Friday, March 21, 2003

Take out the trash

Any fan of West Wing will recall the episode titled Take out the trash. The term taking out the trash is a euphemism for burying news items that are embarassing to the administration by casually mentioning them on a Friday afternoon – so that the effect on the administration in the news is blunted by the weekend.

Who needs TV when you get the real thing? Turns out that yesterday, the National Security Council’s senior director for combatting terrorism resigned, the second upheval in the White House’s counterterrorism group in 18 months:

A number of officials noted that [Rand] Beers was one of the most experienced NSC officials. In addition to his two previous tours there, he served as assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement and held various positions in the department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. He was also deputy political adviser to the supreme allied commander in Europe.

Beers declined to comment yesterday, but close associates said he had considered leaving the high-pressure job for some time before submitting his one-paragraph resignation letter on Monday. Although some speculated that his resignation was a protest against the White House’s increased concentration on Iraq at the expense of the overall counterterrorism effort, others cited general weariness with fighting internal battles.

And that’s not the only trash. Yesterday marked the third US diplomat to resign over our Iraq policy:

Mary A. Wright, the number two official at the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia, had spent 15 years in the foreign service and 26 years in the Army and Army Reserves.

“I strongly believe that going to war now will make the world more dangerous, not safer,” Wright said in a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. “In our press for military action now, we have created deep chasms in the international community and in important international organizations. Our policies have alienated many of our allies and created ill will in much of the world.”

Wright, the highest-ranking diplomat to resign over the current situation, also criticized what she called a “lack of policy on North Korea” and said she disagrees with the administration’s “lack of effort” in resolving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. She said the United States has “done little” to end the violence. She called on the administration to “exert our considerable financial influence” on the Israelis and Palestinians alike.

“I have served my country for almost 30 years in some of the most isolated and dangerous parts of the world,” concluded Wright, who won a State Department heroism award in 1997 in Sierra Leone. “I want to continue to serve America. However, I do not believe in the policies of the administration and cannot defend or implement them.”

John Brady Kiesling, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Athens resigned in February, telling Powell in a letter that he no longer believed he was upholding the interests of the American people and the world by supporting President Bush’s policies.

“The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests,” Kiesling said. “Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.”

John H. Brown resigned last week from the foreign service after serving for 22 years. He said: “The president’s disregard for views in other nations, borne out by his neglect of public diplomacy, is giving birth to an anti-American century.”

Big news, no? I sure think so. Good thing it appeared on page A12 of yesterday’s Washington Post. Otherwise we might have missed it…

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