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Two decades of ethnic tension and a civil war in 1990 laid the groundwork for one of the most savage episodes of wanton slaughter witnessed in the past half century. The day after the airplane carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and the president of Burundi was shot down, the Rwandan military responded to the deaths of the two Hutu presidents by starting a murderous campaign to eradicate all the Tutsis they could reach. Thus the Rwandan Genocide began on April 7, 1994, as hundreds of thousands of innocent people were massacred in only a few short months. Robert Gribbin, Ambassador to the Central African Republic at the time and Ambassador to Rwanda in 1996, and Joyce Leader, Deputy Chief of Mission in Kigali from 1991 to 1994, recount the background of ethnic hatred that led to the explosion of violence, their experiences as the genocide broke out, and the massive evacuation they had to oversee to get foreigners out of the country. Gribbin and Leader were interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in 2000 and 2003, respectively.

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Getting a new embassy up and running is a tremendous task, especially when the host city has an annual average temperature of thirty degrees Fahrenheit. Joseph Edward Lake was the second U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia, and the first to reside permanently in the country. He was charged with establishing a functional embassy in Ulaanbaatar and coordinating greater communication between the U.S. and Mongolia.

Mongolia was historically a socialist state with very strong ties to the Soviet Union. The U.S. officially recognized Mongolia on January 27, 1987, and the first embassy was opened the following year. In late 1989, Mongolian students engaged in large protests against the government, leading to a call for democratic elections the following year. Ambassador Lake oversaw the first democratic elections and the coordination of U.S. and international aid for Mongolia.

Lake served as Ambassador to Mongolia from 1990 to 1993. He recounts his experiences in a 1994 interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy.

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A Hamilton for Henry

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When Henry Kissinger became Secretary of State in September 1973, he declined the usual Diplomatic Security (DS) protective detail, preferring the protection of the Secret Service as he was already under its protection as the head of the National Security Council (NSC) and had a good relationship with the detail leader, Walter Bothe. His wife, Nancy, on the other hand, was quite satisfied with the DS agents attached to her detail. Bruce Tully, who was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning in July 2015, is a veteran of both the Secret Service and Diplomatic Security and was one of the agents on her detail.

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As General Secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev authorized the release of thousands of Soviet Jews who wanted to leave the USSR. In 1986 only 914 Soviet Jews were allowed to emigrate; by 1990 the number was 186,815.  A group of about 11,000 who had been denied emigration visas were known as refuseniks. Natan Sharansky, a spokesperson for the refuseniks during the mid-1970s, helped draw global attention to their desire to leave and to human rights abuses in the USSR. Arrested on charges of espionage and treason, in 1978 he was sentenced to 13 years of forced labor. His wife Avital led an international campaign to free him.

Under pressure from President Ronald Reagan, Gorbachev released Sharansky on February 11, 1986. Sharanksy moved to Israel, where he founded the Yisrael BaAliyah party and later represented the Likud Party, serving as Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister of Israel.  He continues to be active as the Chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

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One of the most daunting and stressful tasks a Foreign Service Officer abroad can face is supporting a visit by POTUS, the President of the United States. Concerns about security, cultural sensitivities, press coverage and political effectiveness turn such events into an all-encompassing, embassy-wide obsession from the day the idea of the visit is floated until “Wheels Up” when Air Force One departs. There’s plenty of drama, bruised egos, hurry-up-and-wait, and silliness in the planning and implementation of such a visit. The outcome can make or break a career.

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“But if I really say it/ the radio won’t play it/ unless I lay it between the lines.”  This song made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary was about rock & roll music, but the same principle was applied in conducting public diplomacy programs in Shanghai at a time of censorship and chilly bilateral relations. China had officials whose job was specifically to guard against “American spiritual pollution,” so overcoming these challenges called for a creative bent.

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Which Witch?

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When stationed abroad, Foreign Service Officers may face dangers such as carjackings, bombings, or even assassination attempts. However, for some, the most serious threat may be a supernatural one:  being cursed by a local witch doctor. The supernatural threats encountered by FSOs must always be taken seriously; otherwise, one risks temporal pain and spiritual punishment (probably even greater than dealing with HR).

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Stranded in Siberia

 

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The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) marked a turning point in relations between the U.S. and the USSR. Signed in December 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty came into force on June 1, 1988. It eliminated  intermediate range missiles (between 300-3,400 miles), including the Soviets’ accurate SS-20s. At the time of its signature, the treaty’s verification regime was the most detailed and stringent in the history of nuclear arms control. It established various types of on-site inspections. In practice, this meant that teams of Americans would fly in to conduct inspections throughout the USSR. Eileen Malloy was posted to Moscow in 1988 right after the treaty was signed and worked to facilitate the visits of U.S. inspection teams. Ambassador Malloy was interviewed beginning in November 2008 by Charles Stuart Kennedy.

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A Book You Can Swear By

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Traditionally, U.S. government officials put their hand on the Bible for their swearing-in.  In recent years, some have used alternatives, such as the Qur’an or the U.S. Constitution.  In June 2014 Suzi LeVine was the first ambassador to be sworn in on an e-reader. Ambassador Peter de Vos, however, had nothing readily available when he was rushed off to Liberia in 1990, set to take over the post in the midst of a raging civil war.  Ambassador Johnny Young recounts the unusual and creative swearing-in ceremony in an October 2005 interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy.



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Back in Jonestown, Jones commanded everyone to gather in the main pavilion. The youngest members of the Peoples Temple were the first to die, as parents and nurses used syringes to drop a potent mix of cyanide, sedatives and powdered fruit juice, similar to Kool-Aid, into children’s throats. Adults then drank the concoction while armed guards surrounded the pavilion.

Richard Dwyer was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Guyana when the tragedy took place. In his oral history, he recounts the prelude to the massacre, how he pretended to be dead when shot at the airstrip, and how he dealt with the subsequent harrowing events. He was interviewed by ADST’s Charles Stuart Kennedy starting in July 1990.

Read the Moment here.

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