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AfriGeneas Discuss! Forum Archive 2

[WAR & PEACE ] Resignation US Ambassador to Greece


The following is one of the best summations I have read regarding the antics of the Bush administration.

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 do 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

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.

John Brady Kiesling

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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