I’m always one country behind the truth…just like a lot of folks in Washington, DC. And I muse a lot too, for way too long sometimes. But I don’t mind; I earned this “too-late” posturing honestly, after twenty-three long years at the U.S. State Department. So, I found myself writing this essay one late afternoon, August 14, 2013. That morning it seemed that Egypt had officially fallen into all out civil war—young rebellious believers in democracy versus the Islamic Brotherhood that seemed to take over Egypt with the blessing of Leader and Commander President Obama. I was nearly finished by the time I got a call from the Washington area. Needless to say, I wasn’t anxious to answer; it was a 202 area code and I hear from the National Republican Committee about twice a week now. And because I am so eager for our nation to straighten up and fly right, I usually give—point being, give once-give every time…give forever.
I give what I can when they call me, but that isn’t much. I don’t have a penny to spare, having left my cushy job at the State Department to write, and we all know that striving writers are probably poorer than striving actors, dancers…teachers. But that day, the call was from someone I worked with at State during the good years before 2008. She had something to tell me and since I…was only writing fiction at the time…I listened, heart pounding, blood flowing, eyes closed and expecting the worst. You see, mostly everything coming out of that building in lower Foggy Bottom is scary and unbelievable, even in the eyes of those inside.
So this former colleague of mine told me that one of our former bosses at the State Department had just been promoted to senior Foreign Service and this is where my writing turned a 180.
First of all, let me put a few things in perspective: once you reach the senior Foreign Service point at the State Department, you’re almost ensured a slot as an American Ambassador one day. “So what?” some I know will surely ask. “She deserved it. And our country deserves her. We’ll be in good hands…right?”
Wouldn’t it be nice if things were so simple? Unfortunately, in Washington, most things aren’t. Things are never simple…and fair, I muse as I listen to our President telling the world that his Administration will take no blame for what is happening in Egypt, all of it playing out on television in our safe and distant worlds. Obama and his team of spinners seem to be on television everyday–blaming everyone else but him and his Administration, for everything that goes wrong. And it seems most days, that everything that is going wrong…covers everything. And as I listen to him, while I’m reminded of the old days working under this newly promoted senior official, I can only cogitate and write. Why? Why? Why? What the hell is going on in Washington!
So today, as I cogitate and write, trying hard to figure out where America went wrong and wondering whether America will ever get back on track, my doubts overcome my spirit fairly easily.
And after a few more minutes, the news moves from Egypt to Palestine where the newly appointed Secretary of State is trying to revive peace talks. Egypt is burning; we still don’t know what happened in Benghazi; and Putin snubs our leadership every chance he gets–all this and Kerry is trying to settle the score in Jerusalem.
Kind of like painting the front house shutters when the back side of your house is falling in, I think practically every day when I see what Kerry is up to. Smoke and mirrors…State Department…smoke and mirrors…State Department…smoke and mirrors, two peas in a pod while the U.S.’s perception overseas is falling from the sky. It didn’t take much longer to find the need to put a few more things in an even deeper perspective…away from the President, his mindless blame-dodgers in the White House, and the rest of his cronies in Washington, D.C. Instead, I decided this time to muse on his extended network of blame-dodgers and cronies. Public Sector employees are supposed to be unbiased, but we all know they’re not…the IRS bell ringing in my head.
And the unbiased truth be told, everyone with a human brain knows that most career workers in Washington would rather fall on a sword than abandon the progressive leadership, and that also goes for the United States Department of State. I worked for those fools for twenty-three years, so I know how they roll, especially those blame-dodger cronies inside. Of all these parasites in Washington, those in the State Department are most predictable and much of what I wrote about in my first novel The Seventh Priest: Offering Day reinforces this truth: The U.S. Department of State is led by smart, unbiased, civil servants who want to succeed; they are led by blame-dodging cronies who want to stay in their cushy jobs.
