When President Obama recently nominated Gayle Smith to be the next administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, many members of the country’s small Africa-related foreign policy community howled.
Smith’s critics, myself included, have objected to the fact that over the years, this former journalist has been a conspicuous backer of authoritarian regimes in places like Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Rwanda. When I first made this point publicly, a former White House staffer offered a disconcertingly ambivalent response: “I’m not sure if there were more compelling candidates out there,” he said.
He may well be right – and the reason for the lack of qualified personnel is a direct consequence of Washington’s long failure to devise a coherent policy toward Africa.
[…] Gayle Smith should certainly not stand alone to answer for this horrible record, for which the American foreign policy establishment has never given anything like a proper reckoning. One of the reasons for that, though, is the persistence of people like Smith, and her patron, Susan Rice, in positions of high authority. Another, equally pernicious, is the general disinterest that Africa receives from the foreign policy thinkers.
As a region of the world, Africa is virtually alone in being consigned to people with thin expertise and little policy background or clout to shape and guide American diplomacy. Top Africa jobs have often become a kind of sop for African Americans within the bureaucracy. Celebrities like Bono, George Clooney, and Ben Affleck are looked to help set priorities and galvanize public interest. That this should be necessary must be seen as a failure of the policy establishment itself to think more creatively and with more ambition about such a large part of the world.
Ms. Smith’s nomination requires Senate confirmation. It is currently pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Howard W. French journalist, author, and photographer, as well as an associate professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was previously a Senior Writer for The New York Times, where he spent most of a nearly 23 year career as a foreign correspondent, working in and traveling to over 100 countries on five continents. From 1979 to 1986, he lived in West Africa, where he worked as a translator, taught English literature at the University of Ivory Coast, and lived as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and other publications. From 1994 to 1998, he covered West and Central Africa for the NYT, reporting on wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Central Africa, with particular attention to the fall of the longtime dictator of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko.
On May 8, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ann Calvaresi Barr, as the next Inspector General for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The WH released the following brief bio:
Ann Calvaresi Barr is the Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, a position she has held since 2010. Ms. Calvaresi Barr joined the Department of Transportation as Principal Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations in 2009. She served at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management from 2004 to 2009, Assistant Director for Strategic Issues from 2002 to 2004, and Assistant Director for Health Care Issues from 1998 to 2002. Ms. Calvaresi Barr held several roles as an analyst and senior analyst at GAO from 1984 to 1998, including a five year tour in GAO’s former European Office.
Ms. Calvaresi Barr received a B.A. from Dickinson College and an M.P.A. from American University.
Screen capture from c-span
Click here for a video of Ms. Calvaresi Barr during a congressional hearing on Amtrak in 2012. If confirmed, she would succeed Donald A. Gambatesa who resigned three and a half years ago after a five year tenure. The OIG position at USAID has been vacant for 1,310 days according to the OIG Tracker put together by POGO (see Where Are All the Watchdogs?)
On May 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Minnesota lawyer Samuel D. Heins, as the next Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway. The WH released the following brief bio:
Samuel D. Heins most recently served as a Partner at Heins Mills & Olson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1994 to 2013. Mr. Heins was a Partner at Opperman Heins and Paquin from 1989 to 1994, a Partner at Tanick and Heins from 1976 to 1989, and an Associate Attorney at the Firestone Law Firm from 1973 to 1976. In 1983, Mr. Heins founded Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, where he served as First Chair and continues to serve as a member. He is a Board Member of the Ploughshares Fund, Trustee of the PEN American Center, and Board Member and Vice Chair of the Center for Victims of Torture, which he co-founded. He previously served as a Board Member and Vice President of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. Mr. Heins received a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Minnesota.
Mr. Heins (and his wife Stacy) are listed by the NYT as one of President Obama’s top fund-raisers in 2011/2012. Also click here to see additional data from LittleSis.
If confirmed, Mr. Heins would succeed Boston lawyer Barry B. White who was Ambassador to Norway from 2009-2013. Career diplomat Julie Furuta-Toy has served as chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Oslo since Ambassador White’s departure in September 2013.
As of this writing, the nominees for ambassadors to the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Finland and Sweden, all political appointees, have waited between 200-450 days for their confirmation hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Career diplomats nominated as ambassadors to South Sudan, Mali, Latvia, Kyrgyzstan and Guyana have waited between 229-282 days. It does not look like the SFRC is in any hurry to confirm anyone clear anyone’s nomination. Next week, eight nominees are scheduled to appear before the panel for their confirmation hearings.
