Former official delivers speech


Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 9:07 p.m.

Retired Col. Ann Wright walked into a dimly lit room crowded with 75 people.

Wearing a black jacket over a shirt that read, "We will not be silent," she began her speech about the dissenting voices of the war in Iraq.

"We will not be silent, and indeed we can't be," she said.

Wright, now an anti-war activist, spoke about public opposition to government policies in a speech and book signing presented by the University of Florida International Center and the Department of Political Science on Tuesday night.

Wright is traveling around the state speaking about the book she co-authored with activist Susan Dixon, "Dissent: Voices of Conscience," which features stories of government officials who spoke out against policies.

Wright, who served 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army reserves, said she, like many young soldiers, joined the Army to see the world and serve her country.

Wright, who served as a foreign diplomat for 16 years, also discussed her resignation on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Prior to resigning, she sent her dissent about the war directly to former Secretary of State Colin Powell and received a reply that was not written by Powell himself, she said.

"I was a little uneasy that there was no legal basis to invade Iraq," she said. "Ultimately, I decided I could not stay with the administration and that I would have to resign."

Early in her speech, she asked the audience whether it was patriotism or treason to question what the government does.

"Our military was intimidated for doing what it should have done by speaking out," she said.

Wright said it is difficult for people in the government to speak out against policies for fear of being fired, humiliated or threatened.

"They make the lives difficult for whistleblowers," she said.

Resigning let her walk away and speak out as a private citizen against what she calls an "illegal war," she said.

Wright, who has willingly been arrested for protesting the war, said sometimes it is necessary for people to get arrested to speak out against the administration's policies.

She was arrested for disrupting congressional and Senate judiciary meetings and said she will have to be arrested for something during the last year of the Bush administration.

"If we see something going wrong," she said, "we need to stand up and say something,"

Wright was introduced by Dennis Jett, dean of the International Center, who said that the current objections toward war are not unlike objections that this country has seen in the past.

Jett, also a former U.S. diplomat, criticized the president for failing to uphold the oath that officials must take upon entering office.

"I have nothing but admiration for people like Ann Wright, who served their country and then protested it when they couldn't serve it any longer," he said.

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