Democratic Pakistan Bans BBC World News Over "Secret Pakistan" Documentary

Deutsch: Logo des Fernsehsenders BBC World News.Image via WikipediaAccording  to BBC News, Pakistani cable television operators have begun blocking the BBC’s international news TV channel, BBC World News. This move was apparently due to a critical documentary broadcast entitled Secret Pakistan. Excerpts:

The BBC said it was deeply concerned by the move, and called for its channel to be speedily reinstated.

“We condemn any action that threatens our editorial independence and prevents audiences from accessing our impartial international news service,” a BBC spokesperson said.

“We would urge that BBC World News and other international news services are reinstated as soon as possible.”

The two-part BBC documentary questioned the country’s commitment to tackling Taliban militancy.
The decision to block BBC World News and other international news channels comes after a media uproar in Pakistan over a Nato air strike that killed 24 Pakistani troops near the Afghan border at the weekend.

The All Pakistan Cable Operators Association announced on Tuesday that all foreign news channels airing “anti-Pakistan” content would be barred from Wednesday.

The operators called on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) “to revoke the landing rights of foreign channels” if they are found to be “propagating” information harmful to the country.
Correspondents say it is not possible to see BBC World News in most Pakistani cities, with the ban expected to be extended to rural areas by Wednesday.

Cable Operators Association spokesman Khalid Arain said that no foreign anti-Pakistan channel would “ever” be broadcast in the country.

“We want to send them a strong message to stop this. If they don’t stop this, then it is our right to stop them,” he said.

Correspondents say the Pakistani government is likely to have put pressure on the operators to impose the ban.

Active link added above.  Read in full here.

The two-part documentary is, of course, now available on YouTube for everyone to see and unless pulled by BBC for copyright issues, available to anyone with access to the web. 

Secret Pakistan : Documentary by BBC Part 1
(Double Cross) | Length: 59:03

from BBC: In May this year, US Special Forces shot and killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Publicly Pakistan is one of America’s closest allies – yet every step of the operation was kept secret from it.

Filmed largely in Pakistan and Afghanistan, this two-part documentary series explores how a supposed ally stands accused by top CIA officers and Western diplomats of causing the deaths of thousands of coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. It is a charge denied by Pakistan’s military establishment, but the documentary makers meet serving Taliban commanders who describe the support they get from Pakistan in terms of weapons, training and a place to hide.

This first episode investigates signs of duplicity that emerged after 9/11 and disturbing intelligence reports after Britain’s forces entered Helmand in 2006.

Secret Pakistan : Documentary by BBC Part 2
(Backlash) | Length: 58:59

from BBC: The second film in this timely and enthralling two-part documentary series reveals how Britain and America discovered compelling evidence that Pakistan was secretly helping the Taliban and concluded they had been double-crossed.

It tells the story of how under President Obama the US has waged a secret war against Pakistan. Taliban commanders tell the film makers that to this day Pakistan shelters and arms them, and helps them kill Western troops – indeed one recently captured suicide bomber alleges he was trained by Pakistani intelligence.

Chillingly, the film also reveals that, based on some evidence, Pakistani intelligence stands accused of sabotaging possible peace talks. Pakistan denies these charges, but relations between Pakistan and America now verge on hostility.

Since it is inevitable that some clips of this documentary will bleed into prime time news, I suspect that a host of foreign channels will also be banned for “propagating information harmful to the country.”

Perhaps, the cable operators would like to use the following programming filler – a music video, titled “Zindagi Hai Yahan.”  This has been created to showcase the treasures of the beautiful valley of Swat and promote it as a premium tourist destination in Pakistan, with assistance from USAID and the people of the United States of America:

Read more on Tourism Takes On Taliban (IPS) and USAID Support to Tourism in Swat

Iranian Mob Attacks British Embassy in Tehran — It’s Dejavu All Over Again!

I went to bed last night after posting a piece on Moorhead C. Kennedy Jr.’s article on the US Embassy hostages and woke up this morning to news that an Iranian mob has attacked the British Embassy in Tehran. Like Yogi Berra says, it’s dejavu all over again.  Video below Via RT:

Dorsa Jabbari, of Al Jazeera reporting from Tehran, said that the men indicate “they would not leave until they get direct orders to do so from the Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hossein Khamenei.” Excerpts below:

The British foreign ministry issued a statement saying it was “outraged” by the situation.
“It is utterly unacceptable and we condemn it,” it said.

