Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel and State Dept. diplomat, recently spoke at Sacramento City College , wearing a black t-shirt with white letters that spelled out “We shall not be silent” in Arabic and English. With blue eyes a mix of compassion and determination, she told a tale of taking a 180-degree turn from being a high-level insider on Uncle Sam’s payroll to an outsider urging an end to the Bush White House’s policies in Iraq and America.
“I resigned my position with the U.S. foreign service on March 19, 2003, after the invasion of Iraq ,” Wright said. “I thought that going to war in an oil-rich Muslim country was a recipe for trouble for us.” Two other U.S. diplomats resigned with her.
For the past five and a half years, she has been calling publicly in the U.S. and abroad for an end to the Iraq conflict. Wright joined Cindy Sheehan, the Vallejo mother whose serviceman son Casey died in Iraq, in antiwar protests outside the president’s summer home in Crawford, TX, two summers ago.
Later, Wright went to Jordan to meet with Iraqi parliamentarians to discuss their plans for a peace process in that embattled nation. Americans should pressure Congress to likewise pursue a peaceful solution to the Iraqi situation, she said.
Wright admits to not being a pacifist, having been involved in military actions during a government career under eight administrations. She backed the U.S. aggression in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. Three months later, Wright was part of the initial State Department team that assisted in the reopening of a U.S. embassy in Kabul.
However, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is an illegal war of aggression, she said. This lawbreaking has many layers. One is the U.S. government’s torture of prisoners of war, people the Bush administration has termed “enemy combatants.” They have not been charged with a crime nor have a trial date, and apparently, are to be held until the war on terror ends at some unsaid date in the future.
The crackdown on Americans’ civil liberties is the other side of this backwards political trend, Wright said. Her critique of Bush’s domestic policies highlights several illegal actions. A recent instance is the gaining of access to citizens’ personal lives from telecom firms such as Verizon, without a court order.
Wright and Susan Dixon have written a book titled Dissent: Voices of Conscience, profiling 24 government whistle blowers here and overseas who have taken ethical and moral stands against the war on terror. One of these dissenters is Jesselyn Radack, a former Justice Department lawyer. She raised objections to the questioning of John Walker Lindh, the supposed American Taliban, with no attorney present. For her efforts, Radack was fired and put on a government no-fly list.
The CIA and other intelligence agencies have been reviewing Dissent since July, Wright said. She held up a copy of her book at SCC.
“I can’t let you look at it,” she said with a laugh, her eyes twinkling. “I signed a letter before resigning my job to let the government read writing of mine on foreign affairs and to cut out any classified information before publication.”
Yet Wright says she used only open source material to avoid that issue. “But the government can slow roll you,” she said. For more information, visit voicesofconscience.com.