“Well we are not in Kansas anymore Toto”
The a petite, blond is from Arkansas, with a non-classy Southern drawl to prove it. Anne W. Patterson is a career foreign service officer appointed by George W. Bush as ambassador to Pakistan in 2007. Pakistanis and the sane world sighed a sigh of relief when the most reviled US Ambassador in the world, returned to Washington last month, after more than three years in Pakistan–where she attempted to play the role of America’s Viceroy.
Pakistanis across the spectrum were relieved that the Ambassador suffering from “The God Syndrome” was finally out of her fortress in Islamabad–replaced by what seems like a sane man. Islamabad fondly remembered the good old days of Wendy Chamberlain and Robert Oakley who had won over the hearts and minds of Pakistan. The USA was the most liked nation on earth under the stint of Robert Oakley–today in a post-Patterson era it ranks at the bottom.
Only a few hundred of the more than 250,000 cables obtained by WikiLeaks have been released so far, but one correspondent being singled out for crass reporting is Anne. W. Paterson. Most of the 8th grade reporting is unprofessional and reads like the script of a soap opera.
When Patterson was not trolling petty Pakistani politicians, she was inviting the government officials to lavish parties–grand galas complete with butler service, free bars, and all the accouterments what would have shamed the Viceroys to Delhi. She had a five million a year expense account and took that very seriously. As pointed out by pugnacious Talk show hosts on Pakistani TV channels, Patterson’s “cables” sent to the president lack any sense of professionalism. The cables were petty, focusing on off-the-cuff-conversations, off-the-record-dialogue, gossip, innuendo, dangling modifiers and sentence fragments. The cables narrate the brief snippets of conversations without context.
The Pakistani politicians it seems joined the American dog and pony show and may have said what the Ambassador wanted to hear–rending the entire exercise a farce. What value-add did Ms. Patterson get out of these circus like conversations? It is obvious that she did not develop any relationship. She did not improve US-Pakistani relationships.
Sheik Rashid is popular politicians very popular on the talk-show circuit. His prescient prophecies usually make headlines. his responses on Wikileak cables are iconic. When asked if it’s true that Pakistani politicians lie to their own people and tell U.S. officials the truth, he said: “No they lie to the Americans too.”–Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the President of the Awami Muslim League.
One of the funniest cable is an episode, where Ms. Patterson asks for and gets invited to a luncheon by the leader of a very small religious party which had been wiped out in the last elections. Why Ms. Patterson chose to meet Maulana Fazal Ur Rehman is beyond comprehension. It would be analogous to the Pakistanis Ambassador seeking an audience with with a politician who had lost an election in South Dakota and then was sending a cable full of details about what that politician had said.
Patterson playing the part of “The Ugly American” was busy running her soap opera. She needs to pick the right titles. Certainly it won’t be “The bold and the beautiful”.
Each of her cables is studded with salacious gossip and concocted intrigue. Patterson does not report on the questions asked–only the answers. For example her cable dutifully reports that Maulana Fazal Ur Rehman wants to the prime Minister–but does not describe the context. During a four hour lunch, did the topic of Premiership come up? Was this a hypothetical question put of the head of the JUI? Was a casual question thrown in–Would he like to be Prime Minister if his party got a majority? Then the answer (to the question, do you want to be PM) could be an innocuous “Yes”. However if Mr. Maulana Rehman was groveling on his feet asking to be made a PM, then the Ambassador should have simply ignored this nonsense. Sadly we are not given the details. Maybe we will have to wait for the Paterson diaries!
Another episode keeps us guessing. A former Prime Minister is mentioned and he is caught stating that he is not Anti-American. We are left hanging. Was this part of a deep and profound discussion on reducing Anti-Americanism or was is Mr. Nawaz Sharif‘s response to a direct question “Are you Mr. Sharif Anti-American”. We don’t know the context. And we will probably never know. However we do know that Ms. Patterson has ventured where no other Ambassador has ventured before.
