Tags: baghdad | embassy

State Dept. Official: Baghdad Embassy Incompetent

Thursday, 14 Feb 2008 08:23 AM

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

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In a blistering memo, a former State Department official accused the U.S. embassy in Baghdad of bringing “criminally negligent and incompetent” officials to do jobs for which they were not equipped.

Manuel Miranda, a former senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and a lawyer by training, spent a year as the embassy’s “senior adviser” in charge of supervising the U.S. effort to help the Iraqi government draft new laws and comply with congressionally-mandated “benchmarks.”

Instead of helping the Iraqis, however, Miranda says that the U.S. embassy was “simply not up to the task . . . we have brought to Iraq the worst of America — our bureaucrats.”

Part of the “surge” strategy was to pacify Iraq to allow the government of Iraq to craft new laws and win the confidence of the Iraqi people, but the State Department “has not done its part,” Miranda stated in his memo.

Foreign Service officers, “with ludicrously little management experience by any standard other than your own, are not equipped to manage programs, hundreds of millions in funds,” Miranda wrote. “It is apparent that, other than diplomacy, your only expertise is your own bureaucracy.”

In his top secret memorandum to Ambassador Ryan Crocker, which was provided to Newsmax by a U.S. source in Baghdad, Miranda revealed that “even while our Congress debated the Iraq question and whether to commit more troops and more funds [in 2007], the Embassy was largely consumed in successive internal reorganizations with contradictory management and policy goals.”

If the U.S. embassy’s efforts were judged by the rules that government private business, they “would be considered willfully negligent if not criminal,” he wrote.

Given the level of U.S. sacrifice to the war, “what we have seen this past year in the Embassy is incomprehensible.”

Miranda’s acidic comments are not the first such memo that has circulated in Baghdad. But this is the first time the full text of such a management review memorandum has leaked to the public.

Congress established a series of legislative, security, and economic benchmarks for coalition forces and for the Iraqi government in early 2007.

While many of the security benchmarks have been met, there has been little progress in other areas.

A report by the Government Accountability Office in September 2007, just days before Gen. David Petraeus reported to Congress that the surge was beginning to show signs of success, found that the Iraqi government only fully met three of 18 benchmarks and partially met four others.

Miranda argues that much of the blame lies not with the Iraqis, but with the State Department and its “excuse-making culture” that is inclined to “blame the Embassy’s failures on others.”

Miranda alleged that:

  • The U.S. embassy in Baghdad is wasting taxpayer funds due to “a deeply entrenched bureaucracy with a unionized attitude” that fails to “think outside of the box.”

  • The U.S. Embassy has little institutional memory, and no system for data retrieval, so that the embassy is “in a constant state of revisiting the same ground.”

  • Instead of responding to Petraeus’ call for a “civilian surge,” the U.S. embassy has been “doing a bureaucratic imitation of the Keystone Cops, counting chairs and desks and reviewing decisions over and over again.”

    His memorandum was greeted with a chorus of “Amens” from private U.S. contractors operating in Iraq, who told Newsmax they had been complaining of the same problems at the embassy for the past three years.

    More damaging than the waste and lack of management skills was the failure of the embassy to understand the critical needs or even the functioning of the Iraqi State Council in crafting new legislation, as mandated by the U.S. Congress.

    The State Council “is the most legitimate institution in the Iraqi law-making process,” Miranda wrote. “Yet from 2003 through 2007, not a single America dollar was spent to develop the capacity of that institution to process legislation in a timely fashion.”

    Crocker never asked for a briefing on the State Council’s role until he had been in Baghdad for several months. The immediate past head of the embassy’s political section only asked for such a briefing one month before she left Iraq, Miranda revealed.

    “It is for good reason that one minister forcefully asked that he no longer be sent embassy political officers to speak about legislation, and would only meet with a credentialed lawyer,” Miranda wrote.

    In summary, he argued that the last thing the U.S. needs in Baghdad is more Foreign Service officers. “We need experts, experienced human capital managers, and leaders who can think outside the box.”

    Miranda says he was proud last year when he was sworn in at the State Department, after graduating from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.

    “By the middle of 2007, that changed. I was ashamed for my country.”

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