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Updated: US Ambassador tenders resignation

Urges Obama to visit Malta

US Ambassador Douglas Kmiec has tendered his resignation to US President Barack Obama in the wake of a report by the US Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The report criticised the amount of time Ambassador Kmiec has dedicated to promoting his faith.

The ambassador, who stressed he was tendering his resignation which takes effect on August 15 as a matter of principle "without pressure from... anyone", said it has been a privilege to serve in Malta.

However, Prof. Kmiec added he could no longer be sure – with his dedication "impugned" by the OIG report – that he was in "a position with my government to have the needs and perspectives (of Malta) heard in the best possible light".

"Over the last days since the report came out, I have prayed that there might be some way short of having the President affirm my credentials personally to remove this doubt in my mind."

In a letter to Mr Obama, seen by The Sunday Times, Prof. Kmiec said: “The OIG... expressed dissatisfaction with the extent of time... that I have devoted to promoting what I know you believe in most strongly – namely personal faith and greater mutual respect... I doubt very much whether one could ever spend too much time on this subject.

“With the highest respect for your leadership, and with some understanding of the difficulty and complexity of the challenges that you and Secretary (of State Hilary) Clinton face each day, I ask that you accept my resignation effective on the feast of the Assumption, 2011.”

Prof. Kmiec, who has served as ambassador to Malta since 2009 and whom it is understood informed Foreign Affairs Minister Tonio Borg of his decision yesterday evening, also wrote to Ms Clinton – roundly criticising the OIG.

“Because of my unusual provenance as Kennedy Democrat and Reagan Republican, I can understand meriting strict scrutiny.

“An unfortunate OIG report published last week claims that high standard unmet on the unsupported speculation that someone doing as much writing as I have done could not have also been devoted to the embassy mission.

“The contrary proof, Madame Secretary, is in the strength of our embassy. Our work is careful, thorough, and timely, and I am fully apprised of all of it, and of course, fully supported by men and women of great dedication and ability...

“All aspects of the Libyan conflict have tested us and we have met these tests, and we will continue to do so. We relished that our tiny mission was deemed ‘essential’ even in the face of budget impasse and even as embassies 10 times its size were not.

“When I directed the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in 1989, I authored an opinion confining OIG jurisdiction to that which Congress intended – the rooting out of waste, fraud and abuse, and not an evaluation of an agency’s substantive policies.

“That opinion stung the OIG and I suspect I have just experienced a “sting-back.”

“Yet, there is a reason every President and cabinet member since has abided by my OLC opinion, and it is well illustrated in the subjective way in which the inspectors manipulated their policy dislike of the President’s policies, especially his inter-faith initiative, into an unauthorised ‘outside activity’.

“The powers are separated under our Constitution, but the President cannot be separated from his power, and OIG or no OIG, he is free to delegate it without OIG second-guessing, as his judgment and Congress has allowed.

“The OIG failed to read any of my writing or see its highly positive effect on our bilateral relations...

“As I noted when the report was made public, I make no apology for that which George Washington commended to us in farewell address or that you yourself observed eloquently during the Texas primary; it is faith, you said, that sustains our soldiers in battle or, as you described the wounded, those attempting to carry on with artificial limb or deforming injury...

“In the weeks since the OIG’s flawed and narrow vision of our diplomatic mission, people of goodwill in the middle ranks of our department have seen it as their calling to strictly enforce it. As a consequence, my voice has been prevented from speaking; my pen has been enjoined from writing; and my actions have been confined to the ministerial.

“You deserve better, but until these rigid, and rigidly narrow, perspectives are overcome, you and the President are being deprived of the intelligent insight of much of your Embassy’s work.

“Should you want to challenge this organisational difficulty, I am at your service. In the interim, you have my full commitment to deliver until the final tick of the clock on August 15 next.”

In his letter to the President, the ambassador invited Mr Obama to attend the opening of the new US Embassy in Malta in July and in a separate statement urged him to make the journey to the island even sooner.

It has “occurred to me as I write that President Obama could still turn the OIG’s unfortunate ‘rebuke’ into a positive if I could successfully prompt him and his family to spend Easter with us in one of Malta’s great churches.

“Remember, Mr President, ‘365 churches’, you said, ‘one for every day’. I haven’t quite met the quota, Sir, as I found myself frequenting some close by my home, so I would welcome us teaming up again, sir, like we did in the campaign, for we learned in those Catholic places that were at first sceptical of your good heart that those who stand on common ground can indeed accomplish the common good.

“And don’t think Mr President that setting down Air Force One at Luqa would be all pleasure. I would not want us both on the grumpy side of the OIG. No sir, you know better than me that the NATO team is restless, and your presence here could steady them. Malta is the ideal place, sir, for that mission.

“Malta’s nonalignment and humanitarian posture and physical proximity has many insights into Libya and these could well supply the best possible understanding of the challenges facing the Mediterranean.

“With the fighting intensifying, it is worth exploring whether a bona fide ceasefire can be found.

“As the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, you told us always to be alert for the opening of a clenched fist. Whether those who could unclench the hatreds afoot in Libya today that wrongfully deny what virtually all desire ­­­– namely, an honest economy and participatory democracy in Libya today can be found – requires the careful deliberation for which you are respected.

“I know it’s a long trip, Sir, but it is a worthwhile one, for we know because of the significance of what we remember next Sunday that ‘nothing is impossible in Christ’.”

Prof. Kmiec also paid tribute to Malta, which he described as a place of “uncommon kindness” and to the Maltese, saying he was truly honoured to “represent my nation in yours”.

“Those who honoured my country by saluting our flag as my car passed reminded me of this daily. I knew the salutation was not for me, but for the United States at her best, and my return salute was and will be until my last day on the feast of the Assumption 2011 be my way of expressing a sincere thank you on behalf of my 310 million fellow citizens.

“It is also a privilege, and the privilege of serving as Ambassador even more so – for my duty is to both clearly and honestly represent the views of my nation, while carrying back not only an understanding of yours, but also an implied promise between two excellent friends to do one’s utmost to secure the best possible accommodation of our mutual interests...

“I will miss you more than I can say, but please accept my stepping aside not as sad abandonment, but as a crisp return salute for a country of which I have grown immensely fond.

It is a sign of my greatest and highest respect for all Malta has been, all Malta is, and all Malta is yet to be. Your commitment to faith and family are the only army needed to secure your future.”

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