• My Invitation Back to the State Department

    January 27, 2014

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    I spent 24 years working for the State Department, including one year in Iraq. Following that I wrote my first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, and the Department of State began proceedings against me. They sought to bully me, then failed to prosecute me, then tried to fire me. Through the efforts of the Government Accountability Project and the ACLU, I instead retired from the State Department with my full benefits of service. And some residual bitterness. It was like a divorce– I had once been in love, then was shocked into seeing the ugly truth. Leaves a mark on you.

    So here in the mail comes an engraved invitation to attend a ceremony “honoring my career of dedicated service to the United States.” You can see the thing below. State only holds these ceremonies every once in awhile, so the fact that I received my invite about a year and a half after retiring is nothing special. The fact that after all the nasty, childish and likely illegal things State did to me to cap off “my career of dedicated service to the United States,” that they still sent me the invite is also nothing special. Everybody who retires gets one of these. There are likely to be several hundred old people at the ceremony. In fact, if you look at the invitation, the event is being held in an auditorium.



    I don’t think I’ll be there on January 28.

    I suspect for the vast majority of invitees, the decision to attend or not to attend was no big deal. I am sure that almost everyone in the Washington DC area will show up, and many from out of town as well. The ones who do not attend will likely sigh when they get the invite, and mumble “Well, if only we didn’t live so far away,” or “Shoot honey, isn’t that the same week as Sissy’s wedding in Ohio?” Good for them, either way.

    For me, the invite prompted a long period of reflection. I thought about going; maybe wear my Free Chelsea Manning T-shirt, the way I did on my last official day of work. About three drinks into the reflection, the idea of doing something childish in the building, some kind of protest thing, seemed kinda cool, maybe to get walked out by security from your own retirement reception, yes?

    But in fact I was struck by the boilerplate line on the invitation, the one that mentioned “my career of dedicated service to the United States.” I realized that that was true, though I suspect if the State Department had three drinks alongside of me we would differ on how to define that dedicated service.

    For me, the real service I provided the United States began the day I realized everything about Iraq was a lie, and that my continued employment was contingent on me enthusiastically participating in that lie. We were helping the Iraqis. The Iraqis were happy to be democratized. The grinning thugs we gave our money to were smiling because they loved America, not because they saw me and my colleagues as hopeless idiots who for some reason wanted to make them rich in return for little more than a few propaganda photos.

    From there it was a hop, skip and a jump to the clarity that so much of what I did during my career was a lie. Shilling for American businesses abroad but calling it diplomacy, telling people we were “concerned,” or that their problems were a “priority,” or had the “attention of the ambassador” when I knew none of that was true. Watching good people inside State go down, while toadies and back lickers were promoted, living a life where people would go home from the office saying things like “I hope the Deputy Assistant Secretary’s staff aide reads my memo. It took me eight days to get the twenty internal clearances I needed to send it forward.” I came to understand that the State Department, as a frontman for America abroad, was little more of a confidence scam, playing at some version of whatever was done in the 19th century in return for nice housing, a cushy life and some money.

    I realized that looking at that invitation that I did indeed have a “career of dedicated service to the United States.” Only to me that career truly started the day I returned from Iraq and decided to tell people about what I saw, the previous twenty-some years merely a warmup, and an education.

    So, after realizing that my definition of service and State’s differed in such totality, I decided not to attend the ceremony. Besides, in the words of Groucho, who’d want to belong to a club that would have a guy like me as a member?



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  • Recent Comments

    • pitchfork said...

      1

      quote:”So here in the mail comes an engraved invitation to attend a ceremony “honoring my career of dedicated service to the United States.”unquote

      BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      Unbelievable. Living proof that DOS is filled with fucking morons.

      However Peter. Think of the alternative. How would you feel if you had continued living the lie until you retired, and then showed up at this preposterous event knowing you were being awarded for…LYING? THAT my friend is what makes you special. You refused, and tried to tell the world what a goddamned lie the USG was perpetrating on the world. To ME..TRUTH is its own award. AND, you documented it. Your book is the living proof. In that regard..fuck DOS.

