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From Kansas City to Ireland: A Response to the So-Called Transfer of Power in Iraq

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We speak with Kansas City Star columnist Lewis Diguid about the situation in Iraq as well as local politics in Kansas, Irish peace activist Ciaron O’Reilly in Dublin discusses Ireland’s response to Bush’s recent visit and former U.S. Army captain and Gulf War resistor Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn discusses U.S. foreign policy and her reasons for saying no to war.[includes transcript]

  • Lewis Diuguid, columnist and editorial board member at the Kansas City Star.
  • Ciaron O’Reilly, Irish peace activist who was at Shannon airport when Bush arrived. He is a member of the Dublin catholic worker community and is awaiting trial for disarming US warplane in Shannon airport in a separate Plowshares action.
  • Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, a former captain in the US Army and Gulf War resistor. She based her refusal to go overseas on her fear that Gulf duty would force her to violate her Hippocratic oath as a doctor. She was specifically opposed to administering two experimental drugs, the anthrax vaccine and PB pills, a nerve gas antidote.

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StoryMar 17, 2005St. Patrick’s Day Special: Irish Peace Activists Protest U.S. Use of Shannon Airport in Iraq War
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.


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AMY GOODMAN: We’re also, here in Kansas City, joined by Lewis Diuguid, who is an editorial writer for the Kansas City Star. He writes columns here, is on the editorial board, and is one of the few voices who have been opposed to the invasion from the beginning, spoke out very early at a time when not a lot of people here at this level certainly in mainstream media are doing this. We welcome you to Democracy Now! as well.

LEWIS DIUGUID: Thanks for having me as a guest.

AMY GOODMAN: Well when we planned this discussion, Lewis, this secret ceremony, we did not know about it, obviously. Now this has taken place, but you have been writing about Iraq for quite a while now. What is your response, and can you talk about the attitude of people here in Kansas City?

LEWIS DIUGUID: Well, I’m not surprised by what happened. This is a brilliant act of desperation. The administration obviously wanted to be able to say to the public that we handed over power just as we had promised. They did it ahead of time, because it short circuits any problems that might have occurred on June 30, or the lead-up to June 30. This is an administration in the White House that has run everything secretly, from flying in to Iraq in the dead of night to all of the politics that has come out of the White House. This just fits.

AMY GOODMAN: What kind of risks do you take to speak out here? I mean it’s hard to talk about risks when we’re talking to reporters right now in Iraq. But in terms of — how difficult is it to be critical at this point?

LEWIS DIUGUID: Well, I think that initially it was very difficult because few people were speaking out against the war. There were the committed folks who were part of the peace movement in the Kansas City area, but in terms of the mainstream media, the press, largely had become part of the push to go to war. There had been some dissenting voices, but they weren’t well liked or heard very much. It’s — there’s been some risk, but at the same time, I think there’s been a lot of support.

AMY GOODMAN: You are here in Missouri, here in the home state of John Ashcroft. As the war goes on abroad, there is a war right here at home. What insider perspective can you give us on the attorney general who used to head up this state?

LEWIS DIUGUID: Well of course John Ashcroft was defeated in his bid for re-election to the Senate by a dead man, Mel Carnahan, who had been governor, the well-liked governor in Missouri, who died unfortunately in a plane crash. Ashcroft rebounded and was put in the Bush administration as attorney general. He’s not well received in this state as someone who nationally is in a position that is taking away a lot of the freedoms of people in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now in Missouri, this is considered a battleground straight, why? And how does it compare to Kansas — Kansas City and both states?

LEWIS DIUGUID: Right. Missouri can go either way, either democrat or republican. Missouri also over the last many different presidential elections has picked the winner. Missouri has that record. I think that the electoral votes that Missouri can deliver to the candidate who is elected, and I hope it is an election this time, can be significant.

AMY GOODMAN: You have spoken out at rallies, you’re an editorial writer, and you’re a columnist. Do you face any pressure from management of the Kansas City Star?

LEWIS DIUGUID: Well, I speak about 150 times a year in many different forums. I get asked to speak on issues with issues that I write about regularly in columns. Generally, I’ve had the support of management. I think the newspaper understands that people in the press, when asked to come and speak on the issues related to war or peace, that the public is trying to hold the press to a new level of credibility and accountability. So, I simply go and I do these things, always couched in terms of what does it mean journalistically — what does it mean in terms of journalists doing a better job in covering the events that take place here in the United States. And we need to do a better job.

