Diplomat resigns over US plans for war

Feature story - 1 March, 2003
We don't know if John Brady Kiesling is a member of Greenpeace, but we'd be proud of his company on any of our ships. He's clearly earned his stripes at standing up against the powers that be.

An Argentine anti-war activist wearing a Bush mask highlights the role of big oil companies such as Exxon/Esso in the impending war.

Kiesling is the career diplomat who resigned from the US Foreign Service last week over plans to invade Iraq. We believe he has taken a courageous and principled action which deserves worldwide attention and support.

He said his conscience would no longer allow him to represent the Bush Administration in policies that are "incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests," and goes on to express a deep belief in America's potential as a force for good in the world, and his deep disappointment in how it is "straining beyond its limits an international system we built with such toil and treasure."

His central question to a president he says he can no longer follow is "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?"

The full text of his letter of resignation to Colin Powell was published in the New York Times on February 27th, and has done the wildfire thing on the internet, rocketing up the ranks at Blogdex, an outstanding barometer of what's being talked about on the web.

And with good reason.

His letter is a stirring and articulate act of moral bravery, and while it says nothing different than millions of people said when they marched on February 15th, it does so with a different authority. It comes from the ranks of those politicians who are expected, like soldiers, to toe the line and salute the flag without question. Kiesling broke ranks -the way few in history have done, and the way many more should have.

The courage of saying "No" to war

When we look back at the few examples of insiders who said no to unjust wars, or to tyrants such as Hitler or Pol Pot or Saddam, we always ask, with the benefit of hindsight and the knowledge of the waste of human life and resulting tragedies, 'Why did so many follow? Why did more people not stand up and say no?'

We hope many people read this letter. We hope other American diplomats read this letter and follow its lead either in stepping up the pressure on the administration from within, or following Kiesling's example and stepping down. We are encouraging newspapers worldwide to reprint it, and for all who oppose this war to applaud it. You can help by taking action now to ensure Mr. Kiesling's letter is widely read.

Beware the oil barrons

When the diplomat says that "The result, and perhaps the motive, [of pursuing Iraq] 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," he echoes the famous, and still valid, warning of US President Eisenhower to "beware the military industrial complex."

What Kiesling leaves unsaid is that, in this day and age, the most powerful player in that "complex" is big oil.

The former diplomat makes a clear and compelling case for why we should be worried about the political leadership of the United States. But writing this off as the obsessions of an "ideological and self-serving" president misses an important part of the picture.

Saddam Hussein would just be another run-of-the-mill tyrant, probably unworthy of US attention, were it not for the vast oil wealth he commands.

There's a darker force at work on US policy as well -- and it's as dark as a barrel of Exxon crude.

You can help battle that force by joining the campaign to stop Esso/Exxon from fuelling war by fuelling the world's oil addiction.

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