Foreign Service Dissent Award Snubs Most Vocal Foreign Service Dissenter of the Year

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional association of the United States Foreign Service presents an annual set of awards for “intellectual courage and creative dissent.

It has four dissent awards:

  • F. Allen “Tex” Harris Award for a Foreign Service Specialist
  • W. Averell Harriman Award for a junior officer (FS 7-FS 4)
  • William R. Rivkin Award for a mid-level officer, (FS 3-FS 1)
  • Christian A. Herter Award for a member of the Senior Foreign Service (FE OC-FE CA)

Here is AFSA’s Criteria for its Dissent Awards:

The 2012 Dissent Awards via AFSA (excerpt):

This year’s AFSA awards for intellectual courage, initiative and integrity in the context of constructive dissent will be presented to the following Foreign Service employees, who challenged the system despite the possible consequences.  The winner will receive a small globe with their name and a framed certificate.

The winner of the 2012 William R. Rivkin Award for constructive dissent by a mid-level Foreign Service officer is Joshua Polacheck. Mr. Polacheck consistently and over some time made well-reasoned arguments against the U.S. security posture as it related to U.S. embassies, consulates and missions abroad. He submitted a highly cogent dissent channel cable, raising concerns that “consistently erring on the side of caution” when it comes to security choices sends “a message of distrust to the people of our host nations” and makes it difficult to roll back enhanced security measures should the need arise. Mr. Polacheck came to this conclusion after serving in Iraq, Pakistan and Lebanon. The judges were impressed with his willingness to raise a well-argued concern on an issue that often complicates U.S. policy and the carrying out of diplomatic and development work abroad.

The AFSA Awards and Plaques Committee did not select any winners this year for AFSA’s other dissent awards: The F. Allen “Tex” Harris Award for Foreign Service specialists, the W. Averell Harriman Award for constructive dissent by an entry-level Foreign Service officer, or the Christian A. Herter Award for Senior Foreign Service members.

So there — this year, there are no winners for three of AFSA’s four dissent awards.  The only one with a declared winner is the Rivkin Award for a mid-level officer (FS 3-FS 1). The award is named after William Rivkin, a US Army officer and former US Ambassador to Luxembourg and Senegal, who is also the father Charles H. Rivkin, the current US Ambassador to France.

We understand that two nominations were submitted for the Rivkin Award for FSO Peter Van Buren, but since he did not get the award, AFSA’s panel must think that he did not “go out on a limb” enough, or “stick his neck out in a way” that involves some risk.  Which is kind of sorta funny since the last we heard, Van Buren’s neck is definitely on the chopping block.  Revenge of the chickens for writing about chicken crap.  But seriously, he sure did challenge the system from within by not resigning, didn’t he?

The word backstage is that folks were reportedly “not happy” about the Van Buren nominations since the nominee did not follow proper channels, or dissent was not constructive, or something along those lines.  Our guesstimate is that “challenging the system from within” does not really mean that you are within the system when you’re doing the challenging, it simply means that that you’re challenging the system with proper punctuation marks observed without offending too many folks and not rattling too many cages.

Or wait — maybe if he quit … and wasn’t so loud, and did not give so many interviews, and did not call people names,  you think, they might have given him the award for demonstrating nicely and quietly, “the intellectual courage to challenge the system from within, to question the status quo and take a stand, no matter the sensitivity of the issue or the consequences of their actions.”  

The book was done nicely though, it wasn’t distasteful or anything, and it wasn’t in ALL CAPS, so he wasn’t really shouting.

Oh, let’s sleep on this. Maybe tomorrow we’ll wake up and find that Fulbright’s quote is really a joke gone bad.

Here we thought dissent is a dying tradition in the Foreign Service … ahnd, it might just be.

Why? Well, we didn’t hear too much non-official dissent around here, and if AFSA’s candidates’ pool  is running empty, it could only mean that not too many people are using the official Dissent Channel. Or whoever used it in the recent past were deemed not worthy of these awards.

But — before you jump into wrongheaded conclusions, be reminded that not too very long ago, Ambassador Alfred Atherton, then Director General of the Foreign Service, was quoted saying: “it is possible that the decline in the use of the dissent channel you’ve cited represents the success of the system …rather than a deliberate effort to squelch differing views.”

And we don’t think he was kidding then when he said what he said.

