Last week it was revealed that Kevin Maher, the U.S. State Department’s Director of Japanese Affairs, had given a lecture in December 2010, at The American University in Washington, D.C. He reportedly told his students that the people of Okinawa were “too lazy” to grow their own vegetables and resorted to “manipulation” and “extortion.” The comments, first reported by the Kyodo News, created a diplomatic firestorm in Japan where they were universally denounced. Apologies were quickly delivered to the Japanese by U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos and Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell. The Chinese news agency Xinhua, in its March 10, 2011, report, characterized the comments as “racial slurs.” According to CBS news and the Guardian newspaper, the State Department has refused to fire Maher. They reported that he was merely assigned to other duties within the Department.
The picture which emerges from within the State Department is not attractive:
First of all it refuses to admit or deny that Maher made the statements. State Department spokespersons describe the slurs as “alleged comments.” So much for honesty and transparency.
Second, several news organizations reported that Maher had been replaced; several others that he had resigned and several others that he had been either recalled or transferred. The Department apparently issued several conflicting stories. Again so much for honesty and transparency.
Third, State Department officials refuse to explain why Maher has not been fired.
This reporter, who served in the State Department for a short time in 2008, recalls meeting a mid-level U.S. diplomat who was en route to Iraq. This official, who formally had served in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, was openly contemptuous of Arabs, yet he was being posted to the Middle East.
Similar stories have been conveyed to this reporter of American diplomats assigned to Jerusalem who disliked both Israelis and Palestinians; of diplomats in Nepal and Niger who despised the countries they were in, and of diplomats in Pakistan who viewed Pakistanis as merely speed bumps that one is free to drive over.
The latter comment refers to Pakistani citizens Gohar Ali and Burhan Baktiar who were both run over and left in the roadway by U.S. consulate vehicles in Peshawar in separate incidents on August 24, 2008, and December 23, 2009, respectively; and Ebadur Rehman who was crushed to death and left in the roadway by a U.S. consulate vehicle in Lahore on January 27, 2011.
None of the three State Department officials involved were ever prosecuted and apparently were not even disciplined. Diplomatic immunity is premised on the agreement that foreign diplomats are free from host nation justice, on the promise that they will be prosecuted in their home countries. That premise seems no longer valid, therefore likewise the immunity.
The State Department continues to reject the 1962 findings of General Edward Landsdale in his report to Secretary of State Dean Rusk and President John F. Kennedy. Landsdale advised that no one should be sent to South Vietnam as part of the “country team” who did not like Asians. This simple and crucial precept has been ignored ever since.
Last week, the Washington Post’s Josh Boak wrote a damning investigative article about the failure of the State Department’s “civilian surge” in Afghanistan. Entitled: “In Afghanistan: Civilian Surge Falls Short,” it details how 2/3s of the more than 1,100 U.S. Embassy officials simply sit in Kabul. The rest are deployed into the Afghan countryside but most rarely leave their military bases due to a lack of security. The end result is a massive waste of taxpayer funds and a rising fear that the Embassy’s failures are aiding the Taliban. Mr. Boak’s analysis follows years of similar reports by the State Department’s inspector general, the special inspector general for Afghanistan, Kabul Press and numerous other news sources. Despite near universal criticism of the State Department’s failures, no one has ever been held accountable and nothing ever changes. The Department’s standard response to any criticism is that it needs more money; however when those funds are provided, nothing improves.
Whether it is the debacle over the arrest of State Department/CIA operative Raymond Davis in Lahore, Pakistan and the continuing stream of vague and inconsistent statements by U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter and U.S. Counsel-General Carmela Conroy; the appointment of Philip S. Goldberg to be the State Department’s chief spymaster (despite his expulsion as U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia and his involvement in the Peace Corps spy scandal); the failure to punish the Diplomatic Security agents involved in the 2007-2008, Blackwater investigation; the failure to punish Diplomatic Security agents and Embassy officials who failed to oversee ArmorGroup regarding its sex scandal at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul; the failure to discipline senior diplomats regarding the huge overstaffing scandal at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, etc., nothing ever changes.
In the case of Maher, he was apparently only transferred due to the resulting uproar over his remarks, not because he believed in and made the remarks. Last week Congresswoman Nita Lowey questioned Secretary Clinton as to why USAID was cutting back on funding for women’s programs in Afghanistan. Secretary Clinton managed to dodge the question and refused to commit to reversing USAID’s actions (apparently the new goal is to placate the Taliban).
As the U.S. Congress begins planning for the FY2012 budget, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and, Chairwoman Kay Granger of the key House Appropriations Subcommittee are discussing a 50% cut in the annual bloated budget of the State Department/USAID. That budget currently totals almost $60 billion. This reporter, who worked in the State Department for a short time in 2008, and has reported on it ever since, believes that such a cut is realistic and long overdue. Contrary to State Department hysterics, such a cut in wasteful programs, staff, failed initiatives, lavish foreign travel, junkets and unnecessary layers of bureaucracy would actually boost U.S. diplomatic efforts.
Regarding the State Department, it is rare in history for an organization with such incredible resources to perform so consistently badly for such a long time with such negative consequences to the nation and yet be so immune from accountability and fiscal responsibility.