U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.

Responding to reports that State Department officials are refusing to serve in Iraq because it’s too dangerous, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has proposed a novel plan to President Bush – to bypass the agency and recruit from among U.S. military troops discharged after suffering injury.

Hunter, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, told talk-radio host Glenn Beck today he met with Bush just 30 minutes prior to the interview and gave him a letter outlining the plan.

“I said, ‘Let’s go over to Bethesda and Walter Reed (hospitals) and as we get these new – these soldiers and Marines who are embarking on new careers,” Hunter said, “let’s recruit them for the State Department; and let’s fire these guys that refuse to go, and we’ll give the State Department careers to these military guys.”

A State Department proposal to have “directed assignments” in Iraq caused an uproar among foreign service officers, CNN reported, resulting in a contentious town hall-style meeting Wednesday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded today, saying “people need to serve where they are needed.”

The directed assignments would be necessary, the State Department says, if enough qualified foreign service officers don’t step forward to fill open positions at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

If State decides to enforce the assignments, it would be the first time since the Vietnam War era.

At the town meeting, one official called the order to serve in Iraq “a potential death sentence.”

In the radio interview today, Beck responded enthusiastically to Hunter’s idea.

“That is fantastic,” Beck said. ” … These guys are some of the most remarkable humans I have ever met and none of them, as you know, none of them want to leave service.”

Hunter replied, “Exactly. And this would be great service for them. In Baghdad, in the State Department, the embassy, they know the lay of the land. They know the people, and they are professionals, and they are patriotic.”

Hunter said Bush indicated he might be open to the idea.

“He was fairly noncommittal, but I gave him a letter,” the congressman said. “I said I wanted to look at it, and I’m going to be following up with Secretary Rice.”

Hunter said his letter to Rice urges the secretary to “immediately send a team of State Department recruiters to Walter Reed and Bethesda hospitals to our wounded warriors who will serve our country efficiently, effectively and with undying patriotism. And they won’t hold a town meeting to tell you that they don’t want to go.”

Beck interjected, “You know what, it makes too much sense. They would never do it.”

But Hunter sounded optimistic.

“I tell you, I think were going to do it,” he said.



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