November 13, 2005
[Note to Tomdispatch readers: This is the fifth in an ongoing series of interviews at the site. The most recent of these were: Cindy Sheehan and Juan Cole (parts 1 and 2). This interview also represents the first follow-up at the site to Nick Turse's The Fallen Legion: Casualties of the Bush Administration.]
"A Felon for Peace"
A Tomdispatch Interview with Ann Wright
She's just off the plane from Tulsa, Oklahoma, the cheapest route back
from a reunion in the little Arkansas town where she grew up in the
1950s. For thirty years, she and her childhood friends have climbed to
the top of Penitentiary Mountain, where the local persimmon trees grow,
for a persimmon-spitting contest. ("All in the great spirit of just
having fun and being crazy.") She holds out her hands and says, "I
probably still have persimmon goop on me!"
We seat ourselves at a table in my dining room, two small tape
recorders between us. She's dressed all in black with a bright green
over-shirt, a middle-aged blond woman wearing gold earrings and a thin
gold necklace. As she settles in, her sleeves pull back, revealing the
jewelry she'd rather talk about. On her right wrist is a pink, plastic
band. "This one was to be a volunteer in the Astrodome for Hurricane
Katrina. I did two days work there, then three days in Covington,
Louisiana, the first week after." On her left wrist, next to a watch
from another age, are two blue plastic bands: "And this one," she says
with growing animation, fingering the nearest of them, "was my very
first arrest of my whole life on September 26th in front of the White
House with 400 of my closest friends. This is the bus number I was on
and this is the arrest number they gave me and then, later on, I had to
date it because now I have two." She fingers the second band. "Last
week 26 of us were arrested after a die-in right in front of the White
House in commemoration of the two thousandth American and maybe one
hundred thousandth Iraqi who died in this war. So now," she announces,
chuckling heartily, "I'm a felon for peace."
When she speaks -- and in the final g's she drops from words ("It's
freezin' in Mongolia!") -- you can catch just a hint of the drawl of
that long-gone child from Bentonville, Arkansas. In her blunt,
straightforward manner, you can catch something of her 29 years in the
Army; and in her ease perhaps, the 16 years she spent as a State
Department diplomat. Animated, amused by her foibles (and those of her
interviewer), articulate and thoughtful, she's just the sort of person
you would want to defend -- and then represent -- your country, a task
she continues to perform, after her own fashion, as one of the more
out-of-the-ordinary antiwar activists of our moment.
Last August, she had a large hand in running Camp Casey for Cindy
Sheehan at the President's doorstep in Crawford, Texas; then again,
that wasn't such a feat, given that in 1997 she had overseen the
evacuation of 2,500 foreigners from the war zone that was then Sierra
Leone, a harrowing experience for which she was given the State
Department's Award for Heroism. "That's why I joined the foreign
service," she comments, her voice still filled with some residual
excitement from those years. "I wanted to go to places you wouldn't
visit on vacation." In fact, the retired colonel opened and closed
embassies from Africa to Uzbekistan and took some of the roughest
diplomatic assignments on Earth, including the reopening of the
American embassy in Kabul in December 2001.
On March 19, 2003, the day before the first Cruise missiles were
launched against Baghdad, she resigned from the Foreign Service in an open letter
sent from the U.S. embassy in Mongolia (where she was then Deputy Chief
of Mission) to Secretary of State Colin Powell. In it she wrote, in
"This is the only time in my many years serving America
that I have felt I cannot represent the policies of an Administration
of the United States. I disagree with the Administration's policies on
Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, North Korea and curtailment of
civil liberties in the U.S. itself. I believe the Administration's
policies are making the world a more dangerous, not a safer, place. I
feel obligated morally and professionally to set out my very deep and
firm concerns on these policies and to resign from government service
as I cannot defend or implement them."
Once used to delivering official U.S. statements to other governments,
she now says things like: "Everyone should have to be handcuffed with
the flexi-cuffs they use now and feel just how unflexible they are,
just how they cut, and then imagine Iraqis, Afghans, and other people
we pick up in them 24 hours a day." She relaxes, sits back, awaits the
first question, and responds with gusto.
