This episode of NOW with Bill Moyers featured Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). Dr. Mathews discussed the impact that a war with Iraq would have on the future of the United Nations, the situation in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, and the US role in the international community. She explains the idea of coercive inspections (an approach that CEIP espouses) — including the use of selective force if necessary — as an alternative to preemptive regime change.
Next, Dr. Marc Siegel, assistant professor of medicine at New York University and practicing internist since 1990, commented on a disturbing change in the medical profession: Over the preceding five years, pharmaceutical companies saw most of their restrictions lifted on the ways they could advertise, and there was a five-fold increase in spending on ads aimed directly at patients.
Bill Moyers interviewed John Brady Kiesling, career diplomat and former political counselor at the US Embassy in Athens. Kiesling was the first diplomat to resign in protest over US policy toward Iraq. His letter of resignation to Colin Powell garnered worldwide attention. You can access the original Web page for this program at the archived NOW with Bill Moyers website.
MOYERS: Good evening. Welcome to NOW.
American diplomacy at the United Nations for the moment appears to have failed. President Bush is flying to the Azores this weekend to meet with the leaders of Britain and Spain. The coalition of the willing has been whittled down to the U.S. counting on two powers that once had empires that spanned the globe.
As a last minute effort to diffuse uprisings among Arabs when the invasion occurs, the President announced today that the United States will press for a timetable to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It’s been an extraordinary week at the United Nations. A week of debate, arm twisting and intrigues that have split the world community over how to deal with Saddam Hussein.
Countries with armies hardly the size of New York’s police force have thrown sand in the juggernaut of American power.
Old U.S. allies like Germany and France have refused to be steamrollered, even as President Bush has been just as stubborn, making it clear that America remains prepared to go it alone if the UN does not give him the mandate he wants.
All the while, a massive American war machine is now poised to strike against Saddam Hussein once the President gives the word.
Some quarter of a million troops now surround Iraq.
Thousands of precision-guided missiles target Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
Just in case anyone doubted American power, the Pentagon this week tested a massive new weapon called MOAB, the mother of all conventional bombs, capable of wiping out an entire division or city with one explosion.
As the UN debate in New York stalled, journalists on Iraq’s borders have reported convoys of American tanks on the move and new camps of troops springing up on the desert. This is a watershed moment all around, for the dictator hunkered down in Baghdad, the fractured United Nations, the American president, and civilians caught in the middle.
There was one flurry of unexpected diplomacy late this week. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is suddenly in trouble at home. His all-out support of President Bush has left him out of step with his own people. So the British were trying to come up with a compromise, a third way between backing down from disarming Hussein and going to war without a second resolution.
Suddenly you heard talk again of something called “coercive inspections,” an idea first put forward last year by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Developed by a bipartisan group of military and diplomatic experts, the plan called for the Security Council to create a multinational military force assigned to back up the inspectors step by step. If Hussein resisted in any way what the inspectors wanted to do, there would be a military strike against a key target.
That plan for coercive inspections was first floated last fall. It never got the support in Washington its creators hoped for. This broadcast has now learned that for a few days this week, the idea was again considered, then discarded.
Jessica Tuchman Mathews was one of the architects of coercive inspections. She is the President of the Carnegie Endowment. Once a top staff member of the National Security Council, the Washington director of the Council on Foreign Relations, a journalist and member of the editorial board of the WASHINGTON POST, and, for a time, Deputy Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, Jessica Mathews has spent her adult life wrestling with these international issues. I talked to her this week in New York.
You have been through many a crisis in your long active political life. What’s unique about this one?
MATHEWS: I’ve never seen the United States having invested so much of its political clout in attempting to bring the rest of the world to its view. I have never seen it fail in that respect to anything like this.
I don’t think anybody has ever really seen something like what’s happened at the UN the last three to four weeks where we have tried every carrot and every threat in the book, and so far we haven’t moved a single vote. In fact, we’ve moved a couple against us.
MOYERS: How do you explain the fact that Turkey, one of the only two democracies in the Middle East, we can’t even buy their vote, we the United States government can’t even bribe them?
MATHEWS: Well, you just explained why when you said it’s a democracy. Ninety-three percent of the Turkish people are against the war and against Turkish participation in it. Would we the United States imagine doing anything that 93 percent of our people were opposed to? It’s unthinkable. It’s unthinkable.
And this is part of the price of democracy is very often you get a result you don’t — that we, the U.S., may not like. It’s much easier to deal with an autocratic government.
MOYERS: How would you have us deal with Saddam Hussein?
