- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

Two new groups, supported by retired senior military commanders and three former secretaries of state, will issue a sharp rebuttal to a manifesto by a group of retired U.S. diplomats criticizing President Bush.

The groups will argue this week that the anti-Bush statement gives a false impression that the U.S. foreign-policy establishment opposes Mr. Bush’s policies en masse. They also worry that the attack undermines the Foreign Service’s claim of nonpartisanship.

“Can you really argue that we in the Foreign Service can serve both red America and blue America impartially if the elders in our own tribe are turning themselves into political warriors?” asked Thomas Boyatt, who served for 25 years in the diplomatic corps and was President Reagan’s ambassador to Colombia, referring to the colors used to identify Democratic- and Republican-leaning states.

“People have a constitutional right to express their opinions, but these kinds of overt political statements go against 75 years of tradition for retired senior diplomats,” said Mr. Boyatt, speaking for the newly formed Diplomats for a Nonpartisan Foreign Service.

Among those expected to endorse his group’s call for a nonpartisan diplomatic corps at a press conference tomorrow are former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George P. Shultz and Lawrence Eagleburger, as well as former Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci.

In June, about 30 former officials billing themselves as the “Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change” issued a sharp condemnation of the administration and called for Mr. Bush’s defeat in November.

The group said in its founding statement that Mr. Bush had “weakened” U.S. security and harmed long-standing alliances. The Iraq campaign was “an ill-planned and costly war from which exit is uncertain.”

Among the signers of the statement were two ambassadors to the Soviet Union under Mr. Reagan, the U.N. ambassador under President Carter, first President George Bush’s ambassador to Israel, and the Air Force chief of staff during the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

The second group challenging the manifesto this week, Diplomatic and Military Professionals for National Security, argues that the anti-Bush message has been presented falsely as the “consensus opinion” of career officials in the armed forces and Foreign Service.

Dennis K. Hays, ambassador to Surinam from 1997 to 2000, a founder of the group and a career Foreign Service officer who left in 2000, said there are many retired career diplomats who strongly support Mr. Bush’s policies.

“The idea that that organization represents all the foreign-policy establishment is just wrong,” he said.

“There are quite of few of us who believe that the current administration policies on the war on terrorism are not just correct but the only position we can take,” he said.

“We categorically reject the idea that there’s only one opinion among foreign-policy experts and practitioners about the administration,” said Mr. Hays, who served two terms as president of the American Foreign Service Association, the professional union for career diplomats.

The anti-Bush statement — and a similar one about British Prime Minister Tony Blair by dozens of retired British diplomats — were seen widely as a repudiation of the Bush administration’s hard line on terrorism and its willingness to upset traditional allies to pursue its security goals.

Mr. Boyatt noted that he had defended the professionalism and impartiality of the Foreign Service against charges issued earlier this year by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who accused the diplomatic corps of trying to undermine Mr. Bush’s policies.

The ex-diplomats’ anti-Bush statement “makes it a heck of a lot harder for us to make that argument in the future,” Mr. Boyatt said.

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