Ambassador McFaul resigned last month to return to Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, leaving us without a dedicated official envoy to Moscow. We need an Ambassador to advocate for regional stability and economic confidence. We need an Ambassador right now to be a stone in the Putin administration’s shoe, always present and felt with every step. This is not something we should expect of either the Secretary of State or the Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow, who each have other responsibilities.
Finally, we need an Ambassador with a detailed knowledge of existing US capability across every agency and department; a proven ability to deliver finely calibrated messages in volatile situations; and a keen awareness of the ability and willingness of our allies to stand beside us under any given set of circumstances.
Ambassador McFaul and General Mattis have been colleagues at the Hoover Institution for the past six weeks, where they have undoubtedly been talking through this Ukraine crisis as it has unfolded from unrest, to the shooting of protesters, to the ouster of President Yanukovych, and finally to an undeclared Russian invasion of Crimea.
As of this writing, the petition has 50 signatories. Some of the reasons given by the supporters are below:
Because I’m a Marine and I know Mattis takes zero shit.
Because General Mattis is a badass.
Because I’m begging you, with tears in my eyes…
Because Gen. Mattis has a zero-tolerance for bullshit.
I know General Mattis personally & professionally and he is by far the answer and the patriot to what this country is facing at this time.
One supporter of this petition which is addressed to President Obama states his reason as, “Because this guy unlike the President has a set of balls.”
Obviously, that’s really going to help.
In 2013, Gen. James Mattis, known to his troops as “Mad Dog Mattis,” retired after 41 years of military service. Business Insider called him “an icon of sorts in the Marine Corps, arguably the most famous living Marine” and collected some of his unforgettable quotes. Take a look.
On a related note, WaPo’s Al Kamen reported a few days ago that White House press secretary Jay Carney,rumored to be angling for the top spot in Moscow denied that he wanted the job. Rumint right now apparently includes national security adviser Susan Rice‘s interest in having a woman in Moscow. In the Loop threw in some names:
Sheila Gwaltney, the current Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy Moscow; was deputy chief of mission during Amb. McFaul’s tenure; was consul general in St. Petersburg from 2008 to 2011. We understand that she is scheduled to rotate out this summer with Lynne M. Tracy, current DAS for South and Central Asia as the next DCM.
Pamela Spratlen, U.S. Ambassador to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, who is a former No. 2 at the embassy in Kazakhstan and former consul general in Vladivostok, Russia.
Ambassador Victoria Nuland, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, has served as the State Department Spokesperson since 2011. Previously, from 2010 to 2011, she was Special Envoy for Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. Ambassador Nuland served on the faculty of the National War College from 2008 to 2010, after serving as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from 2005 to 2008. From 2003 to 2005, she was Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President, and from 2000 to 2003, she served as U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO. From 1997 to 1999, Ambassador Nuland was Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for the former Soviet States at the Department of State. Ambassador Nuland served overseas at the U.S. Embassies in Moscow from 1991 to 1993, Mongolia in 1988, and at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China from 1985 to 1986.
She received a B.A. from Brown University.
Look at that career trajectory!
Next to Susan Rice, Ambassador Nuland is probably the most recognizable name associated with Benghazi. The Benghazi “talking points” that is, which proved to be a most controversial subject with more lives than a cat. She is also one of the 13 former and current officials of the State Department that the House Oversight Committee would like to chat with.
If confirmed, Ambassador Nuland who is a career diplomat would succeed political appointee Philip Gordon, who was appointed to the National Security Staff as Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region in March 2013.
Ambassador Nuland’s nomination is scheduled to be taken up by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 11, 2013 at 2:15 pm. It should be an interesting hearing or … a boring one, depends on who shows up for the hearing.
In the most recent Oversight Committee hearing, State Department’s Gregory Hicks mentioned that there were 55 people in the two annexes in Benghazi. Earlier reports says that a total of 30 people were evacuated from Benghazi. Only 7 of the 30 evacuees were employees of the State Department. So if 55 is correct, there were actually 48 CIA folks in Benghazi. How come no one is throwing a tantrum to hear what they have to say?
Joshua Foust writes that the press and Congress are asking the wrong questions.
The eight-month controversy over the attacks on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi reintensified last week, as the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Tripoli testified before a panel at the House of Representatives. The hearing, however, seemed to focus not on the attack itself, but rather on what happened afterward: the content of the talking points handed to UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and whether President Obama referred to it as terrorism quickly enough.Indeed, the entire scandal, as it exists in the public, is a bizarre redirection from the serious failures for which no one has yet answered.
The CIA’s conduct during and after Benghazi should be the real scandal here, not the order in which certain keywords make their way into press conferences. It is a tragedy that two diplomats died, including the first ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. Sadly, they are part of a growing number of American diplomats hurt or killed in the line of duty. Embassies and diplomatic facilities were attacked 13 times under President Bush, resulting in dozens of dead but little action. If future Benghazis are to be avoided, we need to grapple with why the attack and our inadequate response unfolded the way it did.
Many of those issues were raised in the Accountability Review Board report that the State Department released last December. But to this day, the complicated nature of CIA operations and, more importantly, how they put at risk the other American personnel serving alongside them have gone largely unremarked upon. It’s past time to demand answers from Langley.
