- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006

‘Huge tragedy’

Iraq’s new ambassador yesterday revealed that the investigation into charges of a deadly U.S. Marine attack on civilians in Haditha in November affected him in a very personal way.

“I am from Haditha, as it happens,” Ambassador Samir Shakir Mahmood Sumaidaie said at a briefing on Iraq at the United States Institute of Peace.

“My father was born there. I spent summers there with my family as a boy. I know the neighborhood where it happened. It is all very close to me.”

Calling the incident “a huge tragedy for Haditha and for the United States,” Mr. Sumaidaie said he heard accounts of the raid from relatives and friends almost immediately after it happened, but “frankly, the way it was reported to me sounded simply incredible,” our correspondent David R. Sands reported.

Mr. Sumaidaie was Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time but did not raise the issue publicly.

“Without concrete evidence, I did not feel it was appropriate to talk about it because I felt it was unlikely to have happened the way it was described,” he said.

He said he only began to credit the accounts from his Haditha sources when he read the Time magazine story in March that questioned the official U.S. version of events.

He said by then U.S. military officials were beginning to investigate the incident themselves, and said his role as Iraqi ambassador now is to monitor the probe.

In another tragic development, Mr. Sumaidaie’s cousin, who also was from Haditha, was killed by Marines during a house-to-house search last year. The United States cleared the Marines of any unlawful killing, but the ambassador said he wants a further investigation.

Mr. Sumaidaie on Tuesday presented his diplomatic credentials to President Bush, becoming the first Iraqi ambassador in Washington since 1991 when the United States severed ties with Saddam Hussein at the start of the Persian Gulf war that liberated Kuwait.

“I am honored and privileged to serve as the ambassador of a free Iraq,” he said, adding that Iraqis “desire to live in peace and remove the scourge of terrorism from our land and help others remove it from theirs.”

Diplomatic stamps

The faces of six deceased diplomats grace a new series of U.S. stamps that honor their heroism, strategic accomplishments or personal success.

“It is the memory of these great diplomats that serves as a source of strength and inspiration for all who use diplomacy today to build a future of peace and hope,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, after the stamps were released this week at the 2006 World Philatelic Exhibition in Washington.

Hiram Bingham IV was commemorated for his efforts to save Jews in World War II, when he served as the vice consul in Marseilles, France. He is credited with issuing visas to more than 2,000 Jews in defiance of orders from his superiors.

Charles E. Bohlen, ambassador to the Soviet Union in the 1950s who was fluent in Russian, interpreted for President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Tehran and Yalta conferences.

Philip C. Habib was a political counselor in Vietnam in 1968 as the war was escalating and later helped negotiate the end of the war in the Paris peace talks. He served as ambassador to South Korea, undersecretary of state for political affairs and as Middle East adviser to President Reagan.

Robert D. Murphy helped plan the Allied ground invasion of North Africa in World War II and served as a political adviser to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was the first postwar ambassador to Japan and later rose to the rank of undersecretary for political affairs.

Clifton R. Wharton was the first black Foreign Service Officer and the first black diplomat to rise through the ranks to the level of ambassador. President Kennedy appointed him as ambassador to Norway.

Frances E. Willis was the first female Foreign Service Officer to reach the level of ambassador.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.


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