Tomdispatch: I thought we'd start by talking about two important
but quite different moments in your life. The first was not so long
ago. Let me quote from a New York Times
article on a recent Condoleezza Rice appearance before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee. "It was a day that echoed the anguish,
anger and skepticism that opinion polls show have begun to dominate the
thinking of Americans. The hearing was punctuated by a heckler who
called for an end to the war, only to be hustled out." Now, I believe
this was you.
Ann Wright: [She chuckles.] Yes! Not a heckler, I was a protester.
TD: Tell me about it.
AW: It was as much a protest against the Senators as against
Condoleezza Rice, because they were not holding our Secretary of State
responsible. I picked up the Washington Post that morning and
noticed that Condoleezza was going to testify on Iraq, and I thought,
well, I'm free until noon. When I walked in, I was not planning on
But I sat there for two hours and Senators were saying: We've heard the
administration is discussing a military option in Syria and perhaps
Iran. The committee needs to be brought in on this, because we've only
given you authorization for military action in Iraq. In an almost rude,
dismissive tone, the Secretary of State essentially replied: We'll talk
to you when we want to; all options are on the table; and thank you
very much. Then the senators just kind of sat there. It was like: Come
on, guys talk! Pin that woman down! We, the people, want to know. I
want to know. And then they just started off on something else. It was
like: No! Come back to this question. We don't want to go to war in
Syria or Iran...
TD: And did you stand up?
AW: So I stood up. I was back in the peanut gallery. I've never
done anything like it before in my whole life. I took a deep breath and
went, "Stop the killing! Stop the war! Hold this woman accountable!
You, the Senate, were bamboozled by the administration on Iraq and you
cannot be bamboozled again! Stop this woman from killing!"
At that point, I ran out of things to say because I hadn't really
planned it. [She laughs.] I was looking around. There was only one
police officer and he was just ambling toward me. It was like he
enjoyed what I was saying. I thought, until he gets here I've got to
say something more, so I went: "You failed us in Iraq, you can't fail
us on Syria!" The police office finally said, "Uh, ma'am, you've got to
come with me." This is the first time -- somebody told me later --
anyone's ever seen a protester put her arm around a police officer.
TD: So you weren't "hustled" out?
AW: Noooooo. It was a slow walk and there was silence in the
room, so I thought: Well, I can't let this go by and I started another
little rant on the way out. That part wasn't mentioned in the news
TD: At least some papers like the Washington Post mentioned you by name. The Times merely called you a heckler.
AW: Well, how rude! I wasn't heckling anyway. I was speaking on behalf of the people of America.
TD: This obviously takes you a long way from your professional life, because you were in the Foreign Service for...
AW: Sixteen years...
TD: ... and in all those years this would have been rather inconceivable.
AW: Having testified at congressional hearings as a Foreign
Service officer, particularly on Somalia issues back in '93 and '94, I
was always humbled to go into those rooms as a government employee. I
always found it interesting when people in the audience stood up to say
something. You know, I learned later that most protestors do it in the
first ten minutes because that's when the cameras and all the reporters
are sure to be there.
As it happened, the chairman of the committee declined to have me
arrested. The police officer said, "Well, if you're disappointed, I can
arrest you." I replied, "If you don't mind, I'll just run on over to my
lunch appointment." I was actually on my way to a presentation
by Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, where he
would describe the secrecy of the administration and the way the State
Department was isolated by the White House and the National Security
TD: Another moment of protest, one I'm sure you thought about
very carefully, took place the day before the shock-and-awe campaign
against Iraq began. That day you sent a letter of public resignation to
Colin Powell which began -- and not many people could have written such
a sentence -- "When I last saw you in Kabul in 2002..."
AW: Indeed I had volunteered to go to Kabul, Afghanistan in
December 2001 to be part of a small team that reopened the U.S.
embassy. It had been closed for twelve years. I have a background in
opening and closing embassies. I helped open an embassy in Uzbekistan,
closed and reopened an embassy in Sierra Leone. I've been evacuated
from Somalia and Sierra Leone. And with my military background, I've
worked in a lot in combat environments.