On May 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Laura Farnsworth Dogu as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Nicaragua. The WH released the following brief bio:
Laura Farnsworth Dogu, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Mexico, a position she has held since 2012. Prior to that, Ms. Dogu was Deputy Executive Director in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the Department of State from 2010 to 2012. She served as a Consular Section Chief and Consular Officer in Mexico, Turkey, and Egypt from 1999 to 2010. Ms. Dogu was a Staff Assistant in the Bureau of Consular Affairs from 1997 to 1998 and Watch Officer in the State Department Operations Center from 1996 to 1997. She also served as Consular and Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey from 1994 to 1996 and Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador from 1991 to 1993. Ms. Dogu received a B.A., B.B.A., and M.B.A. from Southern Methodist University and an M.S. from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Photo by US Embassy Mexico/Flickr
Additional bio details from US Embassy Mexico:
Ms. Dogu received the 2006 Department of State Barbara Watson Award for Consular Excellence for her efforts to protect children through the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. She has also received several Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.
Following her personal interest in financial planning, in 2009 Ms. Dogu co-authored a book on retirement planning and is a published financial columnist.
Ms. Dogu is a 2007 graduate from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University with a Masters Degree in National Resource Strategy. She also holds a Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Business Administration, and Bachelor of Arts degrees from Southern Methodist University. Before joining the U.S. Government, Ms. Dogu worked as a Marketing Representative for International Business Machines (IBM) serving customers in the distribution and services industries. Ms. Dogu is married, and she and her husband have two sons.
If confirmed, this would be Ms. Dogu’s first ambassadorial appointment. She would succeed career diplomat Phyllis M. Powers who was appointed to Nicaragua by President Obama in 2012.
On May 11, the WH posted a notice of a withdrawal sent to the Senate on the nomination of Katherine Dhanani, President Obama’s nominee as the first U.S. Ambassador to Somalia in 24 years.An administration official reportedly told Voice of America that Katherine Dhanani, a career diplomat with experience serving across Africa, “turned down the nomination for personal reasons and that Obama will have to find another candidate.” “She is withdrawing for personal reasons,” an unnamed administration official told AFP. Could be the same administration official, telling reporters the same talking point.
WITHDRAWAL SENT TO THE SENATE:
Katherine Simonds Dhanani, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Somalia, which was sent to the Senate on February 25, 2015.
We don’t know what’s going on here but if you have to turn down the president for “personal reasons,” that typically happens before the nomination is announced and certainly before the confirmation process starts rolling. What makes this even odd is this would have been the diplomat’s first ambassadorial appointment, the culminating point of a diplomatic career.
When Secretary Kerry made a surprise visit to Somalia recently, there was no indication that the then nominee was in his party. What would have made sense was a quick confirmation so the nominee could have accompanied the secretary on his first ever trip to Mogadishu. After all, she already had her confirmation hearing. But that did not happen, why?
When asked about congressional and SFRC reaction to the Somalia trip, a Senior Administration Official told the traveling press corps, “I think it’ll be very positive.”
It’s so very positive that here we are barely a week after that Somalia trip and the White House has now withdrawn the nominee for the first ambassador to Somalia in two decades.
Was the SFRC upset enough to refused endorsement of this nomination that the WH has little recourse but to withdraw the nomination and start over?
On April 30, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Gayle Smith as the next USAID Administrator:
“Today, I am proud to nominate Gayle E. Smith as our next Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). I’ve worked closely with Gayle for nearly a decade, and for the past six years Gayle has served as a senior leader on international development, humanitarian crisis response, and democracy issues on my National Security Council staff. Gayle’s energy and passion have been instrumental in guiding America’s international development policy, responding to a record number of humanitarian crises worldwide, and ensuring that development remains at the forefront of the national security agenda at a time when USAID is more indispensable than ever. Gayle has my full confidence and I have no doubt that she will prove to be an outstanding leader for the tireless men and women of USAID as they work to improve lives around the world. I urge the Senate to act quickly on this nomination.”
Click here for a discussion on Africa via CSPAN featuring Ms. Smith, and Howard French, a veteran journalist and author, who reported from Africa for several years.
The WH released the following brief bio:
Gayle E. Smith, Nominee for Administrator, United States Agency for International Development
Gayle E. Smith is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy on the National Security Council staff, a position she has held since 2009, with responsibility for global development, democracy, and humanitarian assistance issues. In her capacity as Senior Director, she has coordinated the first-ever Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, led the Administration’s work on global health, overseen the creation of Presidential initiatives including Feed the Future, Power Africa, the Global Health Security Agenda, and the Open Government Partnership, and helped coordinate U.S. government responses to more than 15 major humanitarian crises around the world. Prior to joining the Administration, Ms. Smith was a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where she led the Sustainable Security Project and co-founded the ENOUGH Project and the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network. Ms. Smith also served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council from 1998 to 2001 and as Advisor to the Chief of Staff and Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development from 1994 to 1998. Ms. Smith previously lived and worked in Africa for almost 20 years, where she was a journalist and worked for non-governmental relief and development organizations. Ms. Smith received a B.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
When Henry Morgenthau, Sr. resigned in 1916 as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, his reasons included his “failure to stop the destruction of the Armenians.” Ambassador Morgenthau’s story is available to read online here. It was not until the Second World War when we had a term for the intentional destruction of an entire people.
