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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


You go, no you

Few Veteran Diplomats Accept Mission to Iraq

Published: February 8, 2007

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 — While the diplomats and Foreign Service employees of the State Department have always been expected to staff “hardship” postings, those jobs have not usually required that they wear flak jackets with their pinstriped suits.

But in the last five years, the Foreign Service landscape has shifted.

Now, thanks to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the White House is calling for more American civilians to head not only to those countries, but also to some of their most hostile regions — including Iraq’s volatile Anbar Province — to try to establish democratic institutions and help in reconstruction. That plan is provoking unease and apprehension at the State Department and at other federal agencies.

Many federal employees have outright refused repeated requests that they go to Iraq, while others have demanded that they be assigned only to Baghdad and not be sent outside the more secure Green Zone, which includes the American Embassy and Iraqi government ministries. And while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice maintained Wednesday that State Department employees were “volunteering in large numbers” for difficult posts, including Iraq, several department employees said that those who had signed up tended to be younger, more entry-level types, and not experienced, seasoned diplomats.

The reluctance highlights a problem with the administration’s new strategy for Iraq, which calls on American diplomats to take challenges on a scale unmatched anywhere else in the world, when the lack of security on the ground outside the Green Zone makes it one of the last places people, particularly those with families, want to go.

Steve Kashkett, vice president of the American Foreign Service Association, the professional organization that represents State Department employees, said that “our people continue to show great courage in volunteering for duty in Iraq.” But Mr. Kashkett added, “there remain legitimate questions about the ability of unarmed civilian diplomats to carry out a reconstruction and democracy-building mission in the middle of an active war zone.”

It's suicidal. If you can't make them go, they aren't.

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