In December, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R- UT) toldBreitbart News that he has been “thwarted” by the State Department from seeing any Americans who survived the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
“My understanding is that we still have some people in the hospital. I’d like to visit with them and wish them nothing but the best but the State Department has seen it unfit for me to know who those people are—or even how many there are,” Rep. Chaffetz said. “I don’t know who they are. I don’t know where they live. I don’t know what state they’re from. I don’t even know how many there are. It doesn’t seem right to me.”
May we just say that it’s actually a good thing that the good congressman from Utah does not know where the survivors live? Why? Because who’s to say that a congressman running for reelection every two years would not use the survivors as props in a future campaign? This is the same congressman who did an overnight trip to Libya (via miljet?) to do some investigation, did not go to Benghazi but did show up pretty promptly at Fox News after the trip.
Don’t know if there is a cure for it, but Opportunistic Disorder Syndrome (ODS) is a common affliction among elected officials.
Seriously, does Congress really think they could find out more the what and whys and hows from talking to the survivors, the same ones who most probably are recovering from physical, emotional and psychological trauma? And what are they going to ask the survivors? Whether or not there was a demonstration prior to the attack? Or what was Susan Rice doing on the Sunday talk shows? Are they going to ask the survivors why they were in Benghazi? Orders! Dammit, they got orders. Why were they in Benghazi is beyond their pay grades, folks. Didn’t Congress folks ask the OGA people what they were doing in Benghazi? For sure, they were not there for the fun of it. They were there because somebody had made the decision that it was in our national interest that they be there. But the OGA people could not possibly be there just on their own. They needed some leafy cover.
Dear god! Senator McCain wants to see the survivors cometo Capitol Hill and give their account of what happened in Benghazi on September 11. Because obviously, the survivors have not already talked to the FBI investigators and they need to answer questions from a bunch of self-serving politicians who cannot get their heads out of their collective posteriors? Ew, apologies for that imagery. Anyway, maybe they should served these survivors with congressional subpoenas. Let’s see what kind of PR Congress get for dragging these survivors to a useless hearing. The same survivors who were wounded in the attack; people who have watched their colleagues bleed and die and are never the same again, even if they made it out alive. They’re not the perpetrators but by all means, go call them to your hearing and grill them to death.
We should note that only a fraction of the Benghazi survivors, about 7 individuals are State Department folks. There were reportedly 32 survivors from the Benghazi attack. Besides the 7 State Dept employees, the rest of the survivors are OGA people; okay call them Annex people, or former Petreaus people. Why are these Hill people not screaming bloody murder that the CIA is hiding their 25 Benghazi survivors from Congress?
And then there’s a spin off. First the Benghazi survivors were “hidden” and now apparently Ambassador Stevens security detail’s identities were “suppressed”.
State Dept. Publicized Names, Photos of Stevens’ Benghazi Security Detail Before 9/11/12; Suppressed Their Identities Afterward | February 1, 2013
Before the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, the department undertook a calculated effort to publicize the agents’ names and faces–presenting them in a State Department promotional magazine posted on the Internet. After the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks, the State Department has treated the names and faces of the DS agents who survived those attacks as if they were classified information.
On January 28, the House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, and House Oversight National Security Subcommittee Chairman Jason Chaffetz had sent a letter to Secretary Clinton asking her to provide them with certain documents and information relating to the Benghazi attack. Among the things the committee asked Clinton to handover was: “A complete list of every individual—including name, title, and agency—interviewed by the ARB for the December 19, 2012, report, and any documents and communications referring or relating to the interviews.”
The online publication made the following suggestion:
If the committee wanted the names of the DS agents who were in Benghazi with Chris Stevens during the 2011 rebellion—as opposed to those who were with Stevens in Benghazi during the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack—all they would need to do is go to the State Department’s website and look up the December 2011 issue of State Magazine.
The cover story of this official government publication is entitled: “Mission to a Revolution.” It was written by Mario Montoya, identified in the magazine as one of the DS agents who protected Stevens in Benghazi during the 2011 Libyan rebellion.
DS agents Jeremy Clarke, Chris Little and Mario Montoya, medic Jack Van Cleve, Regional Security Officer Mike Ranger and Security Protective Specialists Domingo Ruiz and Ronald Young protected mission staff traveling in Benghazi or in the rebel-controlled towns in eastern Libya.
In another part of the article is this:
But the group’s members needed more than a warm welcome; they needed a place to bed down for the night. In expeditionary diplomacy, they key is to make do with what you have, so the mission’s first night was spent aboard ship while Diplomatic Security Service agents Brian Haggerty, Kent Anderson, Josh Vincent, Chris Deedy, James Mcanelly, Jason Bierly and Ken Davis, Agent in Charge Keith Carter and Political Officer Nathan Tek scoured the city for rooms. They soon settled into a formerly government-owned hotel where other foreign missions and international journalists were lodged, but had to move when a car bomb exploded in the hotel parking lot.
We presumed that the main reasons the names and the photos actually made it to publication was that those agents were no longer in Libya.
And oh, hey! Did you hear that the DSS agents tour of duty at the temporary mission in Benghazi was a series of 45-60 days TDY rotations? The memo highlighted by the Oversight Committee containing the security request mention a permanent staffing for an RSO on a one year assignment. Traditionally, RSOs have regular tours that range from 1-3 years depending on the locations of their assignments. But Benghazi was unique; it did not have a permanent staff similar to other embassies and consulates. It was staffed by temporary duty personnel.