I volunteered because I felt the United States needed to respond to the
events of 9/11, and the logical place to go after al-Qaeda was where
they trained, knowing full well that you probably weren't going to get
a lot of people. The al-Qaeda group is very smart and few of them, in
my estimation, would have been hanging out where we were most likely to
go after them in Afghanistan. Actually, I was amazed the administration
went in physically. I thought, like the Clinton administration, they
would send in cruise missiles. Considering the severity of September
11, I guess the military finally said: Well, it looks like we're going
into that hell-hole where the Russians got their butts whipped.
Everybody knew it was going to be tough.
TD: You've commented elsewhere that a crucial moment for you was watching the President's Axis of Evil State of the Union address from a bunker in Kabul.
AW: A bunker outside the chancellery building meant to protect
against the rockets the mujahedeen were sending against each other
after they defeated the Soviets. We had taken [then interim leader]
Hamid Karzai, who had been invited to the State of the Union, to Bagram
Air Base and sent him off three days before. We told him, "You've got
to start getting together some detailed plans for economic development
funds because the attention of the United States doesn't stay on any
country for long; so, get your little fledgling cabinet moving fast."
Well, the President started talking about other interests that the
United States had after 9/11 and these interests were Iran, Iraq, and
North Korea. Just as he said that, the cameras focused on Karzai and
you could almost see him going: Hmmmm [she mugs a wince], now I know
what they were telling me at the embassy. And we were sitting there
thinking, Oh my God…
TD: You had a functioning TV?
AW: Barely. We had a satellite dish made of pounded-out coke
cans -- these were being sold down in Kabul -- and a computer chip sent
in from Islamabad, because we wanted to hear from Washington what was
going to happen with Afghanistan. When, instead of talking much about
Afghanistan, the President started in on this axis-of-evil stuff we
were stunned. We were thinking: Hell's bells, we're here in a very
dangerous place without enough military. So for the President to start
talking about this axis of evil… everyone in the bunker just went: Oh
Christ, here we go! No wonder we're not getting the economic
development specialists in here yet. If the American government was
going after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and clearing out the Taliban and
preparing to help the people of Afghanistan, why the hell was it taking
so long? Well, that statement said it all.
TD: Did you at that moment suspect a future invasion of Iraq?
AW: I'm a little naïve sometimes. I really never, ever suspected
we would go to war in Iraq. There was no attempt at that moment to tie
9/11 to Iraq, so it didn't even dawn on me.
Anyway, that was the preface to my letter of resignation. I wanted to
emphasize that I had seen Colin Powell on his first trip to Kabul. I
wanted to show that this was a person who had lots of experience.
TD: In the whole Vietnam era, few, if any, government officials
offered public resignations of protest, but before the invasion of Iraq
even began, three diplomats -- Brady Kiesling, John Brown, and yourself -- resigned in a most public fashion. It must have been a wrenching decision.
AW: I had been concerned since September 2002 when I read in the
papers that we had something like 100,000 troops already in the Middle
East, many left behind after the Bright Star
[military] exercise we have every two years in Egypt. I thought: Uh-oh,
the administration is doing some sneaky-Pete stuff on us. They were
claiming they wanted UN inspectors to go back into Iraq, when a
military build-up was already underway. It's one thing to put troops in
the region for pressure, but if you're leaving that many behind, you're
going to be using them. Then, as the mushroom-cloud rhetoric started
getting stronger, it was like: Good God! These guys mean to go to war,
no matter what the evidence is.
By November, I was having trouble sleeping. I would wake up at three,
four in the morning -- this was in Mongolia where it was freezing cold
-- wrap up in blankets, go to the kitchen table, and just start pouring
my soul out. By the time I finally sent that resignation letter in, I
had a stack of drafts like this. [She lifts her hand a couple of feet
off the table.] I did know two others had resigned, but quite honestly
I hadn't read their letters and I didn't know them.
TD: You were ending your life in a way, life as you had known it…
AW: Thirty-five years in the government between my military
service and the State Department, under seven administrations. It was
hard. I liked representing America.
TD: Was there a moment when you knew you couldn't represent this government anymore?
