The Foreign Service Journal, September 2003

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 3 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 15 I resigned from the Foreign Service on March 31, 2003, because I felt I could no longer represent the policies of the current administration. While the decision to undertake military operations in Iraq without United Nations Security Council authority was the trigger for my resignation, I also had serious concerns about many other policies of the administration, such as its lack of effort to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; its unwillingness (or inability) to seek a dialogue with North Korea concern- ing its nuclear program; and, even taking into account national security concerns, the unreasonable curtail- ment of civil liberties in the U.S. for many of those under investigation, but not charged, for possible in- volvement in terrorist activities. In regard to the war with Iraq and other Middle East-related issues, let me begin by acknowledging that — as David Jones speculated in his June “Speaking Out” column — I was never assigned to a post in that volatile region. However, like most Americans, over the last 30 years I have observed and read about the reactions of many inhabitants of the area (particularly the young) to U.S. policies concerning the area. I’ve also talked to many Foreign Service friends and colleagues who have served there. On that basis, I feared (and still fear) that America will be the target of many angry young Arab and Muslim men and women, fairly or not, in the years to come because of our recent actions in Iraq and, until very recently, the administra- tion’s lack of pressure on both sides to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Contrary to David Jones’ assump- tion in his commentary, however, I did set out my concerns about the admin- istration’s going to war with Iraq with- out U.N. Security Council authority in a dissent cable to the State Department before resigning. I did so because, although I was not in the policy-making chain for any of the ini- tiatives with which I disagreed, I was one of those responsible, by virtue of my position in our embassy, for explaining and defending the admin- istration’s policies to the host govern- ment and its citizens, from whom the U.S. wanted support. In my cable, I noted that the stated rationale for the administra- tion’s policy on Iraq changed literal- ly day by day, from hiding weapons of mass destruction, to support for al-Qaida and other terrorists, to Saddam’s massive human rights vio- lations against his own people. These are all issues of great con- cern, but none that, in my opinion, should trigger immediate military action. I also found it very difficult to glean information from our daily press guidance that could convince me, or anyone with whom I spoke, of the imminent need for the U.S. to go to war in Iraq. So I felt it was my professional obligation to set forth my concerns to senior policy- makers. Particularly because I was in the field, the Dissent Channel was the only on-the-record method available to make my individual observa- tions and concerns about possible reaction to our policies in the Middle East known. Considering the Defense Department’s apparent dominance over our Iraq policy, I honestly did not expect my input to change policy, but I wanted State to know there was at least one more Foreign Service officer who dis- agreed with the rush to war. The department’s response to my Dissent Channel cable was thor- ough but broke no new ground on the rationale for the need for immi- nent military action and did not Why Dissent Is Important and Resignation Honorable B Y A NN W RIGHT S PEAKING O UT II When one disagrees strongly with an important policy of any administration, in my view, resignation is an honorable action to take. Continued on page 18