Half­hearted oaths at the State De­part­ment

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - JOHN E. CAREY

For the first time since the Viet­nam War, the State De­part­ment has no­ti­fied ca­reer diplo­mats, or For­eign Ser­vice Of­fi­cers (FSO), that they may be re­quired to ac­cept over­seas post­ings not of their choos­ing. The or­der from Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice was nec­es­sary to fill 50 or fewer posts in the U.S. Em­bassy in Bagh­dad.

FSOs im­me­di­ately be­gan to ex­press out­rage that they might have to leave cushier as­sign­ments for tasks in what could be a dan­ger zone. So Miss Rice con­vened State’s ver­sion of a vent­ing ses­sion they call a “Town Hall Meet­ing.”

A 36-year vet­eran of the diplo­matic corps, Jack Crotty, came to the mi­cro­phone to say: “It’s one thing if some­one be­lieves in what’s go­ing on over there and vol­un­teers, but it’s an­other thing to send some­one over there on a forced as­sign­ment. I’m sorry, but ba­si­cally that’s a po­ten­tial death sen­tence and you know it. Who will raise our chil­dren if we are dead or se­ri­ously wounded?” Ac­cord­ing to re­porters, many of Mr. Crotty’s col­leagues ap­plauded.

Ou­traged mil­i­tary per­son­nel, too dis­ci­plined to ex­press anger to the me­dia, con­tacted sev­eral re­tired mil­i­tary peo­ple like my­self to ask, “What about our ser­vice? What about our chil­dren? And why are the elite of the State De­part­ment al­lowed to pick and choose their as­sign­ments with­out reper­cus­sions? Didn’t we all take the same oath?”

The fact is that the oath FSOs, and ev­ery­one of any im­por­tance at the State De­part­ment, takes is the same oath mil­i­tary per­son­nel take. But there is a vast dif­fer­ence in the way that oath is re­spected, ap­par­ently.

Mil­i­tary peo­ple know they face the Uni­form Code of Mil­i­tary Jus­tice if they refuse or­ders. They know they may wind up stand­ing be­fore a court mar­tial. State De­part­ment peo­ple, it seems, feel com­pletely within their right to defy the sec­re­tary of state and their pres­i­dent. Herein lies the dilemma.

Af­ter the tragedy of Septem­ber 11, 2001, the pres­i­dent of the United States de­clared a war on ter­ror and the De­fense De­part­ment mo­bi­lized for war. At Foggy Bot­tom, many ca­reer diplo­mats yawned. What started as ap­a­thy has mor­phed into de­fi­ance. And our mil­i­tary men and women know this.

But it wasn’t just the ac­tive duty mil­i­tary who took Mr. Crotty’s re­marks and his col­leagues’ ap­par­ent ap­proval as a se­ri­ous af­front: Re­tired mil­i­tary and For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cers be­gan to buzz on the In­ter­net.

Mike Benge is a re­tired FSO who should know some­thing about duty, honor and re­spect for those who serve and abide by their oath.

Mike was in the Marine Corps be­fore he joined what is now the U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (USAID). In Viet­nam, he served as a For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cer do­ing what is now termed “na­tion-build­ing.”

In 1968, Mike was cap­tured by the North Viet­namese com­mu­nists and held hostage for more than five years, most of it in the in­fa­mous Hanoi Hil­ton. But since Mike was not a uni­formed mem­ber of the armed forces, he was not a pris­oner of war (POW), so he was held in iso­la­tion.

Af­ter his re­lease in 1973, Mike again re­turned to Viet­nam as a vol­un­teer and con­tin­ued his work un­til the com­mu­nist takeover in 1975.

Mike, along with many of his col­leagues who view ser­vice much dif­fer­ently from the cur­rent crowd at State, ex­pressed out­rage be­yond be­lief that se­nior State De­part­ment of­fi­cers to­day are not aware of — or have so lit­tle re­spect for — their oath and their dis­tin­guished lin­eage.

Mike sent us this mes­sage: “We had many fine For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cers who served in Viet­nam, quite a few from the State De­part­ment who served in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties in­clud­ing in dan­ger zones out in the prov­inces. The clos­est thing to a ‘green zone’ per­haps was ser­vice in Saigon — which was some­times dan­ger­ous,” Mike wrote.

“Ev­ery one of th­ese ded­i­cated State De­part­ment of­fi­cers in Viet­nam did an ex­cel­lent job, and many gave the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice of their lives in ser­vice of their coun­try — 27 State De­part­ment of­fi­cials gave the fi­nal sac­ri­fice for their coun­try­men, I be­lieve. Many more from USAID and other gov­ern­ment agen­cies lost their lives, and some like me, were taken pris­oner,” wrote Mr. Mike Benge.

Now, is the United States of Amer­ica mo­bi­lized for and fight­ing a “Global War Against Ter­ror” or not? Know­ing that se­nior State De­part­ment of­fi­cers can choose not to par­tic­i­pate with­out any reper­cus­sions makes one won­der.

John E. Carey is a re­tired ca­reer mil­i­tary of­fi­cer, for­mer pres­i­dent of In­ter­na­tional De­fense Con­sul­tants Inc. and a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.