Just to be clear, AFSA is a dues-collecting non-government membership organization. It sure can set its own criteria for its awards, the dissent awards included. But perhaps, it should amplify its own rules for rewarding dissent — that it’s only good for the nice form not the long form, hair on fire kind. These awards are for the special kind of dissent, the “constructive kind only” — the ones that do not topple the chairs.  So contrary to Fulbright’s words, the test of dissent’s value is really in its taste?

“For over forty years AFSA has sponsored a program to recognize and encourage constructive dissent and risk-taking in the Foreign Service. This is unique within the U.S. Government. The Director General of the Foreign Service is a co-sponsor of the annual ceremony where the dissent awards are conferred. AFSA is proud to have upheld the tradition of constructive dissent for these many years, and we look forward to our ongoing role in recognizing those who have the courage to buck the system to stand up for their beliefs.”

Hey, stop laughing over there!

Oh, where were we? So this is just as well. Imagine if Van Buren got the dissent award? The Director General of the Foreign Service whose office is pursuing Mr. Van Buren’s dismissal would have been in a twilightzoney spot of handing an award to the State Department’s top ranking FSO-non grata. Of course, that pix would have been something to pin on Pinterest.

Anyway, this got us thinking — which can sometimes get problematic.

If dissent is one important index of political integrity within the Foreign Service, what does it mean, that 1) the tide pool is so shallow AFSA could only find one winner in this year’s awards and 2) that it has ignored the most vocal Foreign Service dissenter of the year?

We don’t know the answer but it is disturbing that bucking the system and standing for one’s beliefs have asterisks.

Domani Spero

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Say Goodbye to NEA Bureau Boss, Jeffrey Feltman

On May 22, 2012, the State Department spokesman confirmed that “Assistant Secretary Feltman has advised Secretary Clinton that he would – that he plans to retire at the end of the month and that he is going to be pursuing other opportunities.” Liz Dibble, NEA’s PDAS will reportedly be steering the ship in the interim.

Below is Jeffrey Feltman, then US Ambassador to Lebanon during the 15,000 amcit evacuation via Cyprus in 2006. Unfortunately, he’s not the most Flickr-friendly official we have and we do not have a lot of photos to share.  But he is not altogether invisible.  Click here to view a few more photos in a slideshow of the outgoing NEA boss.

Ambassador Feltman with U.S. Marine Brigadier General Carl Jensen during the evacuation of Beirut, July 2006
(photo via Wikipedia)
Click here to view slideshow

Digger of Life After Jerusalem has a nice post (would tickle FS bloggers, too) on Secretary Feltman saying, “Don’t go.”

The IG inspectors also had great things to say about him when they reviewed the bureau in May 2011:

The Assistant Secretary has served throughout the region, including as Ambassador in Lebanon, as well as principal deputy assistant secretary and acting Assistant Secretary immediately prior to his current position. He received consistently high marks from employees throughout the bureau and the Department for his knowledge of the region, his communication skills, and his genuine concern for his staff and their workload. His own grueling schedule only reinforced that appreciation.

Each Friday, the Assistant Secretary convenes an open meeting that all bureau employees and key contacts inside and outside the Department may attend. Interagency contacts praised the front office for its professionalism, transparency, and openness, saying it resulted in better communication for all sides as they work together on difficult and urgent issues.

The Assistant Secretary, DASes, and EX director take an active interest in filling the bureau’s positions with the best officers they can find. The need to fill key Iraq slots over the past 7 years has resulted in many non-NEA hands coming into the bureau. The Assistant Secretary is understandably proud of this influx of new blood. Competition for prime NEA slots remains fierce, despite the long hours.

So there, that’s why he will be missed.

We do not have confirmation for this but he is reportedly heading to the UN Secretariat as Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs (DPA).  Good for him!

About where he’s going:  Established in 1992, DPA is the lead U.N. department for peacemaking and preventive diplomacy. According to the UN, the Under-Secretary-General manages the department, advises the Secretary-General on matters affecting global peace and security, carries out high-level diplomatic missions and provides guidance to peace envoys and political missions in the field.  The Under-Secretary-General also serves on the Secretary-General’s Policy Committee, the highest decision-making body within the U.N. Secretariat, and chairs the Executive Committee on Peace and Security, a high-level body for interagency and interdepartmental coordination.  In addition to its more than 250 professional and administrative staff at U.N. headquarters in New York, DPA draws from the work of political and peace-building missions under its supervision, which employ more than 1,700 national and international staff in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Sounds like an interesting gig, with all best wishes!