In 1943 Raphael Lemkincoined the word “genocide” to characterize the intentional mass murder of a whole people, basing the concept on the Nazi extermination of Jews and the Ottoman massacres of Armenians. He worked tirelessly to achieve the United Nations Convention against Genocide and was among the representatives of four states who ratified the Genocide Convention. Raphael Lemkin is cited by the Oxford English Dictionary for coining the term “genocide” by combining Greek genos(γένος), “race, people” and Latin cīdere “to kill” in his work Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944) (via).
via WWI Document Archive
This is a follow-up post to 1915 Armenian Genocide — The “G” Word as a Huge Landmine, and Diplomatic Equities. In February 2005, Ambassador John M. Evans who was appointed to Armenia the previous year, went on a speaking tour in the United States. During the tour, he used the word “genocide” to refer to the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 and lost his job for it. His oral history interview is an interesting window into the bureaucracy, about “not rocking the boat, about dictated apologies (he didn’t write his), and how to apologize but not on substance. His story also includes how the local Armenian employees at Embassy Yerevan mistranslated the “events of 1915” into “Armenian genocide” on the embassy’s website. Then, there was a senator who strongly complained that when “a U.S. policy compels an ambassador to distort the truth or at the very least to engage in convoluted reasoning it’s time to think about changing the policy.” Can you guess who is this senator?
Ambassador Evan’s trip started in New York with meeting the Archbishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and parishioners, a visit to the Hovnanian School in northern New Jersey, and a stop in Watertown outside Boston, which, apparently is an old center of Armenian settlement and where there is a small Armenian Library and Museum.
Q: Somewhat akin to the collection at the Holocaust Museum.
EVANS: That’s right. And I toured the museum and was very much, I must say, touched by that. I then went into a community discussion and the question did come up and it was there in Watertown that I first said, “yes, I do believe that your people suffered a genocide.” And I went on to try to explain U.S. policy and to say that this event took place 90 years ago, the United States has broad and deep interests in the Middle East. Turkey is a nation of some 70 million, of enormous strategic importance, economic importance, political weight and particularly now, after 9/11, when our relations with the Muslim world are fractured. And so I was honest about my conviction that this event had taken place but I clearly had stepped over a policy line; the State Department did not use the word “genocide” although President Reagan had used it in 1981, for example. And, as I later found out, in 1951, in a formal filing at The Hague, the United States had referred to the Armenian massacres as a prime example of the crime of genocide. So there the line was crossed in Watertown.
I next flew from Boston…Oh, I should say that the reaction of the crowd was subdued. First of all, I wasn’t telling them anything they themselves didn’t already know. We continued our discussion over dinner, a very intelligent crowd in Boston, as you could expect, very well informed. And the next day I flew to Los Angeles.
I expected that perhaps the word of my transgression would have reached Los Angeles but it hadn’t and I continued with my program, which involved a very large student/faculty group at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) where the issue came up again, and again I repeated the same thing, basically, that yes, I did believe that there had been a genocide in the terms of the Genocide Convention of 1948, and then I proceeded to explain the equities involved in U.S. policy, why we needed the cooperation of Turkey. And so there was some debate and discussion about that.
EVANS: And I remember being impressed by the fact that in one two-hour period one afternoon we visited four different Armenian churches of different, what do you call them, different denominations, Protestant, Armenian, Gregorian and so on and so forth.[…] And we also stopped at California State University in Fresno and had a very good discussion there, which also included the issue of the genocide. And that evening, I was giving my normal talk about conditions in Armenia and a young man in the back stood up and he said, “Mr. Ambassador, are you going to give us that same cock-and-bull story that the State Department always gives us about how there was no genocide?” And somebody was taping this, which I hadn’t realized. My wife, apparently, had noticed this, but the tape has since been recovered and so I know exactly what I said at that time. To paraphrase it, I said “I accept your challenge to talk about this, and let me say what I think. I do believe it was a case of genocide.” And then I went on in the same vein and talked about U.S. equities, why U.S. policy was so attentive to Turkish public opinion and so on and so forth. But again, I had crossed over that line.
In none of these cases up to now had anything been reported in the news media but that wasn’t to be the case in San Francisco, which was our next stop. We got to San Francisco and there was a big dinner. First of all, we visited a school, an Armenian school, where the question of Nagorno-Karabakh came up and I was asked if the United States wasn’t prepared to sell out the Armenians in Karabakh. And I said that’s nonsense, we are mediating between…along with Russia and France we are mediating between Armenia and Azerbaijan to find a peaceful and lasting settlement to that conflict. I mention this because later on I was accused of having violated U.S. policy on that question too. But the main event was the big dinner and…I’m sorry, it wasn’t a dinner, it was at Berkeley and it was again a student and faculty meeting. And there again, in addition to…after talking about the assistance and the economic challenges I was asked about history and once again I said the same thing, that I believe that there had been a genocide and I tried to put that in the context of modern diplomatic challenges. That got reported by a young reporter in the audience and I don’t know how quickly it got back to the East Coast but it was definitely by this time on the public record.
