On a mission
- Cliff Newell
- Lake Oswego Review - News
LO Ambassador Patricia Haslach continues her career in foreign service by trying to help transform the Iraqi government
As an ambassador for the United States of America, Patricia M. Haslach receives some high privileges.
Like getting the VIP, red carpet treatment from heads of state of countries around the world.
Like associating with some of the celebrated people of our time, from Colin Powell to President George W. Bush to Angelina Jolie.
And not having to paint the kitchen when she comes home to visit her mother in Lake Oswego.
But Haslach deserves every honor she gets, because as a U.S. State Department Senior Foreign Service officer she has been working to make this world a better place for the past 20 years by seeking to improve economies and promote peace.
It's a very big job, and Haslach is glad she gets to do it.
'I've always been interested in international events, languages and history,' Haslach said. 'I have fun while I serve.'
Over the past 26 years, Haslach has had posts in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria and Brussels, and she has served as U.S. ambassador to Laos and to APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation).
But she may now have the most significant assignment of her career as Coordinator for Assistance Transition in Iraq, where she is working with U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill to change over the nation's government from a military administration to a civilian administration, and Iraq will again be a sovereign nation.
Just how difficult that assignment is was shown on Oct. 25 when a double suicide bombing in Baghdad killed 155 people and wounded more than 600.
Haslach is not a sugar coater. But she truly believes the mission will be a success.
'It's an enormous transition right now,' Haslach said. 'Ambassador Hill has had some special jobs before (Yugoslavia, Afghanistan reconstruction) and we needed someone like that.
'As stated by President Obama, all of our troops have to be out of Iraq by 2011. It's time. We've been there since 2003.'
However, this is a timeline that faces huge obstacles.
'Terrorists don't want Iraq to succeed as a democratic country,' Haslach said. 'They're trying to get groups to attack each other like they did in 2006, in time for the elections in January of 2010. They're trying to create chaos, and there are some neighbors in that area who aren't friendly, either. But so far the Iraqis are steadfast.
'I think success is possible for two reasons. One, the Iraqi people are very well educated, and they want to resume their place in the world. Its history is of being the cradle of civilization and a great center for learning and medicine.
'Second, their resources. Iraq has the third largest reserves of oil and gas in the world and they're high in natural gas.'
Despite the pressure, Haslach says, 'I'm enjoying myself.
'When you're working on withdrawing from Iraq, your own political views don't matter. If you want to do that you'd better find another job. You work with the president. But it is nice for me because I personally agree with what we are doing.'
Haslach added, 'It's wonderful having Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. She is really spectacular.'
To have such a career you must have the right stuff, and Haslach began to prove it while growing up in Lake Oswego, with her late father Frank, mother Patricia, and four siblings.
'Lake Oswego was wonderful,' Haslach said. 'It was like a small town. It's close to the mountains and the ocean. It's close to Portland, which is a pretty sophisticated town. It has everything.'
But because of her great and wide-ranging interests, Haslach wanted to see the world. While a student at Gonzaga University she spent a year in Italy and she later went to the then-Soviet Union. Those experiences sealed her career decision. She went on to earn a masters degree in international affairs from Columbia University in New York and began her diplomatic career in 1986.
Despite the great variety she has experienced, Haslach said, 'It always strikes me how much we have in common, even in Laos, which is a communist country.'
This incredibly busy life has not stopped her from having a family. Haslach's husband David Herbert is also a Foreign Service officer in Austria, and their daughters Kiran and Shereen are college students.
As for her future, Haslach said, 'I still have a couple years left. I would like to go to Brazil. My daughter says I have to do that. I would also like another ambassador position. I was lucky to get two of them. Most people don't get one.'
For a couple weeks, though, Haslach just wants to have fun in Lake Oswego.
'I have a whole list of things I want to do here,' she said. 'I like to go outside. I like it when it's cold and rainy because it's so hot and dusty in Iraq. My sister and I ran on the track. I visit the wineries and downtown Portland.
'I'm also getting together some care packages to send to myself.'