power in Iraq.

“This is a punch in the face. We are fed up with them,” said a senior Kurdish official, referring to the government in Baghdad, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of his role in the United Nations negotiations.

The dispute started when the term of Kurdistan’s parliament ended June 4, before local presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for July 25. But the parliament, which is firmly in the grips of the two parties that have ruled the region for nearly 20 years, approved an extension and overwhelmingly passed a new draft of the constitution on June 24.

The Kurdish government announced that it wanted the document put to a referendum during the July elections, a vastly accelerated timetable given that most people in Kurdistan say they have not even heard of the constitution.

Iraq’s electoral commission, which oversees elections nationwide, said Monday that the earliest it could hold the referendum was Aug. 11.

The regional parliament said Thursday that it did not oppose a postponement but that it stood by the constitution and was “determined to hold a referendum” by September, according to its spokesman, Tariq Jawhar.

Most expect that the new constitution will be approved. The Kurdish ruling parties — the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan — control all levers of power in the area and maintain legions of loyal followers through jobs and patronage.

But many people in Kurdistan are deeply troubled by how the constitution was hastily passed and the extraordinary powers it gives the president, without meaningful checks and balances.

A group of civil society organizations in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya began a campaign last month opposing the constitution. Namo Sharif, an activist involved in the effort, said a Kurdish government official called him a “traitor.”

Kwestan Mohammed, a member of the regional parliament who joined a new coalition running against the two ruling parties in the July elections, said that Kurdistan needed its own constitution but that the document in its current form planted the seeds of endless conflict with the central government and made the region’s president an “absolute” ruler.

“It turns all the other powers, including parliament, into cardboard figures,” Ms. Mohammed said.

Gareth Stansfield, an associate fellow at Chatham House in London, a nonprofit organization that focuses on international issues, who is an expert on Kurdish politics, said the Kurds’ insistence on a separate constitution was an unequivocal message to the central government that they were serious about their claims, especially as the clock ticks on America’s presence in Iraq.

“They are not backing down anymore,” Mr. Stansfield said. “They are being very forceful.”

bush as bully to u.n. diplomats

Ambassador: Bush personally bullied UN diplomats into supporting Iraq war

Heraldo Muñoz, a personal friend of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Chilean ambassador to the United Nations, details the Bush administration’s persuasion tactics in the months leading up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq in his upcoming memoir, the Washington Post reports.

A Solitary War: A Diplomat’s Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons,” to be released in April 2008, outlines bullying tactics exercised by President Bush in attempts to persuade United Nations diplomats to back a 2003 resolution to authorize military force against Iraq.  Mocking of unsupportive allies, threats of trade reprisals and attempts to fire U.N. envoys were among actions taken by the Bush administration against those less than cooperative, Muñoz writes.

Ultimately, he continues, America’s “rough-and-tumble” strategy backfired, with Bush later reaching out to Chile and Mexico, which he’d earlier spurned for preventing the war resolution, aggressively backed by the United States and Britain, from taking hold.

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EXCERPTS:

On March 14, 2003, less than one week before the eventual invasion, Chile hosted a meeting of diplomats from the six undecided governments to discuss its proposal. But U.S. ambassador John D. Negroponte and then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell moved quickly to quash the initiative, warning their governments that the effort was viewed as “an unfriendly act” designed to isolate the United States.  The diplomats received calls from their governments ordering them to “leave the meeting immediately,” Muñoz writes.

Muñoz said subsequent ties remained tense at the United Nations, where the United States sought support for  resolutions authorizing the occupation of Iraq.  He said that small countries met privately in a secure room at the German mission that was impervious to eavesdropping.  “It reminded me of a submarine or a giant safe,” Muñoz said in an interview.

The United States, he added, expressed “its displeasure” to the German government every time they held a meeting in the secure room. “They couldn’t listen to what was going on.”

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The entire Washington Post article can be read HERE.

fallon’s resignation raises issue of bush iran policy

Fallon’s Resignation doesn’t indicate war with Iran?

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has dismissed as “ridiculous” any suggestion that the resignation of America’s military chief in the Middle East signals the United States is planning to go to war with Iran.

art.fallon.afp.gi.jpg

Adm. William Fallon had been serving as chief of U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia since 2007.

Adm. William Fallon resigned Tuesday as chief of U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia after just a year in the post, citing what he called an inaccurate perception that he is at odds with the Bush administration over Iran.

