Former FSO James Gibney: Mike Pompeo Has Poisoned the State Department

 

James Gibney is an editor for Bloomberg Opinion. Previously an editor at the Atlantic, the New York Times, Smithsonian, Foreign Policy and the New Republic, he was also in the U.S. Foreign Service from 1989 to 1997 in India, Japan and Washington. Follow him on Twitter at @jamesgibney.

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Snapshot: OFDA’S Percent of Disaster Declarations Responded to Within 72 Hours

 

Via State Department FY 2018 Annual Performance Report | FY 2020 Annual Performance Plan
(PDF/p.171)

Performance Goal 3.4.6: Humanitarian Assistance Performance Goal Statement:

By 2022, the United States will increase the timeliness and effectiveness of responses to U.S. government-declared international disasters, responding to 95 percent of disaster declarations within 72 hours and reporting on results. (USAID) Performance Goal Overview/Progress Update The Joint Strategic Plan (JSP) explains that the Department and USAID will support needs based humanitarian assistance through multi-sectoral programs that provide relief from crises, conflicts, and natural disasters. Collaboration with donors and host countries will help identify solutions to displacement, protect populations at risk, reduce the risk of disasters, and foster resilience. USAID/OFDA is the U.S. Government’s lead federal coordinator for international disaster response. The Office’s mandate is to save lives, alleviate human suffering, and reduce the social and economic impacts of disasters worldwide. Responding efficiently to disasters is critical for USAID/OFDA to implement its mandate. As such, this PG aims to ensure that USAID/OFDA continues to respond to disasters rapidly and efficiently.

Key Indicator: Percent of disaster declarations responded to within 72 hours

Indicator Analysis The above figures provide a summary of USAID/OFDA’s immediate responses to new disaster declarations only, as measured by the release of a disaster response cable or submission of an email response with fund cite information within 72 hours of a disaster declaration cable’s circulation; the figures do not take into account disaster redeclarations or adjustments to end-of year disaster response totals.

Note that two of the three delayed response cables in FY 2018 were for Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) responses related to a politically sensitive complex emergency of high interest to the interagency. The sensitive political nature of these U.S. Government responses necessitated exceptional levels of intra-agency and interagency coordination, which created a lag in USAID/OFDA’s normal response timeframe. Had these delays not occurred, USAID/OFDA’s rate of response within 72 hours would have been 96 percent for FY 2018.

Indicator Methodology USAID/OFDA will source data from 1) an internal program-management database that keeps a record of official cables; 2) Senior Management Team notification of the deployment of a Disaster-Assistance Response Team or the activation of another assistance team; and 3) Information Support Unit records of a disaster declaration. Document review will provide the needed information.

Secretary of State, Fourth in Line to the Throne, Sends “Perfect Message” and Gaslights the Whole World

 