AMY GOODMAN: Louis Diuguid is an editorial writer with the Kansas City Star.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on the line from Ireland by Ciaron O’Reilly. He’s an Irish peace activist, at Shannon airport when President Bush arrived this weekend, and a member of the Dublin Catholic Community, awaiting trial for what he calls “disarming a U.S. warplane in Shannon Airport,” a separate plowshares action. Ciaron, you can describe what happened this weekend when President Bush came to Ireland, and then moved on to Turkey where he is at the NATO summit?

CIARON O’REILLY: He landed at the Shannon Airport on the west coast where 10,000 U.S. military pass through each month. There were 1,400 people there to protest. There was 4,000 police deployed, 2,000 members of the Irish Army with armored personnel carriers and about 700 Secret Service traveling with the president. And Dublin, 30,000 people rallied against his arrival. On the Saturday, the Catholic work in the plowshares and 300 friends walked 5 miles from Clay Castle to stage McBush, a play on Macbeth. People were carrying cut out cardboard trees with the name of an Iraqi child. We had Banquo, I played Banquo, a dead U.S. soldier. Many have passed through Shannon have returned in body bags and we read the names of the U.S. military who have been killed in Iraq since the war began. Caoimhe Butterly, the catholic worker who was shot in the leg in Palestine taking children to school played the role of Lady Macbeth, and she read the names of Iraqi children who have died. And we had the witch to cast the spell to drive George out of Ireland. So it was relatively successful. But before he left, he was delayed by 45 minutes as a group of anarchists blockaded the press corps to the Birdy O’Hearn/George Bush love-in press conference at the airport. The orientation of his visit was so media-orientated that they delayed the departure to Turkey. So quite a good weekend of non-violent action against George.

AMY GOODMAN: Ciaron O’Reilly, speaking to us about his protests in Ireland. We are also joined in our Kansas City studio by Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, as we talk about dissent. Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn was an Army captain trained as a doctor who refused to serve during the Persian Gulf War ten years ago. She was ultimately court-martialed, sentenced to three years in prison. You served eight months in the brig at Ft. Leavenworth; is that right?


AMY GOODMAN: Interesting connections. Ft. Leavenworth, the place where Lane McCotter worked. He headed the jail there in the 1980’s. The man who later went on to head the Utah Department of Corrections and then worked in New Mexico as well. Went private, Criminal Justice Corporation, where they ran the Santa Fe Detention Facility which was then cited by the Ashcroft Justice Department for serious violations. They took out the federal prisoners and what happened then was Lane McCotter was one of those who was appointed by the Ashcroft Justice Department to set up the Abu Ghraib prison. Unusual connections. But your thoughts now, on this day. You have certainly paid a price for your dissent at Ft. Leavenworth.

DR. YOLANDA HUET-VAUGHN: My thoughts are basically, as a physician I take care of people and I think we need to be concerned about the structures of society that either promote health or detract from that, and I’m appalled at what our government is doing with the resources that this country has, and essentially denying care to people here, and then doing the kinds of things that are happening in Iraq at this time, using our resources to essentially not promote health in other parts of the world, but to promote destruction and death. And I think that as citizens, we need to be more proactive about changing that.

AMY GOODMAN: You paid a very serious price for your dissent. Did you expect the three-year sentence? You ended up serving eight months. You were in the brig at Ft. Leavenworth right under death row.

DR. YOLANDA HUET-VAUGHN: The price — compared to the price that the rest of the world pays for the foreign policy that the United States engages in, there’s no comparison, to be honest. I think the focus should be on how our actions create essentially a price of death, or a price of maiming, for our troops. People who are being used to promote a foreign policy that is not in the best interests of our country, and then who are left to suffer the consequences like the folks that are being court-martialed. No one is court-martialing or bringing the leaders of this country to the world court for their actions at the Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo, and yet the United States military is court-martialing the privates, the folks who implement the policy. So, I think that we need it look at what structure in society create people who do things that are uncivilized, that are death-promoting. And we need to hold them accountable.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughmn, I want to thank you for being with us, wrapping up this program. Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, an Army captain who refused to serve during the Gulf War more than ten years ago, saying that she was trained to save lives, not take them. That’s to it for today’s program.

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