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Another Holbrooke/Hill Embarassment

4:11 PM, Mar 23, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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According to Richard Holbrooke, Richard Holbrooke is essentially this country's top diplomat -- Hillary Clinton is merely his "pupil. This despite the fact that Holbrooke has hit the trifecta of shady business dealings over the last few years: a member of AIG's board with more than $800,000 in compensation, a managing director at Lehman Brothers, and the recipient of a "Friends of Angelo" loan from Countrywide (that alone was enough to get Jim Johnson thrown under the Obama campaign bus).

Now comes another revelation from the New York Times. Despite repeated denials, according to three sources, Holbrooke did offer former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic a promise of immunity from prosecution for war crimes in exchange for his withdrawing from politics in that country. Holbrooke again denied the story to the paper, but there seems little doubt that the rumor is true, and that Holbrooke is lying. (Didn't the New York Times think to ask Holbrooke's "personal archivist"?)

More than that, Christopher Hill, who was acting as Holbrooke's "principal assistant" in the negotiations, pleaded with Holbrooke, on Karadzic's behalf, to put the guarantee in writing. To Holbrooke's credit, he refused. It's hard to muster much outrage at Holbrooke's conniving to get Karadzic to step aside, but that he continues to lie about his role in the negotiations is far more troublesome.

Hill's role is less easily defended. The primary objection to his appointment as Ambassador to Iraq was his lies before a Senate Committee seeking assurance that human rights would remain at the fore of his negotiations with the North Koreans. Now we know that Hill was similarly sympathetic to Karadzic, who was responsible for some of the worst atrocities in the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia. He was willing to grant Karadzic immunity for those abuses in writing, even though as Holbrooke later conceded to one source, Karadzic never held up his end of the bargain.

This is precisely the complaint against Hill's work in North Korea -- a willingness to offer written guarantees in exchange for the easily broken pledges of men who, like Karadzic, ought to be charged with crimes against humanity. And his reward for this will be a post in Baghdad?

PS: Shouldn't someone (like a senator) ask what Holbrooke did for AIG in exchange for $800k? Hank Greenberg, the former chairman of AIG, went to great lengths to cozy up to China, providing lavish funding to the Council on Foreign Relations and other think tanks (and apparently Holbrooke) to promote a pro-China policy in the United States so as to curry favor with the ChiCom leadership. Is there anything we should know about Holbrooke's dealings with the Chinese in those years?