Just before we went offline last week, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo went viral for his after-interview encounter with NPR host Mary Louise Kelly (see  Oy! NPR Host’s Questions About Amb. Yavonovitch Triggers Pompeo Meltdown).  And because bullying behavior is not a bug but a feature in this administration, Pompeo’s treatment of the NPR host was readily approved by the President of the United States. “That reporter couldn’t have done too good a job on you yesterday, huh? I think you did a good job on her, actually.” Such normalized behavior that the whole room broke into laughter and Pompeo even got a standing ovation, and a pat on the back for his effort.
How come the State Department has not given this guy their professional ethos award yet? How long before the Foreign Service Institute start teaching Pompeo’s leadership principles? When are you going to hang up your selfie with somebody who is obviously a “perfect” role model for diplomatic demeanor and professional behavior in this upside down world?
Prior to Pompeo’s trip to Europe and Central Asia (London, U.K.; Kyiv, Ukraine; Minsk, Belarus; Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan; and Tashkent, Uzbekistan January 29 to February 4), NPR reporter Michele Kelemen was notified that she was being removed from the press pool covering Pompeo’s trip. It should be noted that Michele Kelemen is NPR’s diplomatic correspondent and Mary Louise Kelly, the reporter who Pompeo reportedly berated is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR’s award-winning afternoon newsmagazine. Unlike Pompeo (who’s meltdown was triggered by questions about his “defense” of Ambassador Yovanovitch), NPR President and CEO John Lansing came out publicly to defend an NPR employee doing her job. We expect that Mr. Lansing and NPR will pay a price for making that difference in treatment starkly clear.
This is not the first time pettiness was demonstrated by State when it comes to its treatment of journalists covering the agency. In 2018, Bloomberg’s Nick Wadhams covering Pompeo’s trip to North Korea wrote about Pompey breakfast of “toast and slices of processed cheese” thereafter known as “the Pompeo cheese incident.” Somebody wasn’t happy with that coverage and Wadhams was subsequently informed by State that he would not be allowed on Pompeo’s plane for then upcoming trip to the Helsinki summit.
It seems writing about unhealthy food intake and dropped f-bombs can get reporters booted off the USG plane.
On February 2, during a stop in Kazakhstan, Pompeo was asked about the NPR incident and the kind of message it sends to countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Belarus, whose governments routinely suppress press freedom. And below is Magic Mike’s response about the “perfect message” it sends:

QUESTION: Okay, let’s turn to the question about rights and press freedom. Last year RFE-RL journalists were physically attacked while doing their jobs, multiple times, and authorities have made no progress to try to find those responsible. Before you departed to this trip you had a confrontational interview with a National Public Radio reporter, and after that trip your department removed another NPR reporter from the press pool. Did you retaliate against NPR? What kind of message does it send to countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Belarus, whose governments routinely suppress press freedom?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I didn’t have a confrontational interview with an NPR reporter any more than I have confrontational interviews all the time. In America that’s the greatness of our nation: Reporters like yourself get to ask me any question and all questions. We take hundreds and hundreds of questions. We talk openly. We express our view; they ask their questions. That’s how we proceed in America. And with respect to who travels with me, I always bring a big press contingent, but we ask for certain sets of behaviors, and that’s simply telling the truth and being honest. And when they’ll do that, they get to participate, and if they don’t, it’s just not appropriate – frankly, it’s not fair to the rest of the journalists who are participating alongside of them.

QUESTION: But what kind of message will it send?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It sends a message – it’s a perfect message. It’s a perfect message about press freedoms. They’re free to ask questions. There were – there’s a reporter from that very business who was at a press conference just yesterday. It’s wide open in America. I love it. I hope the rest of the world will follow our press freedoms and the great things we do in the United States.

Perfect message!
Jesusmariajosep!
Pompeo asking “for certain sets of behaviors, and that’s simply telling the truth and being honest” is one of the most laughable parts of that interview with the 70th secretary of state. Tee-hee-hee! When he makes this kind of point, it makes us laugh and pee-pee in pain. Ugh! Get us some Depend Hiphuggers already, we won’t be able to stop laughing at this for a while!
Since the rest of the world is not stupid, folks can presumably see what kind of “perfect message” the secretary of state is actually sending to the press corps. In the aftermath of “the Pompeo cheese incident”, even if they were wronged, Wadhams and Bloomberg reportedly declined to make any comment. As far as we know, Bloomberg has not been blocked from the plane in other trips.
In the case of NPR, the public radio’s CEO came out to defend his reporter, and Mary Louise Kelly not only reported about the bullying in the post-interview incident but also wrote about it (also see “Pompeo Called Me a ‘Liar.’ That’s Not What Bothers Me)“. The State Department’s response was to bar, not Kelly but another NPR reporter from covering the trip. The message is perfectly clear: if they don’t like your questions, or your reporting, or demeanor when conducting an interview, they will not only kick you out, they will kick out every other reporter from your organization. They will put you in an ice box and they will bury that ice box under the dog house 60 feet down, and throw away the shovel.
So the next time something like this happens, will our media outlets expect their reporters to just take the abuse quietly? Or lose their chance to ask questions from this um … “exemplary” public servant (and great secretary of state in an alternate universe) who gets a standing ovation for behaving badly. We hope they’re thinking about this now because this will happen again. And again.
We’ve seen this happened in other countries, haven’t we? In countries where the government has successfully “trained” the media to “behave” a certain way in its press coverage, and where journalists then “get to participate” —  it’s always sunny, life is always great, the people are always free, and their government, of course, is always, always truthful and honest in its  island of perfection.

