How Did You Enjoy Your Visit to Potemkin, Mr. Ambassador?

This seems like a pretty serious misstep:

The Obama administration is struggling to explain why its ambassador to Syria participated in a sanitized trip to the country's restive north that President Bashar Assad's regime used to attempt to justify its military crackdown.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday's trip to the abandoned town of Jisr al-Shughour allowed Ambassador Robert Ford to "see for himself the results of the Syrian government's brutality."

Yet it was unclear how Ford would have gathered such evidence on the government-sponsored tour. Nuland said journalists and foreign diplomats saw an "empty town with significant damage." But she said no residents were around to offer an opposing view from the one presented by Syrian government officials.

Nuland insisted it was a "valuable" trip. It was sponsored by Syria's foreign ministry and military.
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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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