Ambassador to Ghana: Who Is Gene Cretz?
Saturday, April 21, 2012
The West African nation of Ghana will soon have a new ambassador from the United States who has no experience in the region, but plenty with countries that, like Ghana, have large oil reserves. President Barack Obama on April 11, 2012, nominated career Senior Foreign Service Officer Gene A. Cretz to the ambassadorship, subject to Senate confirmation.
Born circa 1950 in Albany, New York, Cretz graduated Albany High School in 1968. He earned a B.A. in English Literature at the University of Rochester in 1972 and an M.S. in Linguistics and Secondary Education at the State University College at Buffalo in 1975. Cretz served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kabul, Afghanistan, from 1975 to 1977, and returned to Albany High School to teach English from 1977 to 1979, when he started graduate school at Stony Brook University.
Cretz joined the State Department in March 1981, serving his first overseas posting as general services officer and consular officer at the embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, from 1982 to 1984. Back in Washington, he spent one year in the Operations Center and one year as staff assistant in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. He then had three consecutive foreign postings: as a political officer at the embassy in Damascus, Syria, from 1986 to 1988; as a political officer at the embassy in New Delhi, India, from 1988 to 1991; and at the embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, from 1991 to 1994.
His second Washington assignment was in the Bureau of International Organizations as the officer responsible for Middle East Affairs at the United Nations. From 1998-2001, he served in Beijing, China, and from 2001 to 2003, he served at the embassy in Cairo, Egypt, as minister-counselor for Economic and Political Affairs. He then took two deputy chief of mission postings in a row, serving as Number 2, and briefly as chargé d’affaires, at Embassy Damascus from August 2003 to January 2004, and at the embassy in Tel Aviv from August 2004 to August 2007. He returned to Washington to serve as the Near East Affairs Bureau’s deputy assistant secretary for Egyptian, Israeli-Palestinian, Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian Affairs. In August 2008, he also assumed responsibility for Maghreb and Arabian Peninsula Affairs.
Cretz’s first ambassadorship was an important first for U.S. foreign relations, for he was sworn in as the first U.S. ambassador to Libya in 35 years on December 17, 2008. His tenure in Tripoli ended in controversy, as he was the first U.S. “casualty” of the Wikileaks release of American diplomatic cables. In Cretz’s case, Wikileaks exposed cables he had written that speculated on long-time Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s health and described some of his embarrassing personal proclivities, such as his reliance on a “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse. Cretz left Tripoli in January 2011, although the honesty and prescience of his cables received public praise, and he officially remained ambassador, eventually returning to Libya after Gadhafi’s fall.
Cretz speaks Dari, Urdu, Arabic and Chinese. He is married to the former Annette Williams, a registered nurse from Union City, New Jersey. The couple has two children, Jeffrey and Gabrielle.
Long Journey from Albany: Gene A. Cretz Rose to be U.S. Ambassador to Libya (by Bryan Fitzgerald, Albany Times Union)
WikiLeaks: “Voluptuous” Nurse Cable Costs Diplomat His Job (by Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy)
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