WHERE IS THE JUSTICE IN FOREIGN-(U.S.)AID?
By Wendy W. Ghannam, Washington, DC
Readers' Note: Americans are being blindsided as their illustrious leaders prepare for a virtual all-out assault on Iraq in the coming weeks ahead. The writer of the story voices her concerns as an American, a woman, and a bona-fide U.S. taxpayer. Please read on.
In the last 50 years much has transpired to change the complexities of modern day life. The struggles in which average Americans must endure in order to pay their bills and remain financially afloat is hitting Wall Street as never before. From the board rooms in America's corporate elite headquarters, to the lower dregs of society's "blue-collar" work havens which employ the working poor, many people are ultimately seeing the handwriting on the wall: Nothing is a given anymore, and a worker's quest for financial independence may never transpire at all in his/her lifetime. The belief that attaining a higher education will automatically lead to a higher paying job is fast becoming a nightmare for many righteous, deserving, hard-working Americans. Added to this solace, is the situation that members of the federal civilian career rank and file have also suffered at the hands of both U.S. Presidents since 1993.
With the arrival of modernized computer technology, many workers are being callously shoved out of their jobs, especially those who are employed by the U.S. Government. The United States Government, which has been the catalyst to disseminate and demand rectification for persons suffering from job-based discrimination is--quite literally in a nutshell--running away from its own employer-sanctioned responsibilities, and leaving its workers out in the cold hoping and praying that they will not stampede the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington DC for career reinstatement and compensatory damages. Most notably, one of the primier agencies that has reneged on its employment doctrine assurances is the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the White House is aware of it.
The writer of this article, Wendy Ghannam, has been locked in a "tug-of-war" pull against USAID for nearly eight years, and still has yet to see closure to her legal case. In Year 2000, the EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) finally ruled that the agency had, indeed, discriminated against her personhood and her career and that re-instatement was to be mandated and provided for (See: Ghannam vs. US Agency for International Development on http://www.EEOC.gov). Yet, the agency refuses to re-employ Mrs. Ghannam, who has suffered with carpal tunnel and repetitive stress disease given to her from her employment with said agency, which is one of the reasons she was FIRED! Members of the Washington DC-based media have spoken with her since 1995 and have agreed to publically air her story, but every time a Washington DC-based journalist prepares to interview her, the story somehow gets "scraped" by management officials who, undoubtedly, experience "hammering" from USAID!!
The perils of this situation are two-fold: First, the average American has a right to know that their tax monies are being spent for the worthwhile missions and programs that USAID disperses under its foreign policy umbrella; and, when employees come forward as whistleblowers they deserve to be protected under all U.S. laws. Second, the fact that Mrs. Ghannam is one of many other employees who are currently bottle-necked at the EEOC against USAID (in particular) is unfathomable and downright astounding and ludicrous as well. Of the six employees who filed formerly against USAID and received their final decisions from the EEOC in Year 2000, only Mrs. Ghannam won her employment debacle case--despite the fact it was only a "paper win."
To date, the agency refuses to answer any of her claims, and new allegations have been recently submitted for EEOC review due to the agency's refusal to abide by the earlier EEOC decision. However, the White House has certainly come forward since November, 2002. Now, George W. Bush is demanding the clarion call for a new foreign affairs agency to supercede USAID in scope and magnitude, and this new agency is to be fully implemented and on the books by October 1, 2003!! For years, the management spectrum at USAID has borne a contentious issue problem--and that element has rested on the fact that the U.S. State Department should have had clear administrative oversight all along since the agency's inception in the Kennedy Administration back in the 1960's. Too many years have transpired to give mangement folks at USAID definitive carte blanche to "run the show" as they saw fit--even to the points of embezzlement and extortion within the ranks (the agency recently forced its inspector general to resign due to clandestine activities discovered by the White House initially). That same inspector general--at the time Mrs. Ghannam worked in the agency--personally threatened her and her family for coming forward under U.S. whistleblower guidelines back in 1996!!
While giving full control of USAID's activities would strain the programs and policies already on the books at the U.S. State Department, nevertheless, Secretary of State, Colin Powell did not leave meetings without clamoring for a semblence of bureaucratic control regarding new initial oversight guidelines concerning implementation procedures relevant for a new foreign affairs agency inside Washington DC to take shape. By the way, USAID Administrator, Andrew Natsios will NOT comment on these new develoments whatsoever. He even refuses to answers questions by phone when pressed.
That leaves little consolation for Wendy Ghannam. Her lifetime earnings will run into the millions of dollars--and USAID owes it to her. She will have no agency to re-instate her once the dust flies--once a whistleblower, the average civil servant is "doomed." Her story is one of distrust and flagrant management abuse. Not only did she suffer at the hands of an all-male management spectrum that promised to "blackball" her should she seek employment elsewhere following her dismissal from USAID employment roles, but she has also not been able to secure needed financing to parlay her experiences written in her recent manuscript into a book guideline that will benefit every American woman today who needs to seek legal redress in the workplace. This is the boldest reason why USAID will not honor its commitment to Mrs. Ghannam at this time.
Added to this scenario is the fact that the Bush Administration is putting a tighter lid on proceedings and public press releases of information when sought out. These acts strengthen the authority of the executive branch, but they collide with the rights of Mrs. Ghannam. Definitely, the story has not ended yet. Bluntly put, the President and his political drones need some rather confidential advice, the type that Mrs. Ghannam knows readily about: "You can't keep a good woman down, and you had better get ready for the last quarter, boys, because hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!!"
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The Journal of History - Winter 2003 Copyright © 2003 by News Source, Inc.