NY Daily News: Go to where? U.S. civil servants flee Iraq jobs

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Go to where? U.S. civil servants flee Iraq jobs


Not even the promise of extra vacation days can convince U.S. diplomats to take the post from hell: the embassy in Baghdad.

The Foreign Service has been forced to get tough to fill vacancies nobody wants - ordering personnel to ship out to Iraq or find a new job.

It is the biggest forced callup since the Vietnam War.

"Under our system, we have all taken an oath to serve our country, we have all signed [up for] worldwide availability," Foreign Service director general Harry Thomas said.

"If someone decides ... they do not want to go, we will then consider appropriate actions. We have many options, including dismissal from the Foreign Service."

Incentives that include extra vacation, hardship pay and a choice of future assignments have not been enough to staff the embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone - which comes under almost daily mortar attack.

It is expected 50 vacancies will need to be filled in the next year.

Up to 300 diplomats will be told tomorrow they have been picked for one-year Iraq postings. They will be given 10 days to accept or reject the offer, the Foreign Service said.

If too few accept, some will be ordered to go.

In 1969, an entire class of entry level-diplomats was ordered to Vietnam after staff refused to accept postings to the war zone.