In another episode of this never ending soap, Ms. Patterson reports Mr. Rehman Mailiks wild insinuation that the army, judiciary, the Saudis, and two other political parties are conspiring against his government. Has this been taken from one of Mr. Rehman’s notoriously contradictory public speeches or a folder handed to her by the Interior Minister marked “Top Secret”. We don’t know.
In another episode, she reports that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) distrusts the major opposition leader as much as he dislikes the president. Certainly General Kayanis actions do not depict any such thing. Was this conversation captured after a few rounds of Blue Label–or was it whispered to Ms. Patterson under a cone of silence in the US Embassy. Inquiring minds want to know.
Many in Pakistan, including the government ministers have claimed that many of the cables have simply been manufactured to create Inter-Pakistani and Intra-Pakistan problems. Constructed or not–they sure do show a high level of showmanship and low level of Intelligent quotients. The cables do try to push US policy. Did Ms. Patterson have a vivid imagination, or do the cables really depict her intellectual capacity. What would the reader make of the “confession” of Mr. Sharif or the desire of Maulana Rehman? This is not actionable information. It is gossip.
Perhaps her stories are true. Ms. Patterson’s attempt to play peace-keeper and therapist for Pakistani politicians of all flavors is a complete violation of the Geneva Conventions which define and describe the role of an ambassador. Ms. Patterson is not a therapist, and her psycho-babble displays a dysfunctional past and troubled present. Were she a licensed mental health professional, Patterson could have self-diagnosed herself with pathological paranoia.
The harm she has caused US-Pakistani relations is incalculable. Ms. Patterson never knew when to stop. President Bush diagnosed it correctly, she has ruined the long-term relations and “made a mess of the US-Pakistani relations”.
Her funniest comment was judgmental and very Un-professional: “The fact that a former Prime Minister believes the U.S. could control the appointment of Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff speaks volumes about the myth of American influence here.”
Pakistan has suffered thirty years of US sanctions. General Ayub Khan wrote a very powerful book on US-American relations titled “Friends Not Masters”. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was repeatedly threatened by Henry Kissinger, but he did not back off on developing a Nuclear program. The very politicians that Ms. Patterson makes fun of defied the US and went on to explode a Nuclear device. Pervez Musharraf was threatened with “being bombed to the stone age”, and agreed to the conditions set by Richard Armitage–however one of the biggest charges brought against him was that he was duplicitous and did not live up to the promises. Recently the Pakistanis almost threw out the Kerry-Lugar Bill with its intrusive monitoring mechanisms.
Pakistanis have now seen the Curtain Call on the Patterson show. However the aftermath of her theatrics will continue to cast a long shadow on US-Pakistani relations. She confirmed the American stereotype–now known to the common man on the Pakistani street. Most Pakistanis see the US politicians and Ambassadors as lying, cheating, sniveling, double-dealing used-car-salesmen. That is the Patterson legacy in Islamabad.
Mr. Munter the new Ambassador seems like decent fellow–but he is left holding the bag–a bag full of the Patterson poop.
- Gilani asked US to bomb TTP, but halt drone bombings (timesofislamabad.com)
- Gilani asked to target TTP but halt drones: Wikileaks (pakpunch.com)
- Gilani did ask for the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui: Wikileaks (pakistanindependent.com)
- You: In WikiLeaks cables from Pakistan, U.S. officials struggle for leverage (washingtonpost.com)
- Impact of Wiki-Floods on Hydro-Floods and beyond (pakistanakhbar.com)
- US chagrined at poor standing of the superpower among Pakistanis (pakpunch.com)
- Karzai admits giving safe-haven to Baloch terrorists (pakistanakhbar.com)
- Scahill’s epiphany (pakistanakhbar.com)
- Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari ‘prepared for assassination’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Wikileaks complicates American-Pakistani relations (newpakistantimes.com)