      01/27/14 4:56 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      2

      Peter –

      …and this is ASIDE from my own past invitations to, and encounters with, the “Great and Good” of this world (including, in my own circles, close friends of the late Princess Diana, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Arthur C Clarke the pedophile author of “2001, A Space Odyessey”, and some creeps who are now involved with the house where Ben Franklin (a member of the Hellfire Club) used to live in London (where recently the bones of several 18th century bodies were discovered beneath the basement…)…

      …well, in light of the above – in light of my above comments – all I can say is that when you refuse to be celebrated by the US State Department, you refuse to be celebrated by THESE kinds of creatures! And the man who took this video, Alex Jones, is a Protestant nut – my Catholic religion regards him as a believer in heresy (not his fault) – and I disagree with him most of the time because he’s such a typical American, a Protestant…

      …BUT HE WAS RIGHT to take THIS video, to expose what’s really going on! And the fact that I agree with a bloody PROTESTANT about this, gives Alex Jones all the more credibility! He was right to expose this!:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5dHhvpHIjM

      01/27/14 7:00 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      3

      But then, in all fairness to American secularists, you don’t need to sneak into Bohemian Grove to find out how your rulers think of you and of the Human Race! It’s not secret! Just watch the Grammys, to see how your overlords think of, and intend to degrade and defile, the Human Body and the Human Race!

      Even good atheists (of whom I used to be one), will object to THIS INSULT to the essence of Humans!:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDn1iCjd-Oo

      01/27/14 7:14 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      4

      PS to my above comment:

      No, THIS is the essence of Humans, at our best!

      (And as I am a self-declared Catholic, I have all the more credibility to say this!):

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz_b9PZTWkc

      01/27/14 7:24 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      5

      melov said:
      ” It’s not secret! Just watch the Grammys, to see how your overlords think of, and intend to degrade and defile, the Human Body and the Human Race!”unquote

      The Grammys..’merica’s tribute to Loonytunes and the pathetic narcisstic morons they call “artists” nowdays..

      After spending 40 years as a musician, here is my definition “artists”..
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4j8vi6F6Yk

      At least no one can accuse these men for lack of humility.

      and about that other link melov.. kind of reminds me of this…

      http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-face-of-evil-pure-unadulterated.html

      Like the blog owner says…”I’ll go ahead and say it: Some folks just need hanging.”

      amen. That applies to a few people in the USG as well.

      01/27/14 9:06 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      6

      Capital punishment for confirmed, no-doubt-about-it child abusers is something I support fully. A lot of the other executions in the U.S. are harder to get my head around, but not ones like the case at your link.

      01/27/14 9:39 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      7

      “For me, the real service I provided the United States began the day I realized everything about Iraq was a lie, and that my continued employment was contingent on me enthusiastically participating in that lie.”

      Peter,

      On your first day at FSI you must have missed the class that the key to advancing in the Foreign Service was predicated upon acting with false sincerity that you give shit…other than your own career.

      “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.” Oscar Wilde

      01/27/14 10:04 PM | Comment Link

    • jo6pac said...

      8

      pitchfork said…1

      I agree and at first I thought he should send you but Peter should go with the t shirt;) May be add Snowden is my hero to the back Peter.

      01/27/14 10:09 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      9

      The new Department of State wants you (to lie):

      (lifted from DOS website) “It takes a special type of person to represent America abroad, to advance diplomatic initiatives to the benefit of both the U.S. and the host country. Serving as a U.S. diplomat requires fortitude, flexibility, the ability to adapt to changing situations, and cultures other than your own. When hiring Foreign Service Officers, we look for motivated individuals with sound judgment and leadership abilities who can retain their composure in times of great stress — or even dire situations, like a military coup or a major environmental disaster.”

      FYI: Psychopaths are talented in all these areas. Note the DOS absence of the most important leadership quality: HONESTY. It’s not an oversight.

      01/27/14 10:28 PM | Comment Link

    • Michael said...

      10

      Peter – loved your book and enjoy your blog. I spent my career “shilling for American businesses abroad” and was proud to do it. The threats to American products overseas are multi-fold: local protectionism, fierce competition from third countries, poor U.S. understanding of/inappropriate expectations for doing business overseas. If the American business interest we were asked to shill for was not aligned with U.S. export interests, we were encouraged to reply “sorry can’t help you.” Opening a market and seeing US trade flowing was extremely rewarding work.

      01/28/14 3:21 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      11

      Michael, due to nature of things, I must be brief in these pieces. My specific instances of concern include US weapons into countries that need them least, pushing GMO foods without concern for the health consequences, sales of tobacco and pharmaceuticals that are known to be dangerous, and the clear political favoritism that seemed to push some companies over others. I am also concerned about the continuing melding of corporate American interests and US government interests. While claiming its most important mission is protecting American citizens, the government pours many more resources into protecting corporate profits than the interests of individual citizens least able to help themselves.

