In their own words


Quiet diplomacy

“The new American ambassador in Damascus, Robert Ford, has been quietly reaching out to Mr. [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad to urge him to stop firing on his people.” – New York Times, March 26.

Outsourcing success

“We fund things. Sometimes we fund things that don’t work.” – Lieutenant-General Michael Oates, recently resigned director of a US agency that has spent US$17 billion on unsuccessful projects to detect roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The agency has six contractors for each government employee.

Don’t panic, just die

“Some foreigners fled the country even when there appeared to be little risk. If we immediately decided to label the situation as Level 7, we could have triggered a panicked reaction.” – Seiji Shiroya, a commissioner and the former director of the Research Reactor Institute at Kyoto University, on why the Japanese government delayed acknowledging the amount of radioactivity released in the post-tsunami nuclear disaster.

Haven’t made war popular

“We recognise that the quality of draft media response has not met the standards of you and your office.” – A report to Stephen Smith, federal defence minister, from chief of the Defence Force Angus Houston and department secretary Ian Watt, addressing Smith’s complaints about the performance of the department’s more than 100 public relations officials.

Frustrating variants

“Without a doubt, it is frustrating working through all this to get maximum effect for our efforts and dealing with all these variants.” – A “senior American [US] military official”, quoted in the April 17 New York Times, on the fact that pilots from some NATO countries have refused to drop bombs on mosques, schools or hospitals.

He’d fit in well in Washington

“The Obama administration has begun seeking a country ... that might be willing to provide shelter to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi if he were forced out of Libya … The effort is complicated by the likelihood that he would be indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague … About half of the countries in Africa have not signed or ratified the Rome Statute, which requires nations to abide by commands from the international court. (The United States has also not ratified the statute …)” – New York Times, April 17.

No change

“I’d do one thing. Either I’d go in and take the oil or I don’t go in at all.” – US billionaire Donald Trump, a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, on how he would deal with Libya.

And it might be true

The “best year in safety performance in our company’s history”. – Transocean Ltd, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon, which blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and beginning the worst oil spill in the history of the planet.

What a relief!

“A senior Labor source said SA Labor, while troubled, was not rotten to the core like NSW Labor had become.” – Sydney Morning Herald, April 22.

In Their Own Words
The World