‘It feels like a betrayal.’ US diplomats worry that crackdowns at home will undermine their mission abroad

Although the protests raging in Washington and throughout the US didn’t come up within the assembly, a kind of survivors, Henry Li, instructed CNN that they’re frightened.

“The US is the leader of the world. It is very tough for Americans right now,” he mentioned on Tuesday, a day after President Donald Trump referred to as on state governors to pursue “total domination” amid violent crackdowns on protesters and journalists in cities throughout America.

Current and former diplomats inform CNN the occasions at home are “scary” and “heartbreaking” to observe — and likewise undermine their mission.

Former US Ambassador to Bulgaria Nancy McEldowney famous that “under any other circumstances it would, of course, be wonderful for the American Secretary of State to meet with the survivors of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, because that’s what the United States stands for.”

“We supported those protesters then. We supported the protesters in the Maidan in Ukraine, and in Tehran, and in Hong Kong. But how can we do so now?” she mentioned.


The fallout from George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis has spilled over US borders, with reveals of solidarity spreading throughout European capitals and even within the wartorn ruins of Idlib, Syria. Allies and adversaries have weighed in, and a few worldwide officers — like Hong Kong chief govt Carrie Lam — are utilizing the response to accuse the US of a double commonplace.

On Monday, Trump inspired governors to be extra aggressive in responding to the protests, telling them to hunt “retribution” for violent acts in their states.
Journalists masking the protests nationwide have been focused by the police. An assault on an Australian tv crew by police in Washington, DC, has prompted Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to call for an investigation.

“Trump’s rhetoric and his inept and extreme response has made things much more difficult for American diplomats around the world. In the past, the United States was perceived as the standard bearer for human rights, the beacon of light, calling for restraint, calling for reasonable compromise. And instead, we are now the subject of, at best, great anxiety, and at worst, derision and scorn,” McEldowney mentioned.

She mentioned if she had been a diplomat in a nation the place this was occurring, she “would be given instructions to go in and meet with the President, meet with the cabinet, tell them to stop extreme use of force, to exercise restraint, call for political dialogue.”

“Instead, our diplomats are being asked to defend what Trump is doing, when it is really, I think, indefensible,” she mentioned.

A present State Department official mentioned that America’s “moral standing is challenged.” The official famous that when Armenian police violently clashed with protestors in 2008, the US assisted with coaching and reform. Another State Department official described working with over 130 nations on police coaching, noting that recipients “are rigorously vetted for human rights compliance.”

“We spent a lot of money to trying to do that,” the primary official mentioned of the Armenia case. “We showed them how to do it, and told them, you cannot respond to peaceful protests violently even if they are destabilizing, you have to respond peacefully. Now, how can we tell that to people with a straight face?”

China gifted propaganda win as Trump's protest response undermines US efforts to protect Hong Kong

John Heffern, who served as US Ambassador to Armenia from 2011 to 2014, mentioned if what was occurring now had been occurring when he was posted there, his regular level of contact within the earlier Armenian authorities “would have literally laughed in my face.”

“We would have had no credibility talking to him about this,” mentioned Heffern, who served within the overseas service for greater than three many years. He referred to as the state of affairs at hand “uncharted territory.”

A present overseas service officer described the state of affairs to CNN as “heartbreaking.”

“Many of us took this job believing the United States, as imperfect as it is, could serve as the city on the hill, and that our work made it stronger. Now – for us, for our colleagues and friends of color – it feels like a betrayal. We hope for calm, and many of us are using this as a chance to be actively engaged around the complex issues of race and privilege and the unfinished business of America. But it is brutal, and lonely, and many of us feel lost,” the individual mentioned.

‘No doubt that the world is watching’

Rob Berschinski, a former deputy assistant secretary of state within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor through the Obama administration, mentioned that “there is no doubt that the world is watching what’s going on in the United States, and both our allies and repressive governments around the world are noting that a government that ostensibly supports freedom of speech and assembly and peaceful protests and a free media isn’t acting like it at the moment.”

“There is no doubt that that is going to undercut the work of our diplomats,” he added.

International allies have issued statements condemning Floyd’s dying. Top European Union diplomat Josep Borrell referred to as it “an abuse of power.”

Pentagon chief on shaky ground with White House after breaking with Trump over protest response
In Hong Kong, the place the administration has reacted swiftly to China’s imposition of a controversial national security law, chief govt Lam urged the US was “adopting double standards.”

“They attach great importance to the national security of their country, but look at our national security with bias, especially the current situation in Hong Kong. Everyone can see the double standard clearly,” she mentioned this week.

Already, conventional US adversaries like Iran and Russia have seized upon the occasions occurring in America to try to undermine US credibility.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mentioned in a tweet that “US cities are scenes of brutality against protesters & press,” and denounced Europe for conserving “deafeningly silent,” saying “if it wants to keep lips sealed now, it should always keep them that way.”
Tehran has maintained a regime of brutal oppression towards dissidents and is ranked 173 out of 180 nations for press freedom, in response to Reporters Without Borders. Russia, which is ranked 149, scolded the US for utilizing rubber bullets and tear gasoline towards journalists.

Heffern, who additionally led the State Department’s European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau for 9 months underneath Trump, mentioned the administration’s response has been “a gift from heaven” to authoritarian governments all over the world.

McEldowney additionally famous that the “more Trump’s incompetence — his mishandling of this situation — the more it sows unrest and instability throughout our society, the more it makes our adversaries happy.”

“When America is tied down with internal divisions, we cannot lead, we cannot be an effective player internationally,” she mentioned.

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