US diplomats refuse to be Bush´s cannon fodder in Iraq

This video is called Rocket Hits Near U.N. Chief in Baghdad, in the Green Zone.

From Associated Press:

Postings to Iraq upset diplomats

10/31/2007, 7:12 p.m. CDT


WASHINGTON — Several hundred U.S. diplomats vented anger and frustration Wednesday about the State Department’s decision to force foreign service officers to take jobs in Iraq, with some likening it to a “potential death sentence.”

In a contentious hourlong town-hall meeting, they peppered officials responsible for the order with often hostile complaints about the largest diplomatic call-up since Vietnam. Announced last week, it will require some diplomats — under threat of dismissal — to serve at the embassy in Baghdad and in reconstruction teams in outlying provinces.

Many expressed serious concern about the ethics of sending diplomats against their will to work in a war zone — where the embassy staff is largely confined to the protected “Green Zone” — as the department reviews use of private security guards to protect its staff.

“Incoming is coming in every day, rockets are hitting the Green Zone,” said Jack Croddy, a senior foreign service officer who once worked as a political adviser with NATO forces.

He and others confronted Foreign Service Director General Harry Thomas, who approved the move to “directed assignments” late last Friday to make up for a lack of volunteers willing to go to Iraq.

“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,” Croddy said. “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?” …

Still Croddy’s remarks were met with loud and sustained applause from the approximately 300 diplomats at the meeting.

Thomas responded by saying the comments were “filled with inaccuracies.” But he did not elaborate until challenged by the head of the diplomats’ union, the American Foreign Service Association, who, like Croddy and others, demanded to know why many learned of the decision from news reports.

Thomas took full responsibility for the late notification. But he objected when the association’s president, John Naland, said a recent survey found only 12 percent of the union’s membership believed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was “fighting for them.” …

“I would just urge you, now that now we are looking at compulsory service in a war zone, that we have a moral imperative as an agency to take care of people who … come back with war wounds,” said Rachel Schneller, a diplomat who served in Basra, Iraq. She said the department had been unresponsive to requests for mental heath care.

“I asked for treatment and I didn’t get any of it,” she said in comments greeted with a standing ovation. …
Helicopter in Saigon, 1975
More than 1,200 of the department’s 11,500 Foreign Service officers have served in Iraq since 2003. But the generous incentives have not persuaded enough diplomats to volunteer for duty in Baghdad or with the provincial reconstruction teams.

The move to directed assignments is rare but not unprecedented.

In 1969, an entire class of entry-level diplomats was sent to Vietnam.

See also here.

Does the Bush administration provides its diplomats in Baghdad with a course in hanging on to skids of helicopters departing from embassy roofs, like in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City in 1975?

Update 3 November 2007: here.

Update 8 November 2007: here.

8 thoughts on “US diplomats refuse to be Bush´s cannon fodder in Iraq

  1. 30 years self employed, operating multimillion dollar wholesale distribution center in Texas. Importer. Vietnam Vet. 61 years old. Sign me up for training and fire the next guy who just says no, I’ll take his post.


  2. Former Corvallis city councilor killed in Iraq
    Posted by The Associated Press March 25, 2008 05:41AM
    Categories: Breaking News

    A former Corvallis city councilman has died from injuries sustained when rockets pounded Baghdad’s U.S.-protected Green Zone on Easter, according to a story in the Corvallis Gazette Times.

    Dick and Leona Converse of Corvallis said they learned Sunday that their son, Paul Converse, had been injured and likely wouldn’t survive. On Monday, two officers from the Oregon Army National Guard arrived at their door.

    Converse, 56, was a financial analyst who audited contracts in Iraq, said Kristine Belisle, a spokeswoman for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, part of the U.S. Department of Defense.


  3. Green Zone barrages: Fragments, fear and `mortar mime’

    By BRADLEY BROOKS , Associated Press

    Last update: March 25, 2008 – 11:45 PM

    BAGHDAD – My window panes rattled again Wednesday morning. That told me two things: Another mortar attack was under way and the mood in the Green Zone was about to change quickly.

    Joggers disappear from the streets. People normally walking around in T-shirts and jeans toss on body armor and helmets. Any plans to leave your compound are abruptly canceled. Nerves become strained. E-mails zip between Green Zone pals, asking if anyone was hurt.

    The war — usually fought on the other side of the 15-foot concrete blast walls — is falling again on Baghdad’s famous fortified oasis that includes the U.S. and British embassies, many Iraqi government offices, thousands of soldiers and security staff, a few journalists and others.

    The Green Zone has been a target for mortars and rockets for years. But this week has been particularly noisy and dangerous.

    Several rockets struck Tuesday as part of widening attacks by forces loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Wednesday morning brought another brief salvo. A long barrage Sunday — as Westerners in the Green Zone celebrated Easter — killed one U.S. government employee. Twelve Iraqi’s also were killed outside the Green Zone, apparently by short-falling salvos.

    The first Easter blasts, about 6 a.m., jolted me awake. I hustled to the first floor of my building.

    One of my first thoughts was of the Easter mornings of my childhood, when my sister and I would race downstairs to search for the chocolate eggs our parents had hidden around the house.

    This day, I found mortar fragments in the front yard.

    The recent attacks, which usually begin about sunrise, prompt the same ritual: I throw on some clothes, grab a notebook and head downstairs, all the time trying to keep count of how many mortars or rockets have hit.


  4. De Nederlandse oorlogsfotograaf Hubert van Es is overleden. Van Es (67) was een van de weinige fotografen die tijdens het einde van de Vietnamoorlog in Saigon waren.

    De Nederlander maakte er in 1975 zijn beroemdste foto. Op die foto pikt een Amerikaanse helikopter mensen van een dak die het land willen ontvluchten. Destijds werd vermeld dat het om het dak ging van de Amerikaanse ambassade, maar later bleek het een gebouw te zijn waar CIA-medewerkers woonden.

    Van Es woonde al lang in Hongkong. Hij stierf daar aan de gevolgen van een hersenbloeding.


  5. May 15, 4:46 AM EDT

    Photographer who took famous Saigon photo dies

    Associated Press Writers

    HONG KONG (AP) — Hugh Van Es, a Dutch photojournalist who covered the Vietnam War and recorded the most famous image of the fall of Saigon in 1975 – a group of people scaling a ladder to a CIA helicopter on a rooftop – died Friday morning in Hong Kong, his wife said. He was 67 years old.

    Van Es died in Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong, where he had lived for more than 35 years. He suffered a brain hemorrhage last week and never regained consciousness, his wife Annie said. Hospital officials declined to comment.

    Slender, tough-talking and always ready with a quip, Van Es was considered by colleagues to be fearless and resourceful. He remained a towering figure after the war in journalism circles in Asia, including his adopted home in Hong Kong.

    “Obviously he will be always remembered as one of the great witnesses of one of the great dramas in the second half of the 20th century,” said Ernst Herb, president of Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondent Club.

    “He really captured the spirit of foreign reporting. He was quite an inspiration,” Herb said.

    He arrived in Hong Kong as a freelancer in 1967, joined the South China Morning Post as chief photographer, and got a chance the following year to go to Vietnam as a soundman for NBC News, which he took. After a brief stint, he joined The Associated Press photo staff in Saigon from 1969-72 and then covered the last three years of the war from 1972-75 for United Press International.

    His photo of a wounded soldier with a tiny cross gleaming against his dark silhouette, taken 40 years ago this month, became the best-known picture from the May 1969 battle of Hamburger Hill.

    And his shot of the helicopter escape from a Saigon rooftop on April 29, 1975 became a stunning metaphor for the desperate U.S. withdrawal and its overall policy failure in Vietnam.

    As North Vietnamese forces neared the city, upwards of 1,000 Vietnamese joined American military and civilians fleeing the country, mostly by helicopters from the U.S. Embassy roof.

    A few blocks distant, others climbed a ladder on the roof of an apartment building that housed CIA officials and families, hoping to escape aboard a helicopter owned by Air America, the CIA-run airline.

    From his vantage point on a balcony at the UPI bureau several blocks away, Van Es recorded the scene with a 300-mm lens – the longest one he had.

    It was clear, Van Es said later, that not all the approximately 30 people on the roof would be able to escape, and the UH-1 Huey took off overloaded with about a dozen.

    The photo earned Van Es considerable fame, but in later years he told friends he spent a great deal of time explaining that it was not a photo of the embassy roof, as was widely assumed.

    The image gained even greater iconic status after the musical Miss Saigon featured the final Americans evacuating from the city from the Embassy roof by helicopter. Van Es was upset about the play’s use of the image that he so famously captured, and believed he was ripped off. He had long considered legal action but decided against it.

    Born in Hilversum, the Netherlands, Hubert Van Es learned English from hanging out as a kid with soldiers during World War II.

    He said he decided to become a photographer after going to a photo exhibit at a local museum when he was 13 years old and seeing the work of legendary war photographer Robert Capa.

    After graduating from college, he started working as a photographer in 1959 with the Nederlands Foto Persbureau in Amsterdam, but Asia became his home.

    When the Vietnam war ended in 1975, van Es returned to Hong Kong where he freelanced for major American and European newspapers and magazines and shot still photos for many Hollywood movies on locations across Asia.

    Van Es, who served as president of the Hong Kong FCC in the early 1980s, was often found holding court at the club, his firsthand accounts and opinions sought out by reporters new and old.

    “His presence there is really memorable,” Herb said.


  6. Pingback: Corrupt ties between US Bush administration and Blackwater | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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