Jun 22, 2007

On dit

From the Baghdad embassy grapevine:

Just another day at the office for our man in Baghdad, Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Wednesday's confidential Situation Report over there said that the security office in Baghdad "reports 9 to 10 rounds of IDF" -- indirect fire, meaning mortar rounds or rockets -- "have hit the Embassy Baghdad compound. One round caused damage to the Embassy's north wing. There are no reported casualties.

"Further to Watch Alert 1241, Embassy Baghdad reports Ambassador Crocker's office window was damaged by one IDF round, sending shrapnel into his office. The Ambassador was in the room at the time of the attack, but there were no injuries."

We're told the windows were blown out and glass shards were in the office. But this, for Crocker, is par for the course.

Let's recall that the near-legendary diplomat was working in the embassy in Beirut in 1983 when a suicide bomber driving a delivery van of explosives rammed into the seven-story building, split it in two and killed 64 people.

Crocker was blown against a wall and bloodied but not seriously injured. He and his wife, who also worked there, got out of the building and he went through the rubble, searching for colleagues. ...

About six months ago, the Iraq Study Group noted that, of the 1,000 employees at the embassy in Baghdad, only 33 speak Arabic and six speak the language fluently, meaning at a 4 level. This puts the war effort "often at a disadvantage."

Well, we're happy to report, as we move along in the fifth year of the war, there appears maybe to have been progress since that report. The State Department, in response to a reporter's question, said Wednesday that now "10 Foreign Service Officers are at or above the 3 reading/3 speaking level in Arabic and five others test at or above the 3 level in speaking. A 3/3 indicates a general professional fluency level."

Hard to describe these levels with precision, but a 3/3 is the minimum fluency level, where you can get by quite well, give a reasonably correct speech but maybe not be able to read a contract or completely understand a rapid-fire chat among the locals.

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