Sunday, April 7, 2013

April 7

“A large part of a diplomatic mission’s work does not involve or require elaborate secrecy. Diplomacy, after all, is not a conspiracy. The best diplomacy is the one that involves the fewest, not the most, secrets.”

--George Kennan; image from


State Department diplomat with Chicago ties killed in Afghanistan - "A young diplomat from River Forest was among five Americans killed Saturday during a car bomb blast in Afghanistan, her family said. ... Anne Smedinghoff

was 25, said her father Tom Smedinghoff, who was reached by phone. ... Mr. Smedinghoff said Anne went into the Foreign Service right out of college. Her first post was in Venezuela and she volunteered to go to Afghanistan where she’d been since last July. As a diplomat, she was working in the public diplomacy department for the local population. She was helping women and working for equality for women, and with schools and local businesses there. Anne simply adored her job, her father said. 'She was living in a compound that was heavily fortified and she was always trying to get out and do things for the population.'” Smedinghoff image from article; see also Digger, "Mourning Another Loss," Life After Jerusalem: The Musings of a Two-Spirit American Indian, Public Diplomacy-Coned Foreign Service Officer; and John Brown, "Ambassador Stevens as a Public Diplomacy Envoy - Updated," Notes and Essays

Dear Secretary Kerry (On the Death of Anne Smedinghoff) - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: "Mr. Secretary, I mourn the death of Foreign Service Officer Anne Smedinghoff in Afghanistan. She was only 25 years old. She was one of three American civilians and three soldiers killed in the deadliest day this year for Americans in Afghanistan. Anne was killed traveling to a school to donate books, twelve years into America’s longest war. It will be easy to dismiss this letter as 'playing politics' with a young woman’s death, and you and others might just stop reading here to do so. But if you will read one sentence more, read this: Anne’s presence in Afghanistan was about politics, her death delivering books was a political act (if not propaganda) and your own statement that 'She tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future' was politics as pure as can be. So if this letter is a political statement, it is in good company.

Mr. Secretary, as a young man back from Vietnam in 1971 you bravely addressed Congress and said: ['] Each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn’t have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we can’t say that we have made a mistake. We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?['] Mr. Secretary, are you the same brave man you were in 1971? And if so, will you not demand that American lives stop being wasted in Afghanistan and elsewhere on politics and bring them home? Mr. Secretary, will you work so that Anne is the last to die for a mistake? [Comment:] Kyzl Orda said... There’s very little information on how this tragedy occurred. But the WaPo is reporting two different convoys were intersecting – the one the FSO was traveling in with our military and a DoD employee, and another for an Afghan governor’s convoy? Were they going to the same place to deliver books for a public diplomacy event and photo op? It sounds like, again there is little info at this point so it’s conjecture, the route became known and they were targeted." Smedinghoff image from entry

What the State Department's official statement didn't tell you: Tragically killed Anne Smedinghoff worked in Public Diplomacy in Afghanistan - John Brown, Notes and Essays: "At this sad time for American diplomacy ('A suicide car bomb in southern Afghanistan killed three American soldiers and two American civilians, including a State Department Foreign Service officer'), it has become known that the murdered State Department diplomat

Anne Smedinghoff worked in public diplomacy. ... [T]he source of this information about a courageous woman's activities in Afghanistan did not come from Secretary of State John Kerry's official statement on her death (granted, the statement does say that 'Our American officials and their Afghan colleagues were on their way to donate books to students in a school in Qalat.') Rather, the full nature of what Smedinghoff's work entailed (to be sure, not described in detail) came from a  private source, 'Chicago's Very Own" WGNtv, on an internet entry, "State Department diplomat with Chicago ties killed in Afghanistan,' which states that she was a "young diplomat from River Forest" and quotes her father:
Mr. Smedinghoff said Anne went into the Foreign Service right out of college. Her first post was in Venezuela and she volunteered to go to Afghanistan where she’d been since last July. As a diplomat, she was working in the public diplomacy department for the local population. She was helping women and working for equality for women, and with schools and local businesses there. Anne simply adored her job, her father said. 'She was living in a compound that was heavily fortified and she was always trying to get out and do things for the population.'
Such State Department neglect of mentioning the public diplomacy side of its activities was also regrettably evident in its reporting on the tragic death of Ambassador Stevens. UPDATE: Re additional coverage [to date - JB] of Smedinghoff in the media, which include Kerry's later statements about her, see (1) and (2)." Smedinghoff image from; see below "Related Items."

Or How Diplomats Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tweet - Alexis Wichowski, Foreign Affairs, posted at "In a profession where inappropriate, unclear, or careless phrasing can undermine countless hours of painstaking negotiation, it might seem like a huge risk to send public messages limited to a paltry 140 characters that can go viral almost instantly. Yet today hundreds of diplomats around the world have official Twitter accounts, and the numbers are growing weekly. Diplomats are not only permitted but encouraged to tweet, especially by the U.S. government, which has touted social media engagement as a key part of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 21st Century Statecraft initiative. ... To put it bluntly, tweeting is good for governments and for citizens. Diplomatic tweets can make government more interesting, coaxing officials into having real interactions with the broader public: diplomats speak to citizens, and the citizens speak back.

