Straightforward common sense

Monsieur d’Nalgar:  Ray Close just forwarded the following letter, with this short introduction:

A friend of mine, a retired U.S. ambassador, sent this excellent letter to President Obama yesterday.

Straightforward common sense.


Dear Mr. President:

Just think for a minute—what would happen if the United States abstained when the Palestinian question comes before the UN Security Council in the next week or two?

The resolution would pass. The world would be stunned. The United States would enter an entirely new era in our relations with the Muslim countries of the world. The vision you outlined in Cairo for better relations with the Islamic world would take the largest step forward of your presidency. The United States would once again have regained the high moral ground we so often claim to occupy. The energies loosed by the “Arab spring” would continue to be devoted to their own domestic affairs rather than being diverted into condemning the United States. We are hypocrites when we claim to want justice for the Palestinians but we do nothing meaningful to help achieve this.

On the other hand, if the United States vetoes the Palestinian request for statehood, we will damage our position in the Islamic world—not merely the Arab World—for untold years to come.  We will become the object of retribution throughout the Muslim world, and will give new energy to the lagging efforts of al-Qaida to retaliate against us. I served my country 36 years in the Foreign Service of the United States, ten assignments in ten Muslim countries. I know the power of this issue. Why would we want to give new impetus to anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world?

Mr. Netanyahu’s office has issued a statement saying “Peace will be achieved only through direct negotiations with Israel.” You know, and I know, that Mr. Netanyahu has no intention of concluding a just and fair peace with the Palestinian Authority.  His only concern is to continue the inexorable construction of more settlements, creating more “facts on the ground” until the idea of an independent Palestinian state becomes a mere memory of a bygone era. When Israel declared its independence in 1948 it did not do so after direct negotiations with Palestine. If Israel really wants to negotiate with the Palestinians, why would negotiating with an independent Palestinian government, on an equal footing, deter it from engaging in these negotiations?

The Reagan administration launched an international information campaign under the slogan “Let Poland be Poland.” It’s time we let Palestine be Palestine.

Abstain from this upcoming vote. Just think about it.

Sincerely yours,

Charles O. Cecil
U.S. Ambassador, retired


Charles O. Cecil
Ambassador to the Republic of Niger

Charles O. Cecil presented his credentials as Ambassador to the Republic of Niger on September 6, 1996. Prior to his ambassadorship, he served in Washington as Deputy Director for West African Affairs from 1995 to 1996, overseeing U.S. relations with the nine Francophone countries of West Africa. He was Deputy Chief of Mission in Abidjan before he returned to Washington.

Ambassador Cecil joined the Foreign Service and was initally assigned to Kuwait in 1966. Following Kuwait, he went to Zanzibar for 2 years as political officer. In 1971, he was posted to Beirut to study Arabic, then went to Jeddah where he served as a political-military officer. After 2 years in Jeddah, Ambassador Cecil returned to Washington as the desk officer for Saudi Arabia. He was later assigned to the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs handling arms sales and security assistance issues in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ambassador Cecil was a Congressional Fellow on the staffs of Senator William Proxmire and Congressman Jim Leach until 1980. In 1980, Ambassador Cecil returned overseas to Mali where he served as Public Affairs Officer and Deputy Chief of Mission. He then went to Muscat in 1983 as Deputy Chief of Mission. Following Muscat, he became Director of the Foreign Service Institute’s Arabic Language Field School in Tunis for 2 years. Ambassador Cecil then returned to Washington to become Deputy Director of the Office of Ecology, Health, and Conservation. And, from 1990 to 1992, he served as Senior Advisor for Environmental Affairs in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Ambassador Cecil was born in Owensboro, Kentucky on February 13, 1940. He received a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1962, and an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University in 1964. Upon completion of his education, he served in the Air Force until 1966.

Ambassador Cecil has published articles in the Journal of Modern Affican Studies, The Middle East Journal, Our Sunday Visitor, and Aramco World.


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1 comment

    • Jennifer Ho on September 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I read this in my email, and decided to seek it’s source online. This excellently written letter made me want to support it as if it were a petition. I wonder if it could be made one, allowing online signatures?

    I noted other articles with English titles, such as, “Breaking the Silence”, but it is in Hebrew, which I don’t read. Thank you, I hope President Obama reads this letter and acts accordingly.

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