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More on Ambassador Hill

My item on the bad blood between our ambassador in Iraq, Christopher Hill, and our top officer there, Gen. Raymond Odierno, provoked some interesting comments and e-mails, especially from those who encountered him on Korean issues. This is one that was posted by Joel Wit, a longtime Korea expert who, according to his bio, “served ...

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US Ambassabor to Iraq Christopher Hill testifies before the House committee hearing on the "Outlook for Iraq and US Policy" September 10, 2009 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / Tim Sloan (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

My item on the bad blood between our ambassador in Iraq, Christopher Hill, and our top officer there, Gen. Raymond Odierno, provoked some interesting comments and e-mails, especially from those who encountered him on Korean issues.

This is one that was posted by Joel Wit, a longtime Korea expert who, according to his bio, “served as senior advisor to Ambassador Robert L. Galluci from 1993-1995, where he developed strategies to help resolve the crisis over North Korea’s weapons program, and as Coordinator for the U.S.-North Korea’s weapons program and as Coordinator for the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework from 1995-1999, where he was the official in charge of implementation”:

As someone who follows Iraq only as closely as any foreign-policy generalist but who specializes in North Korea, I can tell you none of us would be surprised by the problems between Chris Hill and the U.S. military in that country. When he worked on North Korea issues at the end of the Bush administration, Hill was not willing to listen to anyone who knew the issues and had his own little team of groupies who worshipped the ground he walked on (or at least pretended to). While there are a number of reasons why we are in trouble with the North today, not the least of which is the North Koreans themselves, Hill wouldn’t listen to experts or anyone else about how to deal with a country that he knew nothing about. Sounds like he is repeating his performance in Iraq. Lets hope the consequences arent as bad.

And this is a story I recieved by e-mail from someone in Washington intimately familiar with all this:

During the NK talks, he supposedly coached the North Koreans on what answers to give, so then he could go back and tell Washington they said the right language. The technique finally blew up at the end when he told Bush that if the president  took them off the terror list they would agree to a verification plan. He had none of this in writing but Bush and Condi agreed — and then when the U.S. went back to North Korea, they denied they had ever agreed to what Hill said they had agreed to.

I have been told that the Obama folks, once they looked at the negotiating record on North Korea (after Hill was off to Iraq), they were absolutely appalled at what they discovered.

Meanwhile, Hill is telling people that he’s never met me. I guess he doesn’t remember a conversation we had in his office in the embassy in Skopje, Macedonia, in the late ’90s.
 
Finally, Lady Emma Sky, the always-interesting political advisor to General Odierno, surfaces to report that she has “smacked [Tom Ricks’s] bottom and told me I was totally wrong in my portrayal of the relationship of these two people.”

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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