      01/28/14 1:23 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      12

      “I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” 5 U.S.C. §3331

      “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” – spoken by Atticus Finch, by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

      http://classiclit.about.com/od/finchatticus/a/aa_atticusquote.htm

      Thank you, Peter, for everything you’ve done and sacrificed. And to Mrs Van Buren, too. Spouses are right there in the trenches as well

      01/28/14 10:05 AM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      13

      Michael said…

      quote:” I spent my career “shilling for American businesses abroad” and was proud to do it.”unquote

      Oh really, ya mean like these?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzXY3c7bDLU

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VEZYQF9WlE

      http://www.globalissues.org/article/77/military-propaganda-for-arms-sales

      http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/01/are-agriculture-exports-killing-us

      http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1984/09/resources.html

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/25/lead-paint-exports-pesticides_n_2949694.html

      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1731827420/toxic-profits

      quote: “Opening a market and seeing US trade flowing was extremely rewarding work.”unquote

      I bet it was. How much per year were you awarded?

      01/28/14 2:03 PM | Comment Link

    • Alex Hensley said...

      14

      I had a similar experience in another country that left me very bitter. I did attend the retirement ceremony, which was hosted by Colin Powell, and much smaller than I had anticipated. He was the last Secretary of State I can recall who was worthy of respect. I didn’t think I would go because of my contempt for many of the top leaders in the Foreign Service, but I was glad I did. You might want to reconsider, but if not, I fully understand!

      01/28/14 9:30 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      15

      I stayed home Alex, for all the reasons outlined. Got some work done around the house I’d been putting off.

      Powell. While recognizing that he was the only SecState in my career/life time to care at all about the rank and file is to his credit. But with his foul acts in front of the UN, selling his manhood cheap to drag the US into war, I cannot feel anything but contempt for him. That was his moment, his chance to be, well, historic, and either stop a war he knew was nonsense or go down trying, like the soldier he said he was. He could have been a hero, laughed at at the time, vindicated by events. In the end he might as well have been wearing panties and a dress.

      He knows it, too. Knows he sent so many to die, and after Vietnam, too. Powell also knows he threw away his chance to have been America’s first African American president. Powell’s rich and pensioned, but I hope to hell he doesn’t sleep well at night.

      01/28/14 11:27 PM | Comment Link

    • Alex Hensley said...

      16

      P.S. Thank you for your service! I mean it!

      01/28/14 9:30 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      17

      DOS should get Gates to speak next year:

      http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/01/28-6

      01/29/14 12:05 AM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      18

      Peter wrote:

      “Powell’s rich and pensioned, but I hope to hell he doesn’t sleep well at night.”…

      …that reminds me of THIS scene from Akira Kurosawa’s last and final movie, “Dreams”. (Subtitled in English here):

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOXfgq_VpdI

      01/29/14 5:31 PM | Comment Link

    • Joe Carson said...

      19

      Like it or not, State simply does not self-regulate its management culture. Congress did not any federal agency to have such autonmy, so it created a complex system involving multiple indepedent agencies playing complementary roles to regulate the managment culture in almost 300 federal agencies (including government corporations).

      So, maybe Peter, “the fault lies not (only)in State,” but also in OSC, MSPB, Congress, the President and – truth be told – GAP for its complicity in decades long, compounded fefderal agency law-breaking in OSC and MSPB, becauese it creates, people like us whom it can champion for fun and profit.

      01/29/14 9:08 PM | Comment Link

    • A. E. said...

      20

      Dear Peter,

      I recently bought your book (we meant well) and I am going through it. I myself am a government employee, I work for a research shop, doing programming and math stuff.

      I thought, may be I ask you a question, I am dying to know the answer to, since you used to be at DoS,

      When my friends and family apply for visitor Visa to US, they are frustrated because no one gives them a straight answer.

      They keep saying you have to prove your connection to the country of residence. What does that mean? Over all, can you help me understand how the decision is made to grant visitor visas?

      Some people get them without any difficulty, some people just get refused every time.

      By the way, I was born in Iran.

      01/31/14 10:35 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      21

      That business about a connection to your home country means the visa officer has to believe you’ll leave the US at the end of your legal stay on the visa and return home afterwards. They try to judge what you have at home– job, family, house– versus what you might have in the US. It is a hard job and when I did it I a sure I was wrong many, many times. Sorry for your troubles.

      02/1/14 12:56 AM | Comment Link

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