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Conscientious objectors

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					Conscientious objectors
Would you give up your career, your home and a comfortable retirement on a point of principle? This man did. One
hundred days after George W. Bush signalled the end of combat in Iraq, John Brady Kiesling and three
other men who quit their jobs in protest have lost friends, houses, and tens of thousands in earnings. Was it worth
it?

JOHN BRADY KIESLING
The war in Iraq was weeks away when Washington's third most senior man in Athens decided he could no longer stay quiet. He
ended a 20-year career by writing a resignation letter to his boss, US secretary of state Colin Powell, to warn that, "when our
friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry". The letter promptly appeared on the New York Times website and
suddenly, the unassuming 45-year-old found himself embodying global opposition to the war. Today, he leads a life that would
have been unrecognisable a few short months ago.

    Shirtless and perspiring in the Greek summer heat, John Brady Kiesling taps away at his laptop in a modest apartment in
Plaka, a raffish Athens district that would have been deemed too dangerous for him to live in during his previous life as the US
embassy's political counsellor. His books are piled in corners. There is no air-conditioning, just a ceiling fan stirring the polluted
city air. Such is the change in Kiesling's life since he resigned in February. Separated, with a daughter in college, he has gone
back to a way of life he left behind in his twenties. The biggest pay packet he has seen recently was a $2,000 cheque from the
New York Review of Books for an article about Greek views of the Iraq war. "I've enough money salted away for my daughter's
education and I've been living very cheaply, but I'll be going back to living like a graduate student," he says.
    Kiesling had served in several Mediterranean postings before Athens and probably would have been heading to a new posting
in Kabul had he not quit. He says he has no regrets about resigning, though he never expected his departure to create so much
controversy. "I had no idea how much impact my resignation letter would have," he says. From relative obscurity, he has
suddenly become a sought-after media interviewee and speaker, on both sides of the Atlantic. The transition has proved easier
than he expected. "I discovered that the foreign service does give you some training on speaking off the top of your head and I've
lost my fear of making a complete idiot of myself."
     He gave one of his first talks at the prestigious West Point US military academy, where one of his sisters teaches military
history. He filled the chapel to overflowing at New York's Hamilton College, where his daughter is a student. ("My daughter was
stunned but basically proud, I think.") He has also been a keynote speaker at a seminar on morality in international affairs at
Princeton University. For the moment, he is back in Athens where he has been embraced by Greece's liberal establishment, if not
all his old diplomatic colleagues. One American I spoke to described him as being "too principled for his own good". A European
diplomat scoffed at what he called the "self-righteousness of American dissidents". But Kiesling's reputation seems far from
dented. Only two weeks ago, he was the subject of a 5,000-word article in The Washington Post in which he was depicted as a
member of the old foreign policy internationalist school that now seems so out of favour in the more unilateralist, military-
oriented Bush administration.
    He is finishing a book proposal about American foreign policy and will start a four-month fellowship at Princeton next
month. He is already booked for a round of lectures in Europe in the new year and will then return to Princeton to teach a course
on European Union enlargement - a move he hopes will be the first step towards a second career as a university historian.
    He still worries about the aftermath of the war. "So far Iraq has been a modest net loss for the US - nothing catastrophically
bad. But it's going to be a long, nasty grind. We're really having to cope with reality there." And reality, as Kiesling knows, can
require a significant degree of adjustment.


     22 FINANCIAL TIMES magazine August 9, 2003
      Same man: new life. John Brady Kiesling in his modest flat in Athens last month, nearly five months after he resigned from his job as the
third most senior diplomat in the United States' Greek embassy

				
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