Ex-FSO Bethany Milton’s NYT Op-Ed on Why She Left the State Department

 

Below is the latest public resignation from the U.S. Foreign Service by Bethany Milton who joined the FS in 2008. She most recently served as Consular Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda.

Via NYT:

When President Trump allowed a crowd to chant “Send her back!” about a sitting member of Congress — espousing an ideology in which naturalized American citizens, at least those who don’t fit a certain profile, are held to different and dangerous standards — he wasn’t thinking about me. He’s rarely thinking about me, the white American-born daughter of two American-born citizens.

But he is often thinking and talking about at least some of the tens of thousands of people I’ve helped immigrate to the United States — legally and permissibly — over my 11 years as a consular officer in the Foreign Service. From 2014 to 2016, I oversaw immigrant visa processing at the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai, India. Every day, my team and I saw dozens of families destined to move to the United States as green card holders: older parents going to spend their final years surrounded by grandchildren, spouses matched up through online matrimonial sites, parents with kids in tow who had been waiting patiently since the early 1990s for their chance to join a sibling.

I also oversaw immigrant visa operations in Kigali, Rwanda, from 2018 to 2019, helping Rwandans and Congolese reunite with family members in the United States. Their stories often had a darker tone: marriages brokered in refugee camps, siblings separated by war, children born of rape. But the one thing that united almost every visa applicant I ever saw was the belief that life was going to be better in America. What a rude surprise, then, for them to face elected national leadership that targets them in such gruesome ways.

When a diplomat joins the State Department, she sits through two presentations toward the end of her weekslong orientation class. One is an afternoon session about the State Department’s storied dissent channel, which lets employees speak out internally about foreign policy decisions free from the fear of retaliation. How to use it, when to use it, what it means. The other is a much shorter presentation, one that lasts all of 15 seconds: “The day you can no longer publicly support your administration’s policies is the day you need to resign.”

 

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US Embassy Rwanda Remembers 26 Local Employees Killed in 1994 Genocide

Posted: 12:25 am EDT
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To read about the frustrations of dealing with inaction from Washington, see Ambassador Prudence Bushnell interview, A Soul Filled with Shame via ADST. Below is an excerpt:

Once the RPF took over Rwanda, I was sent to check things out. It was yet another surreal experience. The countryside of one of the most populous countries in the world was literally deadly quiet. Berries ready to harvest were rotting on the coffee trees; houses stood vacant. The man who served as the ambassador’s driver drove us. When we were stopped by child soldiers at checkpoints, I learned never to look them in the eye. As we drove we heard the story of how the driver had hidden and what happened to some of the other embassy employees. Many were dead.

I participated in a memorial service for the FSNs [local Foreign Service employees] who were killed. I will never forget looking into the stony faces of employees who had been abandoned by the U.S. government. American officers who came up to speak would weep, to a person. The Rwandans just looked at us. I can only imagine what they were thinking and the trauma that was still with them.

She was asked what was the rationale for not getting involved:

“We had no interest in that country.” “Look at what they did to Belgian peacekeepers.” “It takes too long to put a peacekeeping operation together.” “What would our exit strategy be?” “These things happen in Africa.” “We couldn’t have stopped it.” I could go on….

I could and did make the argument that it was not in our national interest to intervene. Should we  send young Americans into a domestic firefight, possibly to be killed on behalf of people we don’t know in a country in which we have no particular interest? From the perspective of national interest, people like Richard Clarke will argue we did things right.

In terms of moral imperative there is no doubt in my mind that we did not do the right thing. I could have a clear bureaucratic conscience from Washington’s standpoint and still have a soul filled with shame.

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Senate Confirms Leaf (UAE), Osius (Vietnam), Ruggles (Rwanda), and Stanton (Timor-Leste)

— Domani Spero
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On November 17, the U.S. Senate finally got around to confirming the nominations of the following career ambassadors for the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Rwanda and Timor-Leste. We should note that the ambassador designate for Timor-Leste has waited for this confirmation for over 400 days.

Barbara A. Leaf – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Arab Emirates

Theodore G. Osius III – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Erica J. Barks Ruggles – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Rwanda

Karen Clark Stanton – to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

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