The State Department has created turmoil and consternation within the agency over its plan to resolve staff shortages in Iraq by forcing foreign service officers to accept one-year postings in Baghdad. Under the order, 200 to 300 diplomats have been identified as “prime candidates” to fill 48 vacancies that will open next year at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. If those positions aren’t filled, the department will force diplomats to serve in the war zone.
Not since the Vietnam War have diplomats been forced to serve abroad against their will. At a recent townhall meeting in the State Department, Jack Crotty, a 36-year member of the foreign service, called the forced deployment a “potential death sentence.”
Yesterday on the House floor, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) angrily attacked those diplomats who have expressed concern about serving in Iraq. Hunter said he had personally urged President Bush to fire the diplomats for speaking out:
I’ve recommended to the President today that we do this — that we fire those recalcitrant State Department personnel who say it’s too dangerous for them to go back to Baghdad. They want another assignment — let them leave the service.
Hunter said the foreign service officers should be replaced with soldiers who have been wounded in Iraq. “Let’s go down to Walter Reed hospital and Bethesda hospital, and let’s recruit,” he said.