Wednesday, May 27, 2009

US State Dept needs to observe Terry Barnich's passing real damn quick

Terry Barnich

Terry Barnich (above) was working for the US State Dept when he was killed in Iraq Monday. Two other people were killed in the same bombing but there names have not been released. One was a soldier, one was an employee of the Defense Dept. When someone with the US State Dept dies, it is news. And it's honestly appalling to watch it be treated as something other than that -- both by the press and, yes, by the State Dept. We're noting Thomas E. Roeser's "Terry Barnich, RIP. Valiant Defender of Peace" (Chicago Daily Observer) again (linked to in yesterday's snapshot) and doing so to note a comment left by Mimi Jordan:

You really captured the essence of Terry, at least his political/intellectual essence. Terry hired me as a paralegal in Governor Thompson\'s office and later discovered I was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. I never had a better debating partner, and never learned so much from a conservative, perhaps because he was the only truly principled, intellectually consistent conservative I ever met. This is a heart-breaking loss for all of us.

We note it again because the quote is worth noting and also because we have to revist due to so little being offered. We'll also note Carol Wilson again:

I didn't realize Terry had spent the last two-and-a-half years in Iraq, not as an independent contractor, getting rich during wartime, but as a government employee, trying to help rebuild critical infrastracture that will eanble Iraq to be economically stronger and more secure. But it doesn't surprise me now to learn what he was doing and to hear that, despite repeated plans to return to the U.S. for good, Barnich kept going back.
Clausen admits it was a running joke that Terry was always coming home "next April," but adds that there were plans for him to return permanently at the end of June. Our industry and many lives will be the less for the fact he won't come home at all.

For USA Today, Aamer Madhani reports:

When Terry Barnich took leave from his lucrative job at a Chicago telecommunications consulting firm in 2007 to assist the U.S. State Department's reconstruction efforts in Iraq, he planned on returning home in a year.
A year turned into two and then a bit longer as Barnich, 56, saw progress being made, said his friend and former Baghdad colleague, Philip O'Connor.
[. . .]
"Terry was always pragmatic about politics, but he also had an optimism that you could help people through service," said former Illinois governor James Thompson, who hired Barnich to be his chief legal counsel. "It was that optimism that led him to Baghdad."

Marc Santora's "State Department Official Is Among 3 Killed in Iraq" (New York Times) covers Barnich's death which adds this, "The attack took place within a few miles of the bridge where four American contractors were killed in March 2004, their bodies burned and mutilated, and dragged through the streets. The jarring images of that attack were a major factor in the American military's decision to begin its first major offensive in Falluja, a center of the Sunni insurgency, months later."

As Marica notes in last night's "Terry Barnich died in Iraq," yesterday's State Dept press conference by Ian Kelly is a damn embarrassment. Terry Barnich's name had been reported for hours and hours before the press conference. How dare he go into that conference and not know the man's name. How dare he wait until the end of the conference to mention the passing -- and then only in reply to a question.

An employee of America's diplomatic corps died in a war zone. It's news and it's important that the State Dept (still trying to rebuild) demonstrate to all of its employees that when one of them dies, a member of the family has been lost. What happened yesterday was disgusting.

And I'll include the reporters in that. You are at the US State Dept. You may want to rush to the candy of North Korea, but manners dictate that when you visit, the first thing you do is convey your regrets. The first thing you do is note a passing.

The press and Ian Kelly disgraced themselves yesterday and insulted the memory of Terry Barnich.

And, repeating, the State Dept spokesperson does not, DOES NOT, start a press briefing without knowing the name of a State Dept employee who has been killed -- especially when the name has been reported by the press for hours.

To that awful press conference, they later added the following online:

May 26, 2009

Question: What position did U.S. Department of State employee Terrence Barnich hold at our Embassy in Baghdad?

Answer: Terrence Barnich was serving as Deputy Director of the Iraq Transition Assistance (ITAO) office in Baghdad.

They should not have had to do an addendum and since he used Terry Barnich throughout his professional life (both in the telecom industry and in Chicago government), it is twice as insulting that the State Dept, adding his name as an afterthought, demonstrates that they know SO DAMN LITTLE about their fallen employee that they do not even know his name.

This has been shameful. The official response from the Dept has been demoralizing to the ranks.

For those who have forgotten, the State Dept twice threatened (under then Sec of State Condi Rice) to 'draft' from their diplomatic corps in order to fill spots in Iraq. Terry Barnich went to Iraq by choice. He served the State Dept in Iraq. He was killed while serving.

This is a loss to the Dept and it's being treated as an aside. When it's time to fill those spots for Iraq again, don't be surprised when people don't want to go. They already knew it was dangerous. Now the message is that it's dangerous and completely unappreciated.

Ian Kelly should have started yesterday's press conference with the words, "First off, we need to note the passing . . ." He didn't do that. The State Dept has not treated this passing with any respect and you better believe people serving in the Dept are paying attention and are offended.

Leadership needs to get its act together real damn quick before grumblings turn into a severe morale problem. Hillary Clinton needs to lead a moment of silence at the State Dept no later than Friday (it actually should have already taken place).

Yesterday's lackadaisical treatment sent a message and that message needs to be corrected. Starting with Colin Powell's 'leadership,' the diplomatic corps has been under assault and that needs to be stopped and stemmed right now.

The State Dept repeatedly learned how unimportant they were under Colin Powell due to his treatment of them. It wasn't at all surprising that Mr. Military Man would go out of his way to make sure the diplomatic corps knew how little they meant to him. There's a new Secretary of State now and she needs to make clear that the diplomatic staff is valued and that when there is a loss, it is a heavy loss that effects the entire department. Failure to do so will continue Powell's message that the diplomatic corps is neither important nor needed.

Yesterday's statement noted US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill's written statement. Here it is in full:

It is with deepest regret that we announce the tragic loss on May 25, 2009 of our Embassy Baghdad colleague Terrence Barnich, who was an employee of the U.S. Department of State. Mr. Barnich was the Deputy Director of the Iraq Transition Assistance Office (ITAO). Another employee from the Department of Defense detailed to the Embassy staff also died and will be identified pending notification of next of kin. They were killed when their car drove over an Improvised Explosive Device. They were returning from an inspection of a waste water treatment plant under construction in Fallujah, the largest and most complex U.S. government-funded project in Anbar Province. A Department of Defense military employee was also killed in the explosion.
We extend our deepest condolences to the victims' families and friends, and our profound appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice they made in service to their country and for the people of Iraq. This is a tragic loss and one we all mourn.
We and all who are working for a brighter future for Iraq condemn this terrible attack in the strongest possible terms. We remain committed as ever to helping Iraqis achieve the peace, stability and prosperity that will make such acts of terror a thing of the past .

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