AW: I kept hoping the administration would go back to the
Security Council for its authorization to go to war. That's why I held
off until virtually the bombs were being dropped. I was hoping against
hope that our government would not go into what really is an illegal
war of aggression that meets no criteria of international law. When it
was finally evident we were going to do so, I said to myself: It ain't
going to be on my watch.
TD: Was it like crossing a border into a different world?
AW: It was a great relief. During the lead-up to war, I had
begun showing symptoms of an impending heart attack. The State
Department put me on a medivac flight to Singapore for heart tests. The
doctors said, "Lady, you're as strong as a horse. Are you just under
some kind of stress?" "Yes, I am!" The moment I sent in that letter, it
was like a great burden had been lifted from my shoulders. At least I
had made my stand and joined the other two who had resigned.
TD: And what of those you left behind?
AW: In the first couple of days, while I was still in Mongolia,
I received over 400 emails from colleagues in the State Department
saying: We're so sad you're not going to be with us, but we're so proud
of the three of you who resigned because we think this going-to-war is
just so horrible; then each one would describe how anti-American
feeling was growing in the country where they were serving. It was so
poignant, all those emails.
TD: Why don't you think more people in the government -- and in
the military where there's clearly been opposition to Iraq at a very
high level -- quit and speak out?
AW: There were a few. [General] Eric Shinseki
talked about the shortchanging of the [Iraq] operations plan by a
couple of hundred thousand people. He was forced out. But see, in the
military, in the Foreign Service, you're not supposed to be speaking
your own mind. Your job is to implement the policies of an
administration elected by the people of America. If you don't want to,
your only option is to resign. I understood that and that's one of the
reasons I resigned -- to give myself the freedom to talk out.
There are a lot of people still in government service speaking out, but
you've got to read between the lines. The senior military leaders in
Iraq, what they've been saying is very different from what Donald
Rumsfeld and the gang in Washington say. These guys are being honest
and truthful about the lack of Iraqi battalions really ready for
military work, the dangers the troops are under, the days when the
military doesn't go out on the streets. They're signaling to America:
We're up a creek on this one, guys, and you, the people of America, are
going to have to help us out.
TD: ...Let's talk about [Colin Powell's chief of staff] Larry
Wilkerson as an example. He assumedly left after the election when
Colin Powell did, so almost a year has passed. He saw what he believed
was a secret cabal running the government and it took him that long
after he was gone to tell us about it. I'm glad he spoke out. But I
wonder why there isn't a more urgent impulse to do so?
AW: If you look at Dick Clarke [the President's former chief
adviser on terrorism on the National Security Council], he had all the
secrets from the very beginning and he retired in January 2003. Yet he
didn't say anything for over a year and a half, until he published that
book [Against All Enemies] in 2004. If he had gone public before
the war started, that man could have told us those same secrets right
then. So could [the National Security Council's senior director for
combating terrorism] Randy Beers. I worked with both of them on
Somalia, on Sierra Leone. I know these guys personally and it's like:
Guys, why didn't you come forward then?
As you probably know, on the key issues of the first four years of the
Bush administration, the State Department was essentially iced out. I
mean, look at the Iraq War. Colin Powell and the State Department were
just shoved aside and all State's functions put into the Department of
Defense. Tragically, Colin Powell, who was trying to counsel Donald
Rumsfeld behind the scenes that there weren't enough troops in Iraq,
never stood up to say, "Hold it, guys, I'll resign if we don't get this
under control so that logical functions go in logical organizations and
you, the Defense Department, don't do post-combat civil reconstruction
stuff. That's ours." He just didn't do it. To me, he was more loyal to
the Bush family than he was to the country. His resignation was
possibly the one thing that could have deterred the war. Then the
people of America would really have looked closely at what was going
on. But tragically he decided loyalty to the administration was more
valuable than loyalty to the country. I mean, it breaks my heart to say
that, but it's what really happened.
TD: So what is it that actually holds people back?