Domani Spero

Officially In: Greta C. Holtz – from NEA Bureau to the Sultanate of Oman

On May 24, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Greta C. Holtz as the next Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman. The WH released the following brief bio:

Greta C. Holtz, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communications in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.   From 2009 to 2010, Ms. Holtz was Director for Provincial Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.  Previous assignments in Washington include Director of the Middle East Partnership Initiative in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (2006-2007) and Coordinator for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe within the Bureau of European Regional Political-Military Affairs (2004-2006).  Ms. Holtz entered the Foreign Service in 1985 and has served at U.S. Missions in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Tunisia, Syria, and as Principal Officer in Adana, Turkey.

She received a B.S. from Vanderbilt University, an M.A. from the University of Kentucky, and an M.S. from the National War College.

Embassy and PRT Diyala Officials in Aruba Market | Dan Gedacht (U.S. Embassy Baghdad), Mike Rothe (PRT Diyala), LTC Ricardo Singleton (PRT Diyala), and Greta Holtz (U.S. Embassy Baghdad) in Aruba Market, Muqdadiya, Iraq, December 2009. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

Ms. Holtz speaks Arabic and Turkish.  If confirmed, she would only be the second female chief of mission to encumber the US Embassy in Muscat (the first was Frances D. Cook, a career diplomat assigned to Muscat from 1996-1999). She will succeed career diplomat, Dr. Richard J. Schmierer who was sworn in as Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman on August 20, 2009.

Domani Spero

Related item:

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts | May 24, 2012

Officially In: Alexander M. Laskaris – from Erbil, Iraq to the Republic of Guinea

On May 24, President Obama announced his intent to nominate  Alexander M. Laskaris as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea. The WH released the following brief bio:

Alexander M. Laskaris, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, is Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, Iraq, a position he has held since June 2010. Previously, he was the Team Leader for the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mosul, Iraq from 2008 to 2009.  Prior to serving in Iraq, he was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo (2006-2009) and Burundi (2003-2005).  Previously, Mr. Laskaris was a member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff (2001-2003) and Advisor to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (1999-2001).  Other overseas assignments have included Political Officer in Luanda, Angola; Political and Economic Officer in Gaborone, Botswana; and Vice Consul in Monrovia, Liberia.  From 1996 to 1997, he served as Desk Officer for Rwanda and Burundi at the Department of State.

He received a B.S. from Georgetown University and an M.A. from the U.S. Army War College.

In addition to Kurdish, Mr. Laskaris speaks Albanian, Greek, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.  He was born in Monterey, California and lives in Takoma Park, Maryland.  If confirmed, Mr. Laskaris would succeed career diplomat Patricia Newton Moller who was appointed chief of mission to Conakry in 2009.

We have often been struck by the prior assignments of some our diplomats nominated for ambassadorial posts. Some have been able to skirt the war zone posts, or able to get stuck in Foggy Bottom longer than most or move through inter-agency assignments within the beltway.  Mr. Laskaris on the other hand is on his second tour in Iraq, his third year in that war torn country. His list of previous assignments is a run down of places high on hardship and low on cushy-factor.  Conakry will not be altogether different from his prior assignments; post is a 55% differential post (25% COLA + 30% hardship).

Domani Spero

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts | May 24, 2012

Officially In: Marcie B. Ries – from Arms Control Bureau (AVC) to Bulgaria

On May 24, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Marcie B. Ries as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Marcie B. Ries, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Career-Minister, is

English: Marcie Berman Ries, U.S. Ambassador t...

Marcie Berman Ries. Ries, Marcie Berman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

currently Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance.  From 2008 to 2009, she was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.  Previously, she served as Minister-Counselor for Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad (2007-2008), U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Albania (2004-2007), and Chief of Mission at the U.S. Office in Pristina, Kosovo (2003-2004).  She has also served as Director of the Office of United Nations Political Affairs in the Bureau of International Organizations (2001-2003) and as Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in London (1996-2000).  Other overseas assignments include posts to the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels; Ankara, Turkey; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  

She received a B.A. from Oberlin College and an M.A. from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

If confirmed, Ambassador Ries would succeed career diplomat James B. Warlick, Jr. who was appointed to the US Embassy in Sofia in 2009.

On April 12, New Europe Online citing local media reported that Sofia has received a request for agrément for a new Ambassador to Bulgaria.