In September 2011, the accredited US Ambassador to Tripoli Gene Cretz returned to Libya. Chris Stevens later that fall returned to Washington, D.C. President Obama officially nominated him to be the U.S. Ambassador to Libya in January 2012. Chris Stevens remained in DC to prepare for his confirmation hearing. The SFRC held his nomination hearing on March 20, 2012.
In any case, most of the names mentioned in the Montoya article have very light digital footprint. A quick look online indicate that one is now assigned in D.C. and we found one who actually made the news on his own. Chris Deedy who in November 2011 was accused in a Waikiki shooting during the APEC conference in Hawaii was one of the DSS agents who was in Benghazi when Chris Stevens was the Special Representative to the Transitional Council.
Some of the related headlines made it sound as if these were the same agents. Our source intimately familiar with the comings and goings told us that none of those who accompanied Chris Stevens to Benghazi as Special Rep in April 2011 were with him when he returned to Benghazi as ambassador in September 2012.
While we can understand why the government would want to protect the OGA names, we can’t think of a reason why the names of the rest of the interviewees could not be made public. We would not have any argument about Congress forcing State to make public the list of individuals interviewed by the Accountability Review Board. This was done in the East Africa Embassy Bombing ARB. Besides, this is after all an “accountability” report, we believe the names of those interviewed should be made public. We are not so much interested on the names of the survivors as much as the names of the senior officials who were or were not interviewed by the Board.
That said, we certainly would not want Congress to add to the trauma that the survivors already suffered by parading them around under the broad cover of “investigating” this incident in political perpetuity (until 2014 for the senator on the growl or the next four years, take your pick). Presumably, the FBI have talked to all the survivors. If Congress cannot trust the FBI investigators to talk to the survivors and investigate this incident, why the foxtrot do we have an FBI?
Meanwhile, just a couple days ago, over in the less dysfunctional Washington, Anne Stevens, sister of the late Ambassador Stevens and a doctor at Seattle Children’s Hospital is finishing the work her brother started— creating a collaborative relationship with U.S. doctors to advance Libyan health care. According to Seattle Times, Dr. Stevens thought that the most fitting tribute to her older brother’s life was to complete the work he had started in Benghazi, helping Libyans improve emergency care in the troubled and dangerous city.
So after months of endless chatter and lots of ink spilled on Secretary Clinton testifying on Benghazi, the moment finally arrived on January 23, 2013. You’d think that after over four months waiting for the Secretary of State to appear in Congress to answer questions about the Benghazi attack, that our elected representatives had the time to craft questions that would help inform us better. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Did we learn anything new from the hearing? Well, not really but we did have a few take aways.
I. Folks elected to Congress apparently do not need to know basic information before coming to a hearing and asking questions. Uh-oh, brains going commando! But that’s part of the perks of being an elected representative. You don’t have to know anything or a lot.
Rep. Kinzinger suggested that an F-16 could/should have been have flown over Benghazi to disperse the mob/crowd or whatever you call those attackers.
We’ve heard of things called pepper sprays, tear gas, even pain rays for crowd control but this is the first time we’ve heard of the suggestion of using F-16s for crowd dispersal. You need to get one of those for your post asap.
The good congresswoman from Florida would have wanted the ARB Benghazi to interview the Secretary of State for a report that will be submitted to the Secretary of State. That would have been certainly outrageous, too, no?
She also asked: Why did State not immediately revamp our security protocols prior to the September 11th attacks?
Sen. Jeff Flake asked if Clinton was consulted before Susan Rice was chosen to go on Sunday morning shows.
Rep. Matt Salmon: “Eric Holder has repeatedly misled about an international gun-trafficking scheme.”
Gawd, no more Rice, pleeeeaase! And did somebody scramble Matt’s hearing schedule again? Was Eric Holder in the building?
At the SFRC hearing, the more deliberative kind, Senator Rand Paul gave himself a lengthy talk and then asked: “Is the U.S. involved in shipping weapons out of Libya to Turkey.”
Clinton’s response: “To Turkey? I will have to take that question for the record. That’s … Nobody has ever raised that with me.”
Dear Senator Paul, please check with OGA, the Annex people may know.
Of course, President Senator Paul will also be remembered for stealing the thunderbolts from Senator McCain with his: “Had I been president at the time and I found out that you did not read the cables … I would have relieved you of your post.”
Senator Paul was only topped by Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin with his inquiry which started a heated exchange with Clinton: “Did anybody in the State Department talk to those folks [people evacuated from Libya] very shortly afterwards?”
“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Clinton told him angrily. “Whether it’s because of a protest or whether a guy out for a walk decided to go kill some Americans, what difference at this point does it make?”
And perhaps because of that heated exchange, we will forever remember Senator Johnson as the guy who got Hillary mad, and got a public spanking in the process. His response? “Thank you, Madame Secretary.”
II. 2016 looming large in their minds, oh my!
Tom Udall of New Mexico praised Secretary Clinton for her work on “cookstoves” which improve lives for third world people.
Were there cookstoves in Benghazi?
