Dissent: Voices of Conscience
Government Insiders Speak out Against the War in Iraq
By Colonel (Ret.) Ann Wright and Susan Dixon
(Koa Books, 2008)
ISBN: 978-0-9773338-4-4


The George Bush administration in the US and the Tony Blair administration in the UK, and other regimes in the so-called Coalition of the Willing, have waged a hardline campaign against any dissent to their immoral and illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Despite this there have been many people who defied their governments to openly speak out against a war that defies conscience.

Ann Wright and Susan Dixon reveal a host of whistleblowers and other dissenting individuals in their book Dissent: Voices of Conscience. Among the dissidents are government ministers in the UK, civil servants, diplomats, intelligence personnel, military officers and soldiers. These courageous and conscientious people were subjected to a barrage of vindictiveness ranging from assaults against their mental integrity, demotion, firing, imprisonment, and, in some cases, maybe even murder.

Despite the stated avowal against the aggression of Iraq, despite labeling it a “war of choice,” the authors’s dissent appears, at times, weak to imperialist dictate. For example, Wright states, “The international military build-up is providing pressure on the [Iraqi] regime that is resulting in a slow but steady disclosure of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).” WMD in Iraq? Really? Where would these disclosed WMD be? As far as any reports by weapons inspectors, Iraq has been found to be without any WMD. So how can one disclose what Iraq does not have?

Wright continues, “We should give weapons inspectors time to do their job.” But already the first round of inspections by United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), lasting from 1991 to 1999 failed to turn up WMD. UNSCOM chief weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, even admitted that Iraq was “fundamentally disarmed.” So why does Wright, seemingly, then back up the US and UK regimes’s demand that weapons inspections continue?

Wright opines, “I strongly believe that the time is not right for military action in Iraq, as a soldier who has been in several military operations, I hope General Franks, U.S., and coalition forces can accomplish the missions they will be ordered to do without loss of civilian or military life and without destruction of the Iraqi people’s homes and livelihood.” The sheer wishfulness and naivety of this statement is astounding. Implicit is that there is a right time for military action in Iraq. Really? Is Iraq a military threat to the US? Does the foreseeable future portend an Iraq that is militarily capable of threatening the US — even if it should have nuclear bombs capable of striking the US? It is preposterous. As long as Iraq never attacks the US, and as long as the UN Security Council does not pass a resolution permitting military action against Iraq, any US attack on Iraq would violate the UN Charter. Furthermore, why would Wright hope for the success of the missions based in illegality? Why does she not hope that illegal and immoral militarism will fail ignominiously?

Wright and Dixon spotlight Robin Cook who laudably resigned from the cabinet in the UK in protest of the invasion of Iraq. Nevertheless, Cook, in his 17 March 2003 letter of resignation, pledged his “personal support” for hawkish prime minister Blair’s leadership. What gives? Cook opposed the direction the party was being steered by Blair and, at the same time, supported the leader.

Few active-duty military officers spoke out in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. As to why more senior officers refrain from speaking out against the invasion of Iraq, major general (Ret.) John Batiste answered, “Everyone’s working for defense contractors. Their bread is buttered by the Department of Defense [sic].” Bastiste was one of the silent men until retirement. His opposition, as related by Wright and Dixon, was not to the attack on Iraq; he was opposed to the military strategy of secretary of defense [sic] Donald Rumsfeld.

Lieutenant Ehren Watada obeyed his conscience and refused deployment to Iraq. However, his conviction that an American’s “duty to the Constitution is an obligation, not a choice” is, I submit, wrongheaded. The assumption is that the US constitution is a perfect document — legally and morally — that has evolved to keep pace with current circumstances, in which case Watada’s sentiments ring not too badly. The Constitution, after all, was drafted by men devoted to inegalitarian lives (so-called founding fathers) at a convention headed by George Washington, a racistFrom Roland Bainton, Early Christianity (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1960). Cited in David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World (London: Oxford University Press, 1992), 119. Washington saw Indians as wolves: “both being beasts of prey, tho’ they differ in shape.” who destroyed liberty within the military.See Murray N. Rothbard, “Generalissimo Washington: How He Crushed the Spirit of Liberty,” Ludwig von Mises Institute, February 18 2008. Excerpted from Conceived in Liberty, Volume IV, chapters 8 and 41 (Arlington House Publishers, 1999). If, indeed, the Constitution is imperfect, why then should faulty notions in a constitution be adhered to? After all, once enacted and unless amended, a constitution is all or none — not pick and choose.

