Monday, June 19, 2006

SBU -- Sensitive but Unclassified

Thanks to the Duck of Minerva I have learned a new abbreviation. SBU. Sensitive but unclassified.

This post, citing a rather long and incriminating cable from Iraq [WaPo link here. Cable link is PDF, six pages], contrasts official policy with realities on the ground in Iraq. It is not surprising that anyone connected with the US presence in Iraq is subject to what we might call in this country "peer pressure." Unfortunately, in Iraq the consequences can be a bit more harsh than not being invited to the next backyard barbecue or wedding shower. Drill and study this post as though you were buying an expensive piece of jewelry. You are apt to find more than you expected. These ivory tower guys are not all isolated from reality, you know. More here.

The folks in the the PA [Public Affairs] section in Iraq get this information from their own employees, that is to say, Iraqi civilians working for the US Government in Baghdad. All embassies use some local labor for non-sensitive administrative tasks. In the cable, you have the Embassy personnel relating the stories of how difficulty it is to live and work with Americans in Baghdad.

It's bad, and getting worse.

So, on the one hand, we can now claim that yes, the US government is fully aware of the situation in Baghdad, how bad it is, and that its own employees--those who work for the US and one would assume are about as pro-US as they come in Baghdad--are under constant threat because of their job.On the other hand, had this cable not appeared in the Sunday Washington Post, reprinted in its entirety, to be read by everybody who is anybody here inside the Beltway, its doubtful that anyone above the Assistant Secretary level would have paid serious attention to the dispatch. It would have disappeared into the National Archives, to be discovered by some grad student with a FOIA and a dissertation about Iraq 20 years hence. Now, you can bet Tony Snow will get a question about it Monday (fearless prediction, lets see if I'm right!)

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