Fallon, the head of U.S. Central Command, was the subject of a recent Esquire magazine profile that portrayed him as resisting pressure for military action against Iran, which the Bush administration accuses of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

In a written statement, Fallon said the article’s “disrespect for the president” and “resulting embarrassment” had become a distraction.  Watch why some believe Fallon was forced to resign »

“Although I don’t believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command area of responsibility, the simple perception that there is makes it difficult for me to effectively serve America’s interests there,” Fallon said.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Gates told reporters at the Pentagon he accepted Fallon’s resignation “with reluctance and regret.”

But, he added, “I think it’s the right decision.”

“Admiral Fallon reached this difficult decision entirely on his own. I believe it was the right thing to do, even though I do not believe there are in fact significant differences between his views and administration policy,” Gates said.

Gates said repeatedly that he believed talk of Fallon opposing President George W. Bush on military action against Iran was mistaken.

Fallon, a 41-year veteran of the Navy, took over as chief of Central Command in early 2007. Gates said he will be replaced by Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, his deputy, who commanded an Army division in Iraq in the early days of the war and led efforts to train the Iraqi military.

The article that Fallon states lead to his resignation:

The perception that Fallon has opposed a drive toward military action against Iran from within the Bush administration dates to his confirmation hearings in January 2007, when he told the Senate the United States needed to exhaust all diplomatic options in its disputes with the Islamic republic.

But he also has said the United States would be able to take steps if Tehran were to attempt to block the Strait of Hormuz, the outlet of the Persian Gulf and a choke point for much of the world’s oil.

And he recently told CNN that the United States was looking for a peaceful settlement to disputes “in every case.”

“We’re trying to encourage dialogue and find resolution,” he said. “In fact, that’s our message to the Iranians out here, given that everybody is nervous and anxious about their activities, is to come forth and explain what they are doing with all the people in the region.”

On Tuesday, Gates said: “We have tried between us to put this misperception behind us over a period of months and, frankly, just have not been successful in doing so.”

In a written statement, Bush praised Fallon for helping “ensure that America’s military forces are ready to meet the threats of an often troubled region of the world.

“He deserves considerable credit for progress that has been made there, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

But Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Fallon’s resignation showed that independent views “are not welcomed in this administration.”

“It is also a sign that the administration is blind to the growing costs and consequences of the Iraq war, which has so damaged America’s security interests in the Middle East and beyond,” said Reid, D-Nevada. “Democrats will continue to examine these matters very closely in the coming weeks and months.”

baghdad’s brave librarian

Baghdad’s brave librarian

Loud talkers, lost books … and the occasional sniper fire, rocket attacks, and death threats are what Saad Eskander is up against in rebuilding the National Library and Archive.

By Tom A. Peter | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

“Our building was rocketed a few times,” says Dr. Eskander, in the same level tone he might use to describe a trip to the grocery store. “It was mortared and part of our fence was destroyed…. Stray bullets and sometimes snipers’ bullets smashed some windows as well, including my office.”

Though none of Eskander’s staff have been injured in these attacks, five have been killed in sectarian violence, and death threats have displaced dozens of his 300-plus staffers.

Eskander hardly seemed the Jack Bauer of librarianship as – during a recent tour of the US – he recounted his experiences in the Cambridge apartment of his colleague, an archivist at Harvard University. A slight man, Eskander is soft-spoken and not easily excitable. His wire-rimmed glasses and slick sports coat belie the stereotype of librarians committing 30-year-old fashion faux pas. But then again, Eskander is not your typical librarian.

About 20 years ago, he was hunkered in the mountains of northern Iraq with a band of Kurdish rebels opposed to Saddam Hussein’s regime. After a few years working for their underground newspaper, Eskander, a Kurd, fled to Iran where he spent several years before finally immigrating to England.

When American tanks rolled over the Kuwait-Iraq border in 2003, Eskander had lived in England for nearly 15 years. He’d become a citizen.

If he’d wanted, the quiet librarian could have lived the rest of his life without stepping foot back in Iraq. But in November 2003, he decided to contribute to Iraq’s culture by developing the Iraq National Library and Archive. The new post not only placed him at the center of a violent conflict, but the library had been looted and virtually burned to the ground during the first month of the war. Rebuilding it would prove a massive undertaking.

• • •

“I heard before visiting the National Library and Archive that it was damaged, but I did not know the extent of the damage,” recounts Eskander. “I was astonished when I found it in a total ruinous state.”

