Paying Tribute to a Spear-Carrier for Soft Power: Condolences to Family of AID Official John Granville


I have yet to see a public comment from either Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or President Bush about the murder of U.S. AID official John Granville in Sudan. US Agency for International Development Henrietta Fore did release this statement — but Granville’s death deserves more extensive attention from our leaders.
I’ve also done a cursory search of news wires and blogs and have seen no public comment from any of the Democratic or Republican contenders about this death. Nothing from Obama, Clinton, Edwards, Biden, Dodd, Richardson, Kucinich, Romney, McCain, Giuliani, Huckabee, Paul, or any of the rest. If I’m wrong, I would be happy to post any links from commentary made by the candidates.
According to reports, Granville was helping to “distribute 450,000 radios equipped with generator cranks and solar panels, which work in places with no electricity.”
Granville served for two years in Cameroon for the Peace Corps and had been in Africa for the last ten years. He represents the kind of person on the front line of American soft power that we can and should feel proud of.
But thus far, there is mostly silence from official quarters and candidates about his work, his life, and his murder. This is a dangerous world — but while I think that soldiers who fight and fall and/or are injured or maimed should receive their country’s support and salute (even though they are on a mission today that they should not be on in Iraq), it is just as important — perhaps even more so — to pay tribute to those diplomats, foreign service personnel, USIA, and US AID officials who also pay the ultimate price on behalf of not only their country but for the important causes and people abroad they were serving.
But why the silence? Are candidates afraid to articulate — or reiterate — support for America’s paltry foreign aid programs? Or is Granville’s death something to address later? Or in the case of some candidates, not at all?
John Granville’s death hurts Sudan and the United States — and saddens me.
— Steve Clemons


9 comments on “Paying Tribute to a Spear-Carrier for Soft Power: Condolences to Family of AID Official John Granville

  1. K Westerholt says:

    John was a close, close friend – actually more like a brother – and my mother was the first person the State Department contacted when John was brought to the hospital. It is typical of him that when he was brought in, conscious, we are told he named my mother as a contact rather than risk upsetting his own mother with the dreaded news he’d been shot.
    It was very moving for me to read your posting and I could not agree more, that condolences from this administration would be much appreciated by his family and those close to him. I wonder if none were forthcoming because of the statement that he believed the key to tackling terrorism was to help with the root causes? Perhaps that embarrasses the powers that be, since it seems rather far from their own view as I see it.
    Maybe the candidates need not comment, but it might have been nice also to hear from Hillary, as Senator of New York State. Congressman Higgins has spent time with the family and has been a source of support to them.
    I live in London, where recently there was a huge amount of media coverage about the teacher whose class named the teddy bear Muhammad, also in Sudan. She was jailed for 8 days and had many death threats – which sounds traumatic. Upon her release, statements were made by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown that he was “delighted” that she was freed; he phoned the family directly. While not belittling her experience, I cannot help but compare it, when John surely paid a greater price and deserves at least as much recognition from US leaders.
    But if it’s true that all it takes for evil in the world to prevail is for good men to do nothing, then I hope this does not dissuade other young people from following in John’s footsteps and trying to make a difference – whether it is in the way he chose or from the safety of home by making contributions or by becoming educated about the issues which motivated him.


  2. Barbara Wolfson says:

    Dear Mr.Clemons,
    You may remember me. You were kind enough to check on my son Nathan Kleinman when he was staging a hunger strike in front of the White House a few years ago. Now he is writing a blog: and he wrote a commentary on Mr. Granville’s murder that you may find interesting.
    At the moment, Nathan is flying home from a rally in Iowa in honor of Sudan’s Independence Day.
    Barbara Wolfson


  3. serge says:

    Perhaps poor Mr Granville, for whose family my heart aches, was a Democrat. I’m being cynical (duh), but I wonder how many young, dedicated Republicans enter the Peace Corps these days.


  4. jon says:

    What a tragedy for Granville’s family, and for dedicated foreign service professionals trying to get their, and the country’s, job done in arduous circumstances. He sounds like he was enmeshed in trying to assist one of the world’s most difficult places, and a life dedicated to humanitarian works. It’s just unspeakably sad.
    I wouldn’t jump to blame al Qaeda just yet. There’s plenty of friction between Chad’s government and the Janjaweed, and potentially many other actors, and the US right now. The timing speaks to dissatisfaction over the UN peacekeeping force being implemented more than anything else, to me.
    It certainly seems that this was not a random robbery gone amiss. Perhaps the assailant(s) just wanted to rob someone going to the UK party. Maybe it was a message to the US, UN or Europeans to butt out, and maybe he was personally targeted over a personal matter rather than for his work. Hopefully the truth will out and the culprits brought to justice.
    This does give some perspective to the earlier concerns of State Department staff about being forced to overseas postings. Mostly there are no incidents, but sometimes people perish for their service.


  5. oriolewoman says:

    I am surprised that the potential security implications of Granville’s murder are being discussed in passing at best. The parallels between Granville’s murder and that of Laurence Foley’s in Jordan in 2002 are stark. Some may recall that the Jordanians allege that Foley’s killers were paid to do so by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It is worrisome that we may soon see the person behind Granville’s death may have similar aspirations on the world’s terrorism stage.


  6. Helena Cobban says:

    Steve, I think your judgment on this is unerring. I totally join you in mourning John Granville’s killing. (My only small caveat would be that “spear-carrier” is perhaps, in the circumstances, a slightly inappropriate term?)


  7. secretagent says:

    Alan, I disagree. I think that there is a lot of talk about the sacrifice of military families, but what of the sacrifices that others make too? Diplomacy and diplomats are something that the candidates should take note of as much as they did Bhutto’s assassination.
    Steve, thanks for kicking the conscience of the nation in the shins.


  8. Alan says:

    I would expect the Secretary of State to say something on the death of Mr Granville. I don’t know why the candidates in the primaries should have something to say. If they do people will claim that they are profiting from it; if they don’t: well another silly reason will be provided. It is good to acknowledge how our diplomats and officials work in dangerous places. That should not be subject to political use in campaigns. Dealing with this sad subject is Rice’s job.


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