The Fars news agency also reported that six British embassy workers were freed by Iranian security forces and turned over to UK government representatives.
Our correspondent said that the police and various ministries had prior knowledge of the protest, which was organised by the student arm of the Basij armed group.

“Any such action of this could scale can never be independent in the Islamic Republic. These gatherings are always approved by higher officials,” said Jabbari.
Iran’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying it regrets the attack against the embassy, and that Tehran is committed to the safety of diplomats.

It’s not like this has not happened before.

In 1979, a group of Islamist students and militants took over the
American Embassy in Tehran in support of the Iranian Revolution.  US
hostages endured 444 days of captivity until their release on January
20, 1981.

Not to make light of that horrible experience by our diplomats, but the Russians way back had to bury their whole diplomatic staff. 

In 1829, an Iranian mob stormed and destroyed the Russian embassy and decapitated the Russian ambassador, Alexander Griboyedov. He was Russia’s ambassador to Qajar Persia, where he was massacred along with the whole embassy by the angry local mob. According to this entry in Wikipedia, the Russian government demanded severe punishment of those responsible. In fear, the court of Shah Fath Ali Shah sent the Shah’s grandson Khosrow Mirza to Saint Petersburg, where he gave the Shah diamond to the Russian Tsar as a present. In 1914, the Shah diamond came to the Kremlin Diamond Fund, where it is exhibited as one of Seven Historical Gems.

Taking Care of the "Troops" — The State Department Way

Back in March, I posted a first person account of an FSO in Mexico amidst that country’s shooting war. (see US Mission Mexico: First Person from a Border Post).

I also did a follow-up post, In a War That Must Not Be Named, Leadership and Security On the Line. 

This is what I wrote then:

I supposed we may think of life in the Service as if it were a scale — the national strategic and security priorities on one side and on the other side, the acceptable personal risk of the employees.   But not everyone will get to look at that scale. And not everyone will get to make the judgment call.  Employees do not get to vote, diplomatic missions are not democracies.

That might as well apply to the mothership of diplomatic missions.

Thirty-two years ago, our diplomats were taken hostage in Iran. Moorhead C. Kennedy Jr. who served as an economic and commercial officer in the U.S. embassy in Iran during the hostage crisis has written an op-ed over in Politico asking “Whose side is the State Dept. on?”

“I was one of the 66 U.S. citizens taken hostage in Tehran in November 1979. Ten months before, revolutionary militants stormed the U.S. embassy, holding the mission personnel hostage for several hours and generating fear for the safety of the remaining Americans in Iran. After this group of U.S. Foreign Service personnel were recovered and removed, our State Department sent out a request to all its posts worldwide, seeking volunteers to staff the embassy in Tehran. Volunteers were informed that it was safe in Tehran and were encouraged to bring their families, including preschool-age children. In all, 66 Foreign Service officers answered this call to serve.

It was not as safe as the State Department had indicated. By October it had seriously deteriorated, as the Carter administration agreed to allow the shah to enter the U.S. for medical treatment.

As Carter had predicted, in reaction to Washington’s acceptance of the
shah, hundreds of thousands of Iranians demonstrated throughout Tehran.
Nov 4, a group of Iranians stormed the U.S. embassy, kidnapping 52
Americans. That they did so with the blessings (and under the apparent
direction) of Tehran can hardly be challenged, since less than a month
later, the government announced its intention to try the hostages as
spies and execute them — unless the U.S. paid $24 billion.
Ultimately, in January 1981, the Carter administration entered into a series of agreements known as the Algiers accords. These provided Iran a $7.8 billion payment and established the U.S.-Iran Claims Tribunal — through which businesses and financial institutions could file and obtain compensations for property and contract claims against Iran.
The accords, however, contained a provision that precluded the 52 hostages and their families from bringing suit against Iran for seizure, detention and injuries. They, and only they, were unable to obtain any compensation for the life-changing injuries they suffered while in the service of our country as volunteers answering the call of our government.
Congress has passed various statutes, allowing US nationals, victimized by terrorism, to obtain compensation for injuries. Literally hundreds have pursued claims in U.S. courts and received compensation for terrorism sponsored by Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea and Libya.

