If the situation in Iraq is improving, as Bush and Cheney insist, why are US diplomats likening forced postings in Iraq to “a potential death sentence”? In a contentious hour-long “town hall meeting” last week, US diplomats faced off with State Department officials about a recent order that requires them to serve in the Baghad embassy and outlying areas.

“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,” Jack Croddy, a Foreign Service veteran of many postings and a former political advisor with NATO forces, said. “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?” His remarks were greeted with loud and sustained applause from the 300 diplomats at the meeting. “Any other embassy in the world would be closed by now,” Croddy said.

As Juan Cole wrote the other day (“Informed Comment,” Nov. 1), “The US Embassy in Iraq should be closed. It is not safe for the personnel there…. Please write your congressional representatives and senators and demand that the US Embassy be closed and the forced deportation of US diplomats to Iraq be halted.” This may be one way to start ending the war–along with bringing home (and bringing to justice) security contractors/ mercenaries like Blackwater, which has served as the State Department’s security force in Baghdad. (Watch for Jeremy Scahill’s article about Congressperson Jan Schakowsky introducing legislation this week that would attempt to end mercenaries’ activities in Iraq. )