In March 2003, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, retired colonel Ann Wright submitted a letter of resignation from her duties at the State Department to Colin Powell. Chief among her reasons was the U.S. decision to invade Iraq illegally, without the support of the United Nations, and the ancillary domestic attack on civil liberties. For good measure, she also threw in the lack of U.S. policy regarding North Korea and the lack of effort in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The letter went viral soon after President Bush's announcement of the Iraq invasion the next day, spreading online as a pointed example of a Washington insider opposed to the war. (Two other State Department officials also submitted similar letters of resignation.) Since resigning, Wright has been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, drawing on her military background and State Department experience to speak authoritatively to protests, radio shows, colleges, antiwar demonstrations and more. She appears in Sonoma County this week to discuss her experiences.
Wright helped organize the August 2005 protest outside George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, with Cindy Sheehan. In that same year, she was escorted from a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing for shouting at Condoleezza Rice to stop the war. In 2007, she was cited for trespassing at the Nevada Test Site in protest of ongoing nuclear development. That same night, she appeared on The O'Reilly Factor as an expert on the Geneva Convention and its application to British hostages in Iran, only to be shouted into a corner by O'Reilly, who then ordered her microphone cut off.
Earlier this year, Wright boarded the Challenger 1 ship as part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, arranged by activist groups from 37 different countries intent on breaking the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. She witnessed soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces rappelling from helicopters onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara, another ship in the mission. Nine civilian passengers onboard the Mavi Marmara were killed in the ensuing clash.
Wright has co-authored with Susan Dixon the book Dissent: Voices of Conscience—Government Insiders Speak Out Against the War in Iraq. She has been arrested many times for her resistance to war, and was once denied entry to Canada for her inclusion on an FBI watch list due to her outspoken criticism of the war. She speaks on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at the SRJC Newman Auditorium (1501 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa; 8pm; free) and on Thursday, Oct. 14, at the Glaser Center (547 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa; 7pm; free). For more info, contact the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center at 707.575.8902.