American Firefighters Killed in Air Tanker Crash in Australia Bushfire

 

USG #HurricaneDorian Response in The Bahamas

 

 

#CycloneIdai Affects Over a Million People in #Mozambique, #Zimbabwe & #Malawi

 

Ethiopian Airlines #302 Crashes Near Addis, Boeing 737 MAX 8 Grounded Around the World

 

Emergency Messages During Government Shutdown

A tsunami hit the coastal areas around the Sunda Strait in Indonesia (between the islands of Java and Sumatra) on December 22, 2018. It affected the Pandeglang, South Lampung, and Serang districts (as well as the resort area of Anyer). As of this writing, the tsunami death toll is now 373, with 128 missing and 1,459 injured.

The location of the tsunami is about 108 kilometers from the capital city of Jakarta. The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta (with constituent posts in Surabaya, Medan, and a Consular Agency in Bali) issued a Message to U.S. Citizens: U.S. Embassy Jakarta – Tsunami on the West Coast of Banten and Lampung on Sun, 23 Dec 2018.

The Embassy Alert to U.S. citizens provides the following actions to take and contact information for those requiring assistance:

Actions to Take:

  • Carefully consider travel plans and avoid nonessential travel to tsunami affected areas.
  • Review the Travel Advisory for Indonesia
  • Review information about what to do in the event of a tsunami.
  • Notify friends and family of your well-being.
  • Review information from the Government of Indonesia’s agency for disaster managementhere (Indonesian language only) and here.
  • For regular updates, follow the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya on Twitter and Facebook and the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta at Twitter and Facebook.

Assistance:  

The Alert message is currently on travel.state.gov and the embassy’s website, but it is not pushed on to social media due to the government shutdown. The State Department’s deputy spox says that they “are not aware of any U.S. citizens directly affected, but stand ready to assist as needed.”

The Alert message suggests that for regular updates people should “follow the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya on Twitter and Facebook and the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta at Twitter and Facebook.” But those feed are no longer updated regularly due to the lapse in appropriation.

Our Foreign Service posts in Jakarta say “visit @StateDept for updates.” We note of only two official tweets to-date: one tweet from @TravelGov calling the tsunami a “Weather Alert” (though tsunami can be caused by weather when the atmospheric pressure changes very rapidly, this tsunami is believed to have been triggered by an underwater landslide caused by the eruption of the nearby Anak Krakatau volcano), and one tweet from the State Department through the deputy spox. While the multiple deaths and injuries in the Indonesia tsunami did not appear to include American citizens, disasters and calamities (besides the one unfolding in Washington, D.C.) could happen anytime.

See US Embassy Jakarta’s tweet:

One of the last few tweets sent by US Consulate Surabaya was about the tsunami before it announced that its Twitter feed will not be updated due to the lapse in appropriation.

The former strategic planner for the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R) cited a policy cable from 2013, adopted formally as guidance in the Foreign Affairs Handbook which explicitly states that overseas missions using social media “should continue to do so in a crisis.” https://fam.state.gov/FAM/10FAH01/10FAH010060.html …. He rightfully noted that we are at an era when gov’t communication via social media is expected, particularly from a US embassy during a crisis affecting its host country. We agree that the use of social media to facilitate emergency communications with the public must be a prime consideration, rather than an afterthought. Posts’s feeds were the first place we looked up when we saw the tsunami alert online. We are sure we’re not the only one looking for information.