AW: I think the higher up you go, the more common it is for
people to retire, or maybe even resign, and not say what the reasons
are, because they may hope to get back into government in a different
administration. Dick Clarke had served every administration since
George Washington and maybe he was looking toward being called back as
a political appointee again. Sometimes such people don't speak out
because they feel loyalty to the person who appointed them. Nobody
appointed me to nothin', except the American people. I'm a career
foreign service officer and I serve the American people. When an
administration wasn't serving the best interests of the American
people, I felt I had to stand up.
TD: And are you now pretty much a full-time antiwar activist?
AW: [She laughs.] That's the way it's turned out.
TD: What, if anything, do you think your military career, your
State Department career, and this... well, I can't call it a career… have
AW: Service to America. It's all just a continuation of a real concern I have about my country.
TD: And what would you say to your former compatriots still in the military and the State Department?
AW: Many of the emails I received from Foreign Service officers
said, I wish I could resign right now, but I've got kids in college,
I've got mortgages, and I'm going to try really hard, by staying, to
ameliorate the intensity of these policies. All I can say is that they
must be in agony about not being able to affect policy. There have been
plenty of early retirements by people who finally realized they
couldn't moderate the policies of the Bush administration.
TD: What message would you send to the person you once were from the person you are now?
AW: You trained me well.
TD: If in this room you had the thirty-five year-old woman about
to go into Grenada, as you did back in 1983, what would you want her to
AW: I would say: You were a good Army officer and Foreign
Service officer. You weren't blind to the faults of America. In many
jobs, you tried to rectify things that were going badly and you
succeeded a couple of times. My resignation wasn't the first time I
spoke out. For instance, I was loaned, or seconded, from the State
Department to the staff of the United Nations operation in Somalia and
ended up writing a memo concerning the military operations the UN was
conducting to kill a warlord named Addid. They started taking
helicopters, standing off, and just blowing up buildings where they had
intelligence indicating perhaps he was there. Well, tragically he never
was, and here we were blowing up all these Somali families. Of course
the Somalis were outraged and that outrage ultimately led to Blackhawk
I wrote a legal opinion to the special representative of the Secretary
General, saying the UN operations were illegal and had to stop. It was
leaked to the Washington Post
and I got in a bit of hot water initially, but ultimately my analysis
proved correct. I was also a bit of a rabble-rouser on the utilization
of women in the military back in the eighties, part of a small group of
women who took on the Army when it was trying to reduce the career
potentials of women. I ended up getting right in the thick of some
major problems which ultimately cost the Army millions of dollars in
the reassessment of units that had been given incorrect direct-combat
probability codings. I was also part of a team which discovered that
some of our troops had been looting private homes in Grenada. The Army
court-martialed a lot of our soldiers for this violation of the law of
land warfare. We used their example in rewriting how you teach the code
of conduct and, actually, the Geneva Convention on the responsibility
TD: You know a good deal about the obligations of an occupying
power to protect public and private property, partially because in the
1980s you were doing planning on the Middle East, right?
AW: Yes, from 1982 to 1984, I was at Fort Bragg, North Carolina
when the Army was planning for potential operations using the Rapid
Deployment Force -- what ultimately became the Central Command. One of
the first forces used in rapid deployment operations was the 82
Airborne at Fort Bragg. I was in the special operations end of it with
civil affairs. Those are the people who write up the annexes to
operations plans about how you interact with the civilian population,
how you protect the facilities --sewage, water, electrical grids,
libraries. We were doing it for the whole Middle East. I mean, we have
operations plans on the shelf for every country in the world, or
virtually. So we did one on Iraq; we did one on Syria; on Jordan,
Egypt. All of them.
We would, for instance, take the UNESCO list of treasures of the world
and go through it. Okay, any in Iraq? Yep. Okay, mark 'em, circle 'em
on a map, put 'em in the op-plan. Whatever you do, don't bomb this.
Make sure we've got enough troops to protect this. It's our obligation
under the law of land warfare. We'd be circling all the electrical
grids, all the oil grids, all the museums. So for us to go into Iraq
and let all that looting happen. Well, Rumsfeld wanted a light, mobile
force, and screw the obligations of treaties. Typical of this
administration on any treaty thing. Forget 'em.
