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Lesley Dorman and the Founding of FLO

Lesley Tanburn Dorman devoted her life to her own family and to her wider family – the Foreign Service. Her work to help the families of Foreign Service Officers contributed to the creation of the Family Liaison Office (FLO) at the State Department. Born in England, she met her husband Philip in London, where he was stationed at the U.S. Embassy. She accompanied him to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia before moving to Washington in 1971.

As president of the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW), Lesley Dorman testified at congressional hearings and led a team that drafted the “Report on the Concerns of Foreign Service Spouses and Families” that led to the establishment of FLO in 1978. She was also instrumental in the creation of the Overseas Briefing Center and helped secure survivor annuities and pro-rata pension shares for divorced spouses by testifying on Capitol Hill. In honor of her advocacy, AAFSW created the Lesley Dorman Award to recognize a member each year who has performed outstanding service. Read more

An Embassy in Flames: Islamabad, 1979

The November 21, 1979 attack on the American Embassy in Islamabad started as a small group demonstration in front of the embassy, where protesters shouted anti-American slogans and demanded entry into the campus. Police officers were able to stop the protesters and have them leave the area. However, about fifteen minutes later, some six busloads of Pakistani students arrived and laid siege to the American embassy compound for several hours, from midday until nightfall. The students were angry because of suspected U.S. involvement in the coup d’état of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 and execution in April 1979. The final straw came from false reports, made by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, that the United States had launched a terrorist attack on the Grand Mosque, Masjid al-Haram, at Mecca. Read more

Persistence, Vision and Luck: Creating a Center for Diplomatic Training

Can you imagine the bureaucratic struggles involved in persuading the Department of Defense to hand over acres of prime real estate for a State Department training facility and then convincing Congress to authorize the transfer? This impossible dream was accomplished thanks to vision, persistence and a large dose of luck by a small group of individuals; among them, Stephen Low (seen right). The Department of State was founded in 1789, but it took more than another century before the opening of the first school for diplomats, which provided basic tutelage on foreign policy and consular operations. More detailed instruction was given in a school that opened in 1920.

It wasn’t until the Foreign Service Act of 1946 that Congress mandated advanced training for diplomats, and in 1947 the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) opened in the Mayfair Building in Washington, D.C. FSI relocated to two State Department annex buildings in Arlington, Virginia, then to its permanent home at Arlington Hall, previously the Arlington Hall Junior College, and later an Army installation. FSI opened at its new location, the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, in October 1993. Read more

The Bombing of U.S. Embassy Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

On August 7, 1998, between 10:30 and 10:40 a.m. local time, the U.S. embassies in Nairobi , Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania were attacked in coordinated truck bombings. Approximately 212 people were killed and an estimated 4,000 wounded in Nairobi,, while the attack killed 11 individuals and wounded 85 in Dar es Salaam. The bombings were timed to mark the eighth anniversary of the deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia and were later traced to Saudi exile and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

President Bill Clinton ordered retaliatory military strikes on August 20. In Afghanistan, some 70 American cruise missiles hit three of Osama bin Laden’s training camps. An estimated 24 people were killed, but bin Laden was not present. Thirteen cruise missiles hit a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan where bin Laden allegedly made or distributed chemical weapons. Read more

Remember, Remember 17 November

The shock of terrorist attacks in Europe in the past decade, notably in Paris, London, and Madrid, sadly recall an even grimmer period during the 1970’s and 80’s when terrorism was a widespread and chronic threat throughout the continent, especially in Greece. One of the chief culprits was the Revolutionary Organization 17 November, also known as November 17th or 17N, which carried out numerous attacks over the better part of three decades in Greece. Borne out of the armed struggle against the Greek military junta that ruled the country from 1967-1974, the group carried out attacks against Greek targets as well as American and British diplomatic personnel.

