UN Undiplomatic Mess Refuses to Go Away

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Emblem_of_th...Image via Wikipedia
Where the saga of former Ambassador Peter Galbraith, Kai Eide, and the United Nations continue …

December 10
| According to Peter Galbraith, he initiated a wrongful dismissal action against the United Nations.

December 11
| The Guardian reported that Kai Eide, the top United Nations official in Afghanistan who was criticised for his handling of allegations of fraud in the country’s presidential election, will not be renewing his contract.

December 11
| Inner City Press had this piece: Galbraith Claims Disclosed Oil Interest to UN, Eide Leaked Before Leaving? | “Inner City Press has asked the UN if Galbraith disclosed the oil interest. UN Ethics Officer Robert Benson responded that Galbraith filed a form, but that its contents will not be disclosed, even to the UN’s executive 38th floor, apparently. The financial disclosure forms are filed with PriceWaterhouseCoopers. It is unclear who in the UN system vets them for conflicts of interest. […]Still, UN officials have bad mouthed Galbraith both on and off the record. At a press conference at UN headquarters, the number two official of UN Peacekeeping Edmond Mulet said that Galbraith had an ulterior motive which would later be revealed. And a senior UN official from the 38th floor called UN correspondents to make them aware of the Norwegian stories.”

December 14
| Josh Rogin of The Cable interviewed Galbraith | Galbraith: Eide was fired | “Kai Eide, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, was forcibly removed and did not resign voluntarily as he claims, according to his former deputy and “frenemy,” Peter Galbraith. “This was involuntary and inevitable, ever since the end of September,” said Galbraith in an interview with The Cable. Relaying information from his discussions with U.N. staff on the ground in Kabul, Galbraith said that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has made it clear that he wants to announce Eide’s successor during January’s London conference on Afghanistan.”

December 16
| NYT | U.N. Officials Say American Offered Plan to Replace Karzai | “As widespread fraud in the Afghanistan presidential election was becoming clear three months ago, the No. 2 United Nations official in the country, the American Peter W. Galbraith, proposed enlisting the White House in a plan to replace the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, according to two senior United Nations officials.”
The two senior UN officials were Kai Eide, Norwegian diplomat and the topdog at UNAMA in Kabul who is feuding with Galbraith and Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. According to the report, Nambiar was aware of Mr. Galbraith’s proposal to go to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and later learned of Mr. Karzai’s anger over the episode. Mr. Nambiar said it played a role in Mr. Galbraith’s firing.

December 17
| NYT | Diplomat to Challenge Dismissal by U.N. After Afghan Vote | “Peter W. Galbraith, the American diplomat who was dismissed by the United Nations after exposing voter fraud this fall after the Afghan presidential election, has decided to challenge his dismissal.”

December 18
| From the UN Spokesperson | Spokesperson: “This was circulated quite widely, I believe. The reason Peter Galbraith’s appointment as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was terminated was because the Secretary-General determined that such action would be in the interests of the Organization. And then we added, further elaboration would not be appropriate at this time since Mr. Galbraith has chosen to challenge the termination of his appointment. That’s what we said.”

December 19: Inner City Press: As UN Dodges Questions on Galbraith, Stonewalling or Whistleblowing? | “I’m sick of Peter Galbraith,” a senior UN official told Inner City Press on December 18. “It’s over. I don’t think we should be commenting on it anymore.” Compared to the bloodshed in Afghanistan, the firing of one UN official does seem small. But at times it appears that the “it” being avoided is the indisputably fraudulent election of Hamid Karzai, and the UN’s role in it.”

December 21
| Peter Galbraith | Special to Sphere: ‘I Never Proposed to Oust Karzai’ | Readers deserve context in order to understand a complex story. In this case, the Times deliberately excluded information that would have presented the accusations in a much different light. The truth is that I never proposed to oust Karzai, but instead tried to resolve a looming constitutional crisis caused by Karzai’s maneuvering to stay in office a year beyond the end of his legal term — without submitting himself to the inconvenience of an election.
It strains credulity to believe that I proposed a plot to oust Karzai to a lesser embassy official (as the Times reports) and he never informed his ambassador or Holbrooke. To be clear, I never proposed to oust Karzai to anyone in the U.S. government, and any discussion would have been about the constitutional issues involved in holding a runoff in May 2010. (Note: NYT reported that Galbraith discussed his plan with Frank Ricciardone, the deputy American ambassador in Kabul).
Mr. Eide is quoted in the Times as saying President Karzai was “deeply upset” about my supposed plan but fails to disclose how Mr. Karzai would have learned of this very private conversation between Mr. Eide and myself.

