Ann Wright

Ann Wright (born 1947)

I have very rarely participated in any events where Ann Wright was not also participating or leading and she participates in another 100 events for each of the ones with me. I joined her 2012 delegation to Gaza when Israel attacked.

Ann Wright spent thirteen years in the U.S. Army and sixteen additional years in the Army Reserves, retiring as a Colonel. She is airborne-qualified. In 1987, Col.Wright joined the Foreign Service and served as U.S. Deputy Ambassador in Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan, and Mongolia. On March 19, 2003, the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Ann Wright cabled a letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell, stating that without the authorization of the UN Security Council, the invasion and occupation of a Muslim, Arab, oil-rich country would be a violation of international law.

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Bio from Voices of Concsience

Ann Wright attended the University of Arkansas, where she received a master’s and a law degree. She also has a master’s degree in national security affairs from the U.S. Naval War College. After college, she spent thirteen years in the U.S. Army and sixteen additional years in the Army Reserves, retiring as a Colonel. She is airborne-qualified.

In 1987, Col.Wright joined the Foreign Service and served as U.S. Deputy Ambassador in Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan, and Mongolia. She received the State Department’s Award for Heroism for her actions during the evacuation of 2,500 people from the civil war in Sierra Leone, at the time the largest evacuation since Saigon. She was on the first State Department team to go to Afghanistan and helped reopen the Embassy there in December 2001. Her other overseas assignments include Somalia, Kyrgyzstan, Grenada, Micronesia, and Nicaragua.

On March 19, 2003, the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Ann Wright cabled a letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell, stating that without the authorization of the UN Security Council, the invasion and occupation of a Muslim, Arab, oil-rich country would be a violation of international law. She was one of only three persons who resigned from the U.S. government in opposition to the Iraq war.

Since then, she has been writing and speaking out for peace. She fasted for a month, picketed at the US prison at Guantánamo, Cuba, served as a juror in Bush impeachment hearings, traveled to Iran as a citizen diplomat, and has been arrested numerous times for peaceful, nonviolent protest of Bush’s policies, particularly the war on Iraq. She has also been on delegations to Iran.

She has travelled to Gaza three times in 2009 following the Israeli attack on Gaza that killed 1,440 and wounded 5,000. She also visited Gaza in 2011 and 2012. She was an organizer for the 2009 Gaza Freedom March that brought 1,350 persons from 44 countries to Cairo, Egypt, in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

She was on the May, 2010 Gaza flotilla that was attacked by the Israeli military and was an organizer for the 2011 US Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope and a boat leader on the 2015 Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Within days following the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2012, she helped organize a delegation to Gaza. In 2013, she was a delegate on the 100 woman group to Gaza for International Women’s Day which was stopped by the Egyptian government. She was a boat leader on the 2015 Gaza Freedom Flotilla and was a boat leader of the Zaytouna, the Women’s Boat to Gaza in 2016.

She has travelled to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen to talk with families whose family members have been killed by US assassin drones. She has been arrested in New York and Nevada at US drone bases for protesting US killer drones.

She was a delegate on the 2015 Women Cross the DMZ which featured peace conferences in both North and South Korea. She has traveled to Jeju Island, South Korea three times in solidarity with opponents of a naval base being constructed to port ships carrying the US aegis missile offense system. She has been on two speaking tours in Japan in defense of the Article 9 anti-war part of the Japanese constitution. She has been a guest speaker on the Peace Boat in a trip through Northeast Asia.

In 2015, she travelled to El Salvador and Chile with School of the Americas Watch to ask the governments of these countries to stop sending their militaries to the US Army School of the Americas where soldiers from Central and South America were trained and then were a part of killing their fellow citizens.

In 2016, she was in South Korea, Okinawa, Russia, Poland on speaking missions. She met with a women’s delegation from North Korea in Indonesia as a part of Women Cross the DMZ. She was on the Women’s Boat to Gaza in September, 2016 to challenge the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza. She was in Standing Rock, North Dakota three times in late 2016 in solidarity with native Americans in attempting to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Voices of Conscience

2008 by Ann Wright, Susan Dixon

Prologue, by Ann Wright

In December 2001, I volunteered to be part of the team that reopened the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. A month later, a few of us went to Bagram Air Base in Kabul to wish Afghanistan’s interim leader, Hamid Karzai, good luck as he left for Washington to attend the State of the Union address. We encouraged him to secure commitments for military and development funds, knowing that America’s attention seldom stays on any one country for long.

Three days later, I was sitting in a bunker outside Kabul’s old Chancery building, watching President Bush’s State of the Union address on a TV our team had connected to a satellite dish made from flattened Coke cans and activated with a Pakistani computer chip. We were awaiting news of the President’s plans for Afghanistan, but after he said a few words about Afghanistan, he began talking about Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, calling them the “Axis of Evil.” The TV cameras focused on Hamid Karzai, in the gallery, and I could almost see him wince.

