• Federal Government’s Version of Indefinite Detention

    April 6, 2013 // 16 Comments »

    The Washington Post ran a comprehensive piece on the Federal Government’s version of indefinite detention without trial for its own employees, placing unwanted employees on “admin leave.” Having been the victim of this money-wasting bit of nastiness myself, I am all too familiar with the game.

    Seeking to avoid offering an employee a chance to defend him/herself against political, personal or just dumb accusations, the Feds place that employee on “admin leave,” or call it “telework.” The person is paid, accrues vacation time and sick leave, but essentially is otherwise disappeared from the work force. S/he does not report to any office, is not held responsible for any real tasks and is never formally disciplined. S/he… just… goes… away. No muss, no fuss.

    Just money and lives wasted.

    The article is worth a read to help you understand yet another way the childish Federal government has become a dysfunctional adult.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Embassy/State

    Sand in My Eyes: Letter with New Edition of We Meant Well

    August 16, 2012 // 6 Comments »

    Along with the paperback edition of We Meant Well, in stores and available online starting August 21, the publisher included the following “letter” from me in the press kits.

    In the almost two years since I left Iraq, sadly little has challenged the thesis in We Meant Well that we failed in the reconstruction of Iraq and through that failure, finally and completely lost the war. The last US troops gratefully departed Iraq in 2011. The cost of the war is thus calculable, finite in its grimness: 4486 Americans and over 100,000 Iraqis dead, tens of thousands wounded, thousands more whose minds were destroyed by what they saw and did as surely as any IED would shred their flesh.

    The Iraq we created is a mean place, unsafe and unstable. Life goes on there, surely, but a careful reading of the news shows that the angry symphony of suicide bombers and targeted killings continues, just continues. That remains our legacy, and while the US public may have changed the channel to a new show in Syria, the Iraqis are held in amber, replaying the scenes I saw in 2009-2010 and which are recounted in this book. It remains beyond anyone to claim victory or even accomplishment.

    If Iraq opened my eyes, what happened at home threw sand in them. After this book was first published in September 2011 some coworkers set up a pool to guess when I would be fired. The over/under was November, three months, and I put $20 down on the long end, feeling if I couldn’t be optimistic on keeping my job, nobody else would. Though I did keep it in a fashion, I was never able to collect on the bet. Most of the people in the betting pool now shun me, fearful for their own fragile careers at the US State Department. Well, I did not expect to be welcomed as a liberator. I also did not expect that in return for this completely true if absurd account of how the United States wasted over $44 billion in the reconstruction of Iraq, the Department of State would send me home to sit for months in faux telework exile before retirement. You learn a lot of things writing a book.

    People ask the question in various ways, sometimes hesitantly, but my answer is always the same: I do not regret what I did. After some 24 years in government, I had seen my share of divergence between what the government said in public, and what the government did behind the public’s back. In most cases, the lies were just to hide some mistake or flaw, ugly, but with little real harm done in the bigger picture. What I saw in Iraq was different. There, the space between what we were doing, the waste and mismanagement, and what we were saying, the endless propagandized successes, was filled with numb and hurt soldiers. That was too much for even a seasoned cubicle warrior like me to ignore.

    Nation-building—reconstruction—didn’t work in Iraq, and it is not working in Afghanistan. It is important to go over those things once in a while, because government fibbers are always lurking around with more false or exaggerated claims for Syria, Iran or Pakistan. Let’s agree to ask a few questions next time.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Embassy/State

    I Volunteer to be Ambassador to Iraq

    June 13, 2012 // 3 Comments »

    With the McGurk nomination in trouble, despite State claiming he is uniquely qualified, prudent planning suggests State should have a replacement in the wings. I hereby volunteer and submit I too am uniquely qualified.

    1. I spent a year in Iraq and screwed up most of what I tried to do, like McGurk. Advantage: McGurk, he was there longer and messed up a lot more things.

    2. Unlike McGurk, there are no sweaty messages in my email archives. As part of its dirt-digging investigation into me because of my book and this blog, the State Department reviewed years of my emails, as well as my old travel vouchers and credit reports. They did not find anything worth punishing me over. Advantage: me.

    3. As I already work for the State Department, so this is a lateral transfer with less paperwork. Since my current assignment is telework, I could actually technically continue to do that while serving as ambassador, a two-for-one deal for State. Advantage: me.

    4. I’ve not cheated on my wife. I don’t use government email to send high school-like naughty notes. I have never used the term “blue balls” seriously. I do not write emails about beating off. I am a w-a-y better writer. Big advantage: me.

    5. Like McGurk, I don’t speak Arabic and have never run an embassy. Like McGurk, I don’t have a clue how to handle a $6.5 billion budget and manage 16,000 employees. Advantage? Tie.

    6. McGurk seems to only know one reporter well. Through my book and blog, I have met many reporters (though have slept with none of them). Advantage: me.

    7. I am not related to our eighth president Martin Van Buren, but I would be willing to lie about it to Congress. Advantage: me.

    8. McGurk has never held a job outside of working on Iraq. I’ve had 24 years at State and, while in college, had a summer job cleaning sewers. That last bit, my friends, does indeed make me uniquely qualified.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Embassy/State