JUNE 16, 2005


I was one of three US diplomats who resigned from the federal government in 2003 in opposition to the war in Iraq.  I was in service to my country for over thirty-five years.  I had been a diplomat for sixteen years and was the Deputy Chief of Mission in our Embassies in Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan (briefly) and Mongolia.  I was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December, 2001. I had also had assignments in Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Grenada and Nicaragua.  I received the State Department’s Award for Heroism as Charge d’Affaires during the evacuation of Sierra Leone in 1997.  I also was 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and participated in civil reconstruction projects after military operations in Grenada, Panama and Somalia. I attained the rank of Colonel during my military service.

In my March 19, 2003 letter of resignation, I told Secretary of State Colin Powell that I disagreed with starting a war with Iraq without the authorization of the UN Security Council.  I also disagreed with the Administration’s unbalanced policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the lack of policy on North Korea and the unnecessary curtailment of civil liberties in the U.S under the Patriot Act. I believed the Administration’s policies were making the world a more dangerous, not a safer, place.  I resigned as I did not want to represent the policies of the Bush Administration.

Two years after I resigned, the Downing Street memos have surfaced and provide a strong written basis for my concerns about the Bush policies on the war in Iraq. The July 23, 2002 Downing Street memo records the steady legal advice from the UK’s Attorney General and from the Foreign Office that a desire for regime change was not a legal base of military action.  The UK Attorney General said there were three possible legal bases for military action: self-defense, humanitarian intervention or United Nations Security Council authorization.   But in March, 2003, the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, succumbed to political pressure and changed his legal opinion to agree with Tony Blair and the Bush administration that war could proceed without meeting any of the three criteria.

Just two days ago, I returned from a short visit in London.  While I was there I met with Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the former Deputy Legal Advisor of the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  Ms. Wilmshurst also resigned from her senior position in March, 2003, also in opposition to going to war in Iraq without a second Security Council resolution. She too had served over thirty years for her government. As the Deputy Legal Advisor to the Foreign Office, she led the UK delegation to set up the International Criminal Court, had been the legal advisor for the UK mission to the UN and had been a specialist on sanctions.  

She said in her letter of resignation:  “I regret that I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force against Iraq without a second Security Council resolution.  I can not in good conscience go along with the advice which asserts the legitimacy of military action without such a resolution, particularly when the unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression; nor can I agree with such action in circumstances which are so detrimental to international order and the rule of law. My views accord with the views that have been given consistently in this office before and after the adoption of UNSC 1441 and with what the Attorney General gave us to understand were his view prior to his letter of 7 March.  (The view expressed in that letter has of course changed again into what is now the official line.)

Therefore, I need to leave the Office; my views on the legitimacy of a war in Iraq would not make it possible to continue my role as the Deputy Legal Advisor or my work more generally. In context with the International Criminal Court, negotiations on the crime of aggression begin again this year.”

The Downing Street memos are very important as they provide evidence that solid, consistent legal judgments on the illegality of the war were overturned for political expediency.  Additionally, the Downing Street memos provide information on actions  the Bush administration took to provoke the Iraqi regime to respond in ways the administration would use to justify a war.  According to the Downing Street memos, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld called the provocations “spikes in activity.” These “spikes” were the resumption in bombing of targets in Iraq.  In March 2002 no bombs were dropped on the south of Iraq but in April ten tons were dropped and increased to 54.6 tons in September, 2002, alone.  But the Iraqis did not respond to the dramatic increase in bombing.  No one knows how many innocent Iraqi civilians were killed by the resumption in bombing-a resumption for the sole purpose of inciting retaliation that could be used to justify an otherwise unjustifiable war. (www.hansard.org is the UK website where answers to Parliamentary questions are found, including the information on tons of bombs dropped in 2002.)  

The US media has been incredibly unprofessional in failing to cover the May 1 disclosure of the Downing Street memos in the UK press. Even today, the June 15 Washington Post editorial claims there is nothing new in the memos.  I would correct them–there is much important new material in the memos–the concern of the British in the lack of a strategy to deal with post-war Iraq, a strategy that did not develop in the year after the memo and that two years later is non-existent; the lack of legal basis for the war; the fixing of intelligence to attempt to justify the war.  These are facts now that should be “spikes of activity” of a press and of a citizenry to hold accountable an administration that holds no one accountable for illegal actions.

I suggest that a very good “spike of activity” that should come from the information contained in the Downing Street memos, is a dramatically increased effort for the impeachment of President Bush for beginning and continuing an illegal war of aggression in Iraq.  Impeachment  can be the legacy of the Downing Street memos and of memos from the US governmental bureaucracy if good, conscientious US government employees look in their souls and decide that the US public should know the details of how the political machinery ran over the conscience of the nation in the illegal war in Iraq.

Mary A. Wright
2333 Kapiolani Blvd #3217
Honolulu, HI

(Mary Ann Wright was one of three US Diplomats who resigned from the federal governtment in 2003 in protest of the war in Iraq.  Another is John Brady Kiesling.  Both Wright and Kiesling are members of Diplomats and Military Commanders for change.  To learn more about Mary Ann Wright see:A Former Diplomat Speaks  I’ll be “wright” back with Kiesling’s resignation letter. Both John Brady Kiesling and Ann Wright are members of Diplomats and Military Commanders For Change.)

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.

Complete text of Kiesling’s resignation letter at: