The New York Review of Books
April 10, 2003


Iraq: A Letter of Resignation
By John Brady Kiesling

The following is the text of John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation to
Secretary of State Colin 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 US 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
US 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 US interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in
my country and its values was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic

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.

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