MATHEWS: Well, if you’re asking how could it have been done versus what we can do today, those are two questions.
MOYERS: Would have been, should been. I mean…
MATHEWS: Should have been done is we should have first said explicitly and at the presidential level, limited our goal to getting rid of weapons of mass destruction, for two reasons.
One is, in order to create unity with the other major powers — but the other reason is that you don’t stand a prayer of having inspections work unless you convince Saddam that your goal is disarmament and not regime change — because unless you do that he has every incentive to keep those weapons and every incentive…disincentive to comply, because if he knows he’s going to face an invasion anyway, why would he…why would he submit to inspections?
MOYERS: You are nobody’s fool, Jessica Tuchman Mathews. You’ve studied this issue and this problem more than anyone else I know who’s not now in government, and maybe more than anybody who is in government. Do you think Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction?
MATHEWS: Well, we know he has chemical weapons, and we know he has some biological agent at least and probably some of it is weaponized. And I think we pretty well know that he does not have nuclear. I think we also know that he wants to have all three.
MOYERS: Is he a threat to us by the indirect means of providing instruments of destruction and financial support to terrorists, suicide bombers and others?
MATHEWS: I don’t think so. First of all, to give weapons of mass destruction to people he can’t control — which is the definition of a terrorist — is a really rash act and one that you are unlikely to do unless you have no other options.
Why would a man who is a control freak over every tiny thing in his kingdom hand over his crown jewels to a bunch of crazy guys he doesn’t control? Our intelligence agency — and the CIA says this openly — doesn’t believe he would do that, and I don’t think he’d do that. And I think most people don’t…most people who’ve studied him firmly…I mean, closely.
The other part of this of course is who those terrorists are. And this is the most, this is the weakest part of the US argument. There is no strong evidence of a connection between Saddam and Al-Qaida, as you really would not expect there to be — because this is a secular ruler who has persecuted Islamists in his own country.
MOYERS: You make a convincing case but the President of the United States keeps saying there is a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaida. I mean, you’re putting yourself up against the President of the United States.
MATHEWS: He…well, I guess I am, but I’m certainly not alone. I mean, the overwhelming view of people that have tried to examine this evidence is that it’s extremely flimsy and circumstantial.
MOYERS: What’s at stake?
MATHEWS: Ultimately…I mean, I think it’s gotten a lot bigger than Iraq. Now the nature of the…or, the depth of the breach in the transatlantic relationship is at stake. How are we going to repair relations with Germany and France?
The role of the Security Council is at stake. And we may want to turn to the Security Council almost immediately for help both in the region itself on the North Korean crisis, on the Iranian nuclear crisis which is just around the corner. And we may be left with a United Nations whose central body is in tatters.
And finally, it’s about the role of the United States in the world and the question of whether we have abandoned a notion of how we ought to act and how we want to act that has been built over 50 years.
MOYERS: But there is a school of thought in this country that says the demise of the United Nations is a welcome benefit, side benefit to this, that there are a lot of people who just believe the United Nations has become the league of nations: impotent, ineffective, a burden to the United States in trying to defend freedom…
MOYERS: …and democracy.
MATHEWS: I think there are two things to say about that. First of all, we could see it’s not the league because what we’ve seen here is that it is the body that confers legitimacy. Why did we go there? Because we felt we needed that legitimacy, and the American public wanted it.
And it is particularly in a world that has global media, that becomes enormously important. And in an funny way, this debate I think rather than…than revealing the weakness of the UN has revealed its strengths in the system — not its operational strengths, obviously, but its political and…strengths in conferring legitimacy and in being able to create a sense of international will.
The other thing that is, that you know I think a basic rule is you don’t go around breaking things unless you know what you’re going to put in their place. And what do we have to put in place of the system of rules and international institutions that we built up starting in 1945? Nothing yet, except U.S. military force.
MOYERS: I mean, look, this administration has, for reasons it has stated, withdrawn from one international agreement and understanding of multilateral cooperation after another from the Kyoto Treaty on global climate to the ABM treaty with the Soviet Union. I mean, this seems to be a government that is more interested in going it alone in the world.
MATHEWS: Yes, and I think they are seeing what the costs…some of the costs of doing that are.
MOYERS: Such as…?
MATHEWS: Well, such as the fact that there is such anti-Americanism around the world.
I mean, think of this. In the last year there have been elections in four countries on four continents where the major issue has been anti-Americanism. And these are major countries, countries important to us: Brazil, Germany, South Korea and Pakistan.
