State Department Foreign Service Officers are on notice they could soon be ordered to Iraq. And the diplomats don't like it one bit, as can be heard in an audio clip of what the State Department would call a frank exchange, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.
"It's one thing if someone believes in what's going on over there and volunteers, but it's another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment, and I'm sorry but basically that's a potential death sentence," Jack Croddy, a senior Foreign Service officer, said on that call.
Foreign Service chief Harry Thomas reminded the angry diplomats they had taken an oath to serve their country.
"We cannot pick and choose where to go, when we want to go and how we would like to do that," Thomas said. "That is an obligation that we must do. We cannot shrink from our duty."
But the union which represent Foreign Service Officers contends Iraq should be for volunteers only.
"We have concerns, many of our members do, about assigning diplomats who are unarmed civilians, who are not trained for combat, to combat situations," said Steve Kashkett of the American Foreign Service Association.
If a diplomat refuses to go to Iraq, he can be reprimanded, suspended without pay or even fired.
Twelve hundred Foreign Service officers have served in Iraq. Three have been killed. Ambassador Ryan Crocker has been asking for more and better qualified officers, saying in one cable, "The issue is whether we are a department and a service at war."
It's an issue which, in the fifth year of war, you might think had long since been settled.