So everything was Katy-bar-the-door. Anybody could go in and rip up
anything. Many of the explosives now being used to kill our troops come
from the ammo dumps we did not secure. It was a total violation of
every principle we had for planning military operations and their
aftermath. People in the civil affairs units, they were just shaking
their heads, wondering how in the hell this could have happened. We've
been doing these operations plans forever, so I can only imagine the
bitchin' and moanin' about -- how come we don't have this
civilian/military annex? It's in every other op-plan. And where are the
troops, where are the MPs?
TD: If back in the early eighties you were planning to save the
antiquities of every country in the Middle East, then obviously the
Pentagon was also planning for a range of possible invasions in the
region. Do you look back now and ask: What kind of a country has
contingency plans to invade any country you can imagine?
AW: One of the things you are likely to do at a certain point in
your military career is operations plans. It did not then seem abnormal
to me at all that we had contingency plans for the Middle East, or for
countries in the Caribbean or South America. At that stage, I was not
looking at the imperialism of the United States. I just didn't equate
those contingency plans with empire-building goals. However, depending
on how those plans are used, they certainly can be just that. Remember
as well that this was in the days of the Cold War and, by God, that
camouflaged a lot of stuff. You could always say: You never can tell
what those Soviets are going to do, so you better be prepared anywhere
in the world to defeat them.
TD: And we're still prepared anywhere in the world...
AW: Well, we are and now, let's see, where are the Russians? [She laughs heartily.]
TD: Tell me briefly the story of your life.
AW: I grew up in Arkansas, just a normal childhood. I think the
Girl Scouts was a formative organization for me. It had a plan to it,
opportunity to travel outside Arkansas, good goals -- working on those
little badges. Early State Department. Early military too. It's kind of
interesting, the militarization of our society, how we don't really
think of some things, and yet when I look back, there I was a little
Girl Scout in my green uniform, and so putting on an Army uniform after
college wasn't that big a deal. I'd been in a uniform before and I knew
how to salute, three fingers. [She demonstrates.]
If you look, we now have junior ROTC in the high schools. We have child
soldiers in America. We're good at getting kids used to those uniforms.
And then there's the militarization of industries and corporations, the
necessity every ten years to have a war because we need a new
generation of weaponry. Corporations in the military-industrial complex
are making lots of money off of new types of weaponry and vehicles.
TD: While you were in the military, did you have any sense that these wars were actually living weapons labs?
AW: Particularly seeing the privatization after Gulf War I,
going into Somalia. All of a sudden, as fast as military troops were
arriving, you had Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown, and Root in Somalia.
They started saying, You need mess halls, oh, we'll do the mess halls
for you. And it turned out they had staged a lot of their equipment in
the Middle East after the Gulf War. So it was in Somalia lickety-split.
The privatization of military functions is now so pervasive that the
military can no longer function by itself, without the contractors and
corporations. These contractors, these mercenaries really, are now
fundamentally critical to the operations of the U.S. military.
TD: So a Girl Scout and...
AW: In my junior year at the University of Arkansas, a recruiter
came through town with the film, "Join the Army, See the World." I had
been an education major for three years. Nurse, teacher, those were the
careers for women. I didn't want any of it. So, in the middle of the
Vietnam War, I signed up to go to a three-week Army training program,
just to see if I liked it. And I found it challenging. Even though
there were protests going on all over America, I divorced myself from
what the military actually did versus what opportunities it offered me.
I hated all these people getting killed in Vietnam, but I said to
myself: I'm not going to kill anyone and I'm taking the place of
somebody who will be able to go do something else. All these arguments
that… now you look at it and go: Oh my God, what did you do?
TD: Don't you think this happens now?
AW: Absolutely! I sympathize with the people in the military
right now. The majority didn't sign up to kill anybody. You always
prayed that, whatever administration it was, it didn't go off on some
wild goose chase that got you into a war you personally thought was
TD: Would you counsel a young woman now to go into the military?
AW: I think we will always have a military and I think the
military is honorable service as long as the civilian leadership uses
it in appropriate ways and is very cautious about sending us to war.
