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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
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JULY-AUGUST 2013
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rienced ambassadors, Tomas Pickering, summarized the
damage done by those policies in an April 16
Washington Post
op-ed: “By authorizing and permitting torture in response to
a global terrorist threat, U.S. leaders committed a grave error
that has undermined our values, principles and moral stature;
eroded our global infuence; and placed our soldiers, diplo-
mats and intelligence ofcers in even greater jeopardy.”
Yet whistleblowers who revealed the torture program years
earlier have lost their jobs and even gone to jail.
Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide
In the decade since our resignations, John Brown, Brady
Kiesling and I have spoken to thousands of groups, both in
the United States and all over the world, about our decisions
to resign from the Foreign Service. We are treated with great
respect for that decision precisely because resignation on
principle from the United States government is so rare.
I have worked with many veterans and their families, and
have traveled to countries to meet with families uprooted and
destroyed by U.S. wars. I have visited Iraqi refugees in Jordan
and Syria, and interviewed victims of torture in U.S. prisons
in Iraq. I have met with families of prisoners who have been
released from Guantanamo and with families of prisoners who
have been cleared for release years ago, but are still held by
the United States. And I have met in Pakistan and Afghanistan
with families of victims of U.S. drones.
I’ve also met hundreds of U.S. military personnel who
did not have the luxury of resigning to protest war policies
they decided were wrong. Te consciences of these men and
women serving in Iraq or Afghanistan would not allow them
to continue killing others in wars they believed were based on
lies. Many of them have gone to prison for their decisions to
refuse to go along with policies they oppose.
Teir statements leave no doubt of the severe confict they
experienced after volunteering to join an organization imple-
menting policies that were fundamentally wrong—and know-
ing that refusal to help carry them out could mean jail time.
Tat, of course, is the great dilemma inherent in confront-
ing policies that one disagrees with—particularly when the
policies concern life and death. Tere is no doubt that dissent
may cut short your government career. But living dishonestly
may cause you a lifetime of anxiety and grief.
Ultimately, the nagging feeling you have in your stomach
that something is profoundly wrong is a much better guide
than the comments of senior government ofcials on whether
policies are right or wrong, legal or illegal.
n