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But Whose Name Is on the Check?

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By Al Kamen
Friday, July 29, 2005

The State Department this week announced the winner of its annual Foreign Service National Employee of the Year award for 2005. And the winner is -- drum roll -- someone "from American Embassy Baghdad," the announcement said, "and for security reasons will remain anonymous."

The announcement explains why the "awardee," let's call him Mr. Anon , was selected from among the many thousands of non-American employees at embassies around the world. For example, "he helped to retain most of the [embassy] staff despite numerous death threats leveled against them." Anon's "life was at risk night and day," he had "many close calls personally and several friends were slain."

If that's not enough, "after a suicide bomber detonated [a] device within five yards of the dining table," the announcement says, Anon "limped in to the embassy and continued working despite suffering from shock and severe hearing loss. When a colleague was assassinated" and his U.S. supervisor sent home the following day, Anon "vowed to work 'even if no one was left.' "

And when the delegates to the Iraqi National Assembly met at a Baghdad hotel, he was "trapped in the elevator when a rocket slammed into the hotel," we're told. "Later that day, a Gurkha security guard standing a few feet away was struck in the head by shrapnel from an exploding mortar round," and Anon provided first aid.

But it's not just that he's extraordinarily courageous. He's unflappable.

On the last night of the assembly conference, the announcement says, "the ambassador's aide belatedly asked [him] to provide" 1,400 dinners "to the hungry delegates." Rather than deck the aide, Anon called 10 restaurants and got delivery.

All in a year's work in Baghdad. The award is a certificate signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and $10,000, to be presented at an awards ceremony on Nov. 9.

Bush Neighbor Tracked to Portugal

Also on the embassy front, another fine posting, Lisbon, has fallen to the Bush Rangers. This time Alfred Hoffman Jr. , a Bonita Springs, Fla., businessman, former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and mega-Bush fundraiser, is occupying the fine, newly renovated ambassador's residence.

Hoffman chairs one of the largest real estate development conglomerates in the country and is very tight with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush , having been his finance chairman in 1994, 1998 and 2002.

But for those cynics who think these plum jobs in lovely countries are simply for sale to the highest bidder, regardless of any other credentials, we note the following from a Florida Today profile a few years back. "He vacations with the [Bush] family," the article said. "He owns an island in Maine on Casco Bay near the Bush Kennebunkport estate."

See? Being a good neighbor is also

important.


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