From Three Decades as a Colonel and Diplomat to Six Years as a Peace Activist
Friday 20 March 2009
by: Ann Wright, t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Ann Wright speaks at an international meeting calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba. The former US Army colonel and career diplomat resigned in opposition to the invasion of Iraq by the Bush administration six years ago. (Photo: Getty Images)
It was six years ago today that I resigned from the Bush administration and the US diplomatic corps in opposition to the war on Iraq. I remember the day so well. I woke up about 2 in the morning.
Like so many mornings in the past months, I could not sleep through the night. I was very worried and upset hearing the comments out of Washington, that we, the US government, were being forced into taking military action against Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi government.
I, like so many US diplomats and US citizens, was wondering, why must the United States attack Iraq right now? Should we not wait and hear the results of the United Nations weapons inspectors on whether there was a weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq? How could we take military action without the agreement of the member states of the United Nations Security Council?
When President Bush launched “shock and awe” on Baghdad on the morning of March 19 (Mongolia time) and March 18 in the US, I decided I was not going to continue working in the Department of State.
Upon arriving at the Embassy, I asked our communications officer to send my letter of resignation from the United States government to my boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell. I expected to join quickly the two other federal employees who had resigned (both were also US diplomats.)
Several minutes later, the communications officer came back to my office and said “Ms. Wright, I read your telegram to the secretary of state and I wish that you would reconsider your resignation. I don’t agree either with the Bush administration’s decision to attack Iraq, but I’m not going to resign. I haven’t yet sent your telegram to Washington and wish you would not resign!”
I told the communications officer that I appreciated very much what she felt, but I needed her to send my resignation telegram. She went back to her office visibly disturbed. Fifteen minutes later, I called her and asked: “Have you sent my telegram?” She answered, “No, I was hoping you would reconsider.”
I told her of my appreciation of her concerns about my resignation, and repeated my request/order that she send the resignation telegram to Washington. A few minutes later, she brought me my copy of the telegram that she sent to Washington announcing my resignation from the federal government.
As the telegram went to Washington, I forwarded emails to friends in US diplomatic missions around the world, explaining why I felt I must resign in opposition to the Bush administration’s war on Iraq. Within hours, I received over 400 emails in support and not one email in opposition to my decision.
One week later, I left Mongolia. It took that long for packing materials to be brought from China into Mongolia, as there were no household packing/moving companies in Mongolia.
Now, six years later, many have asked whether I have had any regrets about resignation from the US government.
I must say that, honestly, my only regret has been that so many people who felt the same way that I did, did not resign too. For me, my resignation freed me to speak freely about my concerns over the Bush administration’s war on Iraq, the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the unnecessary curtailment of civil liberties under the Patriot Act.
I cannot imagine working the past six years in the Bush administration, and I fully intend to hold the Bush administration accountable for what it has done.
Since that fateful day, March 19, 2003, I have worked for peace in Iraq and have traveled for peace in other parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran and Gaza.
After six years of no longer working for the United States government, I have no regrets. I have met and become a part of a strong movement within the United States that works for peace in the United States and in countries throughout the world – Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran and Gaza.
As I was honored to serve my country by working within our government for over 35 years, I am now honored to be serving my country by actively and visibly confronting our government, demanding peace and justice and accountability for actions of government officials. Challenging government policies that are harmful, much less illegal, is a responsibility for us as citizens.
There are many ways to serve one’s country. I fully believe challenging policies that one feels are harmful to our nation is service, not treason.
So, six years after my resignation, I am proud to have resigned and value so much the new friends I have made, as well as the old friends from the past.
I will continue working for peace and justice every day.
Ann Wright is a retired US Army & Army Reserves colonel and former US diplomat, who resigned in opposition to the Iraq war. She was a US diplomat in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience”. Her March 19, 2003, letter of resignation can be read at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0303/032103wright.htm.