The next day, with Robin Phillips and my wife, I flew back to Washington and the next morning I went directly into the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, to the deputy assistant secretary, Laura Kennedy, and I said Laura, “you won’t be happy to hear this but I have breached the taboo on the word ’genocide’.” Laura was quite upset, said “I wish you’d told me first,” but then invited me to take part in a meeting with the State…what was he? Something equivalent to a State Secretary from Ankara, a Turkish, high-ranking Turkish official, to talk about U.S.-Turkish relations and about the Caucasus, and I was instructed not to say anything about the genocide. And I agree to that. So we…it was about a half a day of discussions with this Turkish official, his name was Akinci and I should get his title. Unexpectedly, towards the end of the session, Ambassador Akinci said “by the way, I just want to tell you all that there never was any such thing as the Armenian Genocide. You know, people make up the history they need and the Armenians need the Genocide to be Armenians. And besides, if we had really wanted to kill them all we would have used bullets and so this is hogwash” and on and on in that vein. The American side of the table was dumb-struck; I certainly was dumbstruck. This was a rant on the part of the Turkish official and it contained, within itself, such questionable assertions that, if anything, it only redoubled my conviction that this was an active process of denial. I parted with the Turkish ambassador by saying that the best thing that could happen…that we in Yerevan would love to see a Turkish ambassador accredited to Yerevan. Now this was my way of saying, really, you’ve got to establish diplomatic relations.
Anyway, just to finish up this story, I left Washington… and then got back to Yerevan, where I found on my desk two telegrams, one of which was a dictated apology for my words, written by the State Department, which I was instructed to post on the website of the embassy; in fact, it was already being put on the website by the time I got there. The other telegram was a fierce, very harsh excoriation of me for my actions written by Beth Jones, the assistant secretary, instructing me to respond on my first day in office, to explain my actions and to apologize personally to her for what she termed my “willful behavior.” And so I did respond and I apologized for having upset her but I did not retreat on the substance and I pointed out that Ronald Reagan had used the term as president and I don’t remember the exact…I basically apologized for my breach of my diplomatic duty to her but I did not apologize on the substance or I did not recant on the substance.
There followed a little hiccup in the placing of the apology on the website. In the process of transcribing the dictated apology, which used the term “events of 1915,” the transcribers putting it on the website, who were Armenian, substituted the term “Armenian genocide.” And so when it went up on the website the term “genocide” was there and apparently the Turkish ambassador or some member of his staff, in checking the Web, found that, called the State Department and said your ambassador is still using the term “genocide.” Well, as bad luck would have it, our power went off and I couldn’t get any…or the e-mail went down, more properly speaking. I couldn’t get an e-mail back to the State Department to explain what had happened and I didn’t really know what had happened. I called in my public affairs officer and said “how did this happen?” And he claimed that in the Armenian language version of the apology it had correctly used the euphemism but that in the American — the English — version it had used the term “Armenian Genocide,” and that it was an inadvertent mistake. Well, it certainly wasn’t I at that point who wanted to compound this difficulty but it happened and the fact that the e-mail was down meant that everybody in Washington was absolutely livid until I could…they could get my e-mail. They were still mad but at least they saw that it was a screw-up and not me again.
So this made life very difficult. For the rest of that week I contemplated — this was the beginning of March now of 2005 — I talked to a number of people on my staff and I came within, what would you say, within inches of resigning over this issue. And then I got a call from my wife who had stayed back in the United States and she said, “look, you haven’t told a lie, you haven’t said anything that the world doesn’t believe. The State Department is wrong about this; just stay there and do a good job.” And she had been talking to a lot of people too, and I said well, I think that’s what I’m going to do. So I did not resign.
Now, this was the Bush Administration where almost nobody ever resigned for doing things much worse than what I had done. So I decided to just stay there, see what would happen.
EVANS: They’re there. And indeed, in our last session I described to you my frustration at not being able to get the European Bureau to align its own Background Notes with the President’s much more forward-leaning statements on the Armenian Genocide. The President had referred to those events as “massacres,” as “murder,” as “forced deportations;” that is virtually using the definition of genocide without using the word genocide, whereas the State Department lagged behind the White House. The Background Notes suggested that the…said nothing about the year 1915 and suggested that the skies were blue and there was nary a cloud in the sky. And it was indeed the Turkish Mafia in the State Department, which is strong. We have a big contingent at all times in Turkey; we have consulates, we have people assigned there and coming back to the Turkish desk and, quite frankly, Laura Kennedy, the deputy assistant secretary, an old friend, had served in Turkey, and it was she who basically said “no, we’re not going to rock the boat at all.” And so when I did this it was out of frustration that we could not put our best foot forward on this issue as the White House had done; we the State Department were behind the White House.