Arsonists trying to destroy potentially damning documents about the Baathist party burned the building twice within a three-day period, causing considerable structural damage. Looters absconded with equipment and furniture, and Iraqis whose family members had disappeared during Saddam’s reign carried off documents that could offer any clue about what happened to their loved ones. The library lost approximately 95 percent of its rare books, 60 percent of the archival collections, and 25 percent of the book collection.

Eskander was also confronted by an unraveling security situation. If ever there was a place on the proverbial wrong side of the tracks – even by Iraqi standards – the National Library and Archive was it. It is sandwiched between Baathist militant strongholds, Al Qaeda hotbeds, and an American military base. Eskander has watched US helicopters rain down fire on targets just outside the library.

Even to the south, where the library is flanked by Baghdad’s commercial district, there are regular car bombings.

Aside from obvious safety concerns, the security situation impedes many aspects of daily life. If there wasn’t a war, for example, Eskander’s commute would be less than five minutes. As it is now, it can take over an hour, if he makes it to the office at all. Military checkpoints create delays and car bombings can shut down entire roadways. On his longest commute, Eskander waited at three checkpoints before a car bombing pushed him on to congested side roads. Fortunately, Eskander, who hates driving, has a personal driver – not an uncommon luxury in the Middle East – to navigate the gridlocks.

Security around the library has noticeably improved since late September, says Eskander. Recent community efforts combined with US and Iraqi military campaigns have purged many fighters from the area.

Eskander inadvertently attained international notoriety chronicling daily life in Iraq in a web diary. Several international newspapers even posted links to it on their websites. He updated the journal from November 2006 to July 2007, but after nine months, announced its end.

“For sometime now, I have felt deep-down that I have been exploiting the tragedies and sacrifices of my staff, especially those who lost their lives,” he wrote. “I discovered that by writing the diary I put a very heavy moral burden on my shoulders; as if I have been emotionally blackmailing the readers. I do strongly believe that I have no right to do so. I seize this opportunity to apologize sincerely to everybody.”

In Cambridge, Eskander says there was more to his decision to stop writing. “I was exhausted mentally and psychologically. It’s not easy to write about the suffering of the people you know,” he says. “I felt as if I was waiting for bad things to happen in order to write about them, so this is awful. I felt guilty, as if I was selling them.”

As a librarian, he acknowledges the importance of diarists documenting history, but feels he’s done his part. “This is the diary of someone who works in the government. We need the views of ordinary citizens who work on the street,” says Eskander.

In March 2006, Eskander sent his most promising employee, a young web designer named Ali Salih, to Florence, Italy for training. Eight months after he returned, a group of four gunmen stopped Mr. Salih’s car, forced him out, and shot him repeatedly in front of his younger sister.

In his diary, Eskander later described the shooting based on an account by one of Salih’s brothers. “The street, the scene of the crime, was very busy that morning. But no one dare [sic] to intervene,” wrote Eskander.

Face to face, Eskander characteristically reveals little emotion recounting the incident, but smiles warmly when he says, “[Ali] was the symbol of the new National Library and Archive. He represented modernity and modernization.”

When he first started working at the library, Eskander says, “[the staff] thought I would leave Baghdad after one or two months, because they thought the security situation and the extent of the damage [to the library] would demoralize me.”

Nearly four and a half years later, he’s still there. Thanks to donations from several non-government organizations and the Czech Republic, much of the national library has been restored.

Still, there’s always the threat of violence erupting at the library again. At a speech at the Boston Public Library, someone asked if Eskander is worried about another attack. He explained patiently that he budgets for extra guards and ammunition, but it’s clear that for Eskander, the value of a national library far outweighs the risk of losing it again.

“Culture is important, especially secular culture and especially an institution that documents the cultural and scientific achievements of a nation,” says Eskander. “The country was on the verge of dismemberment and institutions like us and like the Iraqi Museum could play a role in the fact that they provide common symbols to all Iraqis. We are not a sectarian institution; we are a national institution.”

the hen guarding the cia chicken house had her “beak taped shut”

Harman: I told CIA not to destroy tapes

Rep. Jane Harman said in an interview with MSNBC on Friday that she told the CIA not to destroy videotapes of the interrogation of Al Qaeda terrorist suspects.

“My view then and my view now is it was a bad idea to consider destroying any tapes, and it was a very bad idea to do it,” said California Democrat Harman, who is the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee on Intelligence and Terrorism Risk Assessment. Harman said she wrote a “classified” letter to the CIA telling them of her opinion when she learned of the existence of these videotapes in 2003.