Running away from the challenge because it can occasionally lead to trouble or push an official outside his comfort zone is a sign that the official doesn’t understand public diplomacy in general, or isn’t able to use it to fulfill his mission. And, for ill or good, much of the public expects leadership to be on social media. Twenty-first-century technology means that people -- any and all average, everyday people -- are no longer passive parties to public discourse. While the diplomatic and intellectual elite may still dominate public dialogue, the long tail of everyday folk speaking out online grows longer with each tweet, comment, blog, upload, and stream that they post. Twitter may not always be the go-to medium for public discourse -- at just over six years old, it’s already pushing old age by most measures of technology. But for now, it is where the people speak. And while diplomats don’t have to say anything themselves or even listen to what others are saying on Twitter, the practice of dismissing the importance of the platform must end now." Image from article

Bulat Atabayev – Radio Liberty Kazakh Service stopped radio programs and became a tabloid website - BBGWatcher, "Prominent Kazakh theater director and former political prisoner Bulat Atabayev joined other Kazakh opposition leaders in criticizing Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) for stopping radio broadcasts to Kazakhstan and turning its Kazakh website into a tabloid journalism outlet. Atabayev, who had visited this week the RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, the Czech Republic, from his home in exile in Germany, posted critical comments about the Kazakh Service on his Facebook page."

Xi Jinping addresses Boao forum - "Chinese President Xi Jinping has delivered a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia 2013 in the coastal town of Boao, in China's Hainan Province. President Xi expressed his wish to work with regional leaders to build a better future for Asia and the world. ... This year's Boao Forum for Asia is the largest ever. It will be held from April 6th to 8th. More than 10 heads of state from Asia and other regions have been invited to the event, and over 1,400 others are attending the event, including over 1,200 businesspeople. Meanwhile, the number of sub-sessions scheduled during the forum has increased by 25 percent. Topics at the sessions are more diverse, covering issues ranging from Asian cooperation and the debt crisis to public diplomacy and the power of honesty."

#ZionistHackers Defeating #OpIsrael - Andre Oboler, "Last week ago I wrote about #OpIsrael the 'planned new cyber attack against Israel'. My article ended by noting that 'there will be plenty of Israeli geeks looking forward to the challenge – and quite capable of coming out on top'. ... Sure enough, as #OpIsrael got underway, the official #OpIsrael site,, was hacked and is now playing Hatikvah. ... On the Israeli side ... some hackers are going after soft targets or sites that for humanitarian reasons should be left out of any online war.

As part of the pro-Israel response sites like the Palestinian Authority’s Medical Service website and a commercial site in Egypt have been hacked. A group called ‘Israel Elite Force’ claim to have taken down a range of sites in Pakistan. There are no doubt many more, and the day is still young. While the Israeli hackers clearly have the technical skills that match or surpass those targeting Israel, the public diplomacy skills are still somewhat lacking." Image from

Serbian Church in Kosovo agreement with tons of Fukushima radioactive water leaked out to the rejec [sic] - "[A]n international relations expert and strategist George Friedman, is coming to Istanbul to attend a conference. Cemal Resit Rey (CRR) Concert Hall held a conference, Prime Minister's Office of Public Diplomacy and the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Culture Co., Ltd. organized in co-operation. Friedman's conference, moderated by journalist will Zengin Gurkan around the world, dating back to 2100 are likely to have insights about the developments in 2010 are expected to share with the participants."


5 Die in Year’s Worst Attack on U.S. in Afghanistan - Azam Ahmed and Michael R. Gordon, New York Times: A suicide car bomb in southern Afghanistan killed three American soldiers and two American civilians, including a State Department Foreign Service officer, on Saturday, the deadliest single attack against United States forces this year, officials said. In an emotional eulogy to the staff and families of the American consulate in Istanbul, Secretary of State John Kerry talked on Sunday about the diplomat who was killed, Anne Smedinghoff, 25, from Illinois. Mr. Kerry said Ms. Smedinghoff had previously served in Venezuela.

He deplored the “harsh contradiction” of her death, which occurred as the Americans were bringing books to a school. Four other State Department employees were wounded in the blast, one critically. Image from, with caption: five die in Afghanistan bombing

A secret deal on drones, sealed in blood - Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times, posted at The CIA has conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people, Pakistanis and Arabs, militants and civilians alike. While it was not the first country where the United States used drones, it became the laboratory for the targeted killing operations that have come to define a new American way of fighting, blurring the line between soldiers and spies and short-circuiting the normal mechanisms by which the United States as a nation goes to war. See also

U.S. reconstruction effort in Afghan provinces is unfinished work: As an 11-year effort winds down, U.S. provincial reconstruction teams, or PRTs, have made gains but have also left infrastructure that is incomplete, unsustainable or incompatible with local needs - Shashank Bengali, U.S. provincial reconstruction teams' efforts as part of a decade-long nation-building are now winding down as the U.S. war in Afghanistan draws to a close. The PRTs have been responsible for only a fraction of the $89 billion the United States has spent over the last decade to rebuild Afghanistan, but they suffered from the same poor planning and inadequate oversight that characterized the broader U.S. reconstruction effort. With four of the PRTs now shut down, and seven others due to be retired by summer's end, Afghan officials are beginning to confront the challenge of picking up where U.S. aspirations left off. Many critics say the teams squandered money on projects that fit short-term military objectives but had questionable long-term value.

