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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Duty

The State Department, ever the model of diplomatic sagacity, scheduled a Town Hall Meeting for its careerists, that they might discuss and negotiate a problematic issue. By a coincidence, it was, one notices, October 31 -- Halloween. How droll.

The matter at hand was ever so thorny, to wit, that an insufficient number of Foreign Service Officers were volunteering for duty in Baghdad, which is a renowned -- one might even venture to characterize it as notorious -- global trouble-spot, and one surely thus in need of the skill and experience of Senior Diplomats.

The proposed solution to the dilemma, issued from the Highest Sources, was simply to assign individuals to the Baghdad Office regardless of their desire or lack of desire to fill the position. This high-handed act has caused no small degree of indignation amongst our Foreign Service elite.

Thus, a certain Senior Foreign Service Officer, one Jack Croddy, is on record as having publicly stated: "It's one thing if someone believes in what's going on over there and volunteers, but it's another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment. I'm sorry, but basically that's a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?"

Indeed. It is one thing to do one's duty if one volunteers for it. But it is another thing to do one's duty if one does not volunteer for it. Or, to rephrase it, it is one thing if someone believes in what's going on over there and is not forced there, but it's another thing if one does not volunteer but believes in volunteering but is not forced to be there whether or not one believes and agrees, and you know it, about that forced assignment of a potentially fatal sentence of death or seriously wounded, whose children of ours will be raised.

You have to admire a man like Jack Croddy. Sacrificing so much for so many years in the service of his country. A public servant. Sort of makes us stop and consider what it means, this almost-cliche of a term, "public servant." What, after all, does it mean, "to serve"? And this phrase, "The Foreign Service" -- what true meaning lies behind those innocuous syllables?

Surely service shouldn't be assumed to signify sacrifice. Such a suggestion is simply silly. So simplistic a solution is certainly suspect.

Some might say that Croddy is a coward. For example, me. We must be wrong, though. Coward is such a harsh word. I think selfish and unpatriotic would, really, be more accurate. Cowardice, after all, is proven by an extreme fear reaction, and only after a real call to duty. Whereas selfishness just puts one's own interests and comforts first, ignoring any higher call. As for patriotic and unpatriotic, what would such terms have to do with government employment?

I was once an employee of a school district. This is earthquake country. It was district policy, and a condition of employment, that, should a natural disaster occur, teachers as the responsible adults would and must stay with their students. Well? I was a father. My first duty in a natural disaster emergency was to my son. But by accepting that employment and the conditions of that employment, I assumed an additional, if not higher, duty. And I had to trust that the adults who were charged with the care of my own son would be faithful to their assumed duty.

Jack Croddy has a right to vent his fear and his complaints. We have a right to form judgments about his character. Such is the nature of discussions and opinions. Mr. Croddy may be assigned to duty in Baghdad. If he refuses that duty, he must resign from his position and seek other employment. I would judge him a coward, but perhaps his devotion to his family, if he has one, is higher than his love of his country. Maybe my love of my family is greater than my love of my country.

The difference would lie in the fact that if I accepted employment that held the possibility that I might be sent to Iraq, then if I were sent to Iraq, I'd go. I would not accept only the benefits of the job, and none of the risk.

Mr. Croddy calls duty in Iraq a potential death sentence. In the past three years, three State Department employees have been killed in Iraq, out of 1,500 who have worked there. One in 500. The math will be a little fuzzy, but of the 150,000 US military personnel serving in Iraq, some 4000 have died. One in 38. That's like one out of a crowded classroom.

My son is in Iraq. In a week or so he will be in Germany, and several months after that he will be home for good. When I consider the comfort and prestige and financial security that Mr. Croddy's "service" has brought him, compared to the conditions of my son's service -- when I look at the risk-probability that Mr. Croddy has enjoyed in his complacent bureaucratic sinecure, compared to that which my son has faced over these many long months, I feel no sympathy for Mr. Croddy and his theoreticals.

I feel contempt.


J

2 comments:

will c said...

I may just have to contact this pussy in the State Dept. and tell him to grow a pair. Thanks for the info...
Here's hoping your son returns safely and runs for office. He's got to be a sharp one if he got even a tenth of your wit

Will C.

Jack H said...

Well think you kindly.

If you have the juice, give little Jackie C a buzz. I think he must have forgotten what his job is.

J