Harman said that she is unsure if the tapes were truly destroyed in order to protect identities, as CIA director Mike Hayden asserted in a letter he wrote yesterday to his employees.

“He wasn’t the guy who made the call,” Harman said, adding that she finds it “quite incredible” that Porter Goss, the CIA director in 2005, alleges that he had no idea that the tapes were destroyed.

“This is a big deal,” Harman said. “If I were running the CIA, I would want to be told that some critical evidence was being destroyed.”

When asked if there should be an investigation into whether a cover-up took place, Harman said that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees should “demand all the facts.” Pressed further, she admitted that “it looks very bad.”

Harman has been barraged with criticism for not preventing the destruction of the tapes.

“What the hell was Jane Harman doing?” wrote prominent blogger Andrew Sullivan on Friday, in an entry entitled, “Pusillanimous Harman.” Sullivan called Harman’s actions “pathetic,” and wondered how she could have stayed silent: “A leading Democrat is told that the CIA is destroying evidence of its own war crimes and says and does nothing?”

Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com also criticized Harman for confining her objections to “private expressions of ‘concern’ to the CIA.”

“She took no steps — no press conferences, no investigations, no demands for a criminal referral, no court action — to impede this destruction-of-evidence plan in any way,” wrote Greenwald.

Harman said classification laws prevented her from taking any course of action.

“Too much is classified. But I signed an oath as a member of Congress, and an additional oath as a member of the Intelligence Committee, to abide by the law and I do,” Harman said. “This was a highly classified intelligence briefing. That was the deal. I could not talk to anyone and I didn’t.”

fried rice at the state department

Many in the State Department's rank and file see Secretary Condoleezza Rice as aloof, reliant on her closest aides and out of touch with the other employees.

Rice’s Management at Issue (excerpted)

Critics Cite Blackwater, Baghdad Embassy and Passports

By Glenn Kessler

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shortly after Condoleezza Rice took charge of the 57,000-person State Department in 2005, she said she relished the challenge of “line responsibility” in leading a large organization. “I really enjoy that,” she said in an interview. “Some of my favorite times here have been my budget and high-level management reviews.”

Nearly three years later, Rice is under fire from inside and outside the State Department for a range of crises that are largely managerial in nature — the failure to monitor private security guards in Iraq, the delays in opening the huge U.S. Embassy under construction in Baghdad and the resistance of some Foreign Service officers to being forced to serve there. Over the summer, the department also fell woefully short in processing passport applications, resulting in ruined vacation plans for many Americans.

Within the department, Rice is viewed by many rank-and-file employees as an aloof manager who relies on a tight circle of aides, leaving her out of touch with the rest of the staff, in contrast to her predecessor, Colin L. Powell, a retired Army general who won praise from workers for treating them as though they were his “troops.” At her last town hall meeting with employees 2 1/2 years ago, Rice told staffers: “I consider myself the chief management officer of this department.” But a poll by the American Foreign Service Association indicated that an overwhelming majority did not feel that Rice was their advocate.

The latest controversy about forced assignments to Iraq has only heightened internal resentment of Rice’s management style. “I personally do not like the ultimatum-giving,” said one Foreign Service officer. “It is not what State is about.”

Senior State Department officials dispute such charges, contending that Rice has moved quickly to deal with emerging problems at State despite her hectic overseas schedule….

At a contentious hearing before the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee last month, Democrats aggressively questioned Rice over what one lawmaker labeled “seriously deficient” management. Asked to explain her oversight of State’s private security contractors, Rice offered an answer that, to some lawmakers, seemed to deflect responsibility: “I certainly regret that we did not have the kind of oversight that I would have insisted upon.”  Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said he was taken aback by Rice’s responses. “She acted as if she had nothing to do with it,” he said. “There are too many issues we know about, in which people were not given the oversight they needed, in what seems to be a pattern of indifference to management.”

….At State, Rice has pushed ambitious efforts to reshape how foreign aid is distributed and to shift key diplomatic jobs from Europe to emerging powers such as China and India. The foreign-assistance overhaul, in which Rice personally approved country-by-country budget numbers, was criticized by lawmakers and some within the department because it appeared to minimize the advice of specialists in the field. The job shifts were put in place so quickly that a number of Foreign Service officers who had been promised plum posts in Paris and elsewhere had to be told that those positions no longer existed. Henrietta H. Fore, undersecretary of state for management, said 285 overseas jobs have been shifted so far, with another 85 slated for movement.

