Rice Aims To Soothe Envoy Fears Over Iraq Duty

Rice Aims To Soothe Envoy Fears Over Iraq Duty
November 2nd, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Rice Aims To Soothe Envoy Fears Over Iraq Duty

Rice Aims To Soothe Envoy Fears Over Iraq Duty
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
November 2, 2007 By Matthew Lee, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying to quell a revolt among U.S. diplomats angry over attempts to force foreign service officers to work in Iraq or face dismissal.
Rice plans to send a cable to all U.S. embassies and missions abroad explaining the decision to launch the largest diplomatic call-up since Vietnam, following a contentious town hall meeting Wednesday in which angry diplomats raised deep concern about the "potential death sentence" of being ordered to work in Iraq, the State Department said.
Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters the message would be distributed Thursday. He stressed the cable was not a "direct response" to Wednesday's unusually hostile session, but that "it speaks to some of the concerns that were aired in that town hall meeting."
Rice, who did not attend the meeting, was also making clear in the cable that foreign service officers have an obligation to uphold the oaths they took to carry out the policies of the government and be available to serve anywhere in the world, McCormack said.
Despite the resistance to mandatory Iraq duty displayed at the meeting, McCormack noted that since 2002, more than 1,500 U.S. diplomats have served at the Baghdad Embassy and in Provincial Reconstruction Teams in outlying areas and that 94 percent of the positions there are currently filled.
He said the diplomatic corps is not shirking its responsibilities and noted that since the call-up to fill 48 vacant Iraq posts was announced last Friday, 15 diplomats have volunteered to work there. He acknowledged, however, that that represents only 0.1 percent of the approximately 11,500- member foreign service.
At the White House, press secretary Dana Perino said President Bush understood the diplomats' concerns but believed that both Rice and the foreign service would be able to handle the challenge in Iraq.
On Capitol Hill, reaction to the diplomatic concerns broke down along partisan lines.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she thought the revolt was an indication of the unpopularity of the Iraq war and the "failure" of Bush's Iraq policies.
"People are patriotic, they take hardship duty all over the world to represent our country and we're very proud of them when they do," she told a news conference. "And so, when they resist, it's very unusual and should be a very clear message about the direction of this war, the prospect for success in it and the lack of interest in people in serving our country in that way."
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the House Armed Services Committee's top Republican, said he intends to suggest that diplomats who refuse to serve in Iraq be replaced by wounded veterans.
"Let's replace these reluctant Nellies with America's finest citizens," he said in a statement. "Our wounded warriors will serve our country efficiently, effectively and with undying patriotism."
The State Department says three foreign service personnel -- two diplomatic security agents and one political officer -- have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.
Despite the concerns, the director general of the foreign service, Harry Thomas, told those at the meeting that the decision would not be rescinded.

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