Whatever their motivation, the dissenters discussed in Dissent: Voices of Conscience deserve respect for taking a stand according to their conscience. One wonders at the many people who remained at their posts while their consciences told them that many Iraqi citizens would be murdered and their homeland devastated. Wright and Dixon tell of two British Foreign Office employees, Elizabeth Wilmshurst and her boss Michael Wood, who held that the invasion of Iraq was illegal. Wilmshurst resigned. Woods stayed and accepted knighthood.

It is one matter to be silent, but it is a whole other matter to collaborate with the aggression.

Kyle Snyder, a .50-caliber gunner in Iraq went AWOL to Canada. He said, “I support the troops but oppose the war.” This sounds good, but what does it mean? After all, the war would not be waged were it not for the troops following orders and waging it. As long as the troops receive unquestioning support, there is little to hold them back from waging war other than their own consciences. If warring troops were reviled back home, would the troops want to take on pariah status in their society?

Dissent: Voices of Conscience is pertinent. It informs us that there are many people within government, foreign affairs, intelligence, and the military who oppose the war in Iraq. There are people who obey conscience, and take the fall that comes with that stand. Readers must not, however, think that this book is anti-war; it is not. It is anti-the war against Iraq but not unequivocally. Paradoxically, the authors support the military missions in Iraq and do not speak out against the troops waging war there.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Read other articles by Kim.

16 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. D.R. Munro said on February 29th, 2008 at 7:39am #

    This is a good book review.

    Nice job giving the flaws and merits of the work equal airtime.

    I may have to thumb through this if I come across a copy.

  2. Lloyd Rowsey said on February 29th, 2008 at 7:50am #

    Thanks for this, KP. You certainly drew a line between DV’s dissent and that of the book under review, a line I agree with about 95%. For example, absolutely right on is your “sheer wishfulness” description of “dissenters” concerned with looking for WMDs in Iraq. On the other hand, I can’t agree with your problem with Lieutenant Watada’s interpreation of the Constitution. The soldier is (was?) concerned with imprisonment for refusing military orders, and it is not a theoretical or intelledctual issue to him whether the military’s fundamental obligation runs to their Commander in Chief or to the Constitution. Moreover, considering the current predilections of Supreme Court Justices, isn’t it problematic (I love THAT word!) for anyone in a less exalted state of legal enlightment to criticize anyone else’s reading of the United States Constitution?

    Which is to say, the 5% that I disagree with your voice in this most welcome, partly dissenting book review reminds me of the old 60’s saying (which I paraphrase): “Where you stand comes from where you sit.”

  3. Kim Petersen said on February 29th, 2008 at 4:34pm #

    I appreciate your opinion Lloyd. I also appreciate that Watada was following his conscience, and I was not disagreeing with his interpretation of the Constitution. My quibble was with his belief that people are obliged to obey the Constitution. I believe that a person has a duty to obey his/her conscience, and, for me, conscience is not something determined by a parchment written by other people.

  4. Lloyd Rowsey said on February 29th, 2008 at 6:59pm #

    Maybe your “quibbles” — including what I consider a very superficial quasi-legal-quasi-historical argument — should be left for longer articles, Kim.

  5. Lloyd Rowsey said on February 29th, 2008 at 7:10pm #

    The entire history of the constitution has been the opposite of “all or nothing,” Kim. And I’m not suggesting that George or any of the founding fathers was NOT a rascist. I’m suggesting that you should not use the term “quibble” about a matter considered so important to the Americans whose support we need.

  6. Erroll said on February 29th, 2008 at 7:41pm #

    Kim Petersen is both right and wrong in her assessment of Lt. Ehren Watada. While at the Veterans for Peace convention in Seattle in the summer of 2006, Watada told myself and the other veterans who heard him speak at the banquet dinner that “They [the soldiers] must remember duty to the Constitution and the people supersedes the ideologies of their leadership. The soldier must be willing to face ostracism by their peers, worry over the survival of their families, and of course the loss of personal freedom.”

