Former US ambassador to Iraq reflects on life outside green zone
Ryan Crocker was a major force in helping to turn around Iraq, Presidents Bush and Obama say.
The former ambassador to Iraq was simply trying to go home.Skip to next paragraph
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For the man who, along with Gen. David Petraeus, has been credited with pulling Iraq back from the brink of civil war – a man who careened through the streets of Baghdad bracketed by armed guards and bedecked in body armor – driving across the Washington state line into Spokane would not seem to be the most complicated of tasks.
But many things have changed while Mr. Crocker has been abroad.
The new emission standards that prevented him from registering his cherry-red Mustang convertible in Washington state are among the smallest. Iraq itself is arguably the largest.
President Bush, the man who sent Crocker to Iraq as ambassador in 2007, awarded him the Medal of Freedom – America's highest civilian honor – in part for his work in Iraq. President Obama has extolled Crocker as "an example of the very best that this nation has to offer, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude."
Crocker was in Iraq in the late 1970s when Saddam Hussein executed his cabinet to establish himself as the nation's supreme ruler. He was in the US Embassy in Beirut in 1983 when a car bomb killed 64 and blew him against a wall. Angry mobs overran the US Embassy in Damascus when he was ambassador to Syria, and three years later, in 2001, he reopened the American Embassy in Kabul after the Taliban had fled.
He is a diplomat's diplomat, someone renowned for taking the world's toughest posts – and thriving in them.
In late April, Crocker wrapped up that 35-year diplomatic career. In two interviews and several e-mails, he assesses Iraq and looks forward to what's next.
Patience is his watchword.
Iraq has been crumbling for decades, he says, enduring three wars and on-again, off-again economic sanctions since 1980. It will take years to restore any kind of normalcy, he adds.