Today, the AP reports that U.S. foreign service officers may face compulsory duty in Iraq because of a lack of volunteers:
[T]he State Department is warning diplomats they may be forced to serve in Iraq next year and will soon identify prime candidates for upcoming vacancies in Baghdad and outlying provinces.
A cable sent to all foreign service officers says the department is facing a looming crisis to fill about 300 jobs that will come open in 2009 in Iraq and that it may not get enough qualified volunteers. If it doesn’t, the department will begin selecting diplomats for compulsory duty.
Similarly, last fall, the State Department came under intense criticism for its plan to make approximately 48 diplomats to take forced assignments to Iraq. It eventually dropped the plan when the spots were filled with volunteers.
The State Department’s “looming crisis” stands in stark contrast to statements made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a House Armed Services Committee hearing today, during which she took umbrage at the suggestion that foreign service officers don’t want to serve in Iraq. She said that comments by diplomats who protested the forced assignments last fall were “offen[sive]” and “cast a very bad light on the foreign service.” Watch it:
Rice tried to downplay a town hall meeting last November, during which a diplomat called serving in Iraq a “potential death sentence.” Rice said the remark “was a comment, from a person, who said that he felt in danger in the Green Zone.” But what she left out was that many of the several hundred foreign service officers at the meeting applauded the remarks.
A January poll found that 48 percent of diplomats opposed the war in Iraq, citing “disagreement” with the Bush administration’s policies. Just 18 percent said Rice was “doing a good job protecting their profession.”
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