MSM Headlines Characterize State Department Assignments to Iraq as Forced

Baltimore Sun Notable Quote of the DayThe mainstream media has glommed onto another narrative courtesy of activists within the State Department who object to “the potential” assignment to a post in Iraq. Opponents within the State Department and their union representatives have characterized the staffing assignments as being “forced” to take a position that is a “potential death sentence”.

“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,” Mr. 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?”

Headline writers in the MSM newsrooms are more than happy to run with this lead despite the fact that Foreign Service Employees in the State Department are required to accept assignment on a worldwide basis at the discretion of the department officials per their employment agreement.

To understand just how inept and unwilling certain reporters are in covering the role of Foreign Service officers all you need to do is visit the State Department Careers website and read the description at the topmost link, where we work. (all emphasis mine throughout)

Worldwide availability is both an affirmed willingness to serve anywhere in the world and a matter of being medically qualified to do so. Both the willingness and being medically qualified are essential requirements for appointment to the Foreign Service. Worldwide availability also means that members of the Foreign Service are expected to serve anywhere in the world, even in cases where family members cannot go to post due to political instability and/or other concerns, or when family members must leave post as conditions deteriorate (evacuations).

Candidates should also bear in mind that Foreign Service Officers are expected to take assignments that can involve extremely difficult work, hardship, and even danger.

 

Characterizing these assignments as being “forced” is an insult to anyone with an IQ above 90. The concept of being forced to do the bidding of your employer as stated in your employment agreement is perhaps the most inane characterization an employed person could possibly make. Haven’t they ever heard of employment at will? I would expect uninformed 15 year olds to run with this claim but not employed journalists.

“I took a job as a shoe salesman and like my boss actually wanted me to like help people try on shoes! They can’t like force me! Sheesh.”

From my point of view this is just another activist agenda playing itself out in headlines and slick pull quotes. The AP and just about every other news outlet running the story are using the comments of State Department employee Jack Croddy to set up the context of their report without delving beyond the most rudimentary concept of what a Foreign Service Officer in the State Department is tasked to do.

WASHINGTON — The usually staid corridors of the U.S. State Department erupted Wednesday with the sounds of a diplomatic revolt over a management decision to force foreign service officers to take jobs in Iraq under threat of dismissal.

With some likening it to a “potential death sentence,” several hundred U.S. diplomats vented anger and frustration at the largest diplomatic call-up since Vietnam. In a contentious hour-long “town hall meeting,” diplomats faced off with officials behind the order that will require some to serve at the embassy in Baghdad and 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 directly 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,” Mr. 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?”

His remarks were met with loud and sustained applause from the approximately 300 diplomats at the meeting.

Every source I found used Jack Croddy’s statement as the jumping board to spin the narrative in the most expected of ways as exemplified in the headlines.

Fox News - Diplomats Rip Forced Duty In Iraq - Postings Made Under Threat Of Dismissal

Reuters - Rice defends forced diplomatic assignments to Iraq

Washington Post - Envoys Resist Forced Iraq Duty

NBC WMAQ Chicago - Diplomats Rip Forced Duty In Iraq

The Baltimore Sun featured the graphic that I posted at the top of this article as yesterday's notable quote of the day and was featured across many articles. It’s notable all right. Let’s just consider it as a notable exclamation mark on the media’s activist stance.

Had anyone in the media spent the 2 minutes I took to look up the policy on Foreign Service employee assignment rules they would have found the doc that stated the following requirement as terms of this type of employment. I'm sure there are even more recent examples just for the asking. When reading the policy statement keep in mind that anyone can go to the State Department careers website and interactively choose a career path based on desire to work abroad with foreign governments.

3 FAM 2424 POLICY
3 FAM 2424.1 World-Wide Service
(TL:PER-267; 6-5-95)
(State Only)
(Applies to Foreign Service Employees Only)
American Foreign Service employees are required, as a condition of employment, to accept assignment on a worldwide basis at the discretion of the Department.

In other words these employees have committed themselves to the whims and the needs of the State Department when they decided to enter Foreign Service. This is what the job entails. The assignments are not done haphazardly.

Thankfully the press reported the exchange between Foreign Service Director General Harry Thomas and the Union representatives; although I suspect it is only so they can get a dig in at Condoleezza Rice who is characterized as not "fighting for them" as indicated by a union led poll.

Thomas responded by saying the comments were "filled with inaccuracies" but did not elaborate until challenged by the head of the diplomats' union, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), who, like Crotty and others, demanded to know why many learned of the decision from news reports.

Thomas took full responsibility for the late notification but objected when AFSA 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."

"That's their right but they're wrong," Thomas said, prompting a testy exchange.

"Sometimes, if it's 88 to 12, maybe the 88 percent are correct," Naland said.

"88 percent of the country believed in slavery at one time, was that correct?" shot back Thomas, who is black, in a remark that drew boos from the crowd. "Don't you or anybody else stand there and tell me I don't care about my colleagues. I am insulted," Thomas added.

Rice was not present for the meeting, but her top adviser on Iraq, David Satterfield, did attend.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack acknowledged the session had been "pretty emotional" but praised Thomas for holding it. He also stressed that all diplomats sign an oath to serve the country that obligates them to be available to work anywhere in the world.

This one will be interesting to watch. Union led flaps tend to make their way into the fabric of debates and various political discussions. I expect to hear more about this as time goes on.

Terry Trippany is the editor and publisher of Webloggin.