This was a time of change in the State Department. I had made my remarks right at the cusp when Secretary Powell had left and Secretary Rice was just coming in and Beth Jones was ending her tenure. In fact, the Monday on which I sent my apology, my cable response to her was her last day at work. The new team that came in with Secretary Rice was composed of people who had been at the White House, and they apparently came in with a mandate to straighten out the State Department after the Powell days when they thought that the State Department was soft on Bush Administration positions. And I believe I got, to some extent, caught up in that.
After my apology had been published on the website in the correct version, not using the term Armenian genocide but the euphemism, I of course did not return to that subject as ambassador in Armenia. But then the award came through, the Christian Herter Award nomination, and I was asked would I come back in June to receive the award and I thought no, better not do that but I will send a statement. And in the statement that I composed I said “in all fairness this award should be given posthumously to President Ronald Reagan, who was the first American official to correctly term the events of 1915 a genocide, and not to me.” And then I said that the monetary award should be given to the AFSA scholarship fund.
Well, the next thing that happened was we were in the midst of a visit by a senator and a cable came in summoning me immediately to Washington. And I said I’ve got to finish this congressional visit but I can be there such and such a day so I came back to Washington on that day, arriving late in the day at Dulles; I was immediately asked to go see Dan Fried, the new assistant secretary of state for European affairs. When I got there it was clear this was a hanging court. A representative of the director of personnel was there, somebody from the European management bureau and Assistant Secretary Fried excoriated me in the harshest possible terms. What I particularly remember is he said, “how dare you jam the President on this?” And my answer was I had no intention of “jamming the President”; I simply was not going to continue in this misleading of American citizens. And he said, “well, what are you doing about the Christian Herter Award? Did you reject it?” And I said “no, I didn’t.” And he said, “well, you had better arrange that they don’t give it to you.” It turned out the following week the Turkish prime minister was to be in town and had meetings at the White House.
So I called my friends at AFSA and I said “look, I very much appreciate this award, it’s very kind of you to think of me. I know you probably felt you were throwing me a lifeline but maybe you ought to rethink it.” So the AFSA people went back and scratched their heads and came up with a technicality and rescinded the award, which they’d never done before. So that year, 2005, the Christian Herter Award was not awarded to anyone.
And the other thing that came out of my meeting with Assistant Secretary Fried who, by the way, previously had worked for me on the Soviet desk, he said “well, you’re going to have to leave.” And I said “well, it’ll take you a year to get another ambassador out there. Why don’t you at least let me finish up. I’m doing a great job.” And nobody disagreed that my work there in Armenia was fine. And he sort of mumbled and grumbled and I went back to Yerevan. We were just about to celebrate July 4 and I got a cell phone call in which Dan said “your job will be listed as a vacancy in this cycle and you will be leaving a year early.” I said, “okay.” But now, nobody else on my staff knew that; I was the only one who knew that I was to be replaced a year early.
So I continued doing my work and I, if anything, knowing that I only had another year, I was hyperactive, probably. I traveled all around, I did everything I could and packed a lot into that final year and then, sure enough, in the spring of 2006 it was announced that the President intended to nominate Richard Hoagland to be my successor. And I conveyed that to President Kocharian and obtained the agrément of the Armenian government.
But what happened back here in Washington was that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when it came time to confirm Dick Hoagland, who’s an old friend, as my successor, picked up on some things he said about the, I think it was that he said the “alleged Armenian Genocide” or the “alleged genocide,” and the committee did not confirm him. It was split not along party lines; there were Democrats and Republicans on both sides. What I didn’t know at the time was that one of the senators on the committee wrote a very strong letter to Secretary Rice saying that when U.S. policy compels an ambassador to distort the truth or at the very least to engage in convoluted reasoning it’s time to think about changing the policy. That senator was Barack Obama. I had, however, to comply with the…Well, when Dick was not confirmed I asked the State Department if they wanted me to stay and they said no, come home, and then of course it was clear that I had to retire. So I came home in September 2006 and retired even though I still had time, theoretically, on my clock and the post was vacant for another year until a new nominee was put forward, Masha Yovanovitch, who handled the question rather more adroitly. I think also the State Department had learned something by then. Dan Fried had gone so far in testimony in March of 2007 as to term the events of 1915 “ethnic cleansing.” Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for genocide. It is what the perpetrators call genocide but it is considered in international law to be a crime. So the State Department had moved a long way and it was felt that it was time for there to be another American ambassador there. I also think that Masha was better in her…she conveyed a sense of sympathy, a sincerity about the tragedy that befell the Armenians, which helped her be confirmed.
Q: Were you getting any reflections of your statements and all in the United States in Yerevan, from the government, from other people because was this played up or was there- Well anyway, was there recognition?
