U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to Libya: Who Is Laurence Pope?
In the wake of the tragic murder of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens during a terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have turned to a retired senior diplomat to serve as Washington’s man in Tripoli. Former ambassador to Chad Laurence E. Pope will serve as chargé d’affairs to Libya, an appointment that does not require Senate confirmation, until a new ambassador can be nominated and installed next year. Pope arrived in Libya on October 11, 2012.
Born September 24, 1945, in New Haven, Connecticut, Pope grew up in Braintree, Massachusetts. He is the eldest son of Medal of Honor recipient Major Everett P. Pope, and Eleanor Pope. He earned a B.A. at Bowdoin College in 1967, where he was a self-described “mediocre student.” Pope spent his junior year in France, returning “angry about the world, angry about the state of things,” and wanting to avoid being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam. He joined the Peace Corps and spent two years as a volunteer.
Pope joined the Foreign Service in late 1969, serving his first foreign posting, ironically, as a consular officer at the embassy in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), South Vietnam. After that assignment he returned stateside, studied Arabic, and has spent most of his career dealing with issues involving the Middle East.
Career highlights include service as deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires in Manama, Bahrain, from 1985 to 1987, director for Northern Gulf Affairs from 1987 to 1990, associate director for Counter-Terrorism from 1991 to 1993, U.S. ambassador to Chad from 1993 to 1996, and political advisor to General Anthony Zinni, who was commander of U.S. Central Command, from 1997 to 2000.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton nominated Pope as ambassador to Kuwait, but his nomination was derailed by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) and other conservative Republicans because Gen. Zinni had criticized their support of Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi politician opposed to dictator Saddam Hussein. According to Pope, Helms’s aide Danielle Pletka told him he would not even get a hearing unless he agreed to testify on his advice to Zinni regarding Chalabi. Pope retired from the State Department on October 2, 2000, after 31 years of service rather than expose his confidential advice.
Two years later, during the ramp-up to the U.S. War on Iraq, Chalabi was responsible for supplying the George W. Bush administration much of the false information alleging that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
In 2001, Pope served several months as the staff director in Jerusalem for the International Committee on Middle East Peace led by former senator George Mitchell, until conflicts with the Israeli government prompted him to resign. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, he was appointed as a senior advisor for Arab affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Pope speaks Arabic and French, and, when not serving abroad, resides in Portland, Maine, with his wife Betsy.
Advice & Contempt (by Laurence Pope, Foreign Service Journal)
Interview with Larry Pope (by Andrea L’Hommedieu, George J. Mitchell Oral History Project)
François de Callières: A Political Life (by Laurence Pope)
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