The Arab Spring Started in Iraq - Kanan Makiya, New York Times: If the 1991 war was about the restoration of the Arab state system, the 2003 war called into question that system’s very legitimacy. That’s why support from Arab monarchies was not forthcoming in 2003, when a new, more equitable order was on the agenda in Iraq. After 2003, the edifice of the Arab state system began to crack elsewhere. Makiya image from

Makiya has no regret about pressing the war in Iraq: Ten years later, a moral architect of the invasion stands by his words - Jordan Michael Smith, Boston Globe: The United States officially went to war in Iraq 10 years ago, on March 19, 2003. But in one small sense, the war can be said to have begun in 1989. That was the year a London-based Iraqi architect named Kanan Makiya published a book called “Republic of Fear.” Written under the pseudonym Samir al-Khalil, the book offered a devastating inside analysis of Saddam Hussein’s regime, depicting it as a Middle Eastern version of the totalitarian states that emerged in Europe in the 1920s. Makiya does not regret pressing the case for war. “I said at the time and still believe that if there’s a 5 percent chance of Iraq becoming a democracy, we have to do it,” he says. “Under Saddam it was zero percent.”

Can We Get Hillary Without the Foolery? - Maureen Dowd, New York Times: Hillary was an indefatigable secretary of state — she logged 956,733 diplomatic frequent-flier miles — and a star ambassador, especially on women’s issues. But many experts feel, as John Cassidy wrote in The New Yorker, that, compared with the work of more geopolitical secretaries, her “signature achievements look like small beer.”

North Korea's overseas apologists dismiss 'propaganda' about torture, repression - Ian Johnston, NBC News: Anyone reading North Korea’s state-owned news agency could be forgiven for thinking that North Korea has legions of supporters throughout the world. “U.S. and Its Allies' Moves to Stifle DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- or North Korea] Protested in Britain,” “Independent DPRK Praised by Bangladeshi Organization,” and “Day of Sun to Be Celebrated in Italy” are just three of the numerous headlines on KCNA’s English-language sitetrumpeting overseas support for Kim Jong Un’s regime.

In response to North Korea's announcement that they will be deploying "small, light" nuclear strikes, the Pentagon has announced it is sending an anti-ballistic missile system to Guam. NBC's Richard Engel reports. But given the reports by human-rights groups detailing the horror of daily life in North Korea, who are the foreigners taking Pyongyang’s side? Last month, the United Nations set up an inquiry to investigate “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights.” Amnesty International’s North Korea researcher Rajiv Narayan welcomed the move, adding that “millions of people in North Korea suffer extreme forms of repression" with hundreds of thousands of adults and children "in political prison camps and other forms of detention where forced hard labor, torture and other ill treatment is systemic.” But Andy Brooks, a 63-year-old British communist, has one word to sum up such reports: “propaganda.” Image from article, with caption: Women walk past portraits of North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung and late leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang on Monday.

How Digital Technology Has Helped Unleash a Devastating New Era of Propaganda: “Propaganda always wins,” said Leni Riefenstahl, “if you allow it” - John Pilger, The New Statesman, posted at at "What is modern propaganda? For many, it is the lies of a totalitarian state. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl and asked her about her epic films that glorified the Nazis. Using revolutionary camera and lighting techniques, she produced a documentary form that mesmerised Germans; her Triumph of the Will cast Hitler’s spell. She told me that the 'messages' of her films were dependent not on 'orders from above', but on the 'submissive void' of the German public.

Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie? 'Everyone,' she said. Today, we prefer to believe that there is no submissive void. 'Choice' is ubiquitous. Phones are 'platforms' that launch every half-thought. There is Google from outer space if you need it. Caressed like rosary beads, the precious devices are borne headsdown, relentlessly monitored and prioritised. Their dominant theme is the self. Me. My needs. Riefenstahl’s submissive void is today’s digital slavery. ... Hollywood has returned to its cold war role, led by liberals. Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning Argo is the first feature film so integrated into the propaganda system that its subliminal warning of Iran’s 'threat' is offered as Obama is preparing, yet again, to attack Iran. That Affleck’s 'true story' of good-guys-v-bad-Muslims is as much a fabrication as Obama’s justification for his war plans is lost in PR-managed plaudits. As the independent critic Andrew O’Hehir points out, Argo is 'a propaganda movie in the truest sense, one that claims to be innocent of all ideology'. That is, it debases the art of film-making to reflect an image of the power it serves." Riefenstahl image from


Raw: NKorean Leader Kim Jong Un Fires Gun -


"While at a fund-raiser in Atherton, California, President Obama called California's attorney general, Kamala Harris, the best looking attorney general ever. And after the comment, Secret Service added extra security to protect the President from First Lady Michelle."

--Talk-show host Jay Leno; cited at Bulletin News, LLC

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