Ann Wright spent 26 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves. She was a diplomat in the State Department for 15 years before resigning in March 2003, protesting the then-impending invasion of Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
Longtime diplomat Ann Wright is running Camp Casey. She told Democracy Now! that in the past, "if you had planned to come to Crawford in the middle of the hot summer in August, no one would have come with you, if you had planned it. But spontaneously, we have now been here 11 days in the most intense heat that you can imagine of west Texas. Some of the most intense heat thunderstorms."
Ann White described the new site for Camp Casey on the property of one of Bush’s neighbors. She said, "The neighbor of President Bush, a brave man here in Texas, who came to us and said, you have the right to free speech. We know that you are in the ditches. You should have a better facility than just the ditches."
- Ann Wright, longtime U.S. diplomat and Army veteran. She is coordinating Camp Casey.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting live from Crawford, Texas, just outside President Bush’s ranch, where he is vacationing now. More than a hundred people at this early hour have gathered, and more will come throughout the day, as they honor the dead and request that President Bush meet with the military mothers who have lost their children in Iraq. To the right of me here at Camp Casey are hundreds of crosses of young people who have died in Iraq. Our guest is Ann Wright. She’s from Honolulu. She’s an American diplomat who served the U.S. government for decades. She was the Deputy Chief of Mission in Afghanistan, reopened the mission in 2001; the Deputy Chief of Mission in Mongolia. It was there just before the invasion that Ann Wright said no and quit. And she joins us now. Welcome to Democracy Now!
ANN WRIGHT: Well, and welcome to Camp Casey, Amy, and Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you’re running this show almost like a military camp, in a sense. You have some experience.
ANN WRIGHT: Well, that’s right. It’s quite remarkable. You’re almost setting up field operations, but field operations for peace, not war. And this, it’s been remarkable. We started with one car staying overnight, one tent, two tents, three tents. Now we have got — I counted last night, we had 80 cars and about 40 tents that stayed the night here. And during the course of the day, we’ll be having probably 300 to 400 people that will be coming through from all over the country to spend a couple of hours, maybe a day or two. It’s a remarkable outpouring from America.
AMY GOODMAN: You came here with Cindy Sheehan?
ANN WRIGHT: That’s right. She and I were both speaking at the Veterans for Peace conference in Dallas when she said she was so mad about President Bush saying that the war is a noble cause and people were dying for noble things, that she said, ’I’m going to have to tell the President. I’m going to Crawford. Who wants to go?’ Well, overnight, we organized a convoy of ten vehicles, 70 people came up here, and we were met by 50 people that had heard on the internet that she was going to be up here. And we have been here ever since, from Saturday, 11-12 days ago, I don’t know how long ago, but my back sleeping on the ground for twelve nights, I tell you, it’s been a while.
AMY GOODMAN: Just behind you are hundreds of crosses. How many, actually?
ANN WRIGHT: There are 846 crosses that have been placed by Arlington West out of Los Angeles. It’s only, you know, less than really, oh, a fourth of what the 1,800 and — gosh, I don’t even know how many now tragically have been killed, Americans killed. We have 500 of those were damaged a couple of nights ago when a single individual here from the Waco community drug a chain down the row of crosses, a chain from the back of his truck and knocked them down. We know that wasn’t a sentiment of all of the people of Texas, at all. In fact, we had people that came out from Crawford to help set those crosses back up. But it does — it’s an indication of the division of America on this war itself. But all of these people that you see here, all of the 1,600 vigils that were held night before last all over America, I believe it’s now the twelve encampments, the Camp Caseys all over America, the movement that Cindy has spearheaded but that is moving forward with all families that have suffered losses or all families that have service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan right now. It’s a movement of pressure on our government to stop this war.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re staying in the ditches here along the road, but you’re breaking camp and you’re moving to some private property. Can you talk about the man who offered you his farm, the neighbor of President Bush?
ANN WRIGHT: The neighbor of President Bush, a brave man here in Texas, who came to us and said, 'You have the right to free speech, and we know that you are in the ditches, and you should have a better facility than just the ditches. You need to,' — he said, 'I want to offer you a piece of property that will get you out of this very dangerous road area.' And actually, it’s the most remarkable place in the world. It is right next to one of two Secret Service checkpoints. So we will have a protest that is right on the entrance to the Bush ranch. We told the Secret Service, 'We know that you are concerned about this, but you don't have to be, because we come in peace and non-violence. We’re not causing any trouble. All we want is that the servant of America, the President of America, speak to the people of America, those that are speaking in opposition to a major policy.’
AMY GOODMAN: The man who offered you his property did it almost as penance, because it was his, what, third cousin who opened — well, who fired off his shotgun on his own property the other day?
ANN WRIGHT: Well, that’s — I don’t know if it was penance. I think he’s really a free speech person, but it is an interesting thing that right over here, right beyond that truck is where a couple of days ago, one of his relatives fired, for dove season practice, fired a couple of shots in the air that, of course, concerned us. They weren’t aimed at us. They were actually — I guess it was aimed more at President’s ranch, but it concerned the Secret Service and concerned us. But we understand the concern of all the property owners around here, because we have encamped in a very small place and have been forced into the ditches, so we have no place to operate. So, the traffic congestion is hard. It’s difficult, but we’re working as best we can to do, well, everything is being done in a legal fashion. We are in the ditches. We’re not impinging on public property or private property.
AMY GOODMAN: Ann Wright, you reopened the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, December 2001. How does running that operation compare to here?
ANN WRIGHT: It’s quite similar. There we had an embassy that had not been in operation in twelve years. No one had lived in the embassy building or worked in it. We had one commode and one shower for 100 marines and five civilians, where here, we have the Peace House, where in the early days we had one shower and one commode for — well, it’s now up to during the day maybe 5-600 people that wander through — not wander, they’re coming here with a purpose. So it’s — they’re all both under very difficult conditions, in a sense, combat conditions, but our combat goal is to end war, to end this war.
So we’re suffering under the same types of situations of very difficult living conditions and environmental conditions. Afghanistan was very cold when we were there in December. Here in August, I mean, nobody — you couldn’t — nobody —- if you had planned to come to Crawford in the middle of the hot summer in August, no one would have come with you, if you had planned it. But spontaneously, we have now been here eleven days in the most intense heat that you can imagine of West Texas, and some of the most intense thunderstorms. We have had three days of intense weather, of lightning, thunder -—
AMY GOODMAN: But you’re still here.
ANN WRIGHT: But we’re still here, and we will stay. Cindy’s needing to go home to be with her mother, Cindy and her sister Dee Dee. She’s taking care of the family problems that she needs to, but when she left, she said, 'You have got to continue the camp. We have got to continue.' And, of course, we will. We have got Gold Star mothers that are here just like Cindy that are continuing the movement.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Ann Wright, for joining us. Ann Wright is the diplomat, one of the few, who quit right around the time of the invasion.