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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Defiant diplomats

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It was an unexpected protest that came from the very core of Washington’s premier bureaucracy.

Expressing dissent to President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim countries, hundreds of American diplomats defied a White House warning not to criticize the controversial executive order. The diplomats, in a rare display of dissent, sent a memo to the State Department’s leadership. They expressed concern that the temporary suspension of visas and travel to the US from Muslim countries runs counter to American values. They also feared it might spark anti-American sentiments around the world.

The letter to the State Department did not give the exact number of diplomats who signed the protest that said the ban “stands in opposition to the core American and constitutional values that we as federal employees took an oath to uphold..”

Do these words express a portent of a basis for impeaching Trump for violation of the US Constitution and betrayal of public trust? Never has an American president met so much opposition when he has not completed even his first 100 days. The 45th president of America could be courting impeachment if he continues his reckless and controversial course.

True enough, Trump’s order to stop the US refugee program and the granting of visas to Muslim travelers has already drawn widespread protests at US airports and other parts of the world. Human rights groups, civil libertarians and popular figures of the American film industry are at the forefront of the protests. Trump did not expect his travel ban would draw such flak.

A nation of immigrants, America could unravel if no remedial measures are undertaken by Trump and his close advisers. But his Cabinet—made up of big businessmen of right-wing persuasion—are not expected to offer cautionary counsel to the billionaire president.

The US State Department’s strong dissent to Trump’s discriminatory refugee order is something we cannot expect to see from our own corps of career diplomats. The Department of Foreign Affairs is a virtual old boys’ club network. They stick together, making their career a priority over any other issues even if doing so is inimical to the country’s interests. Take for instance how President Duterte and his Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. are pulling the Philippines away from traditional allies and bringing it closer to China and Russia.

Seen in the light of the Chinese threat and aggressive moves in the South China Sea, for sure many of out bright career diplomats do not agree with the Duterte administration’s purported pursuit of an independent foreign policy. But we have yet to hear anyone from the top echelons of our envoys express a different or divergent view of this dangerous drift.

They can’t really be blamed for keeping their silence. Anyone who goes against the powers that be in the Palace and the Department will surely have his career advancement put on hold. It starts with a diplomat’s name not being included in the list of promotions and assignment to foreign posts. We know of one diplomat who never made it as chief of mission; this was because he went against his superior ambassador who was then assigned in eastern Europe. This diplomat is about to retire soon without reaching the apex of ambassadorship in the foreign service.

The DFA said it would provide assistance to Filipinos who could be deported from the US for being undocumented. But what can the DFA really do if the host government and Trump implement the policy of cleaning out the country of aliens illegally working? These aliens, after all, do not pay taxes. President Duterte himself said he supports Trump’s temporary refugee ban and selective migration policy.

Meanwhile on another front, former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced he’s not interested in running as president of South Korea. The country is in a tumultuous period after its president Park Gyun Hye was impeached for graft last December. The former top UN official said his sense of patriotism tells him that he should stay out of Korean politics and instead pursue as a private citizen much needed government reforms. Questions are also being raised on Ban’s competence and handling of world events as UN Secretary General.

South Korea is also under threat by the North’s Kim Jong-un who has been developing nuclear warheads and saying he would unleash them against Seoul, Japan and the US West Coast.

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