The Tehran embassy hostages also sought to pursue similar claims in U.S. Courts. In August 2001, we obtained a judgment against Iran — which had refused to appear to defend their indefensible conduct. But the State Department intervened to protect Iran’s interests, asserting that dismissal was necessary to protect U.S. national security interests and uphold the waiver of claims in the Algiers Accords.
In the next 10 years, all our appeals, and other efforts to obtain justice and compensation, have been defeated by the State Department. At the same time, the department has aggressively protected the rights of all U.S. corporations and banks to seek compensation from Iran. Indeed each claim has been adjudicated, and literally billions of dollars awarded, through these channels and paid by Iran.

The signal that Iran has drawn from this is clear – the U.S. cares about protecting interests of its corporations — but has no real interest in protecting its diplomats, no matter the State Department’s lip service about to the importance of diplomatic immunity and the sacrosanct status of our embassies.”

Read in full here.

I think his question deserves an answer.

Here is the relevant part of the Algiers Accords signed on January 19, 1981:

11. Upon the making by the Government of Algeria of the certification described in Paragraph 3 above, the United States will promptly withdraw all claims now pending against Iran before the International Court of Justice and will thereafter bar and preclude the prosecution against Iran of any pending or future claim of the United States or a United States national arising out of events occurring before the date of this declaration related to (A) the seizure of the 52 United States nationals on November 4, 1979, (B) their subsequent detention, (C) injury to United States property or property of the United States nationals within the United States Embassy compound in Tehran after November 3, 1979, and (D) injury to the United States nationals or their property as a result of popular movements in the course of the Islamic Revolution in Iran which were not an act of the Government of Iran. The United States will also bar and preclude the prosecution against Iran in the courts of the United States of any pending or future claim asserted by persons other than the United States nationals arising out of the events specified in the preceding sentence.

The late Warren Christopher, then the State Department’s Deputy Secretary negotiated the agreement. He was appointed 63rd Secretary of State from January 20, 1993 – January 17, 1997 by President Clinton.

Delays in Haiti Reconstruction Connected to USAID Staffing Difficulties

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just released its report on the post-earthquake reconstruction in Haiti. The report notes that of the total funding of $411.6 allocated for reconstruction after the earthquake, only $3.1 million or less than 1% had been expended:

As of September 30, 2011, USAID and State allocated $411.6 million for bilateral post-earthquake infrastructure construction activities in Haiti using $356.9 million in fiscal year (FY) 2010 supplemental funds and $54.8 million from regular fiscal year appropriations.9 In addition, USAID and State had obligated $48.4 million10 (11.8 percent) and expended $3.1 million (0.8 percent) of the total allocated, as shown in table 2.11.

Quick background on Haiti from GAO:

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with more than 75 percent of the population living on less than $2 per day and the unemployment rate estimated at 60 to 70 percent. These conditions were exacerbated when the largest earthquake in Haiti’s recorded history devastated parts of the country, including the capital, on January 12, 2010. Since then, Haiti has suffered from a cholera epidemic that has affected over 450,000 persons and caused over 6,000 deaths. In addition, Haiti has experienced political uncertainty following the earthquake. Due to the inconclusive presidential election of November 2010, the new President was not inaugurated until May 2011. On May 13, 2011, the U.S. and Haitian governments signed the Haiti Reconstruction Grant Agreement.

The GAO report cites USAID’s staffing difficulties as a factor in delaying USAID infrastructure construction activities in Haiti. Excerpts below:

Within a month after the earthquake, 10 of the mission’s 17 U.S. direct-hire staff12had departed Haiti, leaving the mission with 7 staff in country to manage a program heavily involved in massive relief operations and anticipating an increase in reconstruction activities. According to mission officials, U.S. direct-hire staff were permitted to leave for several reasons, primarily because approximately 40 percent of U.S. embassy housing was damaged or destroyed, the school for mission staff children was damaged and not functional, and staff were experiencing emotional challenges after the earthquake.