Now, in any year that would be shocking, but in the year after 9/11 when the whole world kind of wrapped its arms around us and we were the recipient of such good feeling and empathy, to be where that outcome is tells us something is very wrong.
We also know that we’ve got a dozen goals in the world that can’t be achieved except with broad international cooperation…
MOYERS: Such as…
MATHEWS: Well, such as environment, global climate is one. Such as controlling weapons of mass destruction. It cannot be done with military force.
Then all you can do is police the result, but you can’t stop the spread unless all the potential experts are cooperating and are with you in a regime. Such as controlling corruption, money laundering, the drug trade.
MATHEWS: Terrorism. Disease, HIV, AIDS. I mean, you can go on with this list almost…not forever, but for a very long time.
MOYERS: Still some people would say we’ve been dealing through the United Nations with that, and look, we have all these problems anyway.
MATHEWS: Well, but we have also had a great many triumphs and…through international cooperation and a lot of things that underlie global prosperity. The World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, things that do control disease, that do control… that give us the global weather service, that underlies our economic life, underlies our quality of living, underlies and makes possible economic development in poorer countries without which you are soon to be, you know, a tiny island of privilege in a mass of angry suffering.
So it is, in my view, shortsighted in the incredible extreme to think that our military power is enough to give us the kind of global order that we want and the kind of world we want to live in absent these international institutions and alliances which are, yes, occasionally constraining.
MOYERS: I believe the President would say given his record that the only way to promote democracy is for the United States to use its power, to use its might, to use the will that he has and others around him to bring dictators to heel, to impose order where there’s only chaos. I think he actually believes that this is a step towards democracy potentially in the Middle East. Don’t you?
MATHEWS: I find it…[SIGHS AUDIBLY] I find it hard to believe that because it seems to…it’s so obvious that the result would be the opposite. Right? I mean, what do we know about the immediate consequence? That this war is going to be a recruiting took for Al-Qaida. So right away we know that.
We know that it is going to fan the flames of the Arab sense of humiliation and anger and rage, and that a lot of people will be further disgusted with their governments who are unable they feel to hold off this sense of invasion of their space and their region.
So what will happen? Those governments will have to respond with increased repression. We’ve seen it already, right? Why have we not seen public protests in the Middle East of all places to this war as we’ve seen all over the rest of the world? Because those governments don’t let them happen.
So you will get not increased democratization in the short term; you’ll get increased repression. So then how…what is the nature of this magical leap that gets made from autocratic repressive governments faced with, let’s say, best case, a peaceful takeover in Iraq. Iraq becoming kind of a mo—…not a democracy, I don’t even think you can…but, a representative government with economic renewal.
That the problem is not that Arabs don’t recognize the end point that they want to get to; the problem is getting from here to there and you know, from an autocratic retrograde repressive government and the only public opposition, organized opposition being Islamist.
So what are we offering as the model for how to get from here to there? A U.S. invasion. Well, if you’re sitting in Cairo or Algiers or Damascus, that does not look like a particularly attractive model.
So I find it hard to believe that anyone seriously thinks or has thought through that there is a way that this war could lead to, no matter how successful in its military phase, could result in a democratic transformation of the Middle East. I think that the sort of facts on the ground tell you that it’s likely to be the opposite.
MOYERS: Yes. But victory makes orphans of a lot of pessimists, and if Saddam Hussein’s troops capitulate…
MOYERS: …if the Americans walk in so to speak, what happens?
MATHEWS: Well, at least short term a lot of people are going to be saying, you see? I told you so. Right? That we should have done this, we shouldn’t have fooled around for a year, we should have gone sooner.
It will confirm in a lot of people’s view the notion that we should launch an active global crusade on behalf of what we think governments…which government should be in power where.
The question is when do you decide you’ve had a victory? Is it in the shooting phase or is it in the political reconstruction phase? And how long will it take for people…for us to see that there has been victory in the political restruction phase, which everybody has been saying for a long time is the harder task.
MOYERS: The building of democracy in a place like Iraq?
MATHEWS: Or even representative government. Or even national cohesion and an able and humane and somewhat representative government.
If you could do that then it would be a victory. I…right now the U.S. plan is a plan for military occupation; it is not a plan for political reconstruction. It explicitly forbids, for example, the participation of political groups in Iraq, all of which need to be knitted together if you’re going to get the result of a representative government.
Instead it simply allows the participation of a few hand-picked Iraqis that we allow to come serve on an Iraqi consultative council. We have no plan for political reconstruction now; we may be able to eventually produce one. But it’s a huge challenge. And right now we’re just looking at a plan for military occupation.