Rep. Ami Bera said: “I think I speak for all the freshmen that we’re not gonna get much time to serve with you, but we hope in a few years we’ll get that chance to serve again.”
Rep. Juan Vargassaid: “I have to say that because it’s true, one, and secondly, I don’t think that my wife, my 16-year-old daughter or my nine-year-old daughter … she’d probably even turn on me and wouldn’t let me in the house if I didn’t say that. You are a hero to many, especially women ….”
That’s just a sampling of the other extreme reception that Secretary Clinton received from one side of the aisle while the other side were reportedly “grilling” her. If you call what she got a grilling, we hate to see what a real roasting is like.
III. 1.4 million cables
Secretary Clinton told Congress that about 1.4 million cables go to the State Department every year, and they’re all addressed to her. All you need to do is peek at those Wikileaks cables and you’ll quickly notice that almost all cables going back to Washington are addressed to SECSTATE. The Secretary doesn’t read all of them because that would be a crazy expectation; that’s why there are tiered leadership within that building. There’s a cable reportedly floating around the net sent by Ambassador Stevens to the State Department about security. From best we could tell, the cable was drafted by one officer, cleared by one officer, and released by one officer under Ambassador Stevens’ signature. He is the chief of mission. All cables that went out of Tripoli were sent under his signature.
The question the reps should have asked is how many NODIS cables did Ambassador Stevens send from Tripoli? Cables captioned NODIS identifies messages of the highest sensitivity between the chief of mission and the Secretary of State. All other regular cables marked Routine, Priority or Immediate would have gone through the appropriate distribution channels, and up the offices and bureaus within State. Security request cables would have been received at Diplomatic Security, any deliberation beyond the bureau would have gone up to the Under Secretary for Management (“M”). That’s within their pay grades. We doubt very much that any would have gone to the Secretary’s office. Note that this is not the first time that an ambassador’s request for additional security was not seen by the Secretary of State. Ambassador Bushnell prior to the bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi made a similar request to Secretary Albright. In the aftermath of the bombing Secretary Albright told the ambassador she never saw the letter.
IV. Iraq and Afghanistan sucked out resources
Okay, we all know this already. But here the Secretary of State, for the first time publicly acknowledged that an emphasis on security in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade diverted resources from other outposts around the world.
V. Accountability Review Boards.
Since 1988 there have been 19 Accountability Review Boards investigating attacks on American diplomats and diplomatic facilities worldwide. Of those 19 ARBs only the ARB for the East Africa Bombings and the ARB for Benghazi are available for public view. Can some media or accountability group please FOIA the remaining 17 ARBs? Better yet, if Congress can get its act together, it should update the regs to allow for the automatic publication of the ARBs after a certain length of time deemed appropriate.
We should note that the Accountability Review Boards are not “independent” bodies as they are often described in news reports. They are composed of individuals recommended by the Permanent Coordinating Committee (PCC) inside the State Department. A committee so transparent that you can’t find it listed in any of the DoS telephone directory. In almost all of them, the chairman is a retired ambassador, with former, retired or current members from the federal bureaucracy.
Secretary Clinton told the panel that she named the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts, “so Missions in dangerous places get the attention they need.” She’s talking about the newly designated 17 (20?) diplomatic posts considered high threat, which obviously need its own assistant secretary and an entirely new support staff.
That’s good and that’s bad. Perhaps we need to remind the somebodies that when the US Embassy Kenya was bombed, it was not a high threat post. Nobody seems to know how or what factors were used in determining which post get into this list. Even folks who we presumed should know are scratching their heads; they are in the dark. As we have pointed out previously, some posts on this high threat list are not even considered danger posts. And some posts considered dangerous enough that the Government pays employees a danger differential to be there are not on this list. Go figure.
Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen.
One other reminder. In the aftermath of the East Africa Bombing in 1998, and upon recommendation of the ARB for that incident, the State Department kicked off its Crisis Management Exercise program for its worldwide posts. The Crisis Management Training Office (CMT) went from a one-person shop ran for years by, if we remember correctly, a retired Special Forces colonel and Vietnam vet, to a big shop with lots of trainers and travel money ran by an FSO who was not a crisis management professional. Yeah, you should read some of the scenarios they table-top sometimes where there’s a plane crash, and an earthquake and hell, a tsunami and a hostage taking, too, all on the same day, why not?
See if you can find an assessment on how much impact the CMEs have on mission preparedness. Particularly, if the local employees who play a large part in any catastrophic event overseas are not included in the exercise. Did any of the CMEs ever written in the last 10 years imagined any of the events that played out in the last two years?
In the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, Congress often is lax with its purse strings. It does not want to be perceived as functioning on the wrong side of the story. It’s bad for reelection. We have no doubt that Congress will increased funds for building new embassy compounds or hardening old ones, as well as increase US Marine Guards and Diplomatic Security personnel. We don’t know if the MOU between DOD and State has been updated to allow the active use of force. Because what does it matter if you have more Marines if they are only allowed to engage in a passive response? Did anyone ask that during the hearing?
