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A Diamond In the Rough - Comments (0)

Printer Friendly Category: Behind the Lines,Venture in Africa
Author: John Malone
Date: 4th October, 2006 @ 05:13:54 PM

Some people find the right side of an issue just because they have the character to do so: they want to be right; they need to be right.

Don Yamamoto is that sort of person. It merely happens that he is the Deputy Secretary of State for African Affairs. You might find a guy just like him at the local power company, or the local Tel-co, holding down the fort, making sure the systems delivering essential services ACTUALLY WORK.

Yamamoto is a true career diplomat. Communicating with him deceives you into thinking the broken system of governance – especially the US State Department – might be repairable. Yamamoto would call me at the end of the day if he said he would: it’s just that his day ends at 8 p.m. or later every day. In short, Yamamoto is the anomaly that ought to be.

But he stands pretty much alone in the State Department, at least as far as I can see from here.

There are many agendas floating around in the US State Department. As noted before, most see their role to be representation of the foreign government to the US as a proponent or advocate, rather than as advocates and upholders of US policy in foreign nations.

In our particular case, we had an unqualified person – an “economic counselor” whose primary mission was (and is) anti-terrorism – heading up the embassy as an acting Chief of Mission, while the lame duck ambassador disappeared into a cushy government retirement camp. (As some young Russians told me, “They who cannot do teach, and they who cannot teach, teach teachers.”)

On the domestic side of this relationship is a complex web of relationships. Apparently, increasingly, the National Security Council is a parallel organization not only to the CIA, but the State Department itself. I suppose this has occurred in part because the President can really impact and/or trust the State Department: as mainly career people, they can simply sit on their heels and resist him until he is replaced.

Meanwhile, in the State Department, when an assignment like Kenya comes along, it is either a career graveyard or a career stepping-stone – depending on one’s age and experience – but it is NOT a permanent commitment in any sense of that term. Therefore, it’s musical chairs for the people assigned. In fact, the “desk officer” responsible for Kenya was leaving his post the very day I informed him concerning our expropriation. The next fellow, and the lady after the next fellow have both been replaced now, a mere three years later.

I realized I had a huge problem on my hands, because I had this acting DCM now covering her tracks. A new ambassador was settling into Kenya, who today has found the same cush retirement camp as the former. His hostility wasn’t even thinly veiled.

An ambassador probably can’t get much done in his three-year tour, but he can resist and obstruct a great deal. In fact, Bellamy even lied about a letter he wrote to me, saying he sent it by Kenya Post, when in fact, he never sent it at all. It was faxed to me much later, while it was represented inside the State Department that he was communicating with me. We have stopped looking for it in the daily mail box visit!

While trying to get the State Department’s attention, eventually I came into contact with Don Yamamoto. He was continually as surprised as I was about Ambassador Bellamy’s – who Yamamoto called “Mark” – intransigence as I was.

Yamamoto became stirred up when this mendacity continued, after Dr. Parasaliti left Hagel’s staff to become a well-paid Vice president at one of the most prestigious and powerful lobbying firms in the country.

At this point, the plot thickened with the introduction of Parasaliti’s replacement: a certain fellow named Rexon Ryu.

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