To fill the U.S. direct-hire vacancies, USAID posted 10 routine agency wide job announcements in March 2010, but no U.S. direct-hire staff applied. According to USAID officials, potential applicants did not apply due to, among other things, the damaged school, uncertainty about the quality of life in Haiti, and the lack of financial or other incentives in the job announcements. In May 2010, USAID again posted the 10 job announcements and, this time, attracted a number of applicants because the postings included financial incentives and waived the requirement that successful applicants bid on positions in four USAID-designated critical priority countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Sudan—upon completion of their tours in Haiti.

Having received a sufficient number of applicants for the May 2010 posting, the mission soon selected the staff. However, U.S. direct-hire staff did not begin to arrive in Haiti until early 2011 because, among other things, households and families had to be moved and some staff required up to 6 months in language training. In addition to filling existing positions, USAID received approval from the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti in February 2011 for 15 additional U.S. direct-hire staff to manage the surge in earthquake-related funding.14 These positions were announced and some candidates selected when the approval was granted in February 2011. Eleven had arrived as of September 2011 and, according to mission officials, all are expected to arrive in Haiti by February 2012. However, the mission will be implementing infrastructure construction activities until at least 2015, according to USAID planning documentation. During the next 4 years, U.S. direct-hire staff will have opportunities to bid for other positions at other posts. As U.S. direct-hire staff leave Haiti, the mission will need to replace them in order to continue the progress of infrastructure construction activities.
To meet the increased need for mission staff to manage the program, the agency temporarily hired or reassigned staff, including staff from its Haiti Task Team in Washington, D.C., to complete more than 400 temporary duty assignments for periods ranging from one week to several months.17For example, USAID used personal services contracts to hire staff to provide financial management expertise; assigned headquarters-based staff from its Latin America and Caribbean Bureau to manage and oversee rubble removal and other efforts; and provided fiscal year 2010 supplemental funding to an implementing organization to manage people who repaired roads, cleaned drainage canals, and performed other rehabilitation activities.

According to mission officials, planning and implementation of reconstruction activities were delayed because the few staff remaining in Haiti were heavily involved in recruiting, placing, and training temporary staff in Haiti. Senior mission staff stated that, for many temporary staff positions, the mission had to develop detailed scopes of work for the positions and then brief and train newly arrived staff on substantive issues. In addition, mission staff noted that the continuity of efforts was sometimes problematic as multiple staff, who turned over frequently, managed the efforts.

HAITI RECONSTRUCTION: Factors Contributing to Delays in USAID Infrastructure Construction | November 2011(pdf)



Governor #HeBlowsALot Apologizes for Twitter Flap Over in Kansas, USA

Oh, Sam Brownback, one of the Senate’s old advocate for human rights in North Korea who decamped to Kansas, USA after the last election is back in the news, and not in a good way.

As the story goes — Shawnee Mission East senior Emma Sullivan, 18 and apparently newly registered voter went with a group of students to the statehouse for a Youth in Government program.

Must have been exciting, she tweeted:

Oops! Except that it’s not even true … she did not actually said that to the guv, but she did tweet it.

Normally, a tweet like that gets overtaken by well, a whole lot of noise in the twitterverse.

But not this time.  Apparently, Governor Brownback’s office monitor social media comments over there in Kansas and saw this tweet. And so the highschooler was reported by the governor’s office to Youth in Government officials. When this hit the news, Gov. Brownback’s spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag then said, “It was important for the organization to be aware of the comments their students were making. It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet.” She added of Sullivan’s tweet, “That wasn’t respectful. In order to really have a constructive dialogue, there has to be mutual respect.”

Holy molly guacamole …. where or where did this woman learn her public affairs skills, from Vladimir Putin’s Russia?

So then, the highschooler was called into the principal’s office where Mr. Krawitz, the principal asked her to write a letter of apology to Governor Brownback and his staff. Apparently, Monday was the due date for the letter.

In the meantime,  #heblowsalot started picking up on Twitter.

Somebody even bothered to make a poster here and here.

I imagined it was a rough weekend over there in Kansas.  As if the bad publicity was not enough, there is also a fake Sam Brownback Twitter account. And in the last 24 hours, a Govblowsalot account, specializing in twittermockery was born.

