The diplomat, John Brady Kiesling, the political counselor at the United States Embassy in Athens, said in his resignation letter, “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.”
Mr. Kiesling, 45, who has been a diplomat for about 20 years, said in a telephone interview tonight that he faxed the letter to Secretary of State Colin L, Powell on Monday after informing Thomas Miller, the ambassador in Athens, of his decision.
He said he had acted alone, but “I’ve been comforted by the expressions of support I’ve gotten afterward” from colleagues.
“No one has any illusions that the policy will be changed,” he said. “Too much has been invested in the war.”
Louis Fintor, a State Department spokesman, said he had no information on Mr. Kiesling’s decision and it was department policy not to comment on personnel matters.
In his letter, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times by a friend of Mr. Kiesling’s, the diplomat wrote Mr. Powell: “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.”
His letter continued: “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.”
It is rare but not unheard-of for a diplomat, immersed in the State Department’s culture of public support for policy, regardless of private feelings, to resign with this kind of public blast. From 1992 to 1994, five State Department officials quit out of frustration with the Clinton administration’s Balkans policy.
Asked if his views were widely shared among his diplomatic colleagues, Mr. Kiesling said: “No one of my colleagues is comfortable with our policy. Everyone is moving ahead with it as good and loyal. The State Department is loaded with people who want to play the team game — we have a very strong premium on loyalty.”