Archive for the ‘dangerous’ Category

State Department Memories from The Hanoi Hilton

November 4, 2007

Introduction By John E. Carey, Peace and Freedom: Maybe State Department employees, even those with 36 years of service like Mr. Jack  Croddy, need an occasional reminder of their proud heritage. 

United States
Department of State
Seal of the United States Department of State

Last Wednesday, October 31, 2007, Senior Foreign Service Officer Jack Croddy stood up at a “Town Hall Meeting” at the United States Department of State and addressed the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with these words:

“It’s one thing if someone believes in what’s going on over there and volunteers, but it’s another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment. I’m sorry, but basically that’s a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?” 

The essay below was given to me today by my friend Mike Benge.  Mike was a staffmember of the United States Agency for Internatiional Development, an Agency of the Department of State, in Vietnam when he was scooped up by the communists and ultimately landed in the Hanoi Hilton.  But because Mike was not a member of the uniformed services, he could not be held as a Prisoner of War (POW).  So he was held separately.

For those too young to recall, the “Hanoi Hilton” is the American nickname given to the most infamous of communist North Vietnam’s prisons.

Mike has contributed to America and the world in many ways but I always recall his memory of the “Christmas lights over Hanoi in 1972.”  That essay closes with these simple words: “Yes Christmas lights are pretty, but none will ever be as pretty as those over Hanoi on Christmas ’72.  And  God Bless the pilots and crews of the planes who gave their lives to set us free.”

Mike and I have had contact for several years, and Mike has taught me much and there is not much that I could ever teach Mike.  He is an expert in duty, honor, service to country and service to his fellow man. I first met Mike because of his insightful work writing for the Washington Times.  We share a passion for freedom and human rights, a love of the peoples of Vietnam and a desire to contribute in the world community. Mike would be my half brother as I can never fully honor or equal his time held captive by communists or his stellar contributions to many venues including the History Channel. We cannot regain the past; so we both now man the gates of justice and reality and attempt to keep honest and aware those that might overlook different problems in far away lands. Or in Washington DC, it now seems.


The Hoa Loa Prison (Vietnamese: Hỏa Lò, meaning “fiery furnace”), later known to American prisoners of war as the Hanoi Hilton.

On the State Department at War
By Mike Benge

Like me, those who choose government service — be they military or civilian — swore an Oath of Service:

“I (person taking oath says own name) do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I take this obligation freely and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. That I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me, God.”

Although sworn to this Oath of Service, some Foreign Service Officers join not really to serve their country but to be elitists and enjoy the perks of cushy government employment: job security, good retirement package, travel to exotic foreign countries, free housing, generous leave packages, and access to good life and other accompanying bennies – never dreaming that they may someday be called to really serve their country in dangerous situations.

And now when these people have been called to live up to their oath of office, last week at the State Department, officials began crying, “I didn’t sign up for this!” (See: Envoys Resist Forced Iraq Duty, Washington Post, 11/1/07)

Sorry folks, but you did, and it wasn’t even in fine print at the bottom of your Oath that by the way is a binding contract.

After first serving in the Marine Corps, I went to Vietnam with the International Voluntary Services, then joined what is now the U.S. Agency for International Development serving as a foreign service officer doing what is now termed “nation building.”

In 1968, I was captured by the North Vietnamese and was held hostage for over five years. After my release in 1973, I again returned to Vietnam as a volunteer and continued going in an out until the communist takeover in 1975.

My government service spanned 44 ½ years.

We had many fine foreign service officers who served in Vietnam, quite a few from the State Department who served in various capacities including in danger zones out in the provinces.

The closest thing to a “green zone” perhaps was service in Saigon — which was sometimes dangerous.

Every one of these dedicated State Department officers in Vietnam did an excellent job, and many gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in service of their country — 27 State Department officials gave the final sacrifice for their countrymen, I believe. Many more from USAID and other government agencies lost their lives, and some like I, were taken prisoner.

None of them went on strike like the present breed of elitists at the State Department; none of them cried, “Not I!”


For a real hero’s story from the Hanoi Hilton go to:
Meet “Bud” Day; Read His Medal Of Honor Story

Other stories related to the Diplomatic Corps:

Diplomat Jack Croddy: You Don’t Want to Go To Iraq? Step Forward and Meet the Families of the Fallen and Those that Serve

Diplomats Who Refuse Assignments: “Hit The Road, You are Terminated with Prejudice and Without Pay”

The Abyss Between State and Defense

In Iraq: Reporters More Dedicated than the U.S. Foreign Service?

