by Michelle Little, intern
I have often felt that many of the wars we are waging in foreign countries were wrong. I remember watching the initial bombing in our second war with Iraq played live on my television screen in a campaign we called “Shock and Awe.” I remember feeling scared, confused and borderline disgusted. I always feel a little disheartened when I watch crowds of Americans cheering about the death of “terrorists.” I never exactly understood why I was having those feelings or what it all meant, but after listening to Col. Ann Wright speak at the Unitarian Universalist Church on October 11, I no longer question whether those feelings are justifiable.
Col. Ann Wright told those who gathered at the church about her journey in the military. She spoke of the initial reasons for joining the military; to get out of a small town in Arkansas, educational opportunities and a recruiter who touted that she could “see the world.” Although she stated that she has been blessed to never have to serve in direct combat situations, she provided more than her share of dedication to her country through military service. As a 29 year veteran, she worked as a State Department diplomat and was the Deputy Ambassador of many foreign US Embassies. Like me, she also felt that the war waged upon Iraq in 2003 was wrong. She left her position in the State Department in opposition to that war.
Col. Ann Wright has since become a world-renowned peace activist opposing wars in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. According to Ann Wright, the war in Afghanistan is touted as a necessary war to fight terrorism, while in reality the numbers suggest otherwise. With about 15,000 Taliban and as little as 5 members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan at any one time, what is necessary about 100,000 US troops, 40,000 NATO soldiers, 80,000 civilian contractors and hundreds of thousands of trained Afghani soldiers? It just doesn’t make sense. And to add to the confusion, more US soldiers are killed by Afghani soldiers that we have trained and supplied than by any other conflict or issue.
She also spoke about a very scary reality in our world today: drones. These unmanned aerial vehicles are the number one choice of weapon in our military today. In fact we are currently training more drone operators than in any other facet of the military. They can be controlled virtually anywhere on the globe from the continental U.S. and can take out targets with pinpoint accuracy. The reality of many foreign countries is the constant buzzing of drones overhead, as we roam the sky looking for suspicious activity. The reality for many of these people is never knowing when one will strike. The truth is, it may one day be our reality too because by 2016 Congress has mandated that the FAA have the ability to control 30,000 drones in American commercial airspace. If that doesn’t get you up to speed about the direction this world is going, I don’t know what will.
She came to Spokane as part of her work on a project called Gaza’s Ark. She has been aboard many flotillas that have attempted to break through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza ports. She was onboard the Challenger 1 in the Freedom Flotilla that had one of its ships violently attacked by Israeli military. She sees what is happening to the Palestinians as an ethnic cleansing, and a United States government-sponsored ethnic cleansing. Project Gaza’s Ark will attempt to do something that has not been tried before, which is break through the Israeli blockade from the inside out, to establish trade routes so that Palestinian goods can be exported despite the blockades and Palestinians living in Gaza can begin to rebuild their economy.
This amazing woman is taking her knowledge and experience and using it to fight for the human rights of all people. This woman simply does not stop: coming to visit us in Spokane right after returning from Pakistan where she spoke out against the use of drones, to turning around and gearing up for another attempt at breaking the Israeli blockade to Gaza on a boat called “Estelle” leaving from a Swedish port the following week.
Ann Wright is doing more of something we could all benefit from doing: believing strongly about an issue, standing up and taking action.