    He also went on to quote a famous literary figure when he told the gathering of veterans that:

    “Mark Twain once remarked, ‘Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified traitor, both to yourself and to your country..’ By this, each and every American soldier, marine, airman, and sailor is responsible for their choices and their actions. The freedom to chose is only one that we can deny ourselves.”

    He went on to state that “Enlisting in the military does not relinquish one’s right to seek the truth-neither does it excuse one from rational thought nor the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. ‘I was only following orders’ is never an excuse.”

    Mark Twain recognized and Watada now recognize that those in the military have not only a right but a duty and an obligation, based not only on the U.S. Constitution, but also on their deeply held personal beliefs, which should acknowledge when the United States has committed a grievous wrong against another sovereign country and its citizens. It is to the everlasting shame of this country that only one commissioned officer has spoken out against the illegal, immoral, and aggressive policies of this country and that he, unlike those retired high ranking officers who decided to criticize Bush’s actions, has spoken out and said NO to the war machine of the United States while still wearing the uniform of the U.S. military. I very rarely engage in hyperbole but I believe that Watada is one of the true heroes of this country who has taken an incredibly brave stance against the Iraq occupation and who has, unfortunately, been almost totally ignored by the mass media, including the supposedly liberal NPR, who trashed Watada about six months ago, by airing three voices critical of the stance that Watada has taken but allowing not one voice in support of the courageous stand that he has taken against this idiotic occupation in Iraq.

  7. Bill said on March 1st, 2008 at 6:26am #

    You mean Rush Limbaugh is WRONG??!?!? My world has changed…

    Actually, the only thing missing in this administration is brown shirts and jack boots…I will be so glad when G.W. Dumbass is out of office and
    Cheney gets put in jail before the lot of them get to escape our country to spend their money they stole from us in Dubai.


  8. hp said on March 1st, 2008 at 7:21am #

    The brown shirts and jack boots are out there all right. Why else does the USA have 1.5 million in jail? We’re #1!
    Been pulled over lately? Check out the attitude of the police.
    Hard to even think of them as police these days. They’re mostly paramilitary types. The average ‘patrol cop’ is long gone. They’re all running on red alert, even though there are zero ‘terrorists’ acts, in reality.

  9. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 1st, 2008 at 10:01am #

    I believe the common ground shared by Kim, Erroll, and me is vast compared to our differences. I consider Kim’s three-part series here at DV, Sovereignty in Kalaallit Nunaat, to be the finest piece of that length I’ve ever read on the internet. I consider Erroll’s brief post, above, to be a masterpiece of analytical summation and resolution of largely linguistic conflicting positions.

    I first learned about Lt. Ehren Watada’s heroism at IVAW’s website last fall. My present understanding is that support for the “Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan” public demonstration and testimony, which will occur in Washington DC in less than two weeks, is the most effective way to demonstrate support for the Lieutenant.

    I would be most grateful for further information from Erroll at my email address – ten.labolgcbsnull@yeswordyoll – regarding other ways and means to show our support for Ehren Watada.

  10. hp said on March 1st, 2008 at 10:13am #

    I think Kim’s finest attribute is one of the top, if not the most important quality a person may possess. Honesty. Kim also exhibits courage and integrity. Truly an individual. I’m impressed and like most of these others here, I’m not easily impressed.

  11. dan e said on March 1st, 2008 at 10:09pm #

    Speaking of Brownshirts: A few weeks back, a good friend told me to watch the Sac News & Review for a piece about this “Move America Forward” (sic) outfit, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting each new issue from week to week. But it’s been a while now, so my guess is the News Cycle has rotated beyond the CodePink-MAF confrontation in Berkeley the other day. I’m so disappointed by the failure of SNR to punditize the inside dope about it that I’ve decided to try the Do It Yourself route, create my own bit of punditution. Won’t be like the real Store-Bought product, but may relieve some of my frustration.

    To me, the appearance of these MAF fascistoids in broad public daylight constitutes an escalation demanding our close attention. As we re-assess the political situation & terrain following the Berkeley City Hall/Berkeley High confrontation, a pattern emerges, one not entirely de novo but one in which familiar features reveal themselves as combined in a newly threatening configuration.