According to the television sources, it is very probable that Ambassador Warlick will leave the country before the end of his mandate of three years. BTV also announces that the person to fill the post of US Ambassador in Bulgaria is expected to be a former representative of the States in Albania who is now a civil servant. The Bulgarian television also clarified that according to the webpage of the American Embassy in Teheran, there were only two women to hold the position of Ambassador in the last 10 years, namely Marisa Lino (1996-1999) and Marcie Ries (2004-2007).

Looks like these folks have excellent sources. Last week, Ambassador Warlick tweeted this:

Ambassador Warlick assumed charge of the embassy on January 21, 2010. By the time the new ambassador is confirmed by the Senate, his tenure in Sofia will be closer to 36 months.

A side note on this appointment – Ambassador Marcie B. Ries is one half of a former tandem couple who went on to become ambassadors: Ambassador Ries as then US Ambassador to Albania (2004-2007), and her husband, Charles Ries as then US Ambassador to Greece (2004-2007). Ambassador James Warlick is also one half of a current tandem couple serving as ambassadors. His wife, Mary Burce Warlick is the current US Ambassador to Serbia.

Domani Spero

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts | May 24, 2012

 

 

 

 

State Dept’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program Costs Approx $1,800/Student Per Day of Training

The State Department’s OIG recently released its Evaluation of the Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) Program for Countries Under the Bureaus of Near Eastern Affairs and South and Central Asian Affairs (Report Number AUD/MERO-12-29, April 2012).

How much and where it went?

  • From FYs 2002 through 2010, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Antiterrorism Assistance (DS/T/ATA) and the Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) have been provided nearly $1.4 billion for ATA programs worldwide, with approximately 65 percent of that assistance ($873.3 million) going to programs in North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia.
  • In FY 2011, the ATA program’s budget request was $205 million, with approximately $125 million designated for the 22 North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia countries.
  • In FY 2010 (or FY2009?), the ATA program expended approximately $62 million  trained nearly 2,700 participants from countries in North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia at a cost of approximately $1,800 per student per day of training.
  • The average training course lasted 13 days and was attended by 21 students, which equates to approximately $23,000 per student per class, or $1,800 per student per day of training.

The OIG report did not say where the training sessions were held but seriously — how do you rack up $1800 a day for training per trainee? Oops, sorry, how quickly we forget.  That’s almost as bad as the GSA scandal which cost federal taxpayers nearly $2750 per person.

 

Something about objectives, indicators and lots of strategeries:

  • OIG found that for 20 of the 22 countries, CT and DS/T/ATA did not develop specific or measurable strategic or performance objectives in the Country Assistance Plans.
  • OIG found that for eight of the 22 countries, CT provided broad strategic objectives that were vague or included an inordinate number of goals.
  • OIG found that nearly all of the performance indicators and targets used to define success or failure of a country program were ambiguous, were not measurable, or lacked meaning.

Let’s have some examples:

Lebanon: The strategic objectives for Lebanon directed the ATA program to help modernize and professionalize security forces “through basic and advanced training and equipment and operation upgrades.”

India: The strategic objectives for India directed the program to emphasize critical incident response; post-incident investigation; human rights; border security; international threat finance; extradition and prosecution; and the protection of critical infrastructure, including port, rail, and airport security.

Bahrain and Morocco: A performance objective for both Bahrain and Morocco is to enhance the country’s “capability in investigating, and responding to terrorism.”

Nepal: The two program objectives for Nepal are “to enhance the capabilities of Nepalese police to utilize ATA training” and to “improve capabilities of the Nepalese police to counter and respond to terrorism.”

And the Success Measurement Award goes to ATA Bangladesh where one performance indicator for measuring the success of the increasing protection capabilities for Bangladeshi leaders was regular updates from U.S. Embassy, ATA program visits, and feedback from Bangladesh’s law enforcement community on enhanced institutional management and procedures developed through ATA training to protect national leaders.”

If that’s a measure of success, we’d hate to see what failure is like.

So, cmon- is this program effective?

“Since 1983, DS/T/ATA has provided ATA program training to participants from North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. However, DS/T/ATA could not determine the program’s effectiveness because it had not developed specific, measurable, and outcome-oriented program objectives or implemented a mechanism for program evaluation. In addition, DS/T/ATA and CT were not consulting with DRL when selecting partner countries or when determining the assistance to be provided to those countries because DS/T/ATA and CT officials stated they were unaware of the requirement. As a result, the Department has no assurance that the ATA program is achieving its intended statutory purposes or that the overall or individual programs are successful. Further, DS/T/ATA has no basis for determining when partner countries are capable of sustaining their own ATA program without U.S. support.”