Like many other Americans, I’d felt that the U.S. needed to respond to the attacks of 9/11, and going after al Qaeda in Afghanistan seemed sensible and appropriate. Countries around the world supported our action as a legitimate response to the attacks. But as I stayed in Afghanistan longer, I began to wonder when the full strength of the United States would be brought to bear. Why was it was taking so long to clear out the Taliban, capture al Qaeda, and help the Afghan people rebuild their country? Washington kept telling us we couldn’t expand our presence to all the major cities or begin economic development too quickly. Why? We were in an extremely dangerous situation without enough military, but instead of deploying additional troops, President Bush started threatening other countries, the so-called Axis of Evil. I sat there stunned.

Half a year later, I was Deputy Chief of Mission (Deputy Ambassador) in the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia and followed developments in Afghanistan and the buildup to war in Iraq. By then, the U.S. had deployed tens of thousands troops to the Middle East. When the Bush administration’s mushroom-cloud rhetoric began, it was obvious that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice were not waiting for UN authorization, that they intended to go to war. For the first time in my thirtyfive years of government service—military and diplomatic—I was unable to represent a position of the United States. I’d disagreed with policies of many administrations, but none seemed as fundamentally dangerous and morally wrong as the imminent invasion of Iraq.

Much of my military background concerns the law of warfare. The U.S.’s action in Afghanistan, it seemed to me, had met the criteria for engagement under international law as a direct response to the September 11th attacks. But going to war in Iraq was entirely different. Iraq had not done anything to us. Therefore, under international law— the Nuremberg Principles and the Geneva Conventions—this would be a war of aggression, a war crime.

I felt the claim that America and the world were in imminent danger from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was misleading. Although I had no specific knowledge of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, I felt that Saddam would not use them because he knew the response of the U.S. would be massive. During the decade following the first Gulf War, the United States and our allies flew 400,000 missions over two no-fly zones, taking photos the whole time. If there had been WMD in Iraq, we would have seen evidence of it, as would the UN weapons inspectors, many of whom were U.S. intelligence officials. Ten years after the rout of Saddam’s forces and the destruction of much of his military hardware—reinforced by a ten-year embargo on replacement military equipment—Iraq did not pose a challenge to the best-equipped, best-trained military on earth. A “preemptive strike” in that part of the world could easily incite individuals and groups to attack the United States and American citizens.

This was the first time I ever thought about resigning. I loved my job and serving my country, and wanted to continue. But a foreign service officer’s assignment is to implement the policies of the administration in power, and if one disagrees strongly with an administration’s policy and wants to speak out publicly, the only option is to resign. It was winter in Mongolia, and I was waking up at three or four o’clock most mornings, freezing cold. So I developed a ritual to try to make sense of my government’s actions and what I might do about them: I wrapped myself in blankets, went to the kitchen table, and wrote page after page on the Bush administration’s intentions and my responses. I’d also begun to study Buddhist texts to try to understand the cultural and spiritual foundations of Mongolian society.

One commentary stated that all actions have consequences, and nations, like individuals, are ultimately accountable for their actions. Another text, the Dalai Lama’s statement on the first anniversary of 9/11, declared, “Conflicts do not arise out of the blue. They occur as a result of causes and conditions, many of which are within the antagonists’ control. This is where leadership is important. Terrorism cannot be overcome by the use of force, because force does not address the complex, underlying problems. In fact, the use of force can exacerbate the problems and frequently leaves destruction and suffering in its wake.”

On March 19, 2003, the day before the bombing began, I cabled my letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell. The moment I did, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. I was taking a stand, joining two other American diplomats who had already resigned in protest. In the days that followed, I received nearly 400 emails from State Department colleagues saying, in effect, We’re sad you are not going to be with us, but we’re proud of the three of you who resigned, because we think going to war in Iraq will have terrible consequences. Each letter writer then described the growing anti-American sentiment in the country where he or she was serving.

Because of the Bush administration’s highly successful propaganda campaigns and a huge media failure in the United States, most Americans didn’t realize until recently how often the Bush administration has violated domestic and international law. The lack of independent, credible information in America’s mainstream media came about, in part, by the administration’s punitive stance toward those who disagree with or criticize its policies. Since 9/11, the Bush administration has treated speaking out as unpatriotic, if not treasonous. Many of those who have dissented have faced the administration’s wrath and retribution.

Despite this, people within our government did speak out. Susan Dixon and I wrote Dissent: Voices of Conscience as a tribute to these government insiders and active-duty military personnel who exposed our leaders’ illegal actions, or resigned rather than accede to the actions, or refused to fight in what they considered an illegal war. Their loyalty to the Constitution and the American people transcended partisan politics.

Most Americans don’t know about these courageous men and women —American and coalition insiders—who spoke out. These are patriots of our democracy, who stayed loyal to what is right, risking their own security. President Bush said that “questioning his actions . . . is a betrayal of the troops in battle today.” For those we profile in this book, the real betrayal would have been to stand by silently while our leaders were implementing policies destructive to our country and the world. They dared to dissent, dared to risk everything for the sake of real national security. We honor their courage, integrity, and patriotism by sharing their stories.

(read other personal transformations)