Perhaps the important take away in all this is that once you create and fund something in the bureaucracy, it lives almost to perpetuity; it is easier to stand up an office than remove an old one. Has the Crisis Management Office served its purpose in the last decade? Maybe, maybe not. We have no way of knowing but it continue to exist. Was the new directorate for High Threat posts within Diplomatic Security well thought of? Maybe, maybe not. But the office now exist and will operate with new authority, staff, funding and the accompanying high profile within and outside the building. Until the next big one happens, in which case, a new program or office will be quickly created in direct response to the incident.
NBS News exclusive reports that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is dropping out of the running to be the next secretary of state after months of criticism over her Benghazi comments.
“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in a letter to President Obama, saying she’s saddened by the partisan politics surrounding her prospects.
“That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country…Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time,” she wrote in the letter obtained by NBC News.
Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America’s interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people. I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues. I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.
Somewhere Senator McGrouchy is dancing in the moonlight.
Rumors abound that former Senator Chuck Hagel is heading to the Pentagon. In which case, it seems likely that the Senate’s favorite, John Kerry is a step closer to Foggy Bottom.
The Daily Beast has a new addition to the Susan Rice, please let this be over story already. It’s titled, Susan Rice’s Personality ‘Disorder’. Is it just us or are folks trying to outdo themselves with their Susan headlines? We fear that the longer this runs, the more outrageous the headlines will be; so they’ll get our attention despite cruising towards some darn cliff, of course. While it is not surprising that this is a hallway conversation over in Foggy Bottom, we’re still struck by this: (excerpt):
George W. Bush, had flouted longstanding tradition and downgraded the U.N. job to sub-cabinet status, but President Obama restored it to cabinet rank for Rice—thus insuring intense bureaucratic rivalry between the U.S. Mission in New York and the State Department in Washington, where various career foreign-service officers view the prospect of Rice’s takeover with suspicion.
“It’s the hallway conversation,” says a longtime State Department staffer. “It’s like, Jesus Christ, woe unto us all if this happens!”
Indeed, Rice has apparently left a trail of bruised egos and injured feelings in the nation’s capital. A veteran of the Clinton White House recalls a junior aide being summoned by Rice, then director of Africa policy at the National Security Council, and returning to his desk in tears.
It’s like, Jesus Christ, must be more than just bruised egos!
The 1998 East Africa bombings in Kenya and Tanzania were pulled out of a hat by GOP Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) who recently said:
Those bombings in 1998 resulted in the loss of life of 12 Americans as well as many other foreign nationals, and 4,000 people were injured. And what troubles me so much is the Benghazi attack in many ways echoes the attacks on those embassies in 1998 when Susan Rice was head of the African region for our State Department.
In both cases, the ambassador begged for additional security. The ambassador to Kenya sent repeated messages to the State Department requesting a stronger facility because of the increased threat, and those requests, as in the case of Benghazi, were turned down by the State Department.
I asked Ambassador Rice what her role was. She said that she would have to refresh her memory, but that she was not involved directly in turning down the requests, but surely given her position as the assistant secretary for African affairs she had to be aware of the general threat assessment and of the ambassador’s repeated requests for more security.
The Accountability Review Board (ARB) chaired by Admiral Crowe faulted what it called “systemic and institutional failures in Washington” and concluded that “no employee of the U.S. government” had “breached his or her responsibility.” You may read it here.
Some members of the Crowe Commission were interviewed recently by the Huffington Post here. The report says that Ambassador Bushnell did not respond to multiple requests for comment. She was reported as having sent “an emotional plea” to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about the security situation prior to the bombing.
While Ambassador Bushnell did not return request for comments, her 2005 interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training‘s Oral History Project has an extensive account about her life in the Foreign Service including the embassy bombing.
Susan Rice appeared twice by name in the transcript of her interview. First, when Ambassador Bushnell talked about President Clinton, who had just taken office and nominated George Moose as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs:
“George had made the decision to bring in experienced ambassadors as Office Directors. He delegated to them the bulk of the responsibilities and decision-making authorities. The Front Office would exercise a light hand. It was a great idea that did not work because the structure and culture of the Department emphasizes centralized control. George’s successor, Susan Rice, who came from the NSC changed the structure back. I am sorry no one gave this experiment greater time to work because we are wasting an enormous amount of effectiveness and talent by continuing a 19th century, hierarchical model of organization.”
Second, when Ambassador Bushnell was asked: What about the role of the NSC during this whole thing?
BUSHNELL: Richard Clark was the head of Global Affairs and Peace Keeping of the NSC. Susan Rice, his deputy was to take over in the second term of Clinton Administration as assistant secretary for African Affairs. Dick Clark is the one person to this day who will look you in the eye and say, “We did exactly the right thing in Rwanda.” On the other hand, Tony Lake the National Security Advisor at the time talks at length about his regrets.
She also discussed her bureaucratic battles which should be acutely familiar to some folks reading this:
BUSHNELL: I remember that in early 1998 a delegation of counter-terrorist types visited. I met with them in the secure conference room, and when they ended with the pro-forma , “Is there anything we can do for you”? I angrily declared they could answer the god-damn mail. The cursing was intentional because I wanted them to see how frustrated and annoyed I was.I also continued to send cables about our vulnerability, which only became more apparent as we dealt with these threats.
When I reviewed them before meeting with the Accountability Review Board after the bombing, I was astounded by their frequency. General Tony Zinni, Head of Central Command, the military theater under which Kenya fell, understood force protection and agreed with me about the vulnerability of the embassy. With my enthusiastic concurrence he cabled Washington offering one of his own vulnerability assessment teams. That got a reply — not just “no,” but mind your own business.
