I am a former United States Air Force Captain and former Deputy City Attorney for Los Angeles. I was hired last year by the U.S. Department of State to serve as a Senior City Management Advisor to a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Iraq.
My contract with the State Department was canceled after I uncovered serious misconduct by officials within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. This misconduct included the training of diplomats on how to use foreign civilians as “human shields” in the event of a terrorist attack. This training took place as part of the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Counter-Terrorism (FACT) course.
On March 27, 2008, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s chief instructor (Martin Burk) told us that if we are driving in an armored Embassy vehicle and a terrorist ambush occurs, we should swing our vehicle behind the nearest civilian vehicle so that it will absorb the bullets (even if there are children in that vehicle).
The Diplomatic Security instructor referred to foreigners as “bullet-catchers.”
This is the type of training that al-Qaeda gives its trainees. It is not training that the United States should be providing to its diplomats. What the State Department should be doing is instructing its diplomats to swing their vehicles in front of foreign civilians in order to protect them. That would be an honorable policy.
I briefed this matter to Assistant Secretary Gregory Starr but he never responded. The State Department refuses to discipline Burk and his supervisor Brian Duffy, and it will not even reveal if this abhorrent training has ceased.
One might think that this is simply an isolated training practice, but that is not the case. For example, on August 24, 2008, State Department official Lynne Tracy was leaving her home in Peshawar, Pakistan, en route to the U.S. consulate. She was being driven in an armored sport utility vehicle by two Embassy security guards. About 100 yards from her home, two men in a Land Rover blocked the road and one opened fire with an AK-47. The Embassy driver put the vehicle into reverse and proceeded to hit a three-wheeled rickshaw that was in his way, injuring Pakistani driver Gohar Ali. The Embassy staff abandoned Mr. Ali in the roadway and continued back to Ms. Tracy’s protected residence where the Embassy staff hid until Pakistani security personnel arrived. The Pakistani press reported that Mr. Ali was eventually transported to the hospital. The American press did not report that any disciplinary action was taken against either the Embassy driver or Ms. Tracy. Mr. Ali should not have been injured, however, once he was, American policy should be that no one we injure gets left behind in the roadway.
The State Department has a very strict “deadly force policy,” which is called 12 FAM 020. This policy, however, only applies within the United States. Overseas, the standards, which are called U.S. Mission Firearms Policies, are significantly relaxed. U.S. Embassy officials have the right to kill any foreign civilian as long as the American believes that he or she is in danger, even if their belief is not objectively reasonable. The Department does not publish these shameful policies because they violate numerous international conventions for the protection of civilians during conflicts.
In 1961, General Edward Lansdale wrote his famous report to President John F. Kennedy regarding Vietnam. The core concept of the Lansdale report was that:
No American should be sent to Vietnam as part of the “Country Team” who does not know and like Asians.
It is such a simple and common sense requirement, but one which the U.S. Government has ignored for the past forty years. I met mid-level officials who were being posted to the Middle East who were contemptuous of Arabs and almost as bad, I met a significant number who were indifferent to Arabs. Under the Lansdale standard, all of these people should have been kept at home.
Buried within the State Department are startling statistics which revealed that an enormous amount of alcohol was being sold and consumed each month in 2008 in the U.S. Embassy Green Zone in Baghdad. Presumably the same holds true for the U.S. Embassies in Kabul and Islamabad. These statistics simultaneously expose the cultural contempt that the State Department has for Islamic beliefs and they reveal the weak moral fiber of those deployed, who seemingly cannot function without the assistance of alcohol. Again, all of these people should be kept at home.
One of the other Lansdale core concepts is that no one should be dispatched to Vietnam who is not willing to risk their lives to help the Vietnamese. This concept places the success of the mission as the No. 1 priority, ahead of the safety of the Country Team. The State Department, however, considers protecting Embassy diplomats as its No. 1 priority.
