FEATURE: The war on diplomacy

Off target

Linda Gallini, one of the State Department’s leading experts on nuclear nonproliferation, stepped into an empty room at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, and placed a call to Washington. A senior delegate to the iaea, she’d spent the past week strategizing how to keep dangerous materials out of the hands of rogue states and terrorists. But as dusk settled over the Danube that evening in September 2005, Gallini was more worried about what was brewing back home.

When she got her boss, deputy assistant secretary for nuclear nonproliferation Andrew Semmel, on the phone, he confirmed her worst fears. Carrying out a plan announced two months earlier by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, neoconservative political appointees were about to replace some of State’s most knowledgeable wmd experts with Republican loyalists. Gallini’s heart sank. “If that’s what they’re going to do, pretty much everyone else is going to leave,” she said. “Yeah,” she recalls Semmel telling her. “That’s what they want.”

As she resigned a year later, Gallini gave a series of interviews to Mother Jones, providing an insider’s view of how the Bush administration has gutted the nation’s expertise on wmd. Presidents come and go, but State Department staff like Gallini have long been the backbone of U.S. foreign policy—the “ballast,” as she puts it—that keeps political appointees grounded in reality. “Our job is to be the informed, helpful, supportive folks who guide them when they arrive clueless to the issues,” she explains. [complete article]

See also, Burns’ departure muddles nuclear deal (AP).

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