Why I Serve

Posted by Courtney Beale
July 8, 2011
Embassy Islamabad Acting Spokesperson Beale With Pakistani Women Police Officers

The insistent ringing penetrated my slumber. I woke up and looked at the clock. It was only 1:00 am, so it couldn't be the alarm. Then I realized it was the press phone, the one that all the journalists knew to call when they had questions for the U.S. Embassy. What now? My contact's questions shook me wide awake. An American official, he said, had been taken into custody at the airport trying to leave the country with sensitive military equipment. "Is it true?" he asked.

In a highly charged press environment leery of America and Americans, the last thing we needed was another inaccurate story to fuel further suspicions. I spent the next hour on the phone with the embassy's security office piecing together what had really happened, which was -- as usual -- much less newsworthy than the rumors. Just as the papers went to press, I was able to call back the journalist, tell him he had his facts wrong, and stop the non-incident from becoming front page news that morning.

In press work, especially in Pakistan, we often count our victories in what we prevent rather than what we create.

I volunteered for a tour in Islamabad wanting to serve my country. The same motivations prompted my father to join the Navy 45 years ago. He flew F-4 Phantoms off aircraft carriers during the Vietnam War, putting his life on the line to defend our country. He also developed a lifelong passion for flying. I had always deeply respected him for having seen history in the making, and for helping make it himself. I grew up inspired by his service to America. Seeking an unaccompanied assignment and spending a year away from my husband was my own way of giving back to our nation.

While I can never compare squashing rumors during middle-of-the-night phone calls to flying a jet over a war zone, I feel honored to work in the press section at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. I was drawn to press work in this volatile region, because it is the great nexus of policy, public diplomacy, and national security. Pakistan has arguably the most intense and freewheeling media environment in the world, and conspiracy theories and misinformation about the United States run rampant. Having served in India and speaking Urdu, I felt called to use my skills and experience to tell America's story sensitively but honestly, and help create an environment of opinion conducive to U.S. policy goals.

From the massive U.S. relief effort after last summer's historic floods to the death of Osama bin Laden this spring, there has not been a dull moment since I arrived. I have certainly collected a few tales to tell my own children one day. But more than that, my service has also helped me discover new passions of my own -- the music, the people, the food, and the history of South Asia -- that I'll carry with me wherever I go in life.



United States
July 10, 2011

Zharkov in the U.S.A. writes:

Perhaps it would be astonishing news to you that the US participation in the Vietnam War was not about defending America?

North Vietnam never attacked any US territory, no NVA soldiers ever set foot on American soil except as refugees.

To the contrary, US military forces travelled to Vietnam to intervene in their civil war, as we now are doing in Libya. Had we not intervened, most of those 58,000 US soldiers who died there would still be alive today.

Our intervention in the Vietnam Civil War was to rescue a corrupt regime with whom we had an ill-conceived alliance. That intervention eventually resulted in the US government ordering the assassination of the president of South Vietnam, one of many Vietnamese assassinated during that war.

The news blackout on Libya is shocking.

At least in Vietnam, we had reports and news film of some of the battles. Massacres such as at Mei Lai were difficult to cover up despite initial Pentagon attempts to do so. Even with all of that, the news blackout during the 11 wasted years of Vietnam War was appalling. It took Ellsberg's "Pentagon Papers" to reveal what our government should have reported to its citizens.

The same news blackout is happening once again in the US, only this time it is Libya.

According to foreign news journalists, 1.7 million people, or around 95% of the population of Tripoli, one third of the entire population of Libya, have turned out in perhaps the largest demonstration ever in world history last Friday, to demand an end to the NATO bombings of Libya.

The entire premise of NATO bombing Libya has been that Colonel Qaddafi is attacking the Libyan population.

That premise was shown to be a lie when the Russian military, for the first time publicly displayed video footage from its military spy satellites which showed that no Libyan air force flights took place, nor any massacres, during the months that NATO had claimed as a reason for it launching the now more than 3 month long non-stop bombing of Libya.

It has now taken an entire one third of the population of Libya, exasperated by the lack of truthful media coverage of the events in their country where the only murders that have taken place have been by the NATO-supported rebels which took over Benghazi, to take to the streets to prove the lie that they are being attacked by Qaddafi.

Libya's civil war is truly none of our business, just as our civil war was none of theirs.

President Lincoln ordered attacks on American citizens, killed tens of thousands of Southerners, burned their homes and farms, killed their livestock.

If the UN and NATO had existed and intervened in our civil war, America would be two countries, not one.

John P.
July 11, 2011

John in Greece writes:

@ Zharkov in the U.S.A.