Q: This team that eventually came out was, I take it, a basically a routine thing from Diplomatic Security?
BUSHNELL: No, it was not a routine thing. I think Tony’s cable, along with continuing concerns we were voicing, finally provoked a response in the form of an assessment team. Meanwhile, when I returned to Washington on consultations in December of ’97, I was told point blank by the AF Executive Office to stop sending cables because people were getting very irritated with me. That really pushed up my blood pressure. Later, in the spring of ’98, for the first time in my career I was not asked for input into the “Needs Improvement” section of my performance evaluation. That’s always a sign! When I read the criticism that “she tends to overload the bureaucratic circuits,” I knew exactly what it referred to. Yes, the cables had been read, they just weren’t appreciated.
Q: Was anything happening at this time from Tanzania from Dar es Salaam? Was there concern there or any of the other?
BUSHNELL: […] In May ’98, the Director General visited Nairobi, and was exposed to the concerns of the community. While he thought we were on the verge of becoming obsessed over security, offered to take a letter back to Secretary Albright. So, I penned a letter suggesting that, when next defending the State Department budget before Congress, she use our vulnerability as an example of why we needed more security funding. I also wrote to the Undersecretary for Management. I received a highly bureaucratic response from the undersecretary’s office – sorry, greater needs elsewhere and no money – but none from the Secretary. That, frankly, didn’t surprise me. To my knowledge, no one in the media has seen the letter to the Secretary so why it has been described as “highly emotional” or a “plea” is beyond me. Actually, it’s not. Stereotyping is alive and well even if wrong.
A side note here – the current Undersecretary for Management or “M” is Patrick Kennedy who had been before several committee hearings up in Congress. This same position was encumbered by Bonnie R. Cohen from 1997 to 2001.
Below is part of Ambassador Bushnell’s account of the immediate aftermath of the US Embassy Kenya bombing and her telephone calls with Susan Rice, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and then President Clinton:
I had lost total track of time, but at some point early on the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs called. I had barely said hello, when the Secretary of State called on the other line. Both voiced shock about the bombing and about the vulnerability of the building. When I told the Secretary, “Madame Secretary, I wrote you a letter,” there was silence. She had not seen it, she said. I wasn’t about to quibble.
Not much later President Clinton called. When he called me “Pru” I knew someone was passing him cue cards because there’s no reason he would know that’s what I call myself.” Anyway, he instructed me to secure the perimeter of the chancery. He may have said “I’m sorry,” I don’t remember because I was so astounded by the importance of security now that we’d been blown up. This is supposed to be the guy who feels our pain.
Once I confirmed that the building next door had collapsed, he ordered me to secure the perimeter there, as well. “But people are still trying to get others out from under the rubble,” I explained. “Oh,” he replied. “Well, then secure the perimeter.” To this day that’s the only interaction I ever had with the President about the bombing!
Ambassador Bushnell also talked about what worked and what did not in honoring the victims of the attack. She did not mention Susan Rice by name in the transcript but the later was the A/S at the AF Bureau at that time:
BUSHNELL: …Washington had given us a general Mission Award for Heroism but that was it. It was up to us to take care of whatever individual or other group awards we wanted to give. I asked one of the political officers, poor guy, to do nothing but talk to people and write up awards. Another lesson learned. It was absolutely the wrong thing to do and turned into a mess. The process opened all sorts of wounds, anger and finger-pointing; it pulled people apart rather than bringing them together. So, we focused on commemorating the memorial fountain that day rather than the awards.
The Assistant Secretary for African Affairs came and, to our surprise, so did many of the family members of the Americans who had been killed. Unlike the family members of our deceased Kenyan colleagues, the Americans were very open in their anger — at the way they had been treated by the Department, at the fact that their loved ones had died, at the tragedy imposed so suddenly. It was so painful to witness and even more so, to absorb during a tense meeting after the ceremony.
And then there’s this question about the inner circle of the SoS:
Q: Well, we’re going to have to continue this, but I’ve heard people who dealt with the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright at that time, she was surrounded by a group of people for the most part who were very protective of her and you know, almost vengeful on anybody who might hurt her reputation. Did you feel that at all or at least did you feel that there was a cocoon around her?
BUSHNELL: Very much so. I know they were very mad at me for not allowing the Secretary to visit in the immediate aftermath of the bombing — they made that very clear to me. But, I really didn’t see them as that vengeful. I had traveled with Madeleine Albright and her team when she was at USUN. So, I knew a couple of the people and we had gotten along all right. That said, there was no doubt in my mind as to where their loyalties lay.
The interview is 147-pages long but it is quite a read (PDF).
Now about that moon landing …
Pardon me? This is a training mockup? … and Susan Rice did what … that footprint on the moon mockup? But … but … she was only five years old then … that was her on Meet the Press, too? You heard it where?
So we heard that Senator McCain has “softened” a tad about the possible Susan Rice nomination. He toldFox News Sunday that he was willing to hear her out. Asked whether there’s anything Rice can do to change his mind, McCain responded:
“Sure, I give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took. I’ll be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her. Why did she say that Al-Qaeda has been decimated in her statement here on this program? Al-Qaeda hasn’t been decimated, they’re on the rise…So, there’s a lot of questions we have for Ambassador Rice, and I’m sure we’ll have the opportunity to discuss this with her.”
