Maybe it’s a blessing that Condi is off to Turkey to attempt to explain to the Turks why our top general in Kurdistan says he won’t do anything to help rein in the PKK. If that’s the message, Rice’s one day fly-by en route to Iraq will be about as effective as Nero’s fiddling while Rome burns – but it does get her out of a smoldering Foggy Bottom for a few days while leaving her deputies to deal with the flames from an incensed Foreign Service.
Not only did our less than illustrious public diplomacy Czarina Karen Hughes submit her resignation papers this morning to begin mid-December but according to the news reports, Condi agreed to turn over Iraq employee convoy guard duty to Gates’ Pentagon as a result of the Blackwater shoot-em up on Nisour Square fiasco. I don’t object to the military providing State with protective services and placing contract security guards under some kind of law. After all, the Marine Guard has been a staple at US Embassies around the world for decades. But it looks to me as if the administration is - among other things - substituting one understaffed contracting oversight office for another – while continuing to expand the scope and weight of the US military establishment and the military-industrial complex over US foreign policy. After all, the military has to contract out guard duty and other functions too and it doesn’t necessarily control private contractors overseas – and certainly not in terms of fiscal or other kinds of accountability - that much better than State.
Easy come, easy go . . .
Meanwhile, Hughes, who - one might say - aptly chose Halloween to announce her departure from the Department, is the third State political appointee to desert State's sinking ship in less than a week.
An aside: Condi apparently managed to make that formal announcement before escaping to Andrews to catch her plane to Turkey. Clearly, however, she couldn’t be bothered to wait around for the much more difficult meeting with 300 career diplomats angered over the Department's newly announced forced assignments Iraq policy. Looks to me like her absence represents just one more example of why 88 percent of the American Foreign Service Association's active duty members do not think Rice "is fighting for them." Let alone has their interests at heart.
Earlier, the far more junior David Denehy who was most recently “senior advisor” (often a shunt-aside job) to the apparently unpopular democratizing Iran account in State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs announced quietly last week that he was leaving to set up his own small company – whatever that means. This once-upon-a-time fledgling IRI staffer engaged in the democracy building business either saw the handwriting on State’s wall and jumped before being pushed, or someone elsewhere made him a better offer.
Then, on the red-faced security front, Richard J. Griffin, resigned abruptly as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, probably well aware that the improper and illegal offering of immunity to Blackwater security guards by a State security investigatory team was about to leak to the media. Griffin’s bio has already been expunged from State’s website. Reminds me of the airbrushed photos in the Russian archives from Stalin’s days. Now you see them, now you don’t.
But the real reason the steam is rising from the Department – as opposed to the grates in the sidewalk near the building where DC’s homeless take up permanent residence in winter – has much to do with the announcement of forced assignments of Foreign Service Officers to Iraq. Not only did the current Director General of the Foreign Service Ambassador Henry K. Thomas, Jr. announce the forced assignments decision to the media before letting those potentially affected know (so they had to read it first in the national press), but the fact is the Department just doesn’t have the staff to fill the once again expanded number of positions. As the October 15, 2007 Center for Strategic & International Studies “blue ribbon report” tells us, State’s staffing deficit really totals 2,094 positions including a shortage of over 1,000 Foreign Service Officers. Yet, during the past two years Congress has even refused to fund State’s modest request for 331 additional officers.