EVANS: Yes, it did become controversial in Yerevan although I continued not to discuss the issue publicly. I was mute on the issue publicly with one exception. After the AFSA award was given to me, my wife organized a birthday party for me in the middle of May, 2005. And to my surprise she got up at to make a toast and she told the guests at the dinner…there were about 18 people there and I guess some of them were Armenian officials, the deputy foreign minister was there and there were some ambassadors and my own deputy, Anthony Godfrey, and she read the citation for the Herter Award and said she was so proud of me for having won this, and I had to respond and I said, I made a kind of joke of it, I said “you know, having spent so many years in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union now I know what it feels like to be a dissident.” Now somehow that remark got back to the State Department and they were not happy. But there was controversy in the Armenian press; I mean, they were very complimentary of me for having said what I said but there were also conspiracy theories that you tend to get in that part of the world. Some of them may have been Iranian, instigated from Iran, I don’t know, but there was quite a swirl of controversy, and of course the Armenian-American newspapers were full of this news as well.
Now, perhaps…There were two things that happened. Because it was 2005 — the ninetieth anniversary of the genocide — there was a major international conference that took place in Yerevan and the foreign minister invited all ambassadors to attend it. I was told by my staff that I had better ask the State Department. I requested permission to attend and permission was denied — but my wife went.
And the other thing was that on April 24 of 2005…I’m sorry; it was on April 24 of 2006 now, when it was clear that I was going to be replaced and everyone understood the reason by this point or they guessed at the reason, I went to the commemoration, the annual commemoration of the Genocide, to lay a wreath, as the American ambassador has done since Harry Gilmore first did it without instructions, our first ambassador to Armenia. And when I got there, first of all there was an enormous display of yellow ribbons that had been put up by Armenians during the night. There was a long string of wires to which thousands of Armenians who go to the top of the hill to pay their respects, there’s an eternal flame there, there had been some American Armenians, “repatriates” as we called them, had gotten these yellow ribbons and they had…the Armenians, children, old people and so on, had put them on this enormous yellow wall in support of me and against my being recalled. I had been instructed to say absolutely nothing at the event, the commemoration event. When we were filing up towards the eternal flame with our wreaths, I had my defense attachés with me and the rest of the embassy staff, in fact, there was a small group of Armenian students with bells wearing yellow tee shirts, tolling their bells, and they had a big poster of some sort saying, quoting Martin Luther King, saying “in the end what we will remember is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” And that was in both Armenian and English. So I couldn’t say anything, but I noted this group of young people. And then I laid my wreath. My wife was with me and the staff. And then as we exited there was a huge group of television cameramen and reporters and the way it works is you emerge from a kind of a staircase and there was this phalanx of reporters but I had instructions to say nothing. But there were about 10 microphones in my face and I said “God bless you all” and then went to my car. I’m told that people cried, viewers of the television that day broke into tears, at that point.
Ambassador Evan’s full oral history interview via ADST is available here (pdf). Also the LA Times has a recent piece on Ambassador Evans in The diplomat who cracked.
The first female ambassador was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his first term. She was the first female member of U.S. Congress and the daughter of the 41st Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan.
Owen, Ruth (Bryan) (1885-1954) | Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, Denmark 1933-1936 (see Wikipedia entry).
During his second term, President Roosevelt appointed a second female ambassador, this time to Norway.
It was not until 1953 under President Eisenhower when the first female Foreign Service Officer was appointed ambassador. Frances E. Willis was appointed Ambassador to Switzerland in 1953, Ambassador to Norway in 1957, and Ambassador to Sri Lanka in 1961. She was the first female FSO conferred with the rank of Career Ambassador on March 20, 1962.
QUESTION: Henry Kissinger and George Shultz published a piece in the Wall Street Journal today that raised a lot of questions about the deal. These are diplomatic statesman types. Do you guys have any reaction to that? Do you think they were fair?
MS HARF: Well, the Secretary has spoken to a number of his predecessors that were former secretaries of state since we got this agreement – or since the parameters – excuse me – we got the parameters finalized. And we’re having conversations with other senior officials. We are happy to have that conversation about what this agreement is, what it isn’t, the work we still have to do, and how we are very confident that this achieves our objectives. And that conversation will certainly continue.
QUESTION: Okay. So one of the things they say is that “absent a linkage between nuclear and political restraint, America’s traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony” in the region. Not true?
MS HARF: I would obviously disagree with that. I think that an Iran backed up by a nuclear weapon would be more able to project power in the region, and so that’s why we don’t want them to get a nuclear weapon. That’s what this deal does.
QUESTION: Back when —
MS HARF: And I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives. I heard a lot of sort of big words and big thoughts in that piece, and those are certainly – there’s a place for that, but I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently. I know the Secretary values the discussions he has with his predecessors regardless of sort of where they fall on the specifics.