Then Monday came, and the school district, after a weekend of adverse publicity released the following statement:

“District officials have reviewed recent events surrounding the reported tweet by Shawnee Mission East High School student Emma Sullivan.  The district acknowledges a student’s right to freedom of speech and expression is constitutionally protected.

“The district has not censored Miss Sullivan nor infringed upon her freedom of speech.  She is not required to write a letter of apology to the Governor.  Whether and to whom any apologies are issued will be left to the individuals involved.

“The issue has resulted in many teachable moments concerning the use of social media.  The district does not intend to take any further action on this matter.”

Also on Monday, at 10:46am, Governor Brownback’s statement regarding Emma Sullivan’s tweet was posted on Facebook:

Topeka – Kansas Governor Sam Brownback issued the following statement today regarding the tweet by Emma Sullivan:

“My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms.

I enjoyed speaking to the more than 100 students who participated in the Youth in Government Program at the Kansas Capitol. They are our future.

I also want to thank the thousands of Kansas educators who remind us daily of our liberties, as well as the values of civility and decorum.

Again, I apologize for our over-reaction.”

Yep, Emma, you’re not in Kansas, Russia. 

As of this writing, Emma Sullivan!/emmakate988 has 11,264 followers, up from 60.

The official Gov. Brownback account!/govsambrownback is holding on to its 3,230 followers.

And the guv’s social media monitoring shop just got a heck lot more stuff to monitor.


The Peter Van Buren Chronicles — John Brown Interviews State’s FSO-Non Grata

John H. Brown, a Princeton PhD, joined the Foreign Service in 1981 and served in London, Prague, Krakow, Kiev, Belgrade and Moscow. He was a member of the Senior Foreign Service when he resigned from the FS in 2003 over Iraq. He blogs in John Brown’s Notes and Essays and John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review, Version 2.0.  Excerpts below from his interview with FSO Peter Van Buren.

Would you advise young — and not so young — people to join the US Foreign Service?

Before getting dumped into admin leave limbo, my position was at the Board of Examiners, where for over a year since returning from Iraq I administered the Oral Exam and helped choose the next generation of Foreign Service officers. I was competent at the task, got a good performance review and, after a year on the job, it was only after my book came out that State decided I could not work there.

So, I spent a lot of time around people interested in a Foreign Service career. They did not ask for advice and at the Board we did not offer it. However, since my book came out and I have gotten some media attention, ironically more people now approach me with your same question about joining the Foreign Service. Too much irony these days.

What I tell them is this: think very, very carefully about a Foreign Service career. The State Department is looking for a very specific kind of person and if you are that person, you will enjoy your career and be successful. I have come to understand that the Department wants smart people who will do what they are told, believing that intelligence can be divorced from innovation and creativity. Happy, content compliance is a necessary trait. The Department will not give you any real opportunity for input for a very long time, years, if ever. Even Consular work, which used to offer some space, now has fallen victim to standardization as posts must conform web sites to a single model, for example. There is no agreed-upon definition of success or even progress at State, no profits, no battles won, no stock prices to measure. Success will be to simply continue to exist, or whatever your boss says it is, or both, or neither. You may never know what the point is other than a Congressional delegation go away “happy,” whatever that even is.

At the same time, State has created a personnel system that will require you to serve in more and more dangerous places, and more and more unaccompanied places, as a routine. That sounds cool and adventurous at age 25, but try and imagine if you’d still be happy with it at age 45 with a spouse and two kids. What are your core obligations with a child who needs some extreme parenting as you leave your wife at home alone with him for a year?

Understand that promotions and assignments are more and more opaque. Changes in Congress will further limit pay and benefits. Your spouse will be un/under employed most of his/her life. Your kids will change schools for better or worse every one, two or three years. Some schools will be good, some not so good, and you’ll have no choice unless you are willing to subvert your career choices to school choices, as in let’s go to Bogota because the schools are good even if the assignment otherwise stinks. You’ll serve more places where you won’t speak the language and get less training as requirements grow without personnel growth. As you get up there, remember your boss can arbitrarily be a used car salesman who donated big to the President’s campaign. Make sure all these conditions make sense to you now, and, if you can, as you imagine yourself 10, 15 and 20 years into the future. It is a very unique person who can say “Yes” truthfully and after real soul-searching.

