The Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JULY-AUGUST 2018 11 dismisses their findings, insisting that its “expertise” is the ultimate authority. It’s also probably not by accident that Dr. Rosenfarb refers to children with dis- abilities as “patients,” even as he appar- ently loses sight of the fact that we typically aren’t dealing with children in need of ongoing medical care, but rather in need of ongoing educational support. It still strikes me as strange that State has put MED personnel in charge of supporting children’s educational needs. Despite that, Dr. Rosenfarb’s attitude wouldn’t be so bad if—contrary to previ- ous directors—he, his deputy director and Director of Mental Health Services Dr. Kathy Gallardo didn’t regularly refuse tomeet with, evaluate or talk to their “patients” whenmaking decisions about medical clearance status or the appropri- ateness of educational support. Instead, they frequently make decisions in direct opposition to the recommenda- tions of their ownMED personnel in the field, educational professionals who work with children firsthand and parents, and then refuse to provide any individual justi- fication for those decisions. Having personally dealt withMED during Dr. Rosenfarb’s and Dr. Gallardo’s tenure, I amnot impressed by their leader- ship. While I believe there are many in MEDwho do want what is best for the FS families they serve, the current adversarial environment has made it nearly impos- sible for families to work withMED as partners. Christie Peterson FS family member Embassy Prague Confronting a Decision on Torture The congressional hearings on Gina Haspel’s nomination to be the new CIA director, which focused on the use of harsh interrogation techniques, took me back 50 years to when I was serving as a dis- trict senior adviser in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam as part of the U.S. military- civilian integrated advisory program known as MAC-V. I was a 26-year-old, brand new Foreign Service officer on my first tour abroad when I had to make a decision about confronting torture. It was unusual for a civilian State Department officer like me to be heading a 10-man military advisory team com- prised entirely of U.S. Army personnel, but Vietnam was an unusual war in many respects. I had heard the stories about the use of electric shock on the genitals of prisoners, as well as a perverse early form of waterboarding using filthy water from canals in Saigon. But such situations had not occurred in the remote rural area where my team was located, until the local South Vietnamese military unit that we advised captured a highly placed Viet Cong undercover agent, a woman. The South Vietnamese had told one of my American officers that they were certain she had a great deal of informa- tion about Viet Cong military plans and operations that could prevent significant friendly losses. The South Vietnamese officer in charge then abruptly asked my adviser to leave. Our interpreter told him that it was because they now intended to torture the woman. My officer quickly filled me in on what had transpired. I was suddenly confronted with the need to decide what to do. One option I had was to do noth- ing and let the torture go forward. In previous conversations, my civilian supervisor had, in fact, privately said the best approach might be to not become involved and just allow the Vietnamese to decide how they would treat their fellow citizens. I had a way out. I could just say I was following orders. But standing there in this makeshift, sandbagged military compound, 12,000 miles from home, the lessons I had absorbed growing up in Iowa, being sworn into the Foreign Service in the Benjamin Franklin Room and learn- ing what it meant to be an American, impelled me in a different direction. I could not turn my back. I could not let torture go forward. I rushed to confront the South Viet- namese commanding officer with my demand that torture not be used, adding that I would report him to the highest levels of his government if it were. Taken aback by my blunt message and threat, he assured me that the torture would not take place. I commended him for his decision, but guided by the principle of trust but verify, I sent my officer back to the intelligence center with instruc- tions to force his way in to ensure that no methods involving torture were used. I realize now that whatever decision I had made back then would affect me for the rest of my life. The act of torturing another human being would have funda- mentally altered who I was. My character, my moral DNA, would have been forever changed. I believe that a similar decision by our government, by our State Depart- ment or by another agency would have the same impact on our national charac- ter and our governmental institutions. Fifty years ago, I felt that I had done the right thing. I still believe that. I vividly recall what one of my officers said at the time, which still makes me resonate with enormous pride: “We’re Americans. We don’t torture people.” Kenneth Quinn Ambassador, retired Des Moines, Iowa n