So the first question is how long…until when do you wait to declare victory? And will the coming apart of things politically if that happens be something that Americans can see to have connected to this.
If the Pakistani government falls, for example, and is replaced by a much more radical government that gives us…which is a nuclear armed one, remember, which could easily become Islamist, that would be a huge cost of this war, enormous. And an enormous cost to the war on terror.
MOYERS: It is your conviction tonight that the Bush administration does not want a compromise, it wants a war.
MATHEWS: I think that’s where we are now, yes.
MOYERS: Thank you very much.
MOYERS: Last week the President unveiled a plan that would provide modest help to the elderly in filling prescriptions, but only if they join a private HMO.
Seniors who elect to remain in the present Medicare plan would get a so-called discount card. Experts say that card won’t even keep up with inflation of drug prices. And those drug prices just keep inflating.
The pharmaceutical industry is the nation’s most profitable industry, and the companies spend two to three billion dollars a year trying to persuade us that their new product is more than just a variation of their last tablet under a catchy new brand name.
You know the ads in question. They keep telling us to “ask your doctor” about the wonders of some expensive new drug. Okay, we’ll ask the doctor. We’ll ask him for a second opinion about those ads.
SIEGEL: I’m Dr. Marc Siegel.
I am an Assistant Professor of Medicine at New York University and a practicing internist since 1990. In the past five years, there has been a disturbing change that affects the way that I work with my patients. Drug companies, America’s most profitable industry, have inserted themselves as a filter between me and my patients. And they are doing it with advertising.
And these ads put a lot of pressure on the patients to come right to their doctors and demand the medications.
PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY ADVERTISEMENTS: “Go ahead, ask your doctor about Altace”
“Ask your doctor if Zocor could work for you.”
WOMAN DRUG REP: Hi Dr. Siegel, how are you?
SIEGEL: Fine. How are you?
The doctor is under similar pressures because the drug’s salesmen come to the doctor’s office.
WOMAN DRUG REP: …overproduction of the LDL and Triclor reverses that
SIEGEL: They come under a veil of information but the information is always skewed and it’s brought to me by someone that isn’t particularly an expert in the field.
WOMAN DRUG REP: It really reverses what’s going on with their lipids. Good to see you, and I’ll leave you some samples.
SIEGEL: They bring free lunches to the office. They wine and dine the staff.
Nice to see you.
MALE DRUG REP: Hope you enjoyed everything.
SIEGEL: Yeah it was a great lunch thanks for bringing it.
This is my drug closet. It’s where all the samples get kept that the drug representatives bring by. It tends to be mostly stocked with new drugs or drugs that are trying to make a pitch at the market. So I look at this closet as kind of a microcosm of the drug wars that are going on on television.
An example of that is Lipitor and Zocor here. Lipitor, it’s a very good cholesterol lowering drug.
PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY ADVERTISEMENT: “I only have eyes for you.”
SIEGEL: But to go from there to say that it improves lifestyle or that it’ll make you healthy is absurd and they use that as a way to kind of get more people to clamor and go to their physicians and ask for Lipitor.
PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY ADVERTISEMENT: “Taking Zocor everyday has kept my cholesterol where it should be.”
SIEGEL: Then Zocor came along and they said, “Wait a minute. We can’t let Lipitor do that alone.” So they went on television and they put similar kind of ads on where they are — you know, glamorous people getting better on Zocor.
But what’s — what’s pretty ironic about that is that Zocor is more expensive than Lipitor — has more side effects than Lipitor. And here it is in the closet vying for space.
Pravachol has probably the least amount of side effects of all three. My thinking is that probably in this class, you need one drug, maximum two. You need the most effective drug in the class and then maybe a drug like Pravachol which has less side effects.
This process of drug laboratories creating these new compounds that are slightly different than the old compound. This happens every year there’s a new drug on the market. Every year there’s only a slight or no improvement. Every year the drug that was on the year before is forgotten about totally. Physicians almost don’t even remember its name. And every year more and more millions of dollars are spent in advertising in order to promote the new kid on the block. There is an almost indecipherable difference between these new drugs and the drugs that came out before or that were out previously.
PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY ADVERTISEMENTS: “It’s a beautiful morning–”
SIEGEL: We’re a very consumer-based society and we’re geared to respond to all of this hype.
PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY ADVERTISEMENT: “Talk to your doctor and call this number.”
