31 May 2008

Another evening with Col. Ann Wright

I just spent another evening with Col. (Ret.) Ann Wright, who was speaking at Los Altos United Methodist Church in Long Beach to wrap up her Southern California tour. Here is how the evening went...

A singer-songwriter by the name of Kurt Hunter sang several songs, some his own, others Beatles numbers, to entertain the crowd and get people ready.

The audience awaits speeches by Raed Jarrar and Ann Wright.

Raed Jarrar, a half-Iraqi, half-Palestinian man born in Baghdad, has been in the US for three years, and speaks out about the plight of Iraqis under the US occupation (as well as under Saddam and other previous governments). He debunked many myths (including many that I had believed in myself, before tonight) about the Iraq War; for example, he compared blaming Iraq's current civil war on sectarian violence to describing the US Civil War as a conflict between Catholics and Protestants; in other words, completely untrue. He also described the current struggle as one between pro-US politicians and the majority of the people who are fed up with the occupation (and have no representation in the executive branch of the Iraqi government, despite having legislative majority); he further added that Iraq has not had a history of sectarian violence, and has resisted foreign occupation throughout its history. Even blaming Saddam's brutal rule on his Sunni background is wrong, he said, because his government included Shiites, Christians, and others, and he crushed anyone who opposed him, even fellow Sunnis. Most importantly, he stated that if Iraqis needed American help in keeping the violence down, they would openly say so.

I wanted to chat with Raed regarding Iraq being the next South Korea, according to the W Administration's wishes, and the prospects of pro-US Iraqi minority being admitted to the US in massive numbers (like the South Koreans and the Vietnamese) to hopefully tilt US politics in the Republicans' favor. But Raed was busy with other attendees...

Col. Wright spoke about various figures in the US, British, and Danish governments who courageously spoke out against the unjustifiable invasion of Iraq, with severe consequences. Basically, the intelligence information about the weapons of mass destruction never added up to a credible threat, and the war hinged on the W Administration's personal vendetta/reward for his buddies as well as the British and Danish governments' desire to score something big. Her US example was Justice Department attorney Jesselyn Radack (mentioned often at Democracy Cell Project), who was reprimanded and faced debarment for speaking out against torture. She also mentioned her recent 2-week trip to Japan, where she saw many peace activists fighting to preserve Japan's peace constitution against the ruling conservative Liberal Democrats' US-backed efforts to amend it.

Col. Wright also indicated that the FBI NCIC database has now been turned against peaceful protesters in a political vendetta, and has gotten her banned from Canada, which relies on the NCIC database to determine Americans' admissibility, as a result. She was nevertheless trying to enter Canada again, to speak in Vancouver this weekend for American servicemen who are in Canada to refuse to fight the war. I wish her luck.

I did speak with Col. Wright, who recognized me from Arlington West in Santa Monica last Sunday. I managed to bring up the W Administration's intent to turn Iraq into the next South Korea, and how the case of South Korea didn't turn out well for the US, complete with Reverend Moon's influence on US politics. Col. Wright agreed with me, and told me that she was supposed to go to Seoul with Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin in November 2006 to fight a new US Army megabase and the two nations' secret free trade agreement, but had to cancel due to another engagement.

As Raed Jarrar chats with attendees in the back, Col. Wright autographs her book Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

I also caught up with Alicia, the new CODEPINK LA organizer, who thanked me for consistently showing up at CODEPINK's most recent events. I wish I could indeed show up consistently for all events, but that won't happen until I have my own space and some privacy. Until then, the best I can do is to offer the likes of Col. Wright, and other peace activists around me, moral support.

On the way home, I wrapped up the evening by ice skating at Anaheim Ice, the training facility for Anaheim Ducks of the NHL; it was refreshing to see instructors there teach how to do the Macarena while ice skating, and to wind things down to Mariah Carey's "Hero." This was my first ice skating session in Southern California in at least 15 years.