Monday, November 5, 2007

Come To Work In Baghdad, Pleads U.S. Mission

AFP reports:

Diplomats at the American embassy in Baghdad on Monday pleaded to their state department colleagues back home to come to work in Iraq -- a posting seen as one of the most dangerous in the world.

"There are all kinds of opportunities here," said Patricia Butenis, the deputy chief of the US mission.

"There are people who think we live under a constant barrage of mortar attacks, but it isn't that way all the time."

The US State Department has not received applications for about 50 of 250 Baghdad jobs to be filled by mid-2008, forcing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to make a worldwide appeal for diplomats to serve in Iraq.

The department also issued new rules forcing the diplomats to work there or risk dismissal.

American diplomats have not been forced to serve abroad against their will since the Vietnam war era.

Butenis said the opportunities for diplomats in Iraq are not being communicated "well enough" back home.

"I think some of it is based on not knowing what it is to be here. It's true, two days after I got here we had 36 EFP (explosively-formed penetrators) strikes," she said.

"That was serious, it's scary. But you adapt, you get used to it."

Charles Reis, another senior official in the Baghdad mission, said Iraq was the "biggest policy issue" for US diplomats.

"Most of the foreign service officers I know like to be where the action is, where the policy action is, where the front page and the White House attention are," he told reporters in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

"I think that people are less affected directly than through their families. The officers go home, and parents and relatives tell them 'You can't go there' and it affects them.

"We all wished it would be easier. The security measures are the big downside. But when you get in people's office in the red zone, the security detail goes away. I go out several times a week.

"Frankly speaking, service here is not as rough as I thought it was. The AC is functioning!"