SIEGEL: The drug companies are selling the American Dream. That you have to have the latest and greatest, the brightest and the shiniest.
And they’re not gonna advertise to this extent unless it’s working. So let’s stop it from working. Let’s stop believing in what they’re telling us.
ANNOUNCER: On Monday, a special edition of NOW. Iraqi dissidents made a moral case for America to overthrow Saddam Hussein and bring democracy to Iraq.
MAKIYA: A million-and-a-half people, Iraqis, killed since 1980 violently at the hands of the regime.
ANNOUNCER: But will the U.S. betray them? That’s Monday night on a special edition of NOW.
And connect to NOW WITH BILL MOYERS Online at pbs.org. Are coercive inspections a solution instead of war? Read about the U.S. diplomat who resigned over Iraq. More about the hero of the Hudson clean-up. Connect to NOW at pbs.org.
MOYERS: There is a disturbing revelation in the current issue of the Nelson Report, an influential foreign policy newsletter. It says there’s a growing mixture of anger, despair, disgust and fear in the foreign policy community in Washington as the attack on Iraq moves closer. And the North Korea crisis festers with no coherent U.S. policy.
Our next guest has struggled with this on a personal level, and just last week resigned from the U.S. foreign service because in conscience he said he cannot support our country’s present foreign policy.
Brady Kiesling has been a member of the foreign service for 20 years, serving in Armenia, Morocco and Israel and most recently as political counselor at the American Embassy in Greece. He left, he said, with a heavy heart. Welcome to NOW.
MOYERS: Why the heavy heart?
KIESLING: A heavy heart because when you leave something you’ve done for 20 years, a job that you love and think is very important not only to yourself and your family but to the United States and the world, and you suddenly realize, my God, I am being asked to do things that will hurt my country not help my country, and I felt that this was a terrible situation to be in.
MOYERS: We’re in a tough time right now, Jessica Tuchman Matthews said a few minutes ago, rising anti Americanism all over the world. I mean, you’re at home in four languages: Armenian, French, Greek, English. You’re a Phi Beta Kappa, you’re a National Merit Scholar. I mean, public servants like you don’t come along all that often, and one could argue that your talents and devotion are more important right now than ever.
KIESLING: I’d say that the foreign service is an extremely talented body that can get by without me. I think it was more important for me to make this gesture because frankly a lot of people were looking for some words that they could use to express the anguish that they felt that we were on the wrong course.
People could look around and see that the world did not understand what we were doing and people were beginning to be afraid of us. And I think a lot of Americans were looking for some way to express that, and I think I helped them do it.
MOYERS: But did you think before you took this step that Saddam Hussein might find this kind of voice coming from the American foreign service encouraging to his cause?
KIESLING: I didn’t really worry about that; what I did worry about was the idea that it might damage American foreign policy interest elsewhere. But what I came to the conclusion was, is that our interests had been so badly damaged anyway, that people were looking for more rational voices from the United States.
In fact, the first headline I saw in Greece was an editorial saying, “Thank God there are good Americans.” And I’m not going to say that I’m a good American, in that sense, but I do want to say that it is crucial that Americans not be perceived as a monolithic bunch of sort of barbarians out there to reshape the world in some unsavory image.
MOYERS: What actually triggered your decision, Brady?
KIESLING: It was a combination of things. A lot of it was personal. I just felt that I was no longer able to do my job.
My job is to represent American policy, and I was going out there, you know, fighting the good fight with the Greek foreign ministry, with Greek politicians, with Greek journalists, explaining our position, realized I did not believe our position, I was getting so caught up in the sense that I was doing something wrong that it made it very hard to do my job properly. I’m a professional; if I’m not doing my job properly I should do something else.
MOYERS: Were you being asked to perform some duty that was dishonest, something that went against your principles, something that you knew out and out was just plain wrong?
KIESLING: I was asked to make arguments, for example, on the tactical issue…and in fact, this is a very legitimate argument. We have said over and over again the only way we can prevent a war is if we persuade Saddam Hussein that we will go to war unless he disarms. That’s a perfectly valid argument, we made it.
That argument however, is only valid if there is in fact a genuine possibility that we will not go to war if he complies. And what I realized as I watched the rhetoric coming out of Washington, as I watched our own message, was that we were going to go to war regardless. This was not a tactical issue.
We had I think misled the US Congress into writing a blank check for the administration, we had misled I think our allies. And I did not feel comfortable with that. Once I realized the war was going to happen regardless of what Saddam did.