QUESTION: Well, I guess one of the criticisms is that there aren’t enough big words and big thought – or people argue that there are not enough big words and big thoughts in what the Administration is pursuing, its overall policy, particularly in the Middle East right now, which has been roiled with unrest and uncertainty. And I think that’s what the point is they’re making. That you reject, it, I understand that. One of the —
MS HARF: Well, in a region already roiled by so much uncertainty and unrest —
On that same day, conservative talk show radio host Hugh Hewitt had NYT’s David Brooks as guest and was asked about the Kissinger-Schultz op-ed, and the State Department’s official response to it. Click here for the transcript: Below is an audio of the exchange.
HH: David Brooks, this is the critique of the critics, is that we don’t have a lot of alternatives. In fact, every critic I’ve heard has alternatives, and I’m sure Kissinger and Schultz do. But a lot of big words? Really?
DB: Are we in nursery school? We’re not, no polysyllabic words? That’s about the lamest rebuttal of a piece by two senior and very well-respected foreign policy people as I’ve heard. Somebody’s got to come up with better talking points, whatever you think. And of course, there are alternatives. It’s not to allow them to get richer, but to force them to get a little poorer so they can fund fewer terrorism armies.
William M. Todd, apparently a friend of the Harf family reposted the Daily Caller story on his Facebook page with a note that says: “Team Obama bans polysyllabic words !!”
Here is the State Department’s Acting Spokesperson on Mr. Todd’s FB page.
Marie HarfBill – I’m not sure how you could think this article accurately portrays me or how I view complicated foreign policy issues, given how long you’ve personally known me and my family. Does your hatred of this administration matter so much to you that it justifies posting a hurtful comment and a mean-spirited story about the daughter of someone you’ve known for years and used to call a friend? There’s a way to disagree with our policies without making it personal. Growing up in Ohio, that’s how I was taught to disagree with people. I hope your behavior isn’t an indication that’s changed.
She also posted a lengthy follow-up response here from the Daily Press Briefing.
William M. Todd responded on FB with the following:
I certainly can understand why your Team would disagree with Henry Kissinger and George Schultz on policy matters. However, what is amazing to me was your condescending and, almost childish criticism of what I considered to be a well-reasoned and thoughtful op-ed on the current Middle East crisis.
So, this is where we are people.
That’s potentially the next official spokesperson of the United States of America to the world.
The question is why? Why is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) demanding that our diplomats self-certify that they have not committed a felony within the last seven years? The form says “disclosure of this information is voluntary.” But also that “failure to provide the information requested may result in delay or exclusion of your name on a Foreign Service nomination list.”
Career members of the Foreign Service must be promoted into the Senior Foreign Service by appointment of the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. This self-certification is reportedly also required for employees who are up for commissioning and tenuring at the Foreign Relations committee.
So basically in bullying our diplomats into signing this witless self-certification, the SFRC will be able to provide better advice to President Obama?
All Diplomats Must Hold and Keep Top Secret Clearances
The American diplomatic profession requires the issuance of a security clearance. All Foreign Service officers must hold and keep an active Top Secret security clearance.
The personnel security background investigation begins after an individual has been given a conditional offer of employment and has completed the appropriate security questionnaire, usually a Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, and other required forms. Once the security package is received by the Office of Personnel Security and Suitability, it is reviewed for completeness. National agency record checks and scanned fingerprint checks are then conducted. A case manager will direct the background investigation to cover key events and contacts from the individual’s past and present history. Once the investigators have completed a report, highly trained security clearance adjudicators will weigh the results against existing adjudicative guidelines for security clearances. A critical step in the background investigation is the face-to-face interview the individual will have with a DS investigator. This interview usually occurs within a few weeks of an individual submitting a complete security clearance package. Security clearances are subject to periodic reinvestigation every 5 years for TS clearance, and every 10 years for a Secret clearance.
When there is derogatory information, even based on preliminary facts from a DS criminal investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) counterintelligence or other law enforcement investigation, or an Inspector General investigation, the security clearance is suspended. Personnel whose security clearances have been suspended may not be placed on temporary duty status at diplomatic facilities abroad and may not be retained in positions requiring a security clearance until the investigation is resolved.
The names of those with pending investigations are automatically removed from the promotion list. It goes without saying …. oops, maybe it does need saying — diplomats who have pled guilty or convicted of a crime will not be able to hold a security clearance, much less have his/her name included in the promotion list.
Let’s give you an example — Michael Sestak, an FSO who pled guilty in a visa fraud-bribery case. He is currently sitting in jail. He’ll be sentenced in April. When he comes out of prison, he will not/not have a job to return to at the State Department. Does anyone at the SFRC really think that somebody like Mr. Sestak can slip through federal employment again, get on the promotion list and somehow make it through the most deliberative body in Congress. No? So why would anyone in the Senate think that this self-certification is anything but idiotic?
8,042 Diplomats Targeted
On March 2012, fcw.com cited 2,102,269 as the total number of executive branch employees. Of those, however, only 1,877,990 are full-time, permanent employees. These numbers reportedly do not include uniformed military personnel, or data on the Postal Service and excludes legislative and judicial branch employees.
