Saturday, April 30, 2016

Final Journal Entries in Khartoum. August 2004

Aug 7:  Now that Sudan is a hot issue, all sorts of actors are in the policy-making mix.  And they know nothing so drift quickly into group think.  The group think -- even within US government -- is informed very much by the media and the perceived need to respond to it.  Washington does not do policy anymore.  It reacts to the day's press.  Very dysfunctional.

In the case of Sudan, policy was already in the hands of a small group of pols in USAID that saw the regime here in the same way that their counterparts in DOD saw Saddam.  ([They] have a long history of support for the "Christians" in the south.)  The regime is bad but we cannot simply push it over.  The USAID folks hate me for complicating their efforts.  But now that a USAID person has become AF Assistant Secretary, their capture is complete except for getting rid of me, which they will do.  (USAID already runs its own policy with the Darfur rebels.)  Add the USAID angle to the group think and we are heading for a policy calling for things the GOS cannot do -- like disarm the jinjaweed -- that will lead to a confrontation that may turn Sudan into another Somalia. (The EU and Egyptians are quite serious about Darfur and are already afraid we will blow it.)  Sent a cable on this yesterday but doubt anyone is listening.  (Powell gets it but relies far too much on his "battalion commanders" like the new A/S.) 

August 19: Just back from a three-hour GOS/UN meeting that started at 7:30pm. The goverment started its behavior in Darfur to try to ensure it did not become "internationalized." So they end up talking about how they will investigate rape cases to a room full of foreigners.

August 26:  Yesterday I sent in a cable that suggests a course of action for the next step that puts off sanctions. I have found out that my efforts led the Secretary to beat back the recent USAID effort to piss on the UN efforts here to find a peaceful way forward. One week to go.

August 27: Well, my tour is complete. Went and briefed Rev. Jackson this afternoon. Looked a little older than I last saw him but still sharp. Pointed him in a few directions. Meanwhile, a hijacked Libyan plane sits on the local runway.

August 30: Spent part of the day with Senator Corzine and Dick Holbrooke. Worked well. Corzine is a regular guy, as perhaps only a self-made millionaire elected senator can be. ...
Holbrooke has a big ego but seemed also to be able to figure out quickly if someone knows his shit. I was frank in explaining why I am leaving this week, in the middle of things.

Spoke to Treasury Secretary Snow this evening too. Corzine's banker friend Collins (whose private plane he came in on) called Snow about the Sudan embassy's banking problem and then handed the phone to me. I briefed him on the Sudanese Embassy's banking problem.

Note:  I departed Khartoum for home  on September 2.  Coming soon, Brasila cables.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Whatever you do, save the silverware!

Note:  CNN reported on April 30, 1996 that "U.S. Marines at an American Embassy compound in Liberia killed at least two Liberian factional fighters and wounded another in a series of gunfire exchanges Tuesday, the Defense Department said."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Journal Entry for July 27, 2004: Differences with USAID

Just got a call -- not the first -- suggesting that I indicate in my cables that they represent the coordinated view of the "country team," i.e., that USAID specifically sign off on them.  [The] USAID political people seem to want to drive us to war with this government just as others did over Iraq.  They see me and everything I do as defending the enemy. I've reached accommodation with AID here and it's not the issue.  The USAID pols in DC have vanquished all other opposition to their drive to confront this government and push it to the edge.  They see me as the last obstacle.  My ability to report complications from reality makes them apoplectic.  I have tried to use the Secretary to enlist a bit of foreign policy pragmatism into the equation but do not appear to have done so.  So I have another month to try to pull something good out of a hat full of vipers, scorpions and icky slimy things.  

Note:  The USAID political appointees led the USG push for southern Sudan independence and for using the Darfur issue against the Khartoum government.  The then-Administrator had served as vice president of World Vision (an evangelical advocacy NGO) and his Africa deputies also supported the "Christian" south over the Moslem north. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

More Journal Entries for July: The Secretary Calls and Darfur Events

July 18: Had a busy day with a cable to write and some meetings.  Was driving ... when I got a call from State Ops.  The Secretary wanted to speak with me.  That was a first.  He was going to make some calls and wanted to check in with me.  Said he was reading my cables closely.  Talked maybe 4-5 minutes.  Sudan is hot.
Tonight off to the British Ambassador's for dinner.  I'm not complaining.

