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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Five years after government resignation, protester still fired up

Posted By on Tue, Apr 8, 2008 at 2:35 PM

Ann Wright, one of only three U.S. government officials to publicly resign over the U.S. invasion of Iraq, was in St. Louis Tuesday night to speak with anti-war supporters at MokaBe's Coffeehouse and at Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid Ave.

Wright, who spoke for about 90 minutes at Left Bank on Tuesday -- which was thee fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad -- criticized a war that continues today.

With a speaking tone more so resembling a maternal teacher than a shrill anti-war protester, Wright, who spent 29 years in the military, shared these anecdotes from a book she co-authored that homes in on the Iraq War:

An FBI translator noticed that her superiors were changing dialogue on transcripts of conversations between U.S. officials and Turks and Pakistanis about selling nuclear information. When she brought it to the attention of her bosses, she was fired.

Another former translator, this time in England, leaked secret information concerning alleged illegal activities by the U.S. government in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. She was criminally charged.

A naval lawyer based at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp released the names of prisoners being held there, after the military refused to provide any documentation. The lawyer served six months in prison.

These whistle-blowers and the stories of 22 others are chronicled in Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

The stories in her book -- published January 15 -- remain fresh as some of them made news as recently as last summer.

The choice of Daniel Ellsberg to write the foreword connects two generations, though it is creeping to three. Vietnam veterans who were in their early 20s in the mid 1960s may now have grandchildren readying for a tour in Iraq.

This generation lacks the smoking, gleaming gun that was the Pentagon Papers (leaked by Ellsberg), but the collection of stories in Dissent appears to be enough ammo for those questioning the Iraq War's legalities.

With Euclid Avenue pedestrians as her backdrop, Wright stood in front of the store window and recounted the hours of March 19, 2003, when she submitted her three-page resignation letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell. She recalled stating "that without authorization of the UN Security Council, the invasion of a Muslim, Arab, oil-rich country would be a disaster."

She hasn't actively campaigned for any one presidential candidate in '08, and said Tuesday she had never met with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., or Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., in her 16 years as a U.S. diplomat. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was in the Illinois state Senate when she was a federal employee.

On Clinton: "Three years ago she was gung-ho war, and it's taken pressure from groups that are out there hollering at her, saying, 'We totally disagree with what you stand for on this war.' And she's moved her positions on it."

On all three: "I would love to have an opportunity to sit down and speak with all three of the presidential candidates, and not coming from the protest side, but as a person who has had lengthy experience in the military and foreign affairs."

At 7 p.m. today, Wright will be at Tegeler Hall on the Saint Louis University campus.

-Nick Lucchesi

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