Would Googling Him Have Been So Hard?

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June 11, 2008 2:42 p.m.
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Success in Iraq is critical to U.S. national interests, which is why we’ve insisted on sending our best and brightest civilians there: loyal Republicans, young GOP political operatives, and in the case of Owen Cargol, a man who fancies himself “a rub-your-belly, grab-your-balls, give-you-a-hug, slap-your-back, pull-your-dick, squeeze-your-hand, cheek-your-face, and pat-your-thigh kind of guy.”

As Inside Higher Ed reports today, Cargol resigned back in April as the first chancellor of the American University in Iraq, apparently for health reasons, but he’d been forced out of a previous position as president of Northern Arizona University after just four months for allegedly sexually harassing a NAU employee:

Cargol’s 2001 resignation stemmed from allegations made by a Northern Arizona employee who alleged that Cargol, while naked in a locker room, grabbed the employee’s genitals, the Arizona Republic reported. In a subsequent e-mail to the employee, Cargol described himself as “a rub-your-belly, grab-your-balls, give-you-a-hug, slap-your-back, pull-your-dick, squeeze-your-hand, cheek-your-face, and pat-your-thigh kind of guy.”

The American University in Iraq, located in Sulaimaniya in the Kurdish-controlled north, was heralded as a progressive step towards democratization. It selected Cargol as its first chancellor in 2007, though why is unclear since, as Inside Higher Ed notes, his “checkered past. . . could have been revealed to university organizers in a simple Google search.”

AU-I is a private, non-profit institution, but it was started with $10.5 million from the U.S. government and its board –which hired Cargol — is stacked with prominent names:

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is chairman of the Board of Regents; and Barham Salih, Iraq’s deputy prime minister, is president of the Board of Trustees. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and a counselor to former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, sits on the board. So too does Fouad Ajami, head of Middle Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Agresto, the new interim chancellor, brings his own bona fides. As detailed in Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Agresto has close connections to Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne Cheney, with whom Agresto served during a stint at the National Endowment for the Humanities. A self-described neoconservative who was “mugged by reality” in Iraq, Agresto “knew next to nothing about Iraq’s educational system” when he arrived with orders to rebuild it, The Washington Post reported.

How Agresto and his colleagues came to select Cargol to head AU-Iraq is unclear, but Cargol’s decision to reinvent himself as an administrator in the Middle East preceded his work in Iraq. Before he took the chancellor’s post, Cargol was provost of Abu Dhabi University, a private institution in the United Arab Emirates.

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