Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trying to make ourselves heard over the din.

AFSANET: Defending our Foreign Service in the Current Crisis: November
10, 2007

This message is from AFSA State Vice President Steve Kashkett.

I don't have a newspaper to write to, so this blog will have to do. Please read on.

Fellow State Foreign Service Members:
Our beloved Foreign Service is taking a severe beating in media, and we
need your help in setting the record straight in the public mind!
Over the past two weeks, most news organizations have misreported the
Iraq "prime candidates" exercise and the candid exchanges that took
place at the unfortunate Town Hall meeting here in the Department. We
have gotten precious little coverage of the FACTS:
-- more than 2,000 FS members have volunteered for service in
Iraq/Afghanistan over the past five years;
-- no one has had to be directed to serve in either war zone thus far;
-- this exercise is about a potential shortfall in volunteers for a
relatively small number of positions in Iraq for summer 2008;
-- well over 80 percent of the FS-designated positions in Iraq for
summer 2008 have already been filled, eight months in advance;
-- Embassy Baghdad has a lower vacancy rate than almost any other U.S.
embassy in the world;
-- most people in the Foreign Service spend the majority of their
careers in increasingly difficult and dangerous hardship posts;
-- unlike the military, our members are courageously volunteering to
serve as unarmed civilians in a combat zone;
-- our assignment system has always worked on a voluntary basis because
FS members take seriously their commitment to worldwide service;
-- when the Foreign Service is compared unfavorably with the military,
we have attempted to note that the Foreign Service is less than one-half
of one percent of the size of the U.S. military in personnel and budget,
and that we are stretched thin all over the world at the other 260
embassies and consulates that we staff , most of which are hardship
Many of you have seen some of the scathing, inaccurate editorials and
op-eds. Here are just a few examples:
-- http://washingtontimes.com/article/20071107/COMMENTARY/111070008/1012
-- http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=72090&src=
AFSA has had only limited success at setting the record straight. AFSA
President John Naland and I have appeared on several national television
and radio programs and have been quoted in major print media; however,
more often than not, most of our key points have been edited out.
Moreover, the sheer volume of hostile articles makes it impossible for
AFSA's small staff to respond to every one. We have been pushing hard
to get one of the major national newspapers to run an AFSA op-ed that
makes the points above, but have struck out so far. Sadly, they seem
quite willing to print criticisms of the Foreign Service by those (often
longtime State-bashers) who question our patriotism and our courage, but
we can't get them to publish our side of the story.
We propose that all Foreign Service members consider writing letters to
the editor of your local hometown newspapers to try to get our point of
view reflected in the media. Almost every newspaper has a system for
accepting letters to the editor via e-mail. Please feel free to draw on
the bulleted points above, but use your own words and cite your own
examples of dedicated service from your own personal experiences,
especially at hardship and unaccompanied posts. Make sure to identify
yourself as a Foreign Service member giving your own personal opinions,
NOT speaking officially on behalf of the Department. Remember that a
typical letter to the editor is only 150-200 words, so your submission
has a better chance of getting published if you keep within those
limits. Please let us know if one of your letters gets published.
Let's make sure the public understands what today's Foreign Service is
really about!

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