Diplomatic Infighting Hurts Terror War Effort

Rice Tells State Department Staff: You Took an Oath

A Diplomacy of neighborhoods

“Gaffe Machine” Karen Hughes Leaving State Department


Shanghai: Not Lost in Translation

October 21, 2007

Shanghai – By Les Lothringer

There is nothing special about the street I live in, here in Shanghai. Once you move off the glitzy streets like HuaiHai Road or NanJing Road, Shanghai resembles most other “modern” Chinese cities with their concrete block buildings ?endless, featureless and overbuilt.

My small street is a typical Chinese street. Not too far from the police complex and police cars and motorbikes sometimes patrol it. Here few people speak any English. There are no other Westerners. We have some cheap sidewalk cafes, three hairdressers [legitimate], three fruit stalls, a few traders in copy DVD’s [mostly from Russia], one legitimate massage salon and seven brothels. As I said, it is a typical Chinese street.

I’m alone at a small table by one sidewalk cafe eating. A mid-20’s Chinese girl with pretensions about her sits down opposite avoiding face contact. I think – now why don’t you just go and sit inside. You do learn to pick them.

Many Chinese come to this sidewalk cafe, including young girl students from the high school near by, all so chatty. This one is different. She has that irritable, bitchy, condescending air about her that you do see here – girls with issues. In two minds about it, I eventually say in Mandarin, do you speak English? She indicates no with minimum effort.

Some time later her friend comes along and sits down, next to me. The table is so typically quite small and we are seated very close to each other. She acts far more pleasantly. She does speak some English. So we chat. She works in a bank. When my English gets too hard for her, she checks with her friend, who speaks better English! Now she is talking too and there is no stopping her.

The issues one asks me which hotel I live in. I said I lived right here. She repeats the question. Eventually she gets it. Other questions follow about how long I’ve been in China.

Miss Issues seems intent on educating me now. I am already far too over-educated for my own good. She will have to try hard and I am quite keen. I established that both girls are aged 25 and work in the same Chinese bank nearby. She says some very interesting things.

Chinese people are very complex. VERY COMPLEX! OK ?got it. She adds- they are very difficult to understand. Got that too. I say they are not so complex, in fact, quite easy to understand. I think – whenever I hear that a group of people are “complex”, I imagine how neurotic they well could be. No point trying to explain that concept.

She says that foreigners are unable to understand Chinese. This is a telling point from one so basically naive and “young”. I said you are right; most do not. But I do understand Chinese, as I live amongst them and have made an effort to understand them. She is none too keen to accept this.

She raises the conversation stakes. She says that when a Chinese compliments a Westerner, at the bottom of their heart, right at the very bottom, they think the opposite. I say I know this [even though not strictly true of everyone] and what’s more, this means that you are saying that all Chinese are liars. Silence ensues.

It looks like my education lesson is over. A while after she asks me if I could explain to her what a treasury note is. The question comes as no surprise, but then I did say Chinese are not complex.

Both these women live with their parents [= enmeshed, controlling families who infantilize their daughters and more]. They expect to remain there until they marry. They have no boyfriends and never had. I appreciate being instructed by unworldly virgins. She must have read my face. My instructor starts the lesson again. Miss Issues tells me that this is how Chinese live. I point out that this is how some Chinese live and that it is changing. Just last Sunday, a young unmarried couple was sitting with me here at the same table and they were quite open about living together, even though it is strictly illegal. She grudgingly admits that, yes, things are changing in Shanghai.

I just couldn’t resist it. I say ?You know, you two girls must both move out of home, shack up with some Western guys [ideally weight trained alpha-males], learn how to live, stand up to your parents [who will turn on one of their well practiced and most definitely biggest tantrums] and stop them interfering in your lives. Lost in translation.

PS: The chances of these two girls attracting any guys like that are, well, frankly zero.   

Shanghai Exploding With Development, Wealth

Shanghai Exploding With Development, Wealth

October 21, 2007

George H. Lesser
The Washington Times
October 21, 2007


Winston Churchill said that in his father’s time — the second half of the 19th century — “The world was for the few… and for the very few.” And he wasn’t talking about “the world” — or even about the West. He was talking about England, then just about the richest country on Earth.

Since World War II, we have seen economic “miracles” transform Europe, Japan, other Asian nations, and a rising tide of expectations everywhere. The few have multiplied.

But nothing prepares you for what’s happening right now in Shanghai. Perhaps never in human history has so much been built in such a short time. Perhaps never in human history have so many people gotten so rich in such a hurry.

Shànghǎi Shì

A view of Lujiazui, a financial district in Pudong.

A view of Lujiazui, a financial district in Pudong.

Read the rest:

Shanghai: Not Lost in Translation