More on the Need to Close down the US Embassy in Baghdad

More on the need to pressure Congress to close the US embassy in Baghdad (see below). First, here is some correspondence:

‘As a retired foreign service officer . . . at the State Department in Washington, I would like to add to your rationale for closing the US Embassy in Bagdad to save lives. In addition to the extreme danger involved, many of us would not go to Iraq because there is virtually nothing we can accomplish there. We could have no contact with ordinary Iraqis and would put our professional contacts or, for example, potential cultural exchange grantees, in great danger, simply by virtue of being seen with us, working with us, or participating in our programs. Unless some minimum level of security is established, we would be unable to achieve any worthwhile results, while causing great harm to cooperating Iraqis and their families–putting our own lives as risk for activities that would in the end likely prove useless and even shameful . . .’

In response to readers who said, essentially, that the State Department personnel signed a contract and should be sent same as the troops, I beg to differ. While all foreign service officers join knowing there will be risks, none is joining the army and typically embassies in war zones are shut down by the secretary of state and the president for precisely this reason. Foreign Service Officers are civilians. They are not combat personnel and cannot perform combat duties. Indeed, if they had any military aspect it would doom their entire mission and make them useless. They are supposed to be civilians representing the US to a foreign government.

Closing the embassy and ceasing to force foreign service officers to go to Baghdad against their will not prevent the US from brokering political and diplomatic deals. Most deal making is done in Amman as it is, and that has long been the case. The ambassador and a small number of volunteers could still fly out to the Green Zone and hammer out agreements. Indeed, closing the embassy would force the Bush administration to use State Department personnel for diplomatic purposes instead of as cannon fodder in a desperate offensive.

Bush is dragooning these career diplomats into dodging bombs and bullets, which is not their job. He is trying to create them as a shadow colonial administration of Iraq, which is not their job. The US embassy in Beirut was closed during the Lebanese Civil War. There is still no US embassy in Tehran. Tehran is a hell of a lot safer than Baghdad. Keeping the US embassy in Baghdad open is a political and military decision on Bush’s part, which flies in the face of precedent and good sense.

Those who want to see the Iraq War ended should join this campaign. The war won’t be ended as long as Bush’s Baghdad embassy, a behemoth unprecedented in size and scope, bestrides Iraq like a colossal dominatrix.

And here is how closing the embassy works for the anti-war movement and for the Democratic Party (and anti-war Republicans). The public just won’t mind. If you cut off money to the troops, they will mind. Only a plurality of Americans wants all troops out now, immediately. And if the Dems embargoed the military budget, the hawks would run on the their having sent our boys off to duel “al-Qaeda” with “spitballs” (a la Zell Miller). But the Republican hawks, having spent decades tearing down the State Department, will be helpless before a measure that closes down the US embassy in Baghdad. It is quite delicious.

It is politically cost free. It is the ethical thing to do. It is administratively the right and proper thing to do. It is a big step toward ending the war. Everyone wins.

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