My first book, The Seventh Priest, was set in Sudan during the end of the long-awaited peace agreement that ended the country’s fifty-year civil war. When horrible terrorist attacks started in the heart of Khartoum, north and the Christian south, those in the know in Washington seemed to know exactly who to blame, even before real intelligence was collected, analyzed and interpreted…mainly because we’d already chosen the other side to end up winning…the Egypt and Syria bells ringing in my head.
But to make a long fiction short, my point throughout the story was simple and much more focused on what seems to happen in most American embassies around the world. The elephant in that room, in the heart of Khartoum, wasn’t an Islamic terrorist cell in the north, or rogue Christian rebels from the south. And it wasn’t the ancient Nubian curse that I ended up blaming it on. The elephant in the room was the blame-dodger crony American Ambassador who thought she knew everything and didn’t need to listen to anyone else. And this elephant in the room would say and do anything to make her and her country look good to her crony allies back in Washington just so she, an American ambassador, could keep her cushy job back in Washington and rise to the top of cesspool.
In The Seventh Priest, Tony Rodder (the good civil servant) figures out why Lucy Kibbles (the know-it-all elephant in the room) is unable to admit that she is wrong. “The reason is she and others like her believe that everyone else–the less educated, and non-elite–lack the ability to perform at their ivory tower levels. For most people, admitting when you are wrong is a fundamental part of our maturity, our character. But for those wishing to rise to the top of that cesspool, admitting even the simplest of mistakes can be a fatal flaw. ‘Don’t ever forget, future American ambassadors are never wrong.’”
I continued my diatribe by connecting the intelligence dots. “U.S. Ambassadors are the ones with primary responsibility to interpret and analyze country-specific information and report accurate, unbiased assessments back to Washington. So, if most of them are too hardheaded to admit when they are wrong–or entertain opposing arguments–then chances are a lot of what they report back to Washington policymakers is inaccurate.”
So how entrenched are they…these blame-dodging cronies who get paid a lot of money for reporting inaccurate information to Washington decision-makers? Let me list a few diplomatic rules of play:
1–a growing number of American ambassadors would rather be wrong than risk being right; Washington mentality never rewards risk-taking; therefore, all the risk-takers have left that sad city.
2–an ambassador’s own survivability is maintained by a highly protected and veiled buddy system that relies on one blame-dodging, risk-adverse crony pushing another up; the one assurance of all of this is simple: anyone who goes up against this buddy system will be destroyed.
3–an ambassador’s advancement to the top is an entitlement; success is tied to towing the line, not…success. Don’t worry about performance, don’t work too hard and don’t take risk…just do as I say and you can rise to that top just like the others did.
4–an ambassador will always look good to those back in Washington even if the country he or she is responsible for is falling apart.
5–at best, half of all analytic reporting back to Washington is unbiased and accurate.
So back to Egypt and our American ambassador posted there…I pulled the following from the Internet:
Anne Patterson joined the Foreign Service in 1973 and was promoted to Career Ambassador, the highest rank in the career Foreign Service, in 2008. She has been Ambassador to Pakistan (2007-2010), Ambassador to Colombia (2000-2003) and Ambassador to El Salvador (1997-2000). She has also served as Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as Assistant Secretary of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, and as Deputy Inspector General of the Department of State. Mrs. Patterson has held a variety of economic and political assignments in her career, including economic counselor in Saudi Arabia (1984-1988) and deputy assistant secretary for Latin America. Mrs. Patterson has been awarded the Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award twice, in 2010 and 2008, and the Ryan Crocker award for expeditionary diplomacy in 2010. A native of Arkansas, Mrs. Patterson is married to retired Foreign Service officer David Patterson. She graduated from Wellesley College.
Need I ask, did any red flags pop up? Am I the only one who sees another entrenched blame-dodging, risk-adverse crony elitist? Am I the only one dying to ask: how the hell can the Ambassador to Pakistan get rewarded for her service there? Wasn’t this around the same time our diplomatic relations with Pakistan imploded? The place is a gigantic quagmire…a national security disaster that showed zero progress during her tenure there! Am I the only one who sees the same connection to Egypt? And am I the only one who sees another award coming down the pike for another elitist blame-dodging, risk-adverse crony who’s managed to ruined another nation and destroy another American ally? United States Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson practically slept with the Muslim Brotherhood, presumably under orders from her bosses back in Washington. And in the end, as almost all our foreign policies end up, it was a resounding failure.
