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[casi] U.S. Diplomat John Brady Kiesling letter of resignation

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             Letter of Resignation


U.S. Diplomat John Brady Kiesling

          Letter of Resignation, to:
     Secretary of State Colin L. Powell

     ATHENS | Thursday 27 February 2003

     Dear Mr. Secretary:

     I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of the United States and 
from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a 
heavy heart. The baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to give something back to my 
country. Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was paid to understand foreign languages and 
cultures, to seek out diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists, and to persuade them that 
U.S. interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my country and its values was the 
most powerful weapon in my diplomatic arsenal.

     It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I would become more 
sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped 
our policies. Human nature is what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human 
nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the 
policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I 
believe it no longer.

     The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but 
also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the 
international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense 
since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of 
international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and 
danger, not security.

     The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is 
nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such 
systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the 
war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast 
international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of 
terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration 
has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated 
Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public 
mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the 
motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken 
the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did 
not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. 
Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing 
toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?

     We should ask ourselves why we have failed to persuade more of the world that a war with Iraq 
is necessary. We have over the past two years done too much to assert to our world partners that 
narrow and mercenary U.S. interests override the cherished values of our partners. Even where our 
aims were not in question, our consistency is at issue. The model of Afghanistan is little comfort 
to allies wondering on what basis we plan to rebuild the Middle East, and in whose image and 
interests. Have we indeed become blind, as Russia is blind in Chechnya, as Israel is blind in the 
Occupied Territories, to our own advice, that overwhelming military power is not the answer to 
terrorism? After the shambles of post-war Iraq joins the shambles in Grozny and Ramallah, it will 
be a brave foreigner who forms ranks with Micronesia to follow where we lead.

     We have a coalition still, a good one. The loyalty of many of our friends is impressive, a 
tribute to American moral capital built up over a century. But our closest allies are persuaded 
less that war is justified than that it would be perilous to allow the U.S. to drift into complete 
solipsism. Loyalty should be reciprocal. Why does our President condone the swaggering and 
contemptuous approach to our friends and allies this Administration is fostering, including among 
its most senior officials. Has “oderint dum metuant” really become our motto?

     I urge you to listen to America’s friends around the world. Even here in Greece, purported 
hotbed of European anti-Americanism, we have more and closer friends than the American newspaper 
reader can possibly imagine. Even when they complain about American arrogance, Greeks know that the 
world is a difficult and dangerous place, and they want a strong international system, with the 
U.S. and EU in close partnership. When our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time 
to worry. And now they are afraid. Who will tell them convincingly that the United States is as it 
was, a beacon of liberty, security, and justice for the planet?

     Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more 
international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the 
excesses of an ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the President goes 
too far. We are straining beyond its limits an international system we built with such toil and 
treasure, a web of laws, treaties, organizations, and shared values that sets limits on our foes 
far more effectively than it ever constrained America’s ability to defend its interests.

     I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to 
represent the current U.S. Administration. I have confidence that our democratic process is 
ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside to shaping 
policies that better serve the security and prosperity of the American people and the world we 

     John Brady Kiesling

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