    We can now make out the jaws of a gigantic political/ideological pincer movement: straight ahead looms the collosal Obama swindle, while from the right we face all the familiar Bush/Lantos crap — but now reinforced by something more: MAF and allies.

    When we note the presence at our Dec 16 Radisson Sacramento antiAIPAC protest of the self-described Zionist Street Warriors associated with “Stand With Us”, then add to the equation the upcoming event sponsored by Rev Hagee and his Christian Zionist CUFI fanatics, I think we can make out the shadowy figure of the Zionist Power Configuration somewhere in the background, perhaps joined by other shadowy figures but unmistakeably present.

    To those disturbing phenomena we can add the appearance in public of Sacramento County Sheriff vehicles sporting Blackwater decals. We also know that DHS and the local Joint Terrorist Task Force/JTTF is prowling around in our area, from time to time jacking up local citizens guilty of looking too “Middle-Eastern”, or of parking in a familiar spot recently taken over by DHS. Pondering the above, we may recall our impressions during the Ministerial conference here of the overwhelming force deployed by the Security establishment, ostensibly because they were worried about another “Battle in Seattle”. Many will remember the faces, postures, and apparent psychological disposition of the flak-jacketed goons, their delight in the chance to display their hi-tech firepower and shiny boots.

    Such “official” organs of repression, however upgraded, are a familiar aspect of the political equation; what’s relatively new is to see deployment of “civilian” MAF in such a highly Media-visible and potentially explosive context as the Berkeley City Council events. At which I myself was not present, so had no chance to personally observe what MAF and/or allied parties did or did not do that day. But here in Sacramento, antiwar activists have had some experience with MAF in the recent past.

    I can testify from personal experience that MAF includes violent elements, the kind who think nothing of kicking/punching a seventy-year old white-haired Senile Citizen for daring to heckle a MAF speaker, while cleverly hiding the overt violence from bystanders and Media behind a forest of MAF picket signs.

    All this evokes — in my fevered brain at least — visions of the early Weimar Republic, when Brownshirts were just beginning to challenge Labor/Leftist organizations’ customary use of public spaces to conduct orderly mass demonstrations. In my judgment, the only reason we haven’t seen more deployment of rightwing “unofficial” street terrorists is that recently there haven’t been that many substantial antiwar protests.

    I’m trying to be objective, but adding up the facts, I don’t much care for the answer I get: there is some likelyhood now/near future of repression on a scale we haven’t seen much of in the US since lynching went out of style. Visions in my head: antiwar protests being literally overrun by fascist-manipulated mobs, of being run off the streets of the major cities where once we marched against Bush’s wars & occupations.

    (Is it possible that even the mass outpourings demanding rights for recent immigrants could be confronted by gangs of trained/equipped/disciplined rightwing thugs? Seems farfetched — but how many would stand firm in the face of Zionist-organization-provided pepper spray, teargas, truncheons wielded by body-armored Minutemen operating with full cooperation of Law Enforcement? Oops, that’s just my overactive imagination running amok again, right? That is right, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Yes?)

    Assuming that I’ve way overstated the danger, isn’t it still elementary that given the situation, all parts of the “Left” or/and “progressive” movements need to make an all out effort to come together, present a United Front?

    Did seem like there was a lot of support of the CodePink-launched Berkeley action by a variety of forces, many often at odds in the past. What I didn’t see was the presence of Local 10 ILWU or the Muni Drivers or any mass Labor presence… Maybe they were there, just not caught on videotape?

    So next on the agenda would be to make an assessment of how well all our Disparate Elements are doing at uniting in face of The Enemy? Consider some of the divisions/ divisive factors among current antiwar forces? Try to sort it out, ID any problems, static in the system?

    Alas, yrs trly is not v. well positioned to attempt such a project.

    A number of qualified writers & publications have been doing their best to deconstruct the Obama phenomenon, but seems to be less interest in the MAF/CUFI jaw of the pincer.

    Hopefully, there’s a politically savvy Movement Journalist out there who’ll take it on?


