The Revolution Interview:
Revolution #020, October 30, 2005, posted at revcom.us
A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
On October 19, former U.S. diplomat Ann Wright stood up during a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee and shouted "Stop the war! Stop the killing!" After being escorted out, she joined the World Can't Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime encampment outside the White House.
Ann is a signatory to the World Can't Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime call. Revolution caught up with her after she testified at the First Session of the 2005 International Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York City.
Revolution: You just testified about your decision to leave the government. Tell us about that.
Ann Wright: Thank you. I was in the federal government for about 35 years--twenty-nine in the U.S. Army, thirteen on active duty, and sixteen in the reserves. Retired as a colonel in the Army. I was also in the U.S. State Department for sixteen years as a diplomat and was assigned to places like Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Krygistan, Sierra Leone in the days of the civil war there. I was in Micronesia. I helped reopen the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December 2001. My final assignment was in Mongolia, where in March of 2003, I resigned in opposition to the war in Iraq. The Bush administration had chosen to ignore international law, to stiff the U.N. Security Council, did not get an authorization for war from the U.N. Security Council, and went off on an illegal war of aggression. And I, after all this lengthy time in the federal government, said that I was not going to be a part of that. So I sent in a lengthy resignation letter, three and a half pages (laughing) of resignation.
R: Tell us how your life has changed since that.
AW: In the two and a half years since I resigned, I have embarked on a new life of speaking out publicly in protest to the war in Iraq, primarily, but all these other policies too. And, as a part of speaking out, I slowly but surely have been moving towards the need for civil disobedience. That indeed speaking out is not enough. The administration is not listening at all to the voices of protest. They don't care at all. The only media coverage we seem to get is if something happens, someone gets arrested for doing something. Non-violent, peaceful protest is what I'm talking about. So I, for the first time in my whole life, was arrested, two weeks ago on Sept 26. I was part of 373 of my dearest friends, my newest dearest friends. And we were arrested in front of the White House to say bring the troops home, end this war! Then, just two days ago, I was in Washington, and in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, where Condoleezza Rice was testifying--the first time she had been to the committee since she was confirmed back in January 2005. Over ten months, she had stiffed the committee, had not come to testify on anything.
The committee was asking about the war in Iraq, and an exit plan. A plan. Something. Tell us what's going to happen in the future. She was very vague about a plan. They asked her about rumors that members of the administration were discussing military actions in Syria, and she was really arrogant and disrespectful to Congress, by saying, in a tone that just gave shivers to you: Well, we may be discussing things but we don't need to tell you, essentially. All options are on the table.
The Senate reminded her that the only authorization that the Congress had given was for Iraq, not Syria. That didn't seem to faze her at all. So, at that point I stood up, and in a loud voice told her and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that they need to stop the killing. They needed to end the war in Iraq. And they needed to stop Condoleezza Rice and the administration from even thinking about military actions in Syria. And that the congress had been bamboozled once by the administration on Iraq, and they were responsible and accountable for not being bamboozled again. And we the people were going to hold them accountable. And, stop the war! End the killing! At which point I was escorted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
R: What have you learned in this process? How do you look at things differently, now that you're protesting, not carrying out policy?
AW: Actually, as a representative of the United States, and living all over the world and working with other governments, I always encouraged other countries to look at the United States and the strength we had, in our government and in our citizens. That we could protest and challenge our government. But I never dreamed we would have a government that would be so immune, and so dismissive of what the citizens were thinking. And so now I am doing the acts that I encouraged in other countries (laughs), you know? Take to the streets! You don't like what your government is doing to you, take to the streets. You the people have the power. Well, now I am the people, and I want us to regain our power. That's the way I'm working my life now.
R: Do you have any thoughts on the commission of inquiry and the impact it might have.
AW: I think it's very important that commissions of inquiry happen in the United States. Certainly in the world, there have been many international commissions that have been talking about the illegality, the criminal actions of this government, of our government. It's time that we in America start putting on our own tribunals here. And, as Dennis Halliday just a moment ago said, this should be an American tribunal, because Americans, not only our government, but the people of America are on trial. Because, if we do nothing, we are collaborating. We are complicit. So we the citizens have to take responsibility. That's why it's important--for our own conscience--that each individual, you can't stand back. And you can't just sit on the couch, let this happen, and say, 'I'm not a part of this, I'm not doing anything.' While you're just sitting there, not doing anything, you're complicit in letting it happen.