One day Madam Ambassador Anne Patterson will have to come out of that rock she’s hiding under, but I’m still left to wonder how long it will be before she is put back out there and how many just like her are waiting in line. Excuse me for musing more…remember people, it’s the State Department…smoke and mirrors, two peas in a pod while the U.S.’s perception overseas is falling from the sky and those responsible for our failures are filling their trophy awards back in Washington.
So with all this in mind, I eventually make it back to this person who was just promoted to senior Foreign Service. I wouldn’t pick on her except for the fact that she knitted at her desk almost every day I worked under her…all day sometimes.
“That can’t be true; she couldn’t have knitted all that time?” I can hear all y’all asking. And I’m confident enough to reply. “No. I’m not saying she knitted every second she was at her desk…claiming to work, getting paid to do nothing. Sometimes she took a break, to dole out orders to her underlings or to “Yes, sir; Yes, ma’am” to folks higher up on the pecking order. But most times, yes, she knitted.
Now, don’t get me wrong; don’t get this bit of information twisted. I have nothing against knitters. I have neighbors who knit, in groups sometimes, and I like them all. I just don’t like people who waste taxpayers’ money and then get rewarded for it, especially in offices I view as vital to our…economy.
“Economy? Did you just say economy?” In my mind I can see the questions popping in peoples’ heads. “What the hell does the State Department have to do with the economy? Don’t you mean foreign affairs, counter-terrorism, national security?”
“No,” I would have to answer with despair in my voice. “You see, the State Department did support U.S. companies back in the day, eagerly promoting U.S. technology, innovation, and manufactured goods and services to overseas buyers. Back in that day, before 2008, American exports translated into American jobs. Back in that day, success in business was not linked to racist thievery like it is now. Back in that day, successful businesses meant one thing: more jobs. Back in that day, jobs were something we worked for, not something we talked about in speeches. Yes, back in that day, thousands of U.S. companies received commercial advocacy through the State Department, and…back in that day…it wasn’t shunned or passed directly toward political contributors.
Looking back now, I can’t blame the resource people for the demise of commercial advocacy at the State Department. They must have heard it too–the head of that office is knitting all day. That office can’t be busy; it can’t be doing any work with that kind of waste in charge. It doesn’t deserve our limited resources. It needs to go.
And I’m disappointed to say, it wasn’t the Obama Administration that did us in. You see, crony progressive thinkers don’t come and go with the Presidency; they stay in Washington regardless, hidden away during good years, but still doing their dirty work. I can honestly say: the bowels of the State Department hate capitalism and free enterprise regardless of who’s in charge. I saw it at its best during 2000-2008. Trade-not-Aid sounded nice and worked well with outsiders, but getting State insiders to support business was like pulling teeth. Obama’s arrival to Washington only solidified the end and the end came quickly. So don’t let our conservative leaders tell us that the left can’t cut programs. The State Department’s business advocacy function has for the most part disappeared, and the crony bureaucrat responsible for some of its demise, the knitter that did zilch to promote American enterprise and technology overseas, has now risen to the top in the State Department.
Wow, ouch, so sad, so clueless and idiotic, and yet it still saddens me to add…so predictable. After all our inability to learn from our mistakes, I’m still watching Cairo and much of the world go down the toilet, Palestine laughing, and Putin giving us the middle finger while blame-dodging, risk-adverse, wasteful cronies are rising to the top in Washington.
Oh yes, the world is changing fast; we’re no longer in charge, and even if we were, our moral compass is lost. All this and more while those responsible for this drop are filling their war chest with useless awards and selling their souls to become ambassadors.
It’s a small world…write about it.