A U.S. Army veteran who resigned in protest of the Bush administration's policies told her story to an appreciative crowd of nearly 70 in Eureka's Waterfront Wharfinger Building Monday night."It is important that we hit the streets," retired Col. Ann Wright urged the group. "There are a lot of reasons why we have to keep working to end the war in Iraq."
Wright handed in her resignation in March 2003 as a sign of her displeasure with the Bush administration's decision to go to war in Iraq, its policies on the Israel-Palestine conflict and on North Korea and its ongoing assault on U.S. citizens' civil liberties.
In her letter of resignation, addressed to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Wright wrote, "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."
On Monday, Veterans for Peace associate member and event organizer Becky Luening gave a brief run-through of Wright's extensive resume - 29 years in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve, 16 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, two master's degrees and a law degree - as background.
"We're not dealing with a lightweight here," Luening observed.
Wright has spent the years since her resignation as a full-time peace activist, racking up, among other things, 26 days in Camp Casey with Cindy Sheehan, countless appearances on Capitol Hill and what she cheerfully refers to as "a lot of arrests" for protesting the Iraq War.
Her main message Monday: Stay involved and keep the pressure on - or, as she put it, "harass the bejesus out of" - elected representatives.
"We're not putting up with endless war," she emphasized. "We elected you to end this war now."
She joined the military, she said, "kind of on a lark," because she wanted to see the world. During her decades of service, she's worked under eight administrations, none of which have had what she called "pretty" records.
So why did it take her so long to speak out?
"I'm a slow learner," she laughed.
But she's making up for lost time, speaking regularly in congressional hearings and to groups around the country.
"Not too many people think about the reality of what war is," she observed. Veterans are returning from Iraq with physical and psychological injuries that are not being adequately treated, she asserted, and civil liberties have been steadily eroded since Sept. 11, 2001. Further, she charged, kidnapping and torture have the tacit approval of the U.S. Congress, and the history of Guantanamo Bay - which she likened to the concentration camps of World War II - demands its immediate closure.
The women and men serving in the U.S. military "didn't volunteer for this," Wright said. "(T)hey didn't volunteer for what this administration has done to them."
Despite the long list of wrongs on the part of the Bush administration, she said, the growing opposition of American citizens to the war is a positive sign. "The house of cards is starting to fall."
Among other things, she believes citizens need to be working toward the impeachment of the president and vice president.
"Either we can wait two years and change everything by voting, or we can do other things in the meantime," she said. "We are making progress, and we are going to end this war."
The group several times responded to Wright's comments with resounding applause. At the end of the night, they gave her a standing ovation.
Copyright (C) 2005, The Eureka Reporter