Adventures in diplomacy.

Posted by admin
Oct 22 2006

You and I might rightfully think that diplomats should be experts at recognizing “inside thoughts,” which makes the following statements even more curious:

We were ‘arrogant and stupid’ over Iraq, says US diplomat (Telegraph, UK):

A senior US diplomat has said that his country showed “arrogance” and “stupidity” in its dealings with Iraq, and admitted Washington had made “many mistakes” in foreign policy.

Alberto Fernandez, director of public diplomacy at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, told the Al-Jazeera news channel: “We tried to do our best, but I believe that there is a great room for strong criticism, because – undoubtedly – there was arrogance and stupidity in US (dealing) with Iraq.

“We should practise some humbleness in the question of Iraq. Undoubtedly – and as the United States did acknowledge – there have been many mistakes in the foreign policy in Iraq.”

Mr Fernandez added that the US was ready to talk with all factions in Iraq – except for al-Qa’eda – to try to end sectarian bloodshed.

His remarks came in response to a statement read on al-Jazeera allegedly from a representative of the Ba’ath party – the party of Saddam Hussein – offering to negotiate a US withdrawal from Iraq based on “recognition of the resistance … as the sole representative of the Iraqi people”.

Mr Fernandez said a dialogue with the Ba’ath party was “too far from reality”. However, the US was ready to talk with “those who care for Iraq”, and there had probably been some contact with people linked to Ba’athists.

Mr Fernandez said: “We are open to dialogue. We all believe at the end of the day … that the solution to the inferno in Iraq is completely linked to an effective national Iraqi reconciliation.”

A US State Department spokesman responded to Mr Fernandez’s comments, which were made in Arabic, saying: “the quote as reported is not accurate.”

Yeah, uh-huh, “not accurate.” Good luck to whoever draws the short straw to explain what Fernandez “really” meant. Personally, I think it is way past time someone in the administration called it like it is.

Now for a little comic relief via Canada. That nation’s Foreign Minister is currently enjoying the taste of shoe leather:

Layton urges MacKay to ‘fess up (Toronto Star):

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton is calling for the resignation of Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay over his failure to own up to an alleged “dog” slur against his old girlfriend, Aurora MP Belinda Stronach.

Layton was part of a panel discussion in Quebec about women in politics on Friday night and heard again all the reasons potential female politicians are turned off by the whole business.

MacKay has given them yet another reason, Layton said in an interview yesterday, and the women at the Quebec event had “quite a reaction” to the whole furor, he said.

“I’ve got to wonder whether he’s fit to be in a position like foreign affairs minister,” Layton said. “Because that’s a position where wisdom and gesture and single-word selection is critical. If he’s not willing to understand the impact of his words, and make amends … then, he should resign. And if he’s not going to do those things, the Prime Minister should be the one to ask him to resign.”

Layton’s wife, Olivia Chow, was subjected to a dog slur when she was running for her Trinity-Spadina seat in the Commons during last winter’s election. A Liberal blogger who compared Chow to a Chinese chow-chow dog was forced to step down from an executive position in the party’s Ontario wing after doing so.

Recalling that incident Friday, Layton said, “This kind of thing is very hurtful and women are expected, I suppose, to put on a brave face and brush it off as though it is some kind of a joke.”

The current furor revolves around some heckling in the Commons on Thursday, when Liberal MP David McGuinty was poking fun at MacKay and his famous interview after his May 2005 breakup with Stronach, in which he appeared with his family dog at his side.

McGuinty asked if MacKay was worried about the environment’s effects on his dog. “You already have her,” MacKay reportedly said, gesturing toward Stronach’s seat in the Commons.

No record of the remark appears on the official Commons transcript and MacKay has said he never mentioned the word “dog.” But that hasn’t quelled the outcry, because at least 10 Liberal MPs said they heard the slur and New Democrats have also said there is no question the remark was made.

Stronach formally asked MacKay to apologize to the Commons and to women in general on Friday.

So far MacKay isn’t budging.

“The Speaker and his staff have carefully reviewed the audio and found nothing. There is nothing to add,” MacKay’s spokesman Dan Dugas said yesterday.

Isn’t there a chapter in the Diplomacy 101 textbook that covers, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything?” It sounds as if someone is overdue for a refresher course.

MacKay might deny saying it, but the recording of the exchange strongly suggests otherwise. Judge for yourself.

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