Bottom line answer is – since 1983

Who the heck knows?

But you’d be pleased to know that this has not kept State from pouring more money into a program that has not been proven to be effective since it has no idea how to measure its effectiveness.

Why don’t we just add the disbursement of funds as an indicator of success and make it easy on everyone?

Domani Spero

 

 

Read Before Burning: Debating the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act

Matt Armstrong has written a must-read piece on the Smith-Mundt Modernization debate. Something for those who did not get their Smith-Mundt Minute Maid boost before wading into the bush.

There’s this – Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban

And then there’s this – Much ado about State Department ‘propaganda’

Here is an excerpt from Matt Armstrong’s Congress, the State Department, and “communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences”:

The current debate on the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act is filled with misinformation about the history of Smith-Mundt, some of it verging on blatant propaganda, making the discussion overall rich in irony. In 1947, the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional committee assembled to give its recommendation on the Smith-Mundt Act declared that it was a necessary response to the danger posed “by the weapons of false propaganda and misinformation and the inability on the part of the United States to deal adequately with those weapons.” Today, it is the Smith-Mundt Act that is victim to “false propaganda” and “misinformation” that affect perceptions of, and potential support for, the Modernization Act.

Many of the negative narratives swirling around the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act are based on assumptions and myths that, like true propaganda, have an anchor in reality but stray from the facts to support false conclusions. These fabrications include the false assertion the Act ever applied to the whole of Government or the Defense Department as well as fundamental confusion, and lack of knowledge, of America’s public diplomacy with foreign audiences.
[…]
From the information programs to the programs for the “interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills,” the Congress made its clear its concerns that the State Department may intentionally, or inadvertently, undermine the American way of life for reasons ranging from Roosevelt and Truman “New Dealers” to the liberal culture of the State Department.
[…]
[T]he distrust of State remained. Rep. Fred Busbey (R-IL) sought to delay the bill until the State Department was cleaned up: “I believe there should be in the State Department an Office of Information and Cultural Affairs, but it should be free of communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences.” Congressman Clare Hoffman (R-MI) believed the exchange program was for the State Department to establish an espionage net directed against the United States.

Continue reading, Congress, the State Department, and “communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences”

We should note that a tiny twig of the federal government had been charged with appraising U.S. Government activities “intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics.” That’s the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD), created in 1948 and defunded by Congress on December 16, 2011.

On the issue of trust or in this case, distrust — distrust of the Department of State is a shadow that started stalking the organization soon after it came into being following the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. Donald Warwick in his 1978 book on bureaucracy points out that the early image of State was influenced by its adoption of the European model of diplomacy and our country’s mistrust of foreign relations.

“As a concrete expression of concern with European contamination, the Continental Congress ruled that diplomats could remain overseas no more than three years. Rapid corruption thereafter was feared. […] Public mistrust of diplomacy in general and of its foreign-oriented practioners was to surface later in the McCarthy era.”

The limit on continuous duty overseas is alive and well. In the Foreign Service Act, Congress imagined that diplomats would still be contaminated but only after 15 years of continuous exposure abroad.

Domani Spero

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Supremes Say No to Appeal from US Embassy Iran Hostages

Via NYT:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the last legal appeal for former American hostages seeking compensation for their captivity in Iran three decades ago, leaving legislation newly introduced in Congress as the last chance to resolve their longstanding grievance.

A lower court, acting at the request of the State Department, previously blocked the hostages’ effort to win compensation from Iran, holding that the agreement under which they were released barred such claims. The former hostages had sued under a 1996 law that they argued allowed them to seek damages, and in August 2001 they won a judgment of liability, because Iran did not appear in court to defend itself. But the State Department argued that its ability to conduct foreign policy would be compromised if damages were awarded.

Read in full here.

Click here for a GQ piece from 2009, a sort of oral history where more than fifty men and women—hostages, hostage-takers, commandos from the ill-fated U.S. rescue mission, and Iranian and American politicians and policymakers were interviewed for the 30th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis.

The 52 former hostages board the VC-137B Freed...