And yes, I would encourage people to look at a military career, but I
would also tell them that, if they're sent to do something they think
is wrong, they don't have to stay in, though they may have to take some
consequences for saying, "Thank you very much but I'm not going to kill
In fact, if I were recalled to active duty, which is possible… I put
myself purposely at the Retired Ready Reserve so that, if there was
ever an emergency and my country needed me, I could be recalled, and in
fact there are people my age, 59, who are agreeing to be recalled. The
ultimate irony would be resigning from my career in the diplomatic
corps and then having the Bush administration recall me, because my
specialty, civil affairs, reconstruction, is in really short supply.
I'm a colonel. I know how to run battalions and brigades. I can do this
stuff. But I would have to tell them, sorry, I refuse to be placed on
active duty. And if they push hard enough, then I'd just have to be
court-martialed and I'd go to Leavenworth. I will not serve this
administration in the Iraq war which I firmly believe is an illegal war
TD: You know, if someone had said to me back in the 1960s that a
Vice President of the United States might go to Congress to lobby for a
torture exemption for the CIA the way Dick Cheney has done, I would
have said: This couldn't happen. Never in American history. I'm
staggered by this.
AW: Me, too. The other thing that's quite interesting is the
number of women who are involved in it. There were something like
eighty women I've identified, ranging from high officers to CIA
contractors being used as interrogators in Guantanamo. Talking about
things that will come back to bite us big time, this is it. And we are
complicit, all of us, because, quite honestly, we're not standing out
in front of the White House every single day, and every time that Vice
President leaves throwing our bodies in front of his car, throwing
blood on it. We need to get tough with these guys. They're not
listening to us. They think we're a bunch of wimps. We've got to get
tougher and tougher with them to show them we're not going to put up
with this stuff.
TD: You've quoted Teddy Roosevelt
as saying: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the
President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is
not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the
American public." I was particularly struck by that word "servile." Do
you want to talk about dissent for a moment?
AW: Well, we shouldn't be hesitant about voicing our opinions,
even in the most difficult of times which generally is when your nation
is going to war and you're standing up to say, this isn't right. That's
tough and, in fact, the first couple of months after I resigned, oh
man, all that TV and nothing on but the war, and very few people wanted
to hear me. It probably was a good four months before anybody even
asked me to come speak about why I had dissented, and that was a little
lonely. [She chuckles.]
TD: Any final thoughts?
AW: We now have a two-and-a-half-year track record of being a
very brutal country. We are the cause of the violence in Iraq. That
violence will continue as long as we're there, and the administration
maintains that we will be there until we win. That means to me that
this administration is planning for a long-term siege in Iraq. It means
that young men and women in America should be prepared for the draft
because the military right now cannot support what this administration
wants. In fact, yesterday I was talking to about ninety high school
seniors in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a very Republican part of the United
States. I said: Your parents may support this war, but how strongly do
you feel about it? If it drags on for years and there's a draft, how
many of you will willingly go? Only three put up their hands.
We are continuing down a very dangerous road. The United States and its
citizenry are held in disdain in world opinion for not being able to
stop this war machine. So one of the things I'm doing is ratcheting up
my own level of response. A dear friend, Joe Palambo, a Vietnam veteran
in Veterans for Peace who went to hear the President in Norfolk when he
talked about terrorism, was recently cited in the newspapers this way:
There was one protestor in the second row of the audience who stood up
and railed against the President, saying: "You're the terrorist! This
war is a war of terrorism!" Joe called me right after that happened and
said, "Hey, Ann, I heard what you did in the Senate and I thought, I'm
going to go do the same thing to the President."
I mean, we're going to dog these guys all over the country. Our
Secretary of State, our Secretary of Defense, our Vice President, our
President, our National Security Adviser, the head of the CIA, any of
these people who are the warmongers, who are the murderers in the name
of our country, wherever they go, the people of America need to stand
up to them to say, "No! Stop! Stop this war. Stop this killing. Get us
out of this mess." Because that's the only time they hear it, when we
stand up in these venues. They don't come out to the street in front of
the White House to see the hundreds of thousands of people who are
protesting. They ignore that. But for those fifteen seconds, if you can
stand up so that everybody in that audience sees that there's one
person, or maybe even two or three... Who knows?
Copyright 2005 Tomdispatch