An Interview with Ann Wright> Be Bold, Be Impatient, and Never Give Up!
On November 6, 2012 By Shirin WILPF International
A few weeks ago, anti-war activist Ann Wright met with our WILPF Pakistan Section in Islamabad to discuss how the American drone strikes are really affecting Pakistan, and what can be done to prevent them. We jumped at the chance to interview the 65-year-old on her career in the US army, pushing for peace, and what she really thinks of WILPF.
You worked for the US government for a long time, so your eventual resignation from the Foreign Service was certainly a bold move. Was it a hard decision to resign and have you ever reconsidered it?
There were only three employees of the U.S. federal government who resigned in opposition to the Iraq war. I had been in U.S. government service, either in the US Army (29 years) or in the US Foreign Service (16 years), all my adult life, through some very controversial policies of the eight Presidential administrations under which I worked.
But, as a career government employee, you implement the policies of the persons elected by the people of the United States to lead our government. While we have had some government employees resign over specific policies, in general, resignation is not one of the hallmarks of dissent within the government so there was no real support system for those of us who resigned.
It was a hard decision to leave the known (a lifetime of work in the US government) and join the unknown (life outside the government). But, I knew I would be very conflicted about staying in the government during the war I did not support.
I have no regrets about resigning as I have been welcomed by the huge number of citizens who were demonstrating against the war and challenging the Bush administration on so many policies—the wars, extraordinary rendition, kidnapping, illegal imprisonment, indefinite detention, torture, illegal spying on American citizens, etc.
What, for you, are the most pressing issues for the antiwar movement to focus on today?
In my opinion, the most pressing issues of the antiwar movement are removing US military from Afghanistan, stopping drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, learning more about the US military programs in African under the new command AFRICOM, and challenging the increasing militarization of American law enforcement and American society in general.
When did you first hear about WILPF and how?
I have known about WILFP for many years, but certainly after I resigned from the US government almost 10 years ago, I began meeting WILPF members at many national meetings and working with WILPF chapters on antiwar issues.
We were happy to hear you visited WILPF Pakistan as part of your visit to protest the American drone attacks. Can you tell us a bit more about what you did with WILPF Pakistan during your time in the country?
Our delegation of 32 persons was pleased to meet with members of the Pakistan WILPF chapter during our stay in Islamabad. WILPF Pakistan hosted a luncheon and meeting for one part of our group and a dinner and meeting for another part of our group.
Many viewpoints on drones were expressed by WILPF members that helped our group understand better the issues concerning violence in the FATA region, the number of Pakistanis that have been killed by the violence and the challenge of the Pakistani government in addressing the violence during our stay in Islamabad. WILPF Pakistan hosted a luncheon and meeting for one part of our group and a dinner and meeting for another part of our group.
Were you involved in the recent anti-drone protest march? What impact do you think it will have in the prevention of the attacks?
Because the dates of our trip to Pakistan had changed several times, I was unable to stay to participate on the march. However, I talked to many of our delegates after they returned and I read accounts of the “march” in the Pakistani media. The march was covered by international press and even made it into the American press.
I think the march increased the debate within Pakistani society on the dangers of the drone attacks to Pakistani national security. And the march certainly kept the discussion in the United States alive on whether this weapons system increases US national security or is a threat to it.
What, in your opinion, is the most effective tool in campaigning against conflict?
I don’t know that there is any one tool that is the MOST effective, but many tools used together hopefully will influence many people to recognize that conflict and wars are not the way to resolve issues. Exposing the human costs of war as well as the financial costs that take away from the needs of the community seem to be the most effective. When others finally comprehend how much the wars really cost and what we give up in terms of health, education and quality of life when we spend funds on wars, it finally wakes some people up.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given by a fellow peace activist?
Be Bold, Be Impatient and Never Give Up challenging one’s government’s policies that are killing other people!