AUDIO of US diplomats criticising State Department’s policy on foreign service officers
1. Exterior of US State Department building
2. Close of sign reading (English) “Department of State”
October 31, 2007
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Jack Croddy, Senior Foreign Service Officer: (++ AUDIO overlaid with STILL of US State Department emblem++)
“Incoming is coming in every day, rockets are hitting the Green Zone, so if you force assign people that is really shifting the terms of what we’re all about. It’s one thing if someone believes in what’s going on over there and volunteers, but it’s another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment, I’m sorry, but basically that’s a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will take care of our children? Who will raise our children if we are dead?”
Several hundred US diplomats are venting anger and frustration about the US State Department’s decision to force foreign service officers to take jobs in Iraq.
Some liken it to a “potential death sentence.”
In a contentious hour long town-hall meeting at the department on Wednesday, the angry diplomats peppered officials responsible for the order with often hostile complaints about the largest diplomatic call-up since the Vietnam War.
Announced last week, it will require some diplomats, under threat of dismissal, to serve at the embassy in Baghdad and in reconstruction teams in outlying provinces.
Many, including Jack Croddy, a Senior Foreign Service Officer, expressed serious misgivings about the ethics of sending diplomats against their will to work in a war zone, where the embassy staff is largely confined to the protected “Green Zone,” as the department reviews use of private security guards to protect its staff.
“Incoming is coming in every day, rockets are hitting the Green Zone,” said Croddy, who once worked as a political adviser with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) forces.
Croddy and others confronted Foreign Service Director General Harry Thomas, who approved the move to “directed assignments” late Friday to make up for a lack of volunteers willing to go to Iraq.
“It’s one thing if someone believes in what’s going on over there and volunteers, but it’s another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment, I’m sorry, but basically that’s a potential death sentence and you know it,” he added.
No US diplomats have currently been killed in Iraq, although the security situation is precarious and completion of a new fortified embassy compound and living quarters has been beset by logistical and construction problems.
Still Croddy’s remarks were met with loud and sustained applause from the approximately 300 diplomats at the meeting.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was not present for the meeting. Her top adviser on Iraq, David Satterfield, attended.
Under the new order, 200 to 300 diplomats have been identified as “prime candidates” to fill 48 vacancies that will open next year at the US Embassy in Baghdad and in the provinces.
Those notified have 10 days to accept or reject the position. If not enough say yes, some will be ordered to go.
Only those with compelling reasons, such as a medical condition or extreme personal hardship, will be exempt from disciplinary action.
Diplomats forced into service in Iraq will receive the same extra hardship pay, vacation time and choice of future assignments as those who have volunteered.
More than 1,200 of the department’s 11,500 Foreign Service officers have served in Iraq since 2003.
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