washingtonpost.com
LES Means More

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, November 9, 2005

We received this cable the other day from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad about exciting new job opportunities there.

"The hiring of locally engaged staff (LES) has been a slow, cumbersome and sometimes fruitless process at Mission Iraq," the embassy wrote last month to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice . "Due to the security situation and a lack of a well-established national security structure, performing proper background checks on LES candidates is very difficult and yields uncertain results."

A second problem, Baghdad noted, is that the "insurgents' intimidation campaign has touched our LES corps personally: two of our LES employees have been gunned down in execution-style murders, and two others barely escaped a similar fate in August. Our LES employees live in fear of being identified with the Embassy of the U.S. . . .

"For the first half of 2005 ten of 14 [resignations] were due to security concerns. Of 58 job offers, thirteen employees did not show up for work or resigned within 30 days. The reality is that the embassy can offer them little protection outside the International Zone (IZ) and is not in a position to grant their repeated requests to house them and their families within the IZ."

So what to do? Embassy Baghdad says the situation "has led us to consider making greater use of Third Country National (TCN) employees until the security situation allows a more reliable and robust LES program."

None of the several hundred Iraqis would be fired if this plan goes forward. "We plan to retain the loyal and talented Iraqi employees" (are these LTIs?), the cable said. But "for the immediate future . . . we will look for TCNs to fill positions that do not require American citizenship."

The embassy is looking to use Amman, Jordan, "as a recruitment and employment platform to hire qualified TCN employees who would then be sent to Baghdad under TDY [temporary duty] orders for varying lengths of time according to need."

You don't have to be Jordanian to apply. These jobs would be open to "anyone legally employable in Jordan." You would get the same pay scale as in Amman, with a 50 percent raise for danger pay.

The Appellation Trail

There's chatter at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service that Douglas J. Feith , former undersecretary of defense and key architect of the Iraq war, is in line to be "distinguished professor in the practice of diplomacy."

The matter sparked vigorous debate and opposition when it came up at a mid-term faculty lunch with Dean Robert L. Gallucci . We're told some faculty members felt Gallucci isn't empowered to offer the job, but Gallucci said he has the authority and is raising money for the post.

One source said the faculty was "up in arms" at the lunch; another styled it a "friendly debate," both over Gallucci's flexing his muscle and over hiring Feith, who some feel may be a tad lacking on diplomatic credentials. Prior appointees to these "distinguished professor" gigs include former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright , who had been an academic and U.N. ambassador, former Clinton national security adviser Anthony Lake , a career foreign service officer and college professor, and Donald F. McHenry , a longtime State Department hand and former U.N. ambassador.

Feith, in addition to his recent Pentagon tour, had been a Reagan National Security Council aide for five years. Between government stints, he practiced law. He's now ensconced as a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford where he's working to finish a book on his Iraq adventure, and is considering other academic offers.

Despite all the pointy-headed harrumphing at Georgetown, Feith would bring a certain star power. After all, exactly how many professors can say Gen. Tommy Franks reportedly called them "the [deleted] stupidest guy on the face of the earth"? Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell 's chief of staff, Lawrence B. Wilkerson , a retired Army colonel, seconded that: "Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man."

Well, how many?

Reporters' Reporters

It's not easy being in the White House press pool. Those reporters are obliged to cover for everyone else and quickly bang out a report for their colleagues to use. They must be accurate in the smallest detail.

Richard Benedetto of USA Today authored a fine pool report Monday about President Bush 'sPanama meetings. Later, as can happen, he made a couple of minor adjustments:

Pool Report 3A

Correction to Pool Report 3

"Propositioned Pool" should read "Prepositioned Pool"

No one in your pool was "propositioned," at least as far as I know.

Then came a more significant correction:

Fashion Correction to Pool Report 3

First Lady Laura Bush'swhite pantsuit was linen, and not polyester and cotton, as reported. It still looked crisp.

Richard (Saint Laurent) Benedetto

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company