The 52 former hostages board the VC-137B Freedom One aircraft for their departure to the United States after their release from Iran. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Families wait for the former hostages...

English: Families wait for the former hostages to disembark the plane. The former hostages will be on U.S. soil for the first time since their release from Iran. Location: STEWART FIELD, NEW YORK (NY) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Vice President George Bush and other ...

English: Vice President George Bush and other VIP’s wait to welcome the former hostages to Iran home. Location: ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE VIRIN: DF-SC-82-06566 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judge Sullivan in his 2002 ruling wrote that “‘Both Congress and the president have expressed their support for these plaintiffs’ quest for justice while failing to act definitively to enable these former hostages to fulfill that quest.”

Parade’s over.  Iran is still big news, but no one is rushing to meet, or wait or put out a concert for the former hostages. Most especially, the State Department.

Support was easy when all it required was a yellow ribbon?

Yellow ribbon flown in 1979 by Penne Laingen when her husband, US diplomat Bruce was held captive during the Iran hostage crisis; among the first of the modern “yellow ribbons.”
US lib of congress picture from http://www.loc.gov/folklife/ribbons/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2002, NYT reported that the former hostages, and in some cases their survivors, sued Iran under the 1996 law.  While the plaintiffs won their lawsuit by default in August 2001, the State Department sought dismissal, arguing reportedly that it needed to preserve its ability to make binding agreements.

And in so doing, it also sends a signal to all future state sponsored hostage takers that they can take any of our diplomats at any time and they will not suffer any consequences except a break in diplomatic relations, and limited visa issuance restrictions to its officials.  If Iran is jerking our chain these days, that’s because we have taught it the wrong lesson.  The end.

Domani Spero

After End of War, Operation No Easy Exit

Tom Engelhardt has a piece on How to Forget on Memorial Day (excerpt):

Afghanistan has often enough been called “the graveyard of empires.” Americans have made it a habit to whistle past that graveyard, looking the other way—a form of obliviousness much aided by the fact that the American war dead conveniently come from the less well known or forgotten places in our country. They are so much easier to ignore thanks to that.

Except in their hometowns, how easy the war dead are to forget in an era when corporations go to war but Americans largely don’t. So far, 1,980 American military personnel (and significant but largely unacknowledged numbers of private contractors) have died in Afghanistan, as have 1,028 NATO and allied troops, and (despite U.N. efforts to count them) unknown but staggering numbers of Afghans.

So far in the month of May, 22 American dead have been listed in those Pentagon announcements. If you want a little memorial to a war that shouldn’t be, check out their hometowns and you’ll experience a kind of modern graveyard poetry. Consider it an elegy to the dead of second- or third-tier cities, suburbs, and small towns whose names are resonant exactly because they are part of your country, but seldom or never heard by you.

I did check out the hometowns and I’ve never heard of Normangee, Texas.  According to the 2000 Census, Normangee is a town of 719 people, 277 households, and 185 families.

Sgt. Wade D. Wilson
(Photo via YouTube)

Sgt. Wade D. Wilson, of Normangee, Texas, died May 11 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.  He was 22.

But even as we pulled out our troops in Iraq, and combat operations are planned to end in Afghanistan in 2014, the next operation is one with no easy exit.

Excerpt from Probably Not the Final Destination by Dale Ritterbusch (WLA. Volume 23 • 2011):

Fall semester, second week of class, a student stays after:
his field jacket, his scruffy beard
tell the story. I don’t know if you have noticed,
he says, but when I answer your questions
sometimes I lose my line of thought
and I stumble a bit trying to find it again.
I tell him the lie I hadn’t noticed, but his speech,
slurred, slowed, gives it away—a sergeant,
twenty-seven months in Iraq. My wife thinks
I have PTSD he says. Every class he stays after,
and there’s little I can say, little I can do
except listen: maybe there’s little anyone can do,
that old lesson we never seem to learn,
moving from “costly their winestream”
to the “red, sweet wine of youth”:
enough there to embarrass half the demons of hell.

At night the NewsHour runs pictures
of the dead, name, rank, hometown flashing,
holding, silently across the screen—the first man just eighteen.
We might remember Urien’s lament: “I bear a great
warrior’s skull; I bear a head at my heart.”
Or has war’s paradigm so changed
Urien’s progeny may now swear,
“I bear the dead, the half-dead
in my half-dead skull; I bear
the dead in my half-dead heart.”