Just as we were about to post this, Reuters is reporting that Italy’s Mount Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano, erupted on December 24, and causing the closure of Catania airport on Sicily’s eastern coast. The social media accounts of US Embassy in Rome and its constituent posts in Florence and Naples have not been updated since the government shutdown took effect on December 22. Consulate Milan appears to be updating with holiday tweets as of nine hours ago. There does not appear to be any update from @StateDept concerning the Etna eruption.

Pompeo Talks Up Saudi “Investment” in Yemen, and USG’s “Additional” $131M Assistance #ExcludingArms

 

On November 28, the Secretary of State told the world that “Saudi Arabia has invested billions to relive suffering in Yemen.” Pretty soon,  Saudi Arabia’s spokesman would not have a job anymore.

The Guardian reported that in 2017, the Yemen appeal for $2.5bn was only 73% funded, but that the needs have intensified in a country battered since 2015 by a Saudi-led military offensive aimed at repelling Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control the capital. In April this year, during a UN donor conference for people affected by war in Yemen – labelled as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” – has received pledges of more than $2bn, close to half of which is promised by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two key protagonists in the conflict, according to the same report. Click here for the OCHA page for pledges and paid contributions for Yemen.

On October 24, 2017, U.S. Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller re-issued a disaster declaration for the ongoing complex emergency in Yemen for FY 2018 due to “continued humanitarian needs resulting from the complex emergency and the impact of the country’s political and economic crises on vulnerable populations.”  USAID’s November 9, 2018 Factsheet on Yemen Disaster Assistance indicates that the United States humanitarian funding for the Yemen response in FY2018 is $566,273,269 (includes funding through the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP), and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (State/PRM)).  Secretary Pompeo’s tweet on November 28 says that the United States is providing an “additional” $131 million in food assistance to Yemen.

According to the CRS, since March 2015, the U.S.-trained Saudi military has used U.S.-origin weaponry, U.S. logistical assistance, and shared intelligence in support of military operations in Yemen. Excerpt:

In May 2017, President Trump signaled a continuation and deepening of bilateral defense cooperation, announcing completed and proposed defense sales during his visit to Riyadh with a potential value of more than $110 billion. The sales include cases that the Obama Administration had proposed and notified to Congress, cases developed under the Obama Administration on which Congress had been preliminarily consulted, and new sales that remain under development.
[…]
The United States’ role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in Yemen has evolved over time. 65 At present, it consists of some intelligence sharing, aerial refueling, and the deployment of advisers to Saudi Arabia for border security and anti-ballistic missile purposes.66 In his latest biannual War Powers letters to Congress on the deployment of U.S. forces abroad in combat operations (P.L. 93-148), President Trump informed Congress about ongoing U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen and stated that U.S. forces in noncombat roles were providing “military advice and limited information, logistics, and other support to regional forces combatting the Houthi insurgency.”

So, on one hand, we’re supporting the side that’s indiscriminately bombing hospitals, school buses and children, and on the other hand, we’re spending millions of dollars for food and humanitarian assistance to help those who are bombed and starved.  Also, our Secretary of Swagger did not just announced the additional millions in food assistance but also cited “our generous example” in “galvanizing humanitarian assistance.” When is this going up on Instagram, people?

By the way, the most recent USAID/OFDA official said “no amount of aid money can prevent this famine” and that absent massive political pressure on the Saudi, this is just “window dressing.” 

Related item: Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF) | Updated September 21, 2018 (Congressional Research Service).

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Finns and Friends #RakeTheForest For Trump’s California Fire Prevention Moment

 

After you’re done laughing out loud, please consider (if you can) helping the displaced people in California who lost loved ones and homes in the wildfires.  Below are links to a few groups. Thank you!

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