Monday, September 07, 2009

The Ambassador on the Front Lines

H/T Blackfive

We often, and justly, celebrate the US military and its members. We occasionally (and justly) express astonishment at the US State Department. Yet it is very much worth remembering that some of their members have led remarkable careers of service and contributed much to the American nation.
Among the greatest of these is Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who was General Petraeus' comerade in leading the strategy that saved Iraq from the fire. That was not the only thing of interest he has done, though, from hitch-hiking across Afghanistan, to being present at the Beruit bombing, to being our man in Kabul following the invasion and re-opening the US Embassy. His wife sets a standard for State Department wives as proud as that of a military wife, having remained by his side in theater even after their home was rocketed.
All of this, and more, is recounted in his
retrospective on the years since 9/11. It's worth reading through. Some of it you may agree with, some not, but he has more than earned the right to be heard.

The Ambassador on the Front Lines
The 8 a.m. US Airways shuttle from Washington to New York City took off pretty much on time. The mid-September sky was clear, the air still, and most of the flight was perfectly uneventful. My State Department colleague David Pearce and I read the papers and looked over our notes as the plane began its descent toward LaGuardia.
"Look!" somebody said, and a rumble of alarmed voices spread through the cabin. One of the towers of the World Trade Center was on fire, and smoke churned over the upper stories like a thunderhead over lower Manhattan. We craned our necks to see through one window, then another as our plane banked and made its approach to the runway. Then, just as we landed, we saw in the distant skyline the second tower erupt in flames. Cell phones rang out, and random, frightened voices tried to make sense of what was happening.
For a diplomat, I have seen a lot of violence in my career. I survived the 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut that was, until that day in September 2001, among the most infamous attacks on Americans in the history of terrorism. David is as experienced in the Middle East as anyone we have at State. But you didn't need our expertise to know, when that plane hit the second tower, that this was the work of terrorists.

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