October 3, 2014

Former U.S. Ambassador To Iraq Ignored By Clinton State Dept.

In a Politico magazine piece titled: “They Sent Me to Iraq. Then They Ignored Me,” U.S. Ambassador to Iraq from 2009 to 2010, Christopher Hill, describes a State Department and Secretary of State that was disengaged and largely ignored him:

It was late April of 2009, and Hillary Clinton was coming to Iraq for her first official trip as secretary of state. … I decided not to worry. After all, I was sure Clinton would be coming every few months. …

Exhilarated and grateful, I stood on the edge of the landing zone in a line with a few other embassy personnel, all of us waving farewell to our secretary with the expectation she would be back soon.

Three months later, Vice President Joe Biden took the lead on Iraq policy and she never returned. …

Hill says that after bureaucratic infighting over his weekly memos, he never once received feedback from the State Department:

Soon after I arrived in Iraq, I was asked to produce a weekly memo for the president to update him on what was going on. This request turned into a month-long tug of war between the National Security Council staff and the State Department, because if I was to write a regular memo, surely it should be addressed to my direct boss, Secretary Clinton, first. Finally, in a decision worthy of King Solomon, it was decided that the memo would go to both the president and the secretary, but it would first make its way to the State Department, addressed “Madam Secretary,” so that the secretary could read and reflect on it, then forward it on to the president with her own cover note.

Yet despite the ferocious fight the State Department had put up to make sure these memos did not go directly to the White House, in 15 months of writing them, I never received a single comment on them from anyone in the State Department. …

Hill notes that the State Department viewed Iraq as the military’s problem:

In the end it was increasingly clear that Iraq remained the military’s problem, not the State Department’s. It is not to say that Iraq was not on people’s minds in Washington. But it was increasingly a legacy issue, a matter of keeping faith with our troops rather than seeing Iraq as a strategic issue in the region.