MOYERS: Is this the only thing in foreign policy that you found offensive to try to articulate to your peers in the Greek government?
KIESLING: I really was profoundly embarrassed by our stance on the international criminal court.
MOYERS: What about that?
KIESLING: The international criminal court was an institution that the world including the United States decided needed to exist to deal with the terrible war crimes that have been committed in the world, the ones that no institutions existed to deal with.
You know, Rwanda, the events in Bosnia, convinced everybody that we needed this international tribunal that had its own legitimacy.
MOYERS: They just recently sentenced the former president of Serbia to several years in prison for her crimes against the Muslims, and Milosovic is now on trial there. So that’s what you’re talking about.
KIESLING: Exact— well, but that’s a special purpose tribunal…
KIESLING: …this was an attempt to universalize it. And then all of a sudden the United States lost its nerve, somehow we decided, oh, my God, everybody hates us, they’ll use this tribunal to embarrass us, they’ll…you know, they’ll arrest American soldiers and…
MOYERS: Henry Kissinger.
KIESLING: Yes, Henry Kissinger.
And we then not only pulled out of it but tied ourselves in knots, went to all of our allies sort of threatening them, you must exempt us from this international organization. I found it profoundly distasteful because it suggested that we had given up on an international system that we had essentially created, we had made it an instrument of peace and stability and protecting American interests.
And all of a sudden, because of a few conservatives raising this, you know, essentially this complete illusion, we had backed away from our own values.
MOYERS: Have you seen this a trend? You take this issue of the international criminal court and you put it to the President’s determination to proceed in Iraq even if he doesn’t have UN backing, and you see a pattern there?
If we had not gone to a whole series of diplomatic blunders such as the ICC, the Kyoto Protocols…
MOYERS: The ICC, the International Criminal Court.
KIESLING: …if we had had a foreign policy that reflected the sensitivities of our partners we could have persuaded them to go to war with us in Iraq.
What happened is they had lost their faith that our interests and their interests coincided, and when we tried to persuade them to do something when we could not come up with logical persuasive arguments and reasonable intelligence information, we lost them.
MOYERS: In your letter of resignation, you write that, quote, “the policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but with American interests.” What are those policies you think are not consistent with our values?
KIESLING: One very basic one is women’s health issues, where out of an allergy to anything that might have anything to do with abortion we’ve crippled all kinds of women’s health policies around the world.
We cut off our assistance to programs, we’ve embarrassed ourselves around the world because the world looks at the desperate need for healthcare for women and then sees a small group of people in Washington posturing to a certain group in the United States. And for that reason, sacrificing the interests of women around the world.
MOYERS: And so you take this issue and you take the international criminal court, and you take the desire, the willingness to go to war almost alone in Iraq, and you conclude what?
KIESLING: I conclude that from these and a number of other issues — trade issues, you name it — that the current administration has no faith in the international system that in fact President Bush’s father had helped to reinforce at the time of the Gulf War, that instead of having an international system where we voluntarily give up a tiny amount of our freedom of action in order to have legitimacy internationally, in order to have a framework of alliances, instead we’d rather cut ourselves loose, do things purely based on our own perceived self interest.
And even when that self interest really damages the interests of our allies and even when it offends the sensibilities not only of a lot of the American people but of the vast majority of the world population.
MOYERS: But you know, you went in the foreign service in 1983, I know something about the foreign service, many friends in there, you take an oath of office to support the service’s values but to support the President of the United States.
MOYERS: You went in office, you went into foreign service under Ronald Reagan, you served under the first Bush. You served eight years under Clinton and now two years under the second Bush. I mean, what has changed? You served 12 or more years under conservative presidents.
KIESLING: It’s not a matter of conservative presidents. George Bush the elder did an excellent job in the Gulf War in using the international mechanisms that existed, orchestrating a campaign, a just war with the full consent of allies.
In fact, our allies paid for 80 percent of the cost of that war. We came out of that war with the validation of the whole international community, we came out of that war stronger and more legitimate than we had been before. And it was a triumph of diplomacy based on understanding the values of the people around us and respecting them.
MOYERS: And something’s changed?
KIESLING: It seems to me that something has. Just within the past couple of years I see a real change in attitude, a feeling that we can be as arrogant as we want to be, that somehow our allies will go along with us because they must, as opposed to they will go along with us because it’s in the interests of themselves and our…because we have a shared interest that drives us.
