By Mary Keister
Retired Army Colonel and former diplomat Ann Wright visited Beloit College last week and gave a lecture Wednesday evening about dissent in America and her own forms of protest.
Wright was the third U.S. diplomat to resign in response to the U.S.’s actions in Iraq in 2003. She spoke about her decision to resign, saying she had been in government for 40 years before resigning on a “point of conscience.” She explained that she hadn’t resigned earlier because “if you intend to be a longtime government employee, you have to hold your nose” sometimes to unfavorable policies because government employees, especially foreign service officers, have to put faith in and promote government policies.
Wright spoke about President Barack Obama’s response to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and she questioned his decision to substantially build up the troops there.
“The United States invades and occupies countries with tremendous frequency,” Wright said. “We have quite a reputation of being a war-mongering country.”
She also commented on the disproportionate number of U.S. and NATO troops and contractors in Afghanistan compared to the number of Taliban and al Qaeda currently in Afghanistan.
Additionally, Wright expressed disappointment on the handling of Guantanamo Bay, especially the slow release of prisoners there and the low number of cases that actually went to trial.
After Wright’s phone rang, prompting a brief anecdote about her time on the Gaza flotilla in May, she continued on to discuss the lessons the United States should learn from its dealings with North Korea and apply to Iran. Wright warned against putting a “squeeze” on Iran, saying sanctions could just backfire and provoke aggressive action from the country.
Despite a speech filled with somber commentary on Iraq, Afghanistan, and the conflict in Gaza, Wright attempted to end on a happy note.
“When people’s self-interest is involved, they do get out. They do get active,” Wright said. “There are tipping points that do happen.”