Q + A, Ann Wright
Photo: jimmy forrest
Q: After a long career serving in the U.S. Army and Foreign Service, when did you decide to step down?
A: In 2002, I took an assignment reopening the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan, which had been closed for 12 years. Even though we never had enough troops to really put a security wrap on Afghanistan, it became apparent the administration was already turning its view to Iraq. When the drumbeat toward war kept on, I really became physically sick at the thought of unilaterally invading a Middle Eastern country that had not done anything to the United States. Saddam Hussein was evil and terrible, and he’d done terrible things to his own countrymen and others in the region, but, that said, invading that country and knowing what the firestorm was going to be afterward was not right.
Q: Now you’re trying to convince the rest of the country of your position.
A: In order to speak out, I had to resign. Now I’m free to express my views. I’ve been doing public speaking about dissent in a democracy—the responsibilities of men and women to speak their minds, make sure the government knows that people are watching them when they do stupid things.
Q: Considering that Hawaii has such a large military community, what kind of response have you received locally?
A: A lot of people are very concerned about the war here—church groups, university students, activist groups—even though this is a very big military state. These men and women who’ve come back from the Middle East put their lives on the line, and they sincerely hope they’ve been asked to do the right thing. I don’t speak out against our military, because our military is a pawn in all this.
Q: U.S. troops have been in Iraq for two years now. Does it seem America is just used to being at war at this point?
A: I think a lot of Americans have never felt the impact of the war. You ask the people on the streets here, “How have your lives been affected by America going to war?” They’ll probably say they haven’t been affected at all. They haven’t been asked to make any sacrifices.
Q: Living in Hawaii, is it hard to be as active as you are in international affairs?
A: I’ve been very pleased with the activism here. One of the reasons I decided to live in Hawaii versus going back to the Mainland was that there are a lot of organizations here involved in international affairs—the East-West Center, the Asia-Pacific Forum, the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, the University of Hawaii. Even though we’re very isolated geographically, people do come to Hawaii to speak. It costs a little more for me to fly to the Mainland, but it’s worth the cost. It’s a breath of fresh air to come home.