MOYERS: You once received, 1994 I think it was, an award from the American Foreign Service Association for what was called constructive dissent because you and several other foreign service officers wrote a letter to the Secretary of State Warren Christopher advocating that the United States intervene to stop the Serbian genocide against people in that part of the world. You wanted us to go in to stop ethnic cleansing.
KIESLING: Yes, I am not a pacifist by any means. There are times when violence or at least the credible threat of violence is necessary to prevent people wrapped in the throes of some nationalist obsession from doing something criminal.
Alas, we intervened later in Bosnia than we should have. A lot of innocent people died as a result. But the dissent of my colleagues and myself, and I was just a small part of that, had an impact on changing American policy.
I wish there had been some feeling on my part that I could have helped change policy from within, but I really did not see it.
MOYERS: You wanted us to intervene in Serbia.
MOYERS: You were honored by your own peers for that…
MOYERS: …outspokenness. Why don’t you want us to intervene in Iraq?
KIESLING: Because we cannot attain any good for either Iraq or the United States by military force, unfortunately.
MOYERS: But you know, every substantial human rights organization has documented the atrocities of Saddam Hussein against the Kurds, against the Kuwaitis, against his own people, against people in his country like you who dissent from his policies.
KIESLING: Oh, yes. He is a criminal and he is a vile dictator. But the question is not, is he a vile dictator who deserves to be ousted, the question is, can the United States oust him at a reasonable cost to our own interests and at a reasonable cost to the interests of the region? And the answer unfortunately to that is no, because we do not have the legitimacy in the Middle East to achieve that goal.
MOYERS: But I want to be sure that audience understands the distinction between supporting intervention in Serbia a few years ago and winning an award for speaking up, and not going into Iraq. Where do you draw the line on the legitimate use of force?
KIESLING: Force is legitimate when the benefit outweighs the cost, and that’s a very hard thing to analyze, I know. But what are our goals in Iraq? The first goal is to disarm Saddam; the second goal is to get rid of Saddam; the third goal is to create democracy in Iraq; and then the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh goals are a subject of considerable debate among the international community.
What will it cost us to do that? It will cost us a number of billions of dollars. It will cost us a certain number of lives. But more importantly, because we do not have any legitimacy within the Arab world, because of a lot of history, because of other things, even the Iraqi people despite everything that Saddam has done to them, they will not welcome us as liberators.
The people of the surrounding states will see this not as a generous bold move to establish democracy but rather as a new attempt at American aggression and colonialism. And this may be unfair, and this is certainly unfair. We do not intend to be colonialists. But it doesn’t matter. We will not receive the support of the Arab world.
Moreover, we will trigger from an Arab population that is already feeling powerless, humiliated, frustrated, we will trigger a new wave of terrorism against the United States. If we could say that Saddam were responsible for September 11th, then fine, I would say, go in. But it is clear that he’s not connected with September 11th.
If we could say that he is on the verge of getting nuclear weapons, I would say very reluctantly maybe it’s better to take him, at least there would be a legitimate argument. But it is clear that the weapons he has are not of a nature to directly threaten the United States.
It is also clear that when we go in and take his regime apart, whatever we establish will be temporary and will almost certainly fail because we will not have the resources to maintain it in the future.
MOYERS: One talk show host reportedly said that John Brady Kiesling leaving his post now was like a soldier going AWOL on the eve of battle. What do you think about that?
KIESLING: I think I’m more like the canary dropping dead in the mine shaft as a warning to others.
MOYERS: You were trained in ancient history and archaeology. It must have been hard to leave Greece where you were surrounded by so many historic sites.
KIESLING: Greece is a wonderful country, and I urge everyone to visit. As my final farewell to the embassy I invited sort of all of my colleagues, and about 30 people showed up, to travel with me to ancient Ramnus, a beautiful hilltop overlooking the Aegean on which there sits a ruined temple of the Goddess Nemesis.
Nemesis is the goddess who punishes people for transgressing the divine limits. And this temple was set up largely to commemorate the victory over the Persians who had by definition transgressed the divine limits in their attempt to conquer the Greeks.
And we all got there and as my sort of farewell to my colleagues, I raised a glass of wine and sort of prayed, you know, poured a glass of libation to Nemesis and said, “now, God save the United States. God save us from our own hubris, from our own arrogance, from our sense that we can do things alone and not reckon the costs to our friends and our allies.”
MOYERS: You know, I can sense as I’m sure my audience can sense that this is very painful for you. You don’t strike me as a theatrical man who would do something just for the sake of dramatics. I mean, is there something going on that you can’t quite say? Is something really eating away at you?
