OpinionMeister

Monday, March 28, 2005

Ambassador Stops Bin Laden Hunt

In The New York Sun, Richard Miniter reports on an incredible story. Link
A lone U.S. ambassador compromised America's hunt for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan for more than two years, The New York Sun has learned.

Ambassador Nancy Powell, America's representative in Pakistan, refused to allow the distribution in Pakistan of wanted posters, matchbooks, and other items advertising America's $25 million reward for information leading to the capture of Mr. bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders.

Instead, thousands of matchbooks, posters, and other material - printed at taxpayer expense and translated into Urdu, Pashto, and other local languages - remained "impounded" on American Embassy grounds from 2002 to 2004, according to Rep. Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois. (...)

Mr. Kirk discovered Ms. Powell's unusual order in January 2004 and, over the past year, launched a series of behind-the-scenes moves that culminated in a blunt conversation with President Bush aboard Air Force One, the removal of the ambassador, and congressional approval for reinvigorating the hunt for Mr. bin Laden.

I have often commented before how US ambassadors can see their jobs as preventing any unpleasantness that would make their lives any harder. We have seen many instances of ambassadors acting as representatives of the country they serve in, but this seems to be the first case of a US ambassador working for the good of Al Qaeda. Ms. Powell has been removed from her post as ambassador to Pakistan, but she still holds an important job in the State Department. Can we afford to have people like this even employed in Washington, where the harm they can do is minimized?

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