The result of this policy is that embassy employees in Iraq live and work in the insulated bubble-world of the Green Zone, and massively fortified U.S “bubble-embassies” have sprouted up all over the world. The result of building walls between the U.S. Embassy and the citizens of the Host country is that there are walls between the U.S. Embassy and the citizens of the Host country. These bubble-embassies convey an impression of fear and weakness.
Some U.S. Embassies have such limited contact with ordinary citizens that it fosters “bubble-policies.” For example: one of my instructors at the Foreign Service Institute was a senior U.S. diplomat who had been posted to the Middle East for many years. When he learned that I was studying Iraqi/Gulf Arabic at the Middle East Institute; he criticized me before the training class. He stated:
“We Do Not Speak Dialect.”
His position was that American diplomats must only speak official (Modern Standard) Arabic and that it is beneath us to speak the common language of each Arab country.
According to Roman historian Pliny, when Pompey led his Legions into the Caucasus from 69-66 B.C., he took with him 130 interpreters, each regarding a different language or dialect. Two thousand years ago Roman diplomats understood the necessity of being able to speak in local dialects and the importance of talking to everyone. Some day, perhaps, U.S. diplomats may reach the same skill level as Roman diplomats.
I was in a group of twenty (20) officials being dispatched to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Out of that group, there were only two of us who had ever studied Arabic. The rest did not profess any interest in learning Arabic. The State Department actually discouraged me from studying Arabic. One official explained to me that I would be assigned an interpreter in Iraq, so I did not need to understand Arabic.
We were given a short perfunctory lecture on Islam. Our instructors did not mention a single word from the Holy Quran and there was no discussion about the inspiring life of the Prophet Muhammad and the wonderful example that he set.
We were given a briefing paper entitled: History of the Sunni/Shi’ite conflict. Its introductory sentence reads that the Sunni/Shi’ite conflict is a “competition for power and wealth” which is being “manipulated by political figures.” The conflict was generally dismissed as a petty dispute by two groups over money. There was no mention of any differences in religious philosophy. There also was no mention of Sufism or Muhammad ibn al-Wahhab or Sayyid Qutb.
We were given a briefing on how to take advantage of Arab politeness towards guests. The State Department emphasized this as an Arab weakness that can be exploited rather than a strength to be admired. Finally, the U.S. Department of State did not identify a single Arab, Persian, Afghan or Pakistani poem which it felt was worth reading.
A partial explanation for the seemingly dismal ability of the State Department to function effectively is an amazing level of ignorance by Americans in general regarding the outside world and of religion in general. For example: 99.99% of Americans actually believe that the founder of Christianity was named “Jesus.”
This is of course absurd as the “J’ sound did not exist in any of the languages being used in the Middle East or Europe 2,000 years ago. There was no person named Jesus or anything close to Jesus. In Aramaic, he was most likely called “Yeshua ben Yusef.” There was no (J)udas, no (J)oseph, no (J)erusalem and no one called (J)ulius Caesar, as there was no “J”. The first edition of the King (J)ames Bible in 1611 A.D. had no “J” as the letter “J” only came into existence in English in the mid -17th century. The “J” sound appears to have been introduced into the West by Arab scholars who developed the Kufic script into the Arabic script and then added the letter “Jiim.” This occurred centuries before the letter “J” was adopted by Europeans.
Western Christians universally refuse to learn the language of Christ, which was Aramaic. In Aramaic, Christ actually refered to the Supreme Creator as L (or Allah). See the Gospel of Mark, Chap.15, Sect. 33. Jews, early Christians, Canaanites, and Syrians at one time all used the same term (L or El) to refer to the Supreme Creator. The Bible in Aramaic is closer in many ways to the Holy Quran than is the current Vatican version of the Bible. A return to the Aramaic Bible would be a good first step towards bringing Christians and Muslims closer together.
In conclusion, the occasional successes of the U.S. Department of State are due to the individual efforts of a small number of remarkable people, some of whom I had the privilege to meet. They have tremendous affinity for the foreigners they work with; they learn the local languages; they respect the local customs; they represent the best of America. They succeed in spite of the State Department’s bureaucracy. It does not have to be this way. We can and must do better.