Due to poor police work, popular support for the group among many Greeks, especially those on the far left, and a lack of political will to crack down, the group was able to carry out attacks for many years. Only in the early 2000’s, with the threat of a possible boycott of the 2004 Olympic Games over security issues did the Greek government finally end the group’s reign of terror. Read more

The Death of Ambassador Arnold Raphel

U.S. relations with Pakistan have often had a disproportionate importance. In the 1980’s, they were again front and center in U.S. foreign policy as Washington ramped up its support for Afghan mujahedeen in their fight against the USSR. On August 17, 1988, matters took a stunning turn when the plane carrying Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold “Arnie” Raphel, and Brigadier General Herbert M. Wassom mysteriously crashed shortly after takeoff, killing everyone aboard.

Zia had been the leader of Pakistan for 11 years, after deposing Ali Bhutto in a coup and ordering his execution. Since then, Zia had steadily accumulated more and more power to the point where he was essentially the sole ruler of Pakistan. With his sudden death, Pakistan ­­risked a massive power vacuum.

To maintain stability, “diplomatic troubleshooter” Robert B. Oakley was appointed to Pakistan. Read more

“Apparently I have been kidnapped” — The Death of a Vice Consul

In 1974, Bobby Joe Keesee (in photo),  recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his actions during the Korean War, kidnapped Vice Consul John Patterson and held him for a $500,000 ransom. While the United States refused to pay the ransom, Patterson’s mother worked with the U.S. government and State Department officials in Mexico City to organize an exchange between the kidnappers and approved personnel. Charles Anthony “Tony” Gillespie Jr., who served as the Supervisory General Services Officer from 1972 to 1975, describes how he and two others drove from Mexico to various points in California with the half a million dollars in cash in a sealed Samsonite cosmetic bag on what turned out to be a futile venture; Patterson had been killed shortly after being kidnapped.  Read more

Dark Times in the City of Light

Paris is one of the most beautiful and glamorous places in the world. But like most urban centers, it also has a dark side, as shown yet again by the horrifying assault on the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo and the horrific terrorist attacks just a few months later on November 13, 2015, which killed more than 125. In these excerpts, Foreign Service officers recall the violent, disturbing time of the 1980s, when Paris – and the U.S. Embassy in particular – were the target of a string of attacks, usually orchestrated by Middle East terrorist groups. It made Paris “the most dangerous assignment I’ve ever had,” in the words of one FSO. In the span of just a few short years, there was an attempted bombing of the embassy, a terrorist explosion on the street where one official lived, an attack against two other officials, and the assassination of a military attache.

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Slobodan Milosevic and the Road to Dayton

Slobodan Milosevic was in many ways a paradoxical figure. Long criticized for being a corrupt opportunist, he could also be engaging and charming. Often described as being a paranoid psychopath, he could quickly swing from the role of staunch Serbian nationalist to conciliatory peacemaker. As Yugoslavia disintegrated in the early 1990’s, leading to violent conflict, the United States began to view the protean Milosevic as the key to reaching a peace agreement in the region.

Rudolf Perina served as Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade from 1993-96 and describes working with Milosevic, who usually worked without a staff and avoided putting anything down on paper. He also details Assistant Secretary (and later lead negotiator) Richard Holbrooke’s early involvement in the Balkans, the tragedy in the making that was Kosovo, and the beginning of talks which would become the basis for the Dayton Peace Accords. He sadly notes the the passing of his colleague, Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert Frasure, who died with two others in a car crash on the road to Belgrade. Read more

Secretary Ron Brown’s Plane Crashes in Croatia

On April 3rd, 1996, just before the Easter holiday, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown was killed in a plane crash in Croatia. He was 54 years old. He was on a trip to Dubrovnik, flying from Zagreb to meet with President Franjo Tuđman on an official trade mission. Brown had offered to make the trip on behalf of President Bill Clinton as the President’s schedule was very tight and Brown was available. The crash occurred as the pilot attempted to land at Dubrovnik’s Cilipi Airport on visual flight rules in severe weather. The plane crashed into a mountainside; Ron Brown and 34 other people were killed instantly. Only Air Force Technical Sergeant Shelly Kelly was able to survive the impact; however, she died on her way to the hospital. In March 2011, the new United States Mission to the United Nations building in New York City was named in Brown’s honor (see photo below).  Read more