How national security mandarins groomed Pete Buttigieg and managed his future

December 17, 2019

Pledging to “end endless wars,” Pete Buttigieg claims he has “never been part of the Washington establishment.” But years before he was known as Mayor Pete, an influential DC network of military interventionists placed him on an inside track to power.

Under public pressure for more transparency about his work at the notoriously secretive McKinsey consulting firm, the Buttigieg campaign released some background details this December. The disclosures included a timeline of his work for various clients that stated he “stepped away from the firm during the late summer and fall of 2008 to help full-time with a Democratic campaign for governor in Indiana.” How Buttigieg’s “full-time” role on that gubernatorial campaign took him on a nearly 8,000-mile detour to Somaliland remains unclear. Buttigieg and Nathaniel Myers spent only 24 hours in the autonomous region of Somaliland. In that short time, they interviewed unnamed government officials and faithfully relayed their pro-independence line back to the American public in a July 2008 op-ed in the New York Times.

The column read like it could have been crafted by a public relations firm on behalf of a government client. In one section, the two travelers wrote that “the people we met in Somaliland were welcoming, hopeful and bewildered by the absence of recognition from the West. They were frustrated to still be overlooked out of respect for the sovereignty of the failed state to their south.” Since declaring its independence from Somalia in 1991, Somaliland has campaigned for recognition from the US, EU, and African Union. It even offered to hand its deep water port over to AFRICOM, the US military command structure on the African continent, in exchange for US acceptance of its sovereignty. Several months after Buttigieg traveled to the autonomous region, Al Jazeera reported, “The Somaliland government is trying to charm its way to global recognition.” And just a few weeks before Buttigieg’s visit, the would-be republic inked a contract with an international lobbying firm called Independent Diplomat, presumably to help oversee that charm offensive.

Founded by a self-described anarchist named Carne Ross, Independent Diplomat represents an array of non and para-state entities seeking recognition on the international stage. Ross’s client list has included the Syrian Opposition Coalition, which tried and failed to secure power through a Western-backed war against the Syrian government. Independent Diplomat did not respond to questions from The Grayzone about whether it had any role in facilitating the trip Buttigieg and Myers took to Somaliland.

According to John Kiriakou, a former CIA case officer, ex-senior investigator for the Senate Intelligence Committee, and celebrated whistleblower, Somaliland is an unusual destination for tourism. “There really is nothing going on in Somaliland,” Kiriakou told The Grayzone. “To say you go to Somaliland as a tourist is a joke to me. It’s not a war-torn area but nobody goes there as a tourist.” Kiriakou visited Somaliland in 2009 as part of an investigation for the Senate Intelligence Committee on what he described as the phenomenon of “blue-eyed” American citizens converting to Islam, traveling to Somalia and Yemen for training with Salafi-jihadist groups, then returning home on their US passports.

To reach Somaliland, Kiriakou said he took an arduous seven-hour journey from the neighboring state of Djibouti. His junket was coordinated by the US ambassador to Djibouti, a regional security officer of the US Diplomatic Security Service, and an embassy attaché. “It is not the easiest place to reach and there’s no business to do there,” Kiriakou said. Whether or not Buttigieg’s trip was coordinated without the assistance of lobbyists, the trip offered him and Myers an opportunity to weigh in on international affairs on the pages of the supposed newspaper of record – and on an absolutely non-controversial issue.

In his bio, Nathaniel Myers identified himself simply as a “financial analyst based in Ethiopia.” According to his resume, which is available online at Linkedin, he was working at the time as a World Bank consultant on governance and corruption. By 2011, Myers had moved on from that neoliberal international financial institution to a specialized government at the center of US regime change operations abroad.