Rice’s defenders said she has taken on hard issues that previous secretaries ducked because they wanted to avoid dissent. They said she has been hampered by the fact that a key management job — deputy secretary of state — was vacant for eight months, after Robert B. Zoellick left in July 2006. Rice struggled for months to fill the post, which was unoccupied for the longest period in State Department history, until Negroponte came on board early this year.

When Rice is not traveling, she meets at 8 a.m. weekdays with a few top aides for half an hour to map out her day, before meeting with other top department officials. In the evenings, she holds a wrap-up meeting with close aides to review and plan ahead. Spokesman Tom Casey said Rice has visited the offices of about two dozen bureaus of the State Department and, since March, has met with a dozen desk officers to get their views.

Rice does not use e-mail….John R. Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations, who served under Powell and Rice and whose new book, “Surrender Is Not an Option,” is critical of how Rice has directed foreign policy: “Rice is typical of secretaries of state in that they generally don’t pay attention to management issues,” Bolton said.

Comparing Rice with Powell,…a third official who served under both secretaries recalled how, after an assistant secretary of state made a mistake resulting in several days of negative news coverage, Powell treated that person with civility. By contrast, the official said, Rice becomes angry over even minor news accounts, turning furiously to the relevant assistant secretary for an explanation. “Dressing someone down like that is not great for morale and does not encourage people to bring up bad news,” he said.  In a change that may have limited Rice’s exposure to the rest of the building, Rice moved news conferences to the fancier higher floors of State’s headquarters. While Powell held news media sessions outside — after escorting out foreign officials — Rice wanted a more dignified venue. Powell, after meeting with the media, chatted with workers in the lobby, reaching out to lower-level staff.

Senior officials disagree that Rice is isolated. “As secretary, you get information because you ask questions and you don’t lock the door,” said Pat Kennedy, director of State’s office of management policy and a nominee for undersecretary for management. “She is open to discussion, and in the meetings she asks pointed questions.”

Lawmakers have questioned why Rice has not anticipated potential problems. On the passport issue, for example, the State Department had estimated that passport applications would increase 33 percent because of new travel rules, but they jumped 51 percent instead, leaving State unable to handle the load. Rice forced 300 junior diplomats to give up their summer jobs to process passport applications and ordered that systems be streamlined to prepare for future surges.

Though there had been a number of deadly incidents involving contract security guards over the years, Rice did not order an investigation until after a Sept. 16 shootout in Baghdad involving guards from the private security contractor Blackwater left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

And recognition of staffing issues and problems with the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad did not emerge until after Rice installed a new ambassador there this year. The embassy was short-staffed, and construction problems have delayed the opening of the $592 million complex.

Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, said it is the “responsibility of the ambassador” to notify the secretary of state of problems — and not the secretary’s job to dig deeper if the news appears good.

Kennedy credits Rice with pushing for action after the Blackwater shootings. Before he departed for Baghdad on his first trip to review the incident, 12 days after the shootings, Rice told him she wanted an initial report “done fully but fast” — in 96 hours, Kennedy said.

“Some might argue that such a review should have been taken earlier,” Negroponte said. “But she moved very rapidly to deal with the situation. A test of a manager is that if problems come up, you are able to deal with them effectively.”

when the president talks to g_d

BRIGHT EYES LYRICS

“When The President Talks To God”

When the president talks to God
Are the conversations brief or long?
Does he ask to rape our women’s’ rights
And send poor farm kids off to die?
Does God suggest an oil hike
When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
Are the consonants all hard or soft?
Is he resolute all down the line?
Is every issue black or white?
Does what God says ever change his mind
When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
Does he fake that drawl or merely nod?
Agree which convicts should be killed?
Where prisons should be built and filled?
Which voter fraud must be concealed
When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
I wonder which one plays the better cop
We should find some jobs. the ghetto’s broke
No, they’re lazy, George, I say we don’t
Just give ‘em more liquor stores and dirty coke
That’s what God recommends

When the president talks to God
Do they drink near beer and go play golf
While they pick which countries to invade
Which Muslim souls still can be saved?
I guess god just calls a spade a spade
When the president talks to God

When the president talks to God
Does he ever think that maybe he’s not?
That that voice is just inside his head
When he kneels next to the presidential bed
Does he ever smell his own b——-t
When the president talks to God?

I doubt it

I doubt it