John Kerry takes over State Department: Vows to protect US diplomats abroad
John Kerry, the Democratic Party Senator for 28 years representing the State of Massachusetts and chairman of the powerful and influential foreign affairs committee until last week, took over America's top diplomatic position as secretary of state on Monday, February 4 with an address to the department employees.
His first focus was the emerging and uncontrollable turmoil that has engulfed the middle East and Northern Africa regions giving a pledge that his first task in the job is to address the issue of safety of American diplomats serving in overseas post, an obvious reference to what happened in Benghazi, Libya where the ambassador and three others were killed by an Islamist terrorists last September.
Mr. Kerry, as secretary of state, inherits the spread of Al Qaeda-affiliate Islamist groups unleashing havoc in the two regions somewhat disabling America's political and military power.
Mr. Kerry also addressed the deaths of four Americans, in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on 11 September, a security failure for which Mrs Clinton accepted responsibility.
Addressing his new staff, Mr. Kerry said he understood "how critical it is that you have somebody there advocating for you. The dangers could not be more clear".
"I pledge to you this: I will not let their patriotism and their bravery be obscured by politics," he said.
"I guarantee you that, beginning this morning, when I report for duty upstairs, everything I do will be focused on the security and safety of our people," Mr. Kerry added.
Kerry told his new agency's employees that he and President Barack Obama needed their help to make America safer and the world more prosperous and peaceful.
It is reported that Mr. Kerry will spend much of the week getting in touch with foreign leaders.
At the weekend, he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mr. Kerry also contacted the foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Canada and Mexico.
Kerry, 69, is the son of a diplomat. He spoke of his childhood time in Germany and learning the virtues of freedom.
As a 12-year-old in postwar Berlin of the 1950s, Kerry recounted how he could have caused a diplomatic incident by riding his bicycle around the destroyed and divided German capital, past the burnt out Reichstag and the Brandenburg gate and _ using his first diplomatic passport _ into the Soviet-controlled eastern part of the city.
"If the tabloids today knew I had done that, I can see the headlines that say, 'Kerry's Early Communist Connections!'" he joked, before describing more seriously how he explained to his irritated parents why he felt the need to cross the Iron Curtain.
"There were very few people. They were dressed in dark clothing. They kind of held their heads down. I noticed all this," Kerry said. "There was no joy in those streets. And when I came back, I felt this remarkable sense of relief and a great lesson about the virtue of freedom and the virtue of the principles and ideals that we live by and that drive us."
In his 28 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry chaired the Asia and Middle East subcommittees where he authored and passed major legislation on international drug trafficking, international money laundering, humanitarian aid, and climate change, and he helped negotiate the UN’s genocide tribunal to prosecute war crimes in Cambodia.
- Asian Tribune -