The full interview with Mr. Van Buren is here.

John also reviewed Peter’s book for American Diplomacy here.  Plus here’s a couple of other book reviews from FS folks below.

from Well, That Was Different

“If you’re going to torpedo your career, you should have a good reason.  And this is a story that needed to be told. I wish Peter Van Buren all the best in what appears to be his second career as a writer. And I hope that some day, a person in a position to make a difference will have read and carefully considered his story before pulling the trigger on a similar crusade mission.”

from Dan Simpson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Dan Simpson, a retired U.S. ambassador, is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette associate editor.  He previously served as United States Ambassador to the Central African Republic (1990–92), Special Envoy to Somalia, and Ambassador to the Congo-Kinshasa (1995–98).

“Mr. Van Buren’s best question is, “So how did we end up accomplishing so little when we meant well?” He tries to answer it effectively from the corners of Iraq that he worked in, but I suspect that the real answer lies at a pay grade much higher than his in a maze of bad decisions, too-short tours of duty and massive American misunderstanding of Iraq and its people. The book is short, very readable and has humor as well as profound points in it. If the State Department is given the opportunity, Mr. Van Buren’s next assignment is likely to be Mogadishu or Garry Trudeau’s Berzerkistan.”

Photo of the Day: Clowning around for cross-border theatre ties

Via US ConGen Calgary/Flickr | 20 October 2011: Clowning around to promote cross-border theatre ties:

Photo from US CG Calgary/Flickr

“Red noses were the required dress code at a welcome reception hosted by Consul General Laura Lochman for members of Aga-Boom Theatre of Physical Comedy and Circus Arts. The Las Vegas-based clown troop created by veterans of Cirque du Soleil is in Calgary for three days of performances for Y Stage at Vertigo Theatre, an arts group specializing in theatre for young audiences. Staff of the Consulate clowned around with guests from Calgary’s cultural community to highlight the collaborations and partnerships Y Stage has been forging with American artists specializing in theatre for young people. “Usually when we talk about our bilateral relationship, the conversation revolves around trade or security. We don’t often get the opportunity to highlight the many links between our two countries in the arts, but they are extensive,” Consul General Lochman told guests, adding that this kind of collaboration supports the development and well-being of young people on both sides of the border. The event also provided an opportunity to plug Las Vegas as a destination for family fun with guests donning colorful “flash” pins provided by Las Vegas Tourism. The evening ended with an impromptu musical performance by Aga Boom.”

Laura Lochman arrived in Calgary June 22 to take up her post as Consul General for Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories for a three-year term. Her foreign languages include French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.  And don’t mess up with her, she also holds a black belt in karate!

US Mission Pakistan Warns Amcits Against Possible Retaliation After Cross-Border ISAF Incident

ISAF Logo                            Image via WikipediaOn November 26, the US Embassy in Islamabad posted the following alert to U.S. citizens in Pakistan regarding Saturday’s cross-border ISAF incident which reportedly left at least 24 Pakistani soldiers dead and 14 injured.

“The U.S. Mission is alerting all U.S. citizens residing in Pakistan to be especially vigilant in their personal security, and against possible retaliation, in the aftermath of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) cross-border incident that occurred the morning of Saturday, November 26.  Although the U.S. Mission is not aware of any specific threats or demonstrations at this time, the Embassy in Islamabad is advising U.S. government employees to minimize non-essential travel, and to utilize “buddy systems” to account for colleagues’ whereabouts.  In addition, some U.S. government personnel assigned outside of Islamabad are being recalled to the capital as a precaution.  The U.S. Mission urges all U.S. citizens to maintain vigilant situational awareness; to avoid crowds and demonstrations; to keep a low profile; and to be unpredictable, i.e. by varying the times and routes of all movements.  It is particularly important to verify that travel documents and visas remain valid.”