  12. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 2nd, 2008 at 9:58am #

    Thank you for this, dan e. Obviously you are an activist and a writer of commitment and talent. In and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Particularly chilling in your post-of-last nite was: In my judgment, the only reason we haven’t seen more deployment of rightwing “unofficial” street terrorists is that recently there haven’t been that many substantial antiwar protests.

    Earlier yesterday, I posted to this thread: I first learned about Lt. Ehren Watada’s heroism at IVAW’s website last fall. My present understanding is that support for the “Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan” public demonstration and testimony, which will occur in Washington DC in less than two weeks, is the most effective way to demonstrate support for the Lieutenant.

    This will be a substantial antiwar protest.

    And IVAW’s presence in Washington DC will be a reactive expression of military defense against precisely the rightwing street terrorists you describe, if such elements appear, at the well-publicized Winter Soldier event in less than two weeks.

    I do not anticipate being able to get back East for the event (I also reside in the greater SF Bay area). But if you have or may make plans to travel East for the event with a group, please contact me at my email


    I may be able to accompany you.

  13. hp said on March 2nd, 2008 at 10:45am #

    dan e,
    There’s one very large element these bullies seem to forget. I’ll give you an example..
    On opening day of deer season, in Pennsylvania alone, there are ONE MILLION men and women in those woods armed with high powered rifles.
    Get it?
    Now I know we all abhor violence, but we all have a natural right to self defense.
    I for one do not believe this nation of materialistic meat eaters will ever adopt Satyagraha, the essence of non-violent mass protest. A small percentage, but not the masses.

  14. dan e said on March 2nd, 2008 at 2:18pm #


    Thank you so much for kind words!

    But I think I should clarify cpl things — I live in Sacramento, aka The Big Tomato, not SF — did live North Beach/Chinatown several yrs, also Haight A./Western Addition some, more brfly Inner Mission, 25 yrs ago. Forty plus yrs ago Berkeley/West Oakland, thirty yrs ago Russian River, cpl yrs Sonoma St. Oahu a year in there someplace.

    As certified Senile Citizen, now avoid driving on freeways much as possible, same re night driving. So don’t get to Bay Area much anymore.

    Thank you so much for your very kind invitation, and your email addy which I will put to use very soon. Alas, no chance my povertystruck ass will be going to E Coast unless some Philanthropist or the goddess Athena springs for it, & sends a car to pick me up;)

    I agree, IVAW would seem to be one outfit not likely to be openly targetted by the thugocracy. However, before we get too comfortable, let’s not forget Gen MacArthur & the Bonus Marchers… or Jackson State… or Fred Hampton, Cointelpro…

    When they busted the CPUSA honchos, mostly Truman era, before McCarthy — they had Herbert Aptheker in the slam quite a while, but he came off better than Henry Winston, who came out the joint blinded.

    Thanks again, I’ll email you.



  15. D.R. Munro said on March 3rd, 2008 at 7:48am #

    I was sitting here thinking of something to contribute . . . but you guys all said it better than I could have.

    So . . . yeah . . . what they said.

  16. Glen Shaw said on August 19th, 2008 at 12:06am #

    (I found this writter in a small forum{fay-west.com)}in a small town{Connellsville Pa/ Pop. 8500}, even though thier grammar needs work I was amazed at thier constant thinking and advice. I found that this forum is rather wild west, and a subject can not stay pure to terms long. However this writer is a constant voice for change they go under so many call names its diffucult to find other posting by this same poster. So far they post under CWR- Chipmunk-Sleepless in Cville -Charles Redman Some post go back 7 years I know it is below the education of this forum but worth reading or talking to the poster. I am trying to get a line on them , I think I would enjoy thier imput.)

    54, as I zipped by I nearly missed your post. I have been poking at this subject for some time.

    Just after World War 2 our nation began to trans-form, not only had we liberated the world from a Monstrous machine, and became hero’s we also brought ideas of new freedom with us. One idea that helped the transformation along was a small French movement /philosophy, which started to spread in America. Taught to those GI’s as they feared death every night, giving them something to believe in. The movements(s) were based on the idea that a “question” could change the world, and it did. One of the Questions was what is “Freedom“, to this the answer was “ choose.” So started the evolution of the family in America.

