Rice Urges Diplomats to Serve in Iraq

By Jennifer Parker

Nov 2, 2007 6:36pm

ABC News’ Kirit Radia Reports: In an apparent response to criticism from its own diplomats the State Department has launched an internal website to "assist employees considering service in Iraq, assigned to Iraq, or already serving in Iraq – and their family members" according to an email to employees.

The website’s launch comes after diplomats lambasted the Director General of the Foreign Service Ambassador Harry Thomas during a closed townhall meeting on Wednesday about the department’s recent decision to order diplomats to serve in Iraq after 48 positions remained unfilled through the usual voluntary process.

Last Friday the department announced it would identify 200 "prime candidates" to fill the positions in hopes that enough will volunteer. If not, some will be forced to go or face the possibility of losing their jobs.

The website will also provide information for those who have been identified as prime candidates, the internal release said.

One senior diplomat stood up at the townhall meeting to tell Thomas that such orders to serve in a war zone were "a potential death sentence."

Another diplomat said during the meeting that she had returned from service in Iraq and was immediately diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, but added that she never received the care she requested from the department.

Rice, in response to the outrage, today wrote a letter to U.S. diplomats worldwide explaining the decision to order so-called "directed assignments."

Calling Iraq "the most essential foreign policy and national security priority for our nation" Rice urged diplomats to serve there.

After being criticized at the meeting for not caring about her employees, Rice wrote in the letter "I commit to each of you that all those who serve in Iraq, and their families, will receive the department’s full support before, during, and after their assignment. I know you will continue to make the nation proud as you serve worldwide, dedicated to the mission, and ready to overcome any challenge."

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