July 20: I had some 25 Darfurians over tonight for a reception/meeting.  I wanted to give them a space to start the reconciliation process free of government interference.  We were also "consulting" them about a further US role.  Went well.  Had Arabs and Africans, nomads and farmers and some jinjaweed.  Told them we may be able to help but they must solve their own problems.  Felt strange to be hosting such a group all in their turbans on my front lawn in Khartoum, me a [guy] from Jersey.  What a long strange trip its been. 

Darfur leaders with Charge & poloff

July 26: Last nite I went to meet a group of Arabs from Darfur who wanted their side of the story heard.  Reality is always more complicated up close.  There are no good guys involved in the Darfur story and everyone is at least partially right.  They were concerned that the outside world sees all Arabs as "jinjaweed."  This is a danger.  But at the end of the discussion, one little guy accused the U.S. of being anti- Arab everywhere, Iraq etc..  I had had enough by then of self-serving bullshit -- including one guy asking how we knew the women really had been raped -- so I asked if they knew how many atom bombs we had left and that if we were anti-Arab, there would be no more of them left. They sobered up quickly and I bet they gave the little guy a tough time after I left.  Which I did not do right away since at 10pm, I was informed we were going to eat dinner.  Got home at 11 and of course this morning I got up tired.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Journal Entries for July 11-15, 2004: The Life of a Diplomat

July 11: Just back from UK poolside party.  Took NYRB and New Yorker writer Samantha Power there.  Spend a few hours chatting with her during the day.  Hopefully won't actually see my name in print. Spent two hours also with Mubarak [Al Mahdi] and [Foreign Minister] Mustapha.

July 12: Went on Hash today.  It was a very pleasant walk through rural Khartoum to the Blue Nile.  I promised the UK ambassador's two sons that I'd do it.  Two bright lads, 13 and almost 17.  Was otherwise busy with meeting another tribal chief, etc.  Spoke to the Minister this evening about freeing political detainees.

July 15: Just attended the first “JIM” (Joint Information Meeting). Four hours (8pm-midnight) that was mostly surreal. The only new GOS information was unbelievable -- about 100,000 voluntary refugee returnees and another 158,000 IDP returnees. Otherwise, challenges to us to present specific info on what we said about continued insecurity, continued jinjaweed activity and government attacks. As far as GOS sees it, they are taking actions -- more police, arrests -- and Darfur is getting more secure. Says can't disarm all jinjaweed right away while rebels are still attacking.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Journal Entry for July 9, 2004: Some Personal Reflections on Doing US Diplomacy

Saw a sight today that hit me in my stomach.  On the side of a road, a women -- she would have been tall if the could stand upright -- walking on her feet and hands.  I see such people every few days, walking through the city on their hands and knees or feet.  It was as if she was a four-legged animal loping along.  She appeared young and two small children were following her.  Her children?  My god, what a story she lives everyday, a story so different from ours, a story of love no doubt, a human story, but one full of things I can only imagine, so many common indignities. 

Last night at bowling, the guy who works there, who's job it is to smile and hover over the patrons, especially the foreigners, approached me.  The sort of person you learn to accept, expect in the Third World.  He had asked me before if he could give me his papers.  Last night he had them, he'd been holding them for me.  I accepted.  Turns out this smiling, inconsequential person was a rebel in Ethiopia for years.  His side won but the faction he was in lost favor.  He was arrested and imprisoned various times and finally had to flee to Sudan.  Lt. Solomon, formerly a major in the new Ethiopian army, demoted before his last arrest.  He has applied for asylum in Sudan and exists with a series of three month passes from the UN while it considers his case.  Been living that way for the last few years.  Now he wants my help.

We are trying to help these people help themselves.  Yet we are dancing with real devils, smiling, courteous killers.  I have gone out on various limbs, am standing on some thin ice.  Sometimes I feel that I've lost my way.

I feel so far from home.  And I worry sometimes that I'll never find it again.  Where can you ever be at home when you see what we have done to ourselves?  But when I do get there, I think I'll stay.  I have asked to stay here, will feel dissed if they don't want me.  But I think I need to get out of here.  If they don't want me, I'll serve it out and leave without regrets.