Friday, December 10, 2004

A tribute to Christophe Girod

Christophe Girod was, until a few months ago, the head of the delegation to the United States of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), based here in Washington DC; he has left that position and the ICRC, and I wanted to pay tribute to the impressive work that he did on behalf of the ICRC. He had the enormously difficult job of walking the line between the ICRC and the Bush administration on matters ranging from detainees at Guantanamo to keeping good relations with a government that provides some 25% of the ICRC's budget - a 25% of the budget, David Rieff has told me, in unrestricted, unearmarked funds. I did not at all agree with some of the ICRC's maneuvers on leaks to the press about its findings or necessarily with Christophe's views on what constituted abuse of prisoners, but Christophe performed a very necessary, utterly critical role, and he has my unstinting admiration. He was kind enough to come to a series of meetings organized by Tod Lindberg (Hoover Institution) and me on international law of war topics that often put him directly in the firing line from some very blunt-speaking conservatives, and he understood the great value of hearing the conservative American view directly rather than living in the echo chamber of the left, which would have been far easier to do.

He has now left the ICRC, after extensive work in the field, in many very difficult and dangerous places such as Botswana, as well as his time in Washington, and he and his lovely family are returning to Geneva. It would be a very good thing if he were picked up by an NGO or other agency, as he has a wealth of experience and good judgment that should not be lost.