U.S. Embassy Workers in 'Green Zone' Tell McClatchy They Are Scared Now

By: E&P Staff As rocket and mortar attacks on the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad injure more and more people, McClatchy reporter Leila Fadel reports today that U.S. Embassy employees "are growing increasingly angry over what they say are inadequate security precautions."

Recent attacks have killed six people, including two U.S. citizens.

In spite of the attacks, embassy employees complain, most staff members still sleep in trailers that one described as "tin cans" that offer virtually no protection from rocket and mortar fire. The government has refused to harden the roofs because of the cost, one employee said.

Embassy employees have been ordered not to talk about security concerns or precautions with reporters, but three State Department employees in Baghdad discussed the issue.

One official called it "criminally negligent" not to reduce the size of the embassy staff, which a year ago was estimated at 1,000. "What responsible person and responsible government would ask you to put yourself at risk like that? We don't belong here," the employee said, adding, "They're not going to send us home because it's going to be another admission of failure."

The story concludes as follows.

The three said rising anxiety was evident during recent town hall meetings, where several speakers demanded increased protection. One speaker asked for blankets made of bullet-resistant Kevlar to protect himself from shrapnel and debris in case a rocket or mortar round struck nearby.

The employees said their trailers have been surrounded with sandbags, but that nothing has been done to reinforce the roofs to withstand a rocket or mortar hit. When some employees asked during the meeting if they could move into a hardened structure, they were told to wait for the completion of a new embassy that's still under construction.

"In any other embassy, we would have been evacuated," one of the employees said. "As always, the U.S. government is reactive, not proactive. They are going to wait until 20 people die, then the people back in Washington will say we have a problem."

Unlike the U.S. military, U.S. Embassy employees are volunteers and can ask to leave if they feel unsafe at any time.

"I can't shake my fist at Uncle Sam and say, `Why am I here?'" one official said. "We're all volunteers."

But people are afraid to leave out of fear that such a request would hurt their careers, one of the officials said.
"I can't sleep, I can't eat," another official said. "My life should be worth more than achieving this government's agenda."


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