    With WW2 our man and woman came home with new ideas not known to the masses, soon our Democratic nation seems more the oppressor then many so-called Communistic/Materialistic Countries we had in our war sights. As new Western ideals mixed with Eastern philosophies America started a new miles stone not seen since Thomas Paine’s day. Soon people begin to question everything, placing new worth to all causes, unlike the great depression, when the masses just waited for direction. This time America stood up and demanded to be counted like never before. like Woman wondering why they were a “lesser“, as did Former slaves and their families. Questions like “is there a god?” and” isn’t this my body? “, crept into daily life. As these “new” ideas spread from Collage campus to small town porches “Old school” influence began to weaken. As the nation tried to come to grips with dissention in its ranks another cause jumped the “front lines” Equal rights. A powerful movement that used the force of the philosophical movement as a part of their ideals, setting focus on race rather then free will. Soon the nation was not only fighting for Equality among races and gender they were also fighting for freedom of knowledge as humans.

    From Berkley to New York the youth came out in number demanding Education they needed not education someone else wants, demanding freedom from oppression- a free will. As the government tries to keep control a new war started with no sight of an end. So the dissenters where either pulled to duty or stayed behind and lost loved ones. It drove in deeper the ideas of the students and the protesters, that they have no real rights. Furious battles entailed -drugs and deception clouded the mission pushing it all aside for peaceful anarchy as the” new” ideals of 20 years began to lose its meaning and soon free will and equal rights gave way to materialistic achievement. Still some movements keep head way. But as due ground was rewarded nothing “new” was replaced as the next demand and somewhere the message got crossed.

    The Nation turned from fighters to inverts losing their energy and just giving up. Social relations paid the heaviest price, as we became less like our families less like our friends we withdrew from society . Every civic group church and governed function seen a decline in memberships, in just 20 years thousands of groups and clubs disappeared, some running for more then 200 years. A time of “I‘m right your wrong” began, once comrades in moral combat we instead turned to the mighty dollar as reward for our fight, own friend and only confidant . A suit and tie replaced the flower and we stepped right into being consumers. Soon those that fought for equal rights and free will had children, children of a different “color.” These children were mixed as much by races as by morals. The Grandparents who had lived a life of absolute determinism gave to the Grandchildren their view and history and so did their children( the dissenters) giving to their children their view and ideas.

    A new breed was born, a breed of American like no other, a Breed of American that our forefathers would be proud of. A mix between a generation of faithfully loyal followers and a generation of free thinkers. A new generation that saw variety in all, – BUT no direction from our guides. Our parents the deccenters forgot to pass on the lessons learned, instead they focused on their new found rights and lived their life’s void of everyone’s feelings. Hard at work they went ,trying out all their “ifs/then” giving us freedom without boundaries. They left us to immediate response as our mentor not wanting to crush our spirit. We were taught that money is absolute and government can’t be trusted but let them un chained non the less.

    Now we have grown, we have learned the lessons given by our Fathers we have learned the lessons of our Grandparents and have come of age individuals. Many of us got lost just as did our fathers, thinking that money soothes all wounds and morals are something the church deals in. Consumerism took over the world and this nation slowly fell into a trap of monetary power over moral & civic pride. The line between right and wrong became twisted as we got desensitized to pain and sorrow. We departmentalized everything giving all things a name and mathematic equation, but forgot about our free will. We fell back into trusting others for the answers that are most important, but are unwilling to make a stand for ideals we see going wayward. Many of us have had our own children, and are just realizing the mistakes we have done. Money has pulled us to our knees and free will isn’t as pretty to some as they once thought.

    Have we learned from our past ? As the children of dissenters will we pick up the fight for freedom or will we handle it like our Great Grandparents sitting- starving by a pile of oranges ? Are we confident enough to face the decisions we’ve made . Can we stand proudly and fight for our children’s freedom or will we hide and hope it will all get better? Are we over doing just to cover all bases ? Are we over reaching and misunderstanding our children’s needs or are we still only concerned with our own worth? I don’t know, I wish I could tell the future instead of just having the past, but I am hopeful that we will improve with time- learn as we go, and all else stay free.