The CSM explains why GOP opposition to Susan Rice is no longer white-hot. The news about what’s softening even made the international news. And then the AP reported that “With congressional opposition softening, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice could find her name in contention as early as this week to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.”
Yesterday, it was widely reported that the U.N. Ambassador would have a Tuesday meeting with the three key Republican senators, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). The meeting was reportedly at the request of Ambassador Rice’s office.
So today the folks had their meeting. And then the softened senators are quickly back to their old selves. What more, they are now “significantly troubled,” “more troubled, not less” and obviously “disturbed.”
“We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got, and some that we didn’t get, concerning evidence that was overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate,” McCain told reporters after the meeting.
“I am more disturbed now than before,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (video).
Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire said she’s “more troubled, not less,” after talking with Rice and top U.S. intelligence officials about the attacks.
Over at USUN, Ambassador Rice released a statement about her meeting with the three senators saying, “I appreciated the opportunity to discuss these issues directly and constructively with them” and that she and Acting CIA Director Michael Morell stressed that there was no intention to mislead. Here is part of the statement:
“In the course of the meeting, we explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi. While we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved. We stressed that neither I nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the Administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved.”
This is looking more and more like a rough ride. And if Susan Rice does get the nomination and the Senate confirmation dashed with a brutal fight, there will be an extreme ride way ahead. Brutal fights tend to generate intense, unforgettable memories …so, there may be a rumble with every new nomination particularly related to the State Department.
We’re scrapping the bottom for good news on this one — but there is at least this: with Senator McCain and his prospective ranking Republican spot in the Indian Affairs Committee next year, the new Congress should be far from boring. It’ll be nice if they get something done, too, but that would be asking too much.
You’ve already heard Senator John McCain firing the opening salvo on the State Department’s (maybe) future Secretary Rice. Susan Rice has not even been announced as a nominee yet but hey, this the pre-emption doctrine at work.
In any case, we are reminded of his take on this Rice and not that Rice. Senator McCain argued that Susan Rice is “not qualified” to be the next secretary since she said the Benghazi attack began spontaneously and promised to block her nomination. In 2005, Mr. McCain argued that Condoleezza Rice was qualified to be the next secretary of state, despite her testimony about those WMDs in Iraq.
And Senator McCain took him up on that offer, so then the GOP wants a special select committee ala Watergate to investigate the attack in Benghazi.
Thereafter, just like in the movies, Nevada’s Harry Reid came out with a three-barrel page turner written with a scathing .44 Magnum pen.
Oops! But what’s this we hear? Is it truethat in January, the Arizona senator will lose his top-ranking committee seat due to term limits? And that the only ranking Republican spot available to him next session will be on the Indian Affairs Committee?
What’s this world coming to?
The jaded part of me says born or made, politicians are bound to disappoint.
* * *
Maureen Dowd over in the NYT waded into the matter and asked, Is Rice Cooked? I dunno, is she?
“Rice, who has a bull-in-a-china-shop reputation, is diplomatic enough for the top diplomatic job. [..] Rice should have realized that when a gang showed up with R.P.G.’s and mortars in a place known as a hotbed of Qaeda sympathizers and Islamic extremist training camps, it was not anger over a movie. She should have been savvy enough to wonder why the wily Hillary was avoiding the talk shows.”
In WaPo, Robert Kagan, prominent neoconservative writer with the Brookings Institution and husband of State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland said that “the idea that Rice should be disqualified because of statements she made on television in the days after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, strikes me as unfair. […] I haven’t seen persuasive evidence to support the theory that Rice’s statements were part of a coverup to hide a terrorist attack.”
Also in WaPo, Dana Milbank wrote about Susan Rice’s tarnished resume with inside the building stories from unnamed witnesses (ah yes, the knives are out!):
“Rice has managed to make an impressive array of enemies — on Capitol Hill, in Foggy Bottom and abroad. Particularly in comparison with the other person often mentioned for the job, Sen. John Kerry, she can be a most undiplomatic diplomat, and there likely aren’t enough Republican or Democratic votes in the Senate to confirm her. […] Back when she was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses. […] But the nation’s top diplomat needs to show more sensitivity and independence — traits Clinton has demonstrated in abundance. Obama can do better at State than Susan Rice.”
After weeks of being the Benghazi punching bag, and with 97 House Republicans (who have no role in confirming a cabinet secretary) co-signing a letter to President Obama about being “deeply troubled” that Susan Rice is under consideration as possible successor of Hillary Clinton (claiming she “caused irreparable damage to her credibility both at home and around the world”), and just one day before Thanksgiving, the subject of so much online ink finally spoke up to defend herself:
She said she respects Republican Sen. John McCain, who has been critical of her, but says “some of the statements he’s made about me have been unfounded, but I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him.”
One wonders why she is speaking out now? Is that “appropriate time” during an expected nomination hearing?
Diplomats on the 15-nation U.N. Security Council privately complain of Rice’s aggressive negotiating tactics, describing her with terms like “undiplomatic” and “sometimes rather rude.” They attributed some blunt language to Rice – “this is crap,” “let’s kill this” or “this is bull___.”
“She’s got a sort of a cowboy-ish attitude,” one Western diplomat said. “She has a tendency to treat other countries as mere (U.S.) subsidiaries.”
“She’s not easy,” said David Rothkopf, the top manager and editor-at-large of Foreign Policy magazine. “I’m not sure I’d want to take her on a picnic with my family, but if the president wants her to be secretary of state, she’ll work hard.”
Indeed, along with a “no-nonsense” style, Rice has the most important ingredient for a successful secretary of state – a close relationship with the U.S. president, Rothkopf said.
Rothkopf, who was an official in President Bill Clinton’s administration, cited James Baker and Henry Kissinger as exemplary secretaries of state.
They were “tough infighters who broke a few eggs and made some enemies. They are admired for their toughness, and (Rice) is attacked for her abrasiveness,” he said.
And New York Magazine’s John Heilemann in State of Waroffers at least five reasons why Obama will appoint Rice to succeed Clinton and also why she will be confirmed. One of the reasons for this prediction with “a 79.4357 percent probability” is that “McCain is being a jackass—and Obama is sick of it.”
Amidst the noise generated by rumors of this possible nomination, perhaps Stephen Walt over in Foreign Policy articulated the best argument against the Rice nomination as the next secretary of state. He writes:
I fear that unlike Hillary Clinton, Rice is too much of an Obama insider and too dependent on the president’s patronage to be an ideal Secretary of State. As a result, her appointment will reinforce the growing lack of intellectual diversity within the administration.
Rice, by contrast, has no independent power base. She did serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Africa in the Clinton administration (to no great distinction), but signed up early with Obama and was a key foreign policy advisor during the 2008 campaign. She obviously has Obama’s confidence, but her current ascendancy depends solely on the president’s backing. Maintaining his personal support will be critical to her effectiveness, which makes her much less likely to tell him things he doesn’t want to hear or that cut against the thrust of existing policy. Although Rice has the reputation of being a forceful advocate with sharp elbows, her relationship to the president runs the risk of making her more of a courtier than a counselor.
The danger of an administration suffering from groupthink is certainly real. Hello Iraq! But with Susan Rice as an Obama insider, no foreign leader will doubt her closeness to this president.
Of course, if the secretary of state is too independent or too much of an outsider, he or she could end up marginalized by White House insiders. Remember Cordell Hull during the Roosevelt years and of course, there is Colin Powell, during the first George W. Bush term.
In addition to Walt’s point, there are two things that we hope might be included in the calculation of nominating the next secretary of state.
One – somebody with enough stature and relationship with Congress who can help shore up support for the State Department budget, which is often an attractive candidate for pirate raid in this world of shrinking federal resources. In this dangerous world, the State Department cannot continue to do more with less. It should either be funded for the work that needs to be done or it should consolidate some of its overseas presence into regional hubs with appropriate support, staffing and funding.
Two – somebody with the right sauce who can help right the listing ship of the U.S. Foreign Service. The new norm of deploying diplomats into war zones which started during Condi Rice’s tenure has gone on for years now and into the Clinton tenure with no end in sight. At the same time, assignments to non-war zone areas where there is continuing threats of physical harm or imminent danger to FS employees, including unaccompanied assignments (UT) which continue to expand. As an aside, I’ve heard that there is one/one UT program specialist at the State Department to “support” 800 UT family members and partners. Is that as family friendly as it gets?
Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan continue to tax the shrinking resources of a small agency. For example, in spring this year, the USG planned a presence of 11,500 personnel at 11 diplomatic sites in Iraq. According to the GAO, between fiscal years 2004 and 2008, Diplomatic Security (DS) operations in Iraq required approximately 36 percent of Diplomatic Security’s entire budget. DS like the rest of the State Department had to draw staff and resources away from other programs. Then there’s Afghanistan after 2014 where State will do Iraq all over again.
Of course, AIP posts have absolutely nothing to do with the persistent experience gaps in overseas Foreign Service positions, which have not diminished since 2008. And the persistent issues on assignments, performance evaluation and promotion just rage on.
Ambassador Rice has been at the helm of USUN since 2009 and her performance as chief of mission there has not lead us to believe that she is the right person who can inspire followers or provide the needed leadership to help the listing ship at State. Here is part of the OIG report:
… neither the mission’s leadership nor individual section chiefs have given sufficient attention to management of the mission’s people and processes.
Ø For many years USUN has focused few resources and little attention on training mission staff, leaving some in jobs for which they lack sufficient skills and others without an opportunity to upgrade or refresh their knowledge.
Ø USUN has not had a strategic approach to workforce planning and has refilled vacancies without considering mission priorities and reprogramming options.
That’s not the best starting point. If you can’t manage people and processes, you are in a constant crisis mode. Which is not a good thing because — sooner or later people will burn out, stick their finger in a socket and mistakes will happen.
I actually would like to see Secretary Powell return to State. I do believe in second chances, and some of the work he started there needs revisiting.
President Obama, of course, has the prerogative to pick his cabinet secretary. But I also think that despite Senator McGrouchy’s dare, President Obama can do better at State than Susan Rice. But not because of Benghazi. And not because of her sharp elbows.