KIESLING: I would say that keeping silent for 20 years is part of diplomacy. I mean, that’s what we do, we keep our lips zipped, we advance the policy. Obviously over time a lot of stress accumulates. But that’s manageable.
But what I saw is that somehow the United States has been straying away from the ideals, from the sort of…the values. The United States is the greatest country in the world. I mean, it’s an amazing place.
And here we’re making ourselves smaller and nastier, more suspicious, more fearful. And this is so unnecessary. We should be a beacon for the world. And I saw my job as an American diplomat to help America be a beacon to the world. And when we’re not being a beacon to the world, you know, what we are being is just not something I want to take part in.
MOYERS: Brady Kiesling, thank you very much for joining us on NOW.
KIESLING: Thank you very much, Bill. I really enjoyed this.
MOYERS: Last year on PBS, we aired a film series about the Hudson River last year called AMERICA’S FIRST RIVER.
Along our journey up and down that great river, we had the honor of meeting a real American hero. His name was Fred Danback, and he died this week at the age of 79. Fred Danback was a World War II veteran who took part in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach. When he came home, he never stopped fighting for what he believed in.
Looking at the Hudson River these days, it’s hard to imagine how smelly and dirty and polluted it once was. The river might well have died altogether except for a small group of people who fought to save it. One of them was a local boy named Fred Danback.
When Danback returned from World War II, he did what a lot of working people who lived along the Hudson did — he went to work at the Anaconda Wire & Cable Company, in Hastings, New York. Anaconda not only provided good paying jobs, it had helped to win the war, producing one third of the cable used by the U.S. Navy. But something caught Fred Danback’s eye and with increasing alarm, he noticed that cable wasn’t all the company was turning out.
FRED DANBACK: I seen all kinds of oil and sulfuric acid, copper filings; my gosh, they were coming out of that company like it was going out of style. I’ve seen lubro oil and I’ve seen #2 oil. All over Anaconda, off the dock, you could see this stuff coming out.
And when I complained about it, they told me oh, it wasn’t a big amount. So, we come down here, got a boat, brought up a seine, put it up against their pipes and you wouldn’t believe how much copper dust we got in about half a minute. We got loads of it. This was entering the river on a daily basis, you know.
JOHN CRONIN: This was a time when environmental issues were not heroic issues. If you were anti-pollution, you were anti-American and you were anti-industry, you were anti-progress, you were just you know, you were a deviant.
FRED DANBACK: They told me at one point, they says, look Fred, you’re being paid to produce here, not to worry about pollution. I said well, that’s simple to solve. Knock off the pollution and I’ll work here. It’s very easy to do, you know?
JOHN CRONIN: So Fred’s punishment for badgering company officials and the Coast Guard to come up and investigate the company for the pollution events he documented was that they gave him every crummy job in the company, one of which was pushing a broom. But what Fred did is he pushed the broom everywhere he could and he went to every building. He followed every trench that had liquid going out of it. I think he even found excuses to go outside and sweep the dirt so he could see where things were going. And Fred made maps and took notes of everything.
MOYERS: Danback, along with the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association, turned to an obscure, 19th century law that prohibited dumping in the river. They and convinced the U.S. Attorney’s office to take Anaconda to court in 1971. Danback put his job on the line to testify against his employer.
FRED DANBACK: Took them to court for discharging copper filings, sulfuric acid, lubro oil and #2 heating oil.
JOHN CRONIN: And when it came time to prosecute the company in Federal Court, the U.S. Attorney used Fred’s maps and Fred’s notes to document where everything was.
FRED DANBACK: They put up a team of lawyers in the court, trying to fight me. But every way they turned, I’d beat them down because I was foolproof. They couldn’t — they had no case to defend themselves with.
JOHN CRONIN: The company was fined $200,000 under the Refuse Act of 1899. Even today for a polluter to be fined $200,000 is a big event. Back in the early 1970s, it was a huge event. It was like a thunderclap. There are a lot of really unsung heroes on the Hudson River, people who put their safety on the line, their salaries and their jobs on the line, on occasion, and one of those people was Fred Danback. He was a hero. He was a hero.
MOYERS: Farewell to a patriot.
That’s it for NOW.
Be sure to tune in to PBS Monday night for a special evening of in-depth coverage of the impending war with Iraq. In most cities, a three-hour joint presentation from FRONTLINE and NOW will air starting at 8:00. Check your local listings.
Until then, thanks for watching.
I’m Bill Moyers. Good night.
This transcript was entered on April 7, 2015.