A distorting mirror

by John Quiggin on October 1, 2004

We’ve all heard about the US embassy in Baghdad, with its thousands of employees, advisers in every department, and capacity to instantly countermand any decision made by the Allawi government. But until now, I’d never given much thought to its opposite number, the Iraqi embassy in Washington. It turns out to be a kind of funhouse mirror image, as indicated in this story in the Washington Post which discusses Allawi’s tour and the ghostwriting of his speech

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and British Foreign Service officials also helped Allawi with the text and delivery of his remarks, said administration officials who were involved. The State Department and officials elsewhere in the government took the lead in booking Allawi’s interviews. Administration officials said that the Iraqi Embassy in Washington consists of just a few officials and has only a dial-up Internet connection, so was incapable of preparing for the high-profile tour.
One might think that with the IMF and World Bank located in Washington, not to mention the US Congress, the Iraqi government might feel the need for a more substantial presence, and that a few million of the billions of dollars supposedly allocated to reconstruction might have been used to establish it, if only for PR purposes. But obviously these institutions negotiate directly with the US Administration. Why talk to the monkey when the organ-grinder is right next door?

More on the speech from Mark Kleiman



Cathal Copeland 10.01.04 at 10:45 am

Talk about a funhouse mirror image!

Not only does Iraq have an embassy in the US – it also has an ambassador. From what I read late last year in the Daily Telegraph (“Iraq appoints US citizen as its American envoy” – DT, 24.11.2003), the lucky appointee is, in fact, an American citizen who was educated in Britain and France and spent some years in Iraq, where presumably she was born, or at least where her parents were born. She became a US citizen in 1987. Her name is Rend Rahim Francke.

In other words, the first Iraqi ambassador to the United States is:

(a) an American
(b) Jewish
(c) a woman.

Talk about winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people!

There is no doubt about it but Ms Rend Rahim Francke — judging by what I can find on the Internet — is a highly articulate, knowledgeable and intelligent woman. She has, inter alia, written for the prestigious ‘Middle East Quarterly’, attached to the ‘Middle East Forum’, an excellent Israeli-based website which I often consult for objective and impartial information on Arab affairs.

Apparently she is also aware that her Ashkenasi surname is unlikely to escape the attention of the Arab community, whose ‘Jewdar’ (as in radar, gaydar) is notorious . At the ‘Heartland of Iraq Women’s Conference’ held on October 4 – 7 last year at the University of Babylon (I kid you not), she transmogrified into ‘Rend Rahim’ and — later on in the preliminary report on the same conference — into ‘Rend al-Rahim’. May I add — completely beside the point — that one of the conference’s goals was to promote “access to day care centers near places of employment to assist working moms.” Again, I kid you not.


y81 10.01.04 at 1:48 pm

Interesting article in today’s WSJ: apparently Bosnia is run on the same principles–which definitely do not include actual Bosnian control over anything–as Iraq. But in Bosnia European, not American, bureaucrats are in charge, so it’s safe to assume that the European elite won’t be working itself into conniptions over the hypocrisy of the Bosnian enterprise.


Barry 10.01.04 at 5:06 pm

y81, you might want to compare Bosnia with Iraq.

Or then again, perhaps you might not.


Giles 10.01.04 at 6:18 pm

Lets put some perspective here – If the president of Trinidad comes to the US his speech is probably scripted with heavy help from the state department and influence as well since the price of a rose garden photo opp is normally that you’ve got to in some way help/praise the incumbent.

Sure, given the Iraq situation this input is heavier and the ability to resist is more asymmetric , but is not qualitatively unexpected.

I think the passport issue is more relevant though – if these officers hang on to their passports and hence lifeboats, how committed are they going to be to the project -a bit of a reverse Cortes effect –


abb1 10.01.04 at 6:18 pm

Afghanis will be having an election soon. Chris Floyd writes: The Barbarians


Uncle Kvetch 10.01.04 at 6:54 pm

Lets put some perspective here – If the president of Trinidad comes to the US his speech is probably scripted with heavy help from the state department…

The State Department would be one thing, but as the Kleiman link indicates, Allawi’s speech was scripted with help from, among others, a representative of the Bush-Cheney campaign. Not a trivial detail, IMHO.


Peter Boston 10.01.04 at 6:56 pm

Don’t you ever get tired, or feel even a little bit like a pompous ass, by heaping condescending doo-doo at every possible opportunity?


Shai 10.01.04 at 7:10 pm

“… but is not qualitatively unexpected.”

what about subsequently citing him as if he were making an independent assessment


lemuel pitkin 10.01.04 at 7:23 pm

Giles is right actually.

If you’ve ever worked on a political campaign, you know that when you have a high-profile endorser you always provide them with talking points or a prepared speech. In my day job I’ve written such remarks for quite a few elected officials, including a sitting senator (no, not that one.) Means absolutely nothing.

And of course you then cite the person’s comments as if they were their own. What would the point of the endorsement be otherwise?

Which isn’t any kind of defense of GWB or his Iraq policy …


Giles 10.01.04 at 9:19 pm

“The State Department “

I thought they were representatives of the Kerry Edwards campeign!


KCinDC 10.02.04 at 1:14 am

Uncle Kvetch is right. The important paragraph is this one:

But administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the prime minister was coached and aided by the U.S. government, its allies and friends of the administration. Among them was Dan Senor, former spokesman for the CPA who has more recently represented the Bush campaign in media appearances. Senor, who has denied writing the speech, sent Allawi recommended phrases. He also helped Allawi rehearse in New York last week, officials said. Senor declined to comment.

If Allawi was acting as a representative of the Bush campaign, it’s a bit much to say that criticizing him is off limits for Kerry-Edwards.

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