Thanksgiving Day 2011: Foreign Service Roundup

US Embassy New Zealand:
2011 Downtown Community Thanksgiving Lunch| Photos from the annual American Thanksgiving Lunch held in conjunction with the Downtown Community Ministry and the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Chef’s Association at the Wesley Church Hall.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Photo from US Embassy NZ/Flickr

US Embassy Thailand:
Thanksgiving Lunch at Ambassador Kristie Kenney’s | Photos of the Thanksgiving lunch at the Ambassador’s residence garnered the following comment on Facebook: “Would have been nice if the Ambassador and folks at the Embassy invited long term USA residents of Bangkok, who lost everything in the floods to dinner as well. Very crass of Excellency Kenney to celebrate with the “haves” while the “have nots” suffer. It is not going to be a very thankful holiday this year for some of us.” To which Ambassador Kenney quickly responded: “No tax dollars used. This was my personal thanks to Embassy staffers for great work despite being flood victims themselves.” On Thanksgiving Day, Ambassador Kenney also hosted fifty US military (army, navy, air force and marines) for dinner. They are all in Thailand to help with flood recovery efforts.

Photo from US Embassy Bangkok/FB

US Embassy El Salvador

Thanksgiving Day arrived with Occupy El Salvador protesting at the U.S. Embassy San Salvador “in solidarity with the 99% Global Occupy Movement.” More here.

US Embassy Belgium
Ambassador Gutman invited American sportsmen and women to his residence for a Thanksgiving do.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Photos from US Embassy Bryssels/Flickr

U.S. Embassy Malaysia
Thanksgiving lunch for more than 300 staff and family members of the U.S. Embassy Kuala Lumpur. Turkey, pie, mashed and sweet potaties, corns and peas … mmmmmm. Thanksgiving Day will have an extended run in Malaysia this year as the embassy will have a PUMPKIN PIE EXTRAVAGANZA open to the public next week with U.S. Embassy Officer Nelson Wu and other embassy staff!

Photo from US Embassy KL/FB

The big news, of course, on Thanksgiving Scaredy was non-halal turkeys “for Americans who still value their freedoms.” Below an excerpt from Crossroads Arabia (a blog by a retired FSO):

“It seems that Butterball’s best practices also permit it to produce turkeys that meet the requirements for halal food. That is, its whole turkeys are deemed permissible for Muslims to eat.

This, apparently, has caused Islamophobe Pam Gellar to go berserk. She somehow sees the fact that Butterball turkeys are halal as a stealth attempt to convert Americans to Islam. I won’t – on principle – link to Gellar’s writing, but here’s an indirect link through Outside the Beltway. Yes, she’s as nuts as that post makes her seem.

Gellar has some really strange beliefs, quite laughable ones.

She appears to believe that if one eats a halal turkey, one mysteriously becomes a Muslim. Or gets tugged toward Islam. Or something. If this is true, it creates an interesting situation…

If I were to become Muslim by eating a halal turkey, then it logically follows that I would become Jewish by eating a Kosher pickle or hotdog. What would happen if I ate both at the same meal? Would I explode? Would I suddenly become Palestine, at war with myself?”

Which led us to this most disturbing image of a suicide turkey ever.  And Thanksgiving will never be the same again after this stealth infiltration.

US Hip-Hop Diplomacy "Recovers" in Karachi and No On Stage B-Boying by American Diplomats

The hip hop group on tour in Pakistan performed in Islamabad, was detained briefly in Rawalpindi, was barred from performing in Lahore (long shadow of Raymond Davis?), then on November 24th, successfully performed at the port city of Karachi.

One may be tempted to call this a 50-50 success, given that the group skipped Peshawar (for good reasons), was unable to perform in Lahore (for fuzzy reasons) but did have successful performances in the capital city of Islamabad, and the country’s largest city of Karachi. But is the ability to be on stage in two out of four U.S. posts in Pakistan sufficient to gauge the success of this program in a country where anti-American protests and demonstrations have tripled since the beginning of 2011? Probably not. One might wonder at the effectiveness of a program like this since it only reaches the more or less westernized and educated parts of the country as compared to the more rural, less educated, more suspicious variety of the local population.  I hope somebody back at State’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau is looking at the performance metrics of programs like these.

On a side note, I am pleased to report that none of our diplomats in Karachi — not the Consul General or the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) or Cultural Affairs Officer (CAO) went on stage to try their luck with mcing or breakdancing even if it looks like a whole lot of fun. Whew to you, too!

Via YouTube/rashidkhan1973, the FEW Collective with Amjad Sabri Qawwal: