Sunday, May 28, 2006


Veteran Diplomat Quits in Disgust

Says State Department is "mere political arm" for Bush and no longer represents the "values and priorities that have been the foundation" of American strength

Below is a letter from a veteran U.S. foreign service officer as it appears in the April 2006 "Foreign Service Journal"

An FSO Resigns

With deep sadness I depart the State Department, prematurely ending a 24-year Foreign Service career. I voluntarily leave what had been a largely rewarding career in which I raised two daughters to know and appreciate the world I spent almost four decades traveling. I take this action because I believe that State is no longer effectively representing the values and priorities that have been the foundation of our security and the source of American strength. The dissonance between many of the actions and policies implemented — cherrypicked prewar intelligence, pre-emptive war, secret foreign CIA detention centers and torture, warrantless domestic spying — and my own values, common sense and experience has simply become too great.

I recognize that successful Foreign Service officers must have an exceptional tolerance for ambiguity. And I understand that higher strategic aims often necessitate compromises in pursuit of the ultimate objective. During my postings in South America, the Caribbean, Russia, the Middle East, Africa and Washington, I have also had serious doubts about some of the policies of previous administrations. Until recently, however, I took some solace in the belief that State itself, while ultimately the policy-implementation arm of the administration, was playing an important role within policy-making councils as a voice of reason, experience and realism. I can no longer take such comfort. Like our intelligence agencies, State is increasingly becoming a mere political arm of the administration which, for political reasons, continues to exploit post-9/11 emotions.

One need not be an expert to see the damage that the conduct of the faultily-conceived, poorly-understood and ineptly executed Iraq War, as well as the politicization of the “War on Terrorism,” have done to our standing in the world and to the ideals that historically have been our most powerful attributes. We are failing to accurately analyze why the world is responding as it is and instead focus our efforts on how to force the rest of the world to accept our values and perception of the way life should be. American leadership must, by example, be worthy of emulation, in order to build a worldwide support base. Force will not replace this long-term need, and the backlash will eventually obliterate the good for which the United States historically has been a beacon of light.

Additionally, State is now unable to truly effectively serve as an adviser on, or implementer of, its public diplomacy mission. State’s public diplomacy role is suffering from poor but superior-pleasing management, decreased funding and an inability to recognize and respond to current realities. Our best minds are often managing illusions or treating symptoms, not addressing underlying causes. Meanwhile, the military, however, which has almost unlimited resources to project the administration’s “message,” is incrementally taking over State’s public diplomacy operation.

Our current policies directed at developing countries also fall far short of their purported goals, inviting disaster. Despite our rhetoric to the contrary, we have gradually become part of the problem. In Africa, for example, the few continue to grow richer while more than half of the 900 million Africans live in destitution, earning no more than a dollar a day — literally not a cent better off than when I first set foot in Africa in 1968.

Within State’s Africa Bureau, where I most recently handled public diplomacy for 16 countries of West Africa and served as the public affairs liaison on HIV/AIDS, I see distressingly few significant results of our policies, despite the valiant efforts of officers everywhere. This is particularly true of policies related to the $15 billion HIV/AIDS program executed by the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator with a constant eye to maximizing positive domestic political publicity. The recent appointment of OGAC’s political-appointee head (and former CEO of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly) Randall Tobias to head USAID, as well as function as overall foreign assistance director, will result in even further politicization of our foreign assistance program.

The administration’s indifference to suffering everywhere — now evident both at home, post-Katrina, and in our activities internationally — makes it increasingly difficult to be optimistic. Despite the administration’s truly massive PR, its HIV/AIDS policy will eventually become a permanent blot on our record as millions perish unnecessarily. This policy is making an entire generation of Africans unwilling pawns in its quest to impress American voters with its own perceived morality.

The disease is the biggest threat faced by Africa, where two-thirds of the world’s 40 million HIV/AIDS patients live. It contributes to a marked drop in productivity and to increased despair and is feeding a growth in political instability. Of the 40 million stricken, only 471,000 now receive anti-viral treatment from our $15 billion program. African leaderships have been pushed by the U.S. to emphasize abstinence and de-emphasize condom use — or lose funding. These policies will lead to a reversal of progress in the treatment of AIDS. Simply stated, Africans in the millions are expendable if it serves the re-election needs of politicians. This, coupled with African leaderships sometimes mired in increasingly skillfully executed corruption (which we verbally criticize but often effectively ignore when in our perceived “interest” to do so) simply adds to growing frustration.

Careerism at State cripples critical thinking. And within the department’s internal bureaucracy, professional punishment and sophisticated, targeted retribution for any deviation from “the message” are increasingly effective and expertly hidden behind a shield of multiple maneuvers using personnel system “mechanisms” designed and scripted for deniability. Officers are discredited, promotions, tenure and assignments jeopardized, careers destroyed.

Edward R. Murrow said that we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. It is truer than ever today, when loyalty and being “on message” trump critical analysis and forthright honesty. I fully realize that for others in the department who may privately share my views, my decision to depart may be unacceptably costly in personal terms. I personally regret, however, that I did not take this action earlier. I clung to the hope that we would right ourselves. Unfortunately that has not happened in the years since 9/11 and I do not see it on the horizon.

I hardly believe that my premature departure from State will have any effect on the course of U.S. foreign policy, but I am compelled to add another voice to what I hope becomes a groundswell against the directions we have taken. Were I to remain silent any longer, I would be contributing to this deception by lending credence to the illusion that things are as they ought to be. They are not.

Peggy S. Zabriskie
FSO, newly retired

Holetown, Barbados

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Annotated Eyes of the World

Thanks to David Dodd at U.C. Santa Cruz, whose annotation of one of my favorite tunes simply deepens my appreciation for the music!

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Time to Defend the Constitution

We are all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. Based on the following facts, I believe that Americans have a duty to investigate the Bush administration's abuses of power and follow the evidence to wherever it may lead, including the impeachment of George W. Bush and others in his administration responsible for shredding the U.S. Constitution, lying to the public, and other high crimes and misdemeanors.

  1. Former Bush Secretary of Treasury, Paul O’Neill, who was there, said that Rumsfeld and Cheney pushed the idea of invading Iraq in Bush’s first cabinet meeting, some 8 months before 9/11.
  2. The Bush administration deliberately conflated 9/11 with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in an effort to build support among Americans traumatized by 9/11 for a “pre-emptive” war on Iraq The bipartisan 9/11 commission conclude that there was no/no evidence linking Hussein to 9/11.
  3. As the U.S. pulled important assets out of Afghanistan during the run-up to the Iraq war, the Bush administration delayed it’s “marketing” of the Iraq war until after August 2002 because, as former Chief of Staff Andy Card said, "you don't introduce new products in August."
  4. The White House cherry-picked intelligence to make the case for war, putting forward claims that were either in dispute among intelligence experts or had already been refuted (e.g., the allegation that Iraq sought to purchase uranium from Niger). Bush and Rice raised the spectre of “mushroom clouds” in asserting that Iraq posed an imminent threat. Rumsfeld said that “we know where the WMD is.” The U.S. has yet to find any WMD in Iraq and the president’s handpicked chief inspector, David Kay, later told Congress that “we were flat wrong” about WMD.
  5. Before the war, the Bush administration said the U.S. would be greeted by Iraqis as “liberators.” To date, 2,439 U.S. soldiers have been killed and more than 17,800 have been wounded. The vast majority of these casualties came after Bush declared “mission accomplished.”
  6. On September 15th 2002, White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsay estimated the high limit on the cost of the Iraq war to be 1-2% of GNP, or about $100-$200 billion. Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget later discounted this estimate as “very, very high” and stated that the costs would be between $50-$60 billion, most of which Bush officials said would be paid back quickly through Iraqi oil revenues. Lindsey was subsequently fired. So far, the war has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $280 billion (enough to fully fund global hunger efforts for 11 years), with no end in sight. Congress has thus far appropriated more than $350 billion. A recent study estimates that the direct budgetary cost to the U.S. could reach $750 billion to $1.2 trillion, with up to another $1 trillion more in indirect costs to the economy.
  7. The Bush administration has opted out of the Geneva conventions and claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture. This has been documented in U.S. gulags located in several countries around the world, not only Abu Ghraib. Interrogation experts maintain that torture is ultimately an ineffective means of obtaining useful information. No high-level administration official has been removed based on the torture scandal.
  8. Bush has referred to the U.S. Constitution as just a “goddam piece of paper.”
  9. As president, he has asserted that he has a previously unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer. He claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.
  10. Bush has never vetoed a bill. But he has signed some 750 “signing statements” when signing a bill into law in which he chooses to interpret certain aspects of those laws as he sees fit. In essence, arrogating unto himself what amounts to a “line item veto,” but without ever having to subject such a veto to Congressional consideration.
  11. The Bush administration has asserted the “unitary executive” theory of governing, claiming that the president's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. Bush has consistently invoked his role as Commander-in-Chief, perhaps not as often as he has invoked “9/11” itself.
  12. Bush administration officials have penalized as “disloyal” those career military officials, intelligence analysts, scientists, and diplomats who have dared to present information that conflicts with the official “party line” or to express dissenting views in private, official channels.
  13. The White House denied that Bush officials played any role in leaking the identity of an undercover CIA operative, Valerie Plame, whose husband went public in 2003 with information that undermined Bush/Cheney’s assertions about Hussein’s alleged effort to buy uranium from Niger. A special prosecutor appointed by former Attorney General John Ashcroft has indicted Cheney’s top aide, Scooter Libby, for perjury and obstruction of justice in this case. Bush’s top advisor, Karl Rove, remains under investigation for similar charges. It recently came to light that the disclosure of Plame’s identify torpedoed an undercover operation that had enabled us to track the sale of nuclear materials to Iran.
  14. Prior to the facts coming to light, Bush said that the administration only wiretapped after getting court orders. On Dec. 17, however, he admitted that the NSA has engaged in eavesdropping on the phone calls of American citizens without seeking the warrants required under long-standing law. He said that it would continue to do so. The White House has not denied the most recent claim that several major U.S. telephone companies have (for a fee) given the NSA access to their databases of all calls made by their millions of American customers. One company – Qwest – declined to do so after NSA officials refused to produce either a court order or a written statement from the Justice Dept. attesting to the program’s legality.
  15. After 4-1/2 years, the U.S. has still not found Osama bin Ladin, a 6’6” Arab believed to be hiding out in the Afghan/Pakistan border area.
  16. The president took an oath in which he solemnly swore to “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

I, too, took an oath over a decade ago. I solemnly swore “that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and “that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” Accordingly, when I see our own leaders taking action that arguably violates the Constitution, that arguably undermines the very fabric of our democracy, and that arguably jeopardizes the very freedoms that Americans hold dear, I cannot and I will not remain silent. I refuse to trade the “rule of law” for the “whim of man” and it is my earnest hope that we, as Americans, could return to the founding ideals of the republic, lest we allow our nation to become that which we fear and loathe.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?