The bad Americans and the good Russians again?
Some of us won’t buy Z…

1. You have a very strange opinion concerning the Geo parameter of what it means to defend America. You believe that America is just your neighborhood in Calif, as I think you’ve mentioned in the past, concerning where you live. I love CA, but America is extremely bigger! (if I could invent a new word I'd say "globaler")

When America went to Vietnam, Russians were also there. I don’t understand why you are not referring to the military etc. help Russians provided to the North… And why you do not understand that this was just a stop for them in order to attack America in a “later time”. Of course we stopped it…

Strange you don’t understand it "stranger"!

They were there, we were there!
Wherever the need is!

2. Concerning Libya –a bit of different case though, I don’t understand why we should trust the Russian military spy satellites?

I will keep on learning the truth from the right source I trust: the U.S.A. government!

United States
July 11, 2011

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

John in Greece: Where did I say the Russian government was "good"?

Whatever the case, the point is, we are not getting the whole story about Libya from our own government. No news in America reported the huge march of protest against NATO bombing in Libya.

Where are our satellite photos? Is there a failure on the US side to communicate?

If the Russian sat photos are bogus, why don't we show that instead of taking a beating in the foreign news media?

I think you are mistaken to conclude that South Vietnam's security affected American security, and certainly Saigon was not a suitable staging area to launch a war against the U.S.

The Soviet Union had nuclear submarines patrolling off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of the US during the Vietnam War and that would have been the real threat if they had decided to start a war.

Russian nuclear-armed subs are probably still with us. That situation is a much larger threat to American interests than whatever happens in Libya. The flight time from a few miles offshore is much less than that of a Russian ICBM.

Libya is nothing but a distraction, another bottomless pit for the budget.

John P.
July 11, 2011

John in Greece writes:

@ Zharkov in the U.S.A.

You referred to the Russian military spy satellites…
Anyway, the Libya agenda is hot. I noticed that Secretary Clinton will travel to Turkey (and Greece) between 15 and 18 of July to participate in meetings of the Contact Group on Libya and conduct bilateral meetings with officials, among other things and topics.


So, I will wait for these discussions, wishing to her a nice and creative travel and stay in my “neighborhood”. We all love her!

However, if you want my amateur, personal opinion, on Libya, Eric (if I correctly recall) was right again, when he wrote (weeks ago) that without “boots” the whole operation will take quite some time…
Concerning what the “party-people” of Quadafi-Hitler’s junta are attempting to present as a public picture, I would not believe anything at all. Tyrants do their best to stay in power.

@ Eric in New Mexico (concerning DipNote: The Week in Review)
I am very glad it’s all clear. I thought like I had written something wrong. I’m glad it’s all OK!
My Bests to ALBUquerque (chuckle)

New Mexico, USA
July 11, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ John in Greece,

Ms. Beale is the professional urban "myth buster" around these parts, but I'd venture a guess that Medvedev didn't tell Ghaddafi to go because of lack of evidence.

You know how it is, some folks just like to make stuff up to suit their vision of a "Soviet Utopia of America"...and since that ain't coming from me..."it's not my problem".

"See what a fine mess you've gotten me into Ollie?" - (Seems the general complaint about America coming from one Stooge or another).



We have put boots on the ground in Lybia, the opposition is wearing them.



Anyway, hope the WhiteHouse enjoy's the book I just finished, as they might just be calling the editor wondering why folks published "The Cure for Political Stupidity and/or how not to go to war with America" on this blog.

So John, we may just find out who reads these things after all..,

See, I just sent a very nice note to the Pres. himself and asked him,

"If someone told you they knew how to erase the national debt, prevent nuclear war, and cause terrorism to wither on the vine do to a lack of sponsorship with a single good idea, you'd either hire me or think I was making it up, right?"

Well that's his call to make and he can satisfy his curiosity if he wants to.
But I never joke about these things. I just have way too much fun going about solving our dire common problems.

It's that "ranger training school" approach that's been instilled in my muse's Joy de Vive', and I got no apologies to make for that.

Hopefully it all makes too much sense to ignore, including what I've said on Lybia since the beginnings of this uprising of sane people against the insane that they seek freedom from.



John P.
July 13, 2011

John in Greece writes:

Cyprus explosives tragedy:
The only one who didn’t left the “building”, in order to save lives was the U.S.A. SEAL school graduate & Commander of the base in Cyprus.

A real hero!


Chas P.
United States
July 17, 2011

Chas P. in USA writes:

Hi Courtney,

I have know Scott for over 5 years and I am a great fan and supporter of Atlas Corps. I appreciate the sharing of your experience in Pakistan and see that Scott has a real partner in building peace and understanding around the world. Thank you so much for representing the USA so well in your mission to such an important country for securing a more peaceful and just world.

In peace,

July 24, 2011

Zack in Senegal writes:

Hi Courtney, Nice little piece - love the opening. What I told you before departing ISB earlier this year stands. Keep up the great work and send regards to all my old cronies. You are a great American. ZT


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