Saturday, May 09, 2009

Holbrooke and Haqqani, a Matched Pair?

The NYT's "Saturday Profile" of Pakistan's Ambassador Haqqani gives a glimpse into the weird and bizarre world of Pakistan, a country which I worked on as a registered foreign agent in the '80s, even getting an anonymous nod in the movie "Charlie Wilson's War." Back then I was familiar with Jamshid Marker, another Pak ambassador fluent in English, though with a toney British accent and rather elegant continental style.

Haqqani has the distinction of being kidnapped by his own country's intelligence agency [or, rather, agents thereof, who could have been working for anyone!]

But the NYT's vapid journalism reveals its underside when the source of the article, the NYT's own paladin Richard Holbrooke, makes the front page for the umpteenth time in a laudatory mode.
[Haqqani] speaks several times a week with Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who calls him “one of the most skilled ambassadors I have ever seen.” He figures he has met with 90 members of Congress. And he is a fixture on CNN, the op-ed pages of newspapers and at research groups around Washington.

But critics say Mr. Haqqani is a quick-change artist who cozies up to whoever is in power. Before he left Pakistan in 2002, after falling out with Gen. Pervez Musharraf, he had worked for both his country’s leading political figures — Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto — switching from one to the other with dispatch, depending on whose fortunes were rising.

Which reminds me of the funniest Holbrooke story I've ever heard. Seems that staunch Democrat Holbrooke was seen in Henry Kissinger's parlor up in NYC skulking and slinking about when Henry the K was John Connally's chief foreign policy honcho [and Connally was a "shoo-in" for the Republican nomination that Reagan finally won] and Kissinger was left to pursue his private sector goals while Richard, "a quick-change artist who cozies up to whoever is in power," had an unsuccessful attempt to switch parties go awry.

Holbrooke was still parking his motorcycle in the guest quarters of Averill Harriman in the '80s on N St., N.W. in Georgetown, perhaps servicing nympho Pamela while the old Crocodile, Stalin's nickname for the US Amb to the USSR during WWII, was dozing in senectitude in his sumptuous living quarters nearby. Pam was working a scam called "Democrats for the Eighties" while Ronald Reagan was winning over the hapless Carter. RH also had visitors Diane Sawyer and WSJ Editor Karen Elliot House tiptoeing over to Holbrooke's N Street pad to "strap their thighs around his engine." Among other groupies.... [I admit I'm jealous!]

But if Holbrooke can pull off a Paki rescue mission, he does deserve a great deal of kudos. His goal of becoming the second FSO [Larry Eagleburger was first] to attain the cabinet post of Sec'y of State might be attainable were Hillary to ever make it to the White House or something happen to Obama. Holbrooke has legions of enemies [myself the very least among them, dating back to a couple of lunches in Lyon France while I was Vice Consul under Peter Tarnoff & Holbrooke Moroccan Peace Corps chief in the midst of a messy marriage break-up].

My own half-dozen stays in Pakistan date to the eighties and the country is simply almost impossible to not rend itself asunder due to what are always called "fissiparous tendencies" in the jargon of diplomats. In other words, half the Pakis hate the other half, or various slices of the demographic pie are wanting to peel off into Iran [Benazir Bhutto's mother was Iranian and the Baluchis consider themselves Iranian rather than Pakis] or in the Punjab, get away from Sindhi influences like the PPP of Bhutto and Zardari. Singh's ardent opposition is as much Punjabi localism as anything else. Lahore is more part of India than many Moghul fort cities elsewhere.

And Pakistan's American allies, including Chris Dodd and John Kerry, both of whom voted with the Republicans for a huge arms increase to Pakistan in the '80s [re: Charlie Wilson's War], prodded by Denis Neal's donations to the Democratic Senate Campaign Cte,, will dutifully remain watching which way the wind blows, with their palms outward for more baksheesh.

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