December 21:
Gerard Russell Former British and United Nations Diplomat | Afghanistan’s Elections: How Dr. House Can help: “UN internal division between Kai Eide and Peter Galbraith being still in the news, though, it’s impossible for me to forget it. (I am also reminded of it every time I look at my bank balance, since my unhappiness with that process and its aftermath led me to resign from the UN before I started to receive a stipend from Harvard. And as the poet Juvenal said, integrity is all very well, but it doesn’t pay your bills.) I am happy to pass over the Eide-Galbraith story, which was an unpleasant enough experience at the time without my re-living it here. But the fact that Galbraith has been the only person to have lost his job as a result of the fraud in those elections — this is not about past history. It’s about over $200 million in donor funds that were, in part, misused. This was an Afghan election, an exercise which was rightly led by Afghans (even if the Electoral Commission’s head was appointed by one of the candidates, which was always an obvious flaw in the process). But it was also a donor-funded project, and donors have the right — even the duty — to verify that taxpayers’ money was well spent.” (Um, ‘xcuse me, side quiz — where was SIGAR on this?).
Mr. Galbraith reportedly said that he has begun UN legal proceedings not to get his job back – but to get justice.
Well, this is bound to be a painful experience for the United Nations going into the new year. Who’s running this show from the 38th floor, anyways? They may not realize this yet, but every time their officials disses Peter Galbraith, readers and viewers are also reminded of that inglorious Afghanistan election conducted under UNAMA’s watch.

I wonder if there’s anyone out there who’ll get out of this meze fight with a clean shirt?

AFSA Received Letter from DOL. 11 Days Ago…

As far as I could tell, this has not gone out on AFSANET, but NDS at Calling a Spade a Spade has the text of the message released by the American Foreign Service Association to its membership even as its offices were closed due to inclement weather yesterday, December 21. Letter reprinted in full below (h/t to NDS):

On December 10, AFSA received a letter from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) conveying the results of their investigation of the 2009 AFSA Governing Board elections. The letter states that the DOL investigation found probable cause to conclude that the election may not have been conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), mentioning that state.gov e-mail addresses, AFSA members’ email address lists, and the Foreign Service Journal were used to promote the campaigns of both slates.

The DOL invited AFSA to meet and discuss their findings and to seek to agreement on future action, which we welcome and are pursuing. AFSA election reform and in particular clarifying and updating appropriate means of campaign communication is a priority.

The current AFSA Governing Board continues to be the duly constituted Governing Board until the next election is held. We will keep you informed of developments as they occur.

This looks like item# 2 in my list of post-election possibilities:

— Wrongdoing occurred but results stand: If OLMS decide that wrongdoing occurred but it did not affect the outcome of the election, it could rule that the election results stand as is.

I would like to see the DOL decision myself but so far, no one has been kind enough to send it to me and I doubt very much if AFSA will post it on its website or Facebook page.

Related Posts:

Labor Dept Slow to Help Injured War Zone Contractors

T. Christian Miller of ProPublica reports that under Secretary Hilda Solis, the Labor Department has continued to be slow to act in its oversight of medical care for civilian workers injured in war zones (Read Injured Abroad, Neglected at Home: Labor Dept. Slow to Help War Zone Contractors | December 17, 2009). The report states that DOL has failed to pursue sanctions against corporations accused of ignoring federal requirements to purchase such insurance, according to a ProPublica review of court cases, federal records and interviews with worker advocates. Quick excerpts below:

The department has also taken no action in cases where insurance carriers allegedly provided false or misleading information to the federal government to terminate medical benefits for injured civilians–another potential crime under the law, known as the Defense Base Act [2].

The lack of enforcement has allowed carriers and contract companies to abuse the system by avoiding or blocking payments, forcing contractors to spend months and sometimes years battling carriers in court for benefits, claimants and their attorneys said.
But the ProPublica examination shows that the department has rarely deployed the tools available under the law to crack down on fraud and abuse–a record that extends back through Democratic and Republican administrations. Labor officials can recommend cases for prosecution to the Justice Department–but have only done so once in the past two decades, according to Labor officials.

They can directly levy civil penalties, but have done so sparingly. As of June, Labor officials have imposed fines in only about 50 of more than 36,000 cases processed by the two largest insurance carriers, according to an internal Congressional memo [3] obtained by ProPublica.
Passed in 1941, the Defense Base Act requires every company with an overseas U.S. contract to obtain health insurance for its workers. But no single U.S. agency is fully in charge of implementing the program, which has exploded since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 1,600 civilians have died and 37,000 have reported injuries.
“We put our lives in danger for our military. We supply them with water, food, ammunition, housing. And yet, we’re screwed,” said Philemon, an Air Force veteran. “I almost give my life for my country and I get treated like dirt? “Something’s not right with that picture,” he said.

Read the whole thing here.

Quickie: A surge at $57,077.60 a minute

Boots on the GroundImage by Jayel Aheram via Flickr

Jo Comerford
writing for Tomdispatch calculates the cost of the 30,000-troop surge to Afghanistan ($57,077.60 Surging by the Minute):

“Women and men from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will be among the first to head out. It takes an estimated $1 million to send each of them surging into Afghanistan for one year. So a 30,000-person surge will be at least $30 billion, which brings us to that $57,077.60. That’s how much it will cost you, the taxpayer, for one minute of that surge. […]

For purposes of comparison, $30 billion — remember, just the Pentagon-estimated cost of a 30,000-person troop surge — is equal to 80% of the total U.S. 2010 budget for international affairs, which includes monies for development and humanitarian assistance.”

Read the whole thing here.