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U.S. Diplomat's Powerful Letter of Resignation

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  • Kasten, Kathy
    U.S. Diplomat s Letter of Resignation February 27, 2003 Ne York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/27/international/27WEB-TNAT.html?pagewanted=p
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2003
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      U.S. Diplomat's Letter of Resignation
      February 27, 2003 Ne York Times

      http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/27/international/27WEB-TNAT.html?pagewanted=p
      rint&position=top

      The following is the text of John Brady Kiesling's
      letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin L.
      Powell. Mr. Kiesling is a career diplomat who has
      served in United States embassies from Tel Aviv to
      Casablanca to Yerevan.

      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
      share.
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