Out of the 2.1 million employees, the State Department has a total of 71,782 employees which includes 47,110 Foreign Service National (FSN) employees; 10,871 Civil Service (CS) employees and 13,801 (FS) Foreign Service employees as of December 2014 (see stats here-pdf.)
Of the total 13,801 Foreign Service employees, 8,042 are considered “Generalists” and 5,759 are “Specialists.” The “Specialists which include DS agents, and HR, IT professionals are not subject to Senate confirmation. The “Generalists” are the Foreign Service Officers whose tenure and promotion are subject to confirmation by the United States Senate.
The Senate majority in the Foreign Relations Committee appears to be targeting only Foreign Service officers. FSOs, and FSOs alone have been asked to self-certify that they have not been “convicted of or pled guilty of any crime” in the last seven years. As far as we are aware, this requirement does not extend to nominees who are political appointees.
What makes career diplomats special, pray tell?
The White House Knows About This? You Gotta be Kidding.
This self-certification form which is not available at OPM.gov and does not include an official form number says that “The information collected and maintained in this form will be used as part of the vetting process for Foreign Service Lists submitted to the White House for eventual nomination to the Senate.”
An informed source told us that this self-certification had been negotiated between a representative of AFSA, a staffer at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the State Department.
No, there were no photos.
Apparently, there also was no White House representative involved, although you might missed that when reading the unclassified State Department 14 STATE 98420 cable dated Aug 12, 2014, which says in part:
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) now requires additional vetting before it considers nominees for confirmation in all of the above-mentioned categories. Effective immediately all employees in those categories who have been nominated on or after April 1, 2014 must file a self-certification form certifying that they have not been convicted of a crime or pled guilty in any court over the past seven years, regardless of whether the record in the case has been sealed, expunged, or otherwise stricken from the court record. HR will notify those employees who are up for commissioning, tenure and SFS promotion that they must submit the form, available at: [Note: we redacted sbu link]and which must be submitted to HR-PasSelfCertificat@state.gov.
Please note: failure to submit the form will mean that HR will not/not forward your name to the White House for nomination to the Senate. There is no waiver of the SFRC requirement. For those individuals who are unable to make the certification, and wish to provide information relevant to any conviction or guilty plea in the last seven years, they may report the information in the space provided on the form. Further investigation may be made on the basis of any additional information provided. The Department may then be required to provide this information to the SFRC.
AFSA and the State Department must realized that this is a meaningless and coersive made-up document, but both rolled over and played dead. No other nominees of any agency of the U.S. government are obliged to sign such a certificate, which is essentially, again, meaningless in the context of a profession in which an active security clearance is a prerequisite to the performance of a job.
The SFRC can hold up ambassadorial nominations, senior State Dept level nominations (undersecretaries/assistant secretaries), and decide who to put first on the hearings list and who to put last (see Happy Easter Greeting: SFRC Left Town With 19 Ambassadorial Nominations Still Stuck on Glue!). The simple act of holding up large numbers of nominees rather than passing them through at a reasonable pace wreaks havoc on State’s budget, assignments process, and people’s lives. (see Is the U.S. Senate Gonna Wreck, Wreck, Wreck, the Upcoming Bidding Season in the Foreign Service?) Salaries, promotions, transfers, offices, authorities are money. Ambassadors who do not go to posts on time have big time resource implications in addition to political implications. People who do not have the legal authority to do their jobs (is a consular officer’s notarial legal if he/she did not receive Senate confirmation?) operate in a legal limbo presumably implying risks of all kinds.
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Why not ‘just do it’ like Nike? It’s already done but it’s a horrible precedent, what’s next?
This is already being done. Folks have already signed this self-certifying documents and have submitted them as a requirement to their nominations. They don’t really have a choice, do they? But where does it end?
We’ve learned that the SFRC gets information on names recommended for promotion from the State Department “following vetting” and also directly from the OIG, including information that reportedly goes back decades.
That’s right, going back decades.
If an FSO or any employee is charged with a crime, the employee defends himself/herself in court, and if charged with an administrative matter, the employee defends himself/herself in an HR process. That’s how it works.
One SFRC staffer is now reportedly “negotiating” to gain access to OIG investigative data under the guise of allowing the Senate panel to better advise President Obama concerning the qualifications of Foreign Service Officer candidates. But what the SFRC is now “negotiating” with State and AFSA would be access to raw OIG and Diplomatic Security reports containing derogatory information without any of an employee’s mitigating, exculpatory or defensive evidence information. You okay with that?
What is Senator Corker’s SFRC going to ask for next, your diplomatic liver?
The White House seems asleep at the wheel on this. Today, it’s the State Department, tomorrow, it could be any agency in the Federal Government.
Hey, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is doing it, what’s the rest of the Senate going to ask for next?