Photo Taken By Cpl James Clark | 01.20.2012

Domani Spero

Remembrances Around the Foreign Service on Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. It was was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  It is observed annually in the United States on the last Monday of May.

Excerpt from General Logan’s 1868 order:

All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

Below are some photos from US missions marking the day of remembrance overseas:

US Embassy Manila, Philippines

Memorial Day 2011:  An American boy plants American and Philippine flags beside a cross that marks one of the 17,000 graves in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City on May 28 as part of the U.S. observance of Memorial Day. On May 29, U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. led representatives of the American community and guests in a ceremony at the Memorial to pay tribute to the soldiers of the U.S. and its allies who have fallen in defense of freedom and democracy. The 152-acre cemetery and memorial in Manila has the largest number of graves of U.S. soldiers who died in World War II. The graves include those of 570 Filipinos who served with the U.S. Forces in the Southwest Pacific.

Memorial Day, May 27, 2012.  Chargé d’Affaires Leslie A. Bassett offers a wreath in honor of all Veterans this Memorial Day, at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City, Philippines.
(Photo from US Embassy Manila)

US Embassy Montevideo, Uruguay

May 31, 2010. A U.S. Marine replaces a worn out flag at the grave site of a young sailor, honoring fallen U.S. servicemen buried at the British Cemetery in Montevideo [U.S. Embassy photo by Vince Alongi]

US Embassy Djibouti, Djibouti

Mike Lombardo, regional security officer for U.S. Embassy, Djibouti, gives the opening remarks during a Ceremony at Cimetiere non Mulilman de Djibouti, May 31. The Memorial Day Ceremony honored Pilot Officer Lawrence Maguire, an American who volunteered for the Canadian air force, one of the many military members who gave their lives during World War II. Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett

US Embassy Tunis, Tunisia

U.S. Army Col. Warren P. Gunderman, a military representative at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, lays a wreath Monday during a Memorial Day service at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial near Carthage, Tunisia. Photo by US Army Africa

US Embassy Nassau, The Bahamas

US Embassy observed Memorial day with a Wreath Laying Ceremony at Clifton Pier. On Monday, May 31, 2010 the United States Embassy observed Memorial Day with a wreath laying ceremony at Clifton Pier in memory of fallen service men and women. Special recognition was given to the U.S. Patrol Squadron 23 Sailors, who perished off the coast of Nassau on May 7, 1954.

US Embassy Baghdad, Iraq

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Maj. Gen. Mark Zamzow, bow their heads during a moment of silence. Troops deployed to Iraq hold a Memorial Day ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Denny Cantrell | 05.26.2008

US Embassy Tallinn, Estonia

U.S. Embassy Tallinn Recognizes Memorial Day – May 30, 2011
(Photo from US Embassy Tallinn/Flickr)

US Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan

Memorial Day, Kabul 2010
(Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)

Plaque “In memory of Ambassador Adolp ‘Spike’ Dubs, Killed in Kabul on February 14, 1979”
(Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)

U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, DEA Regional Director Michael T. Marsac, program analyst Lisa Hostettler, Assistant Regional Director Craig Wiles and secretary Teresa Hernandez near a marker for DEA Special Agents Forrest N. Leamon, Michael E. Weston and Chad L. Michael at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 2011. (Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)

US Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

Memorial Day Service at Old St Paul’s, Wellington – May 30, 2011
(Photo from US Embassy New Zealand/Flickr)
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Memorial Day 2012 | This Memorial Day the people of Kapiti Coast on the North Island of New Zealand unveiled a memorial to the 10 U.S. sailors who died during a training exercise while trying to come ashore on June 20, 1943. About 350 people, including Charge d’Affaires Marie Damour and a U.S. Marine Color guard, were there for the dedication of the memorial, sculptured into the shape of a landing craft, close to the waters where the tragedy occurred. Read more here.
(Photo from US Embassy NZ/Flickr)

Something more to remember – below is a photo from Kabul, Afghanistan, April 10, 2006: The U.S. Embassy in Kabul renamed a camp in honor of Diplomatic Security Special Agent Eric Sullivan, who was killed on September 19, 2005, during a terrorist attack on his motorcade in Mosul, Iraq. Camp Sullivan is a self-contained facility for the local guard force that provides protection to all official U.S. facilities in Kabul. During Special Agent Sullivan’s career with the Diplomatic Security Service he volunteered to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq.

State Department photo

Domani Spero