Some Relevant Numbers:
12 years in Afghanistan, 10 years in Iraq
100’s of American bases in the Middle East
5 mega-bases expected to be left after drawdown
50,000 U.S. contractors currently being paid to support the “war”
3.5 to 5 trillion dollars spent by American people on the war
200,000 troops were in the Middle East at the height of occupation, 100,000 contractors
2,800 to 3,200 estimated to be killed by drone strikes in Pakistan, 2,400 being civilian casualties
“It’s those agencies who prepare for the President of the U.S. — our constitutional lawyer president — each tuesday, a list of who should die … and he makes a decision. He looks at the short statement by each name as to why the intelligent agencies think they’re a threat and he puts a check mark. Then the next week the drones go after them until they kill them.”
By Terrah Baker
Standing up against your employer is something most people won’t, and even can’t, do. When your employer is the federal government and your standing up against the invasion of another country, using airstrikes and overthrowing a leader, it can make things even more complicated. Col. Ann Wright didn’t let that stop her as she became one of only three federal employees to publicly resign in opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
After serving as an officer for 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves, and for 16 years as a foreign diplomat in places like Mongolia and Sierra Leone — where she received an Award of Heroism for helping evacuate thousands of people during their civil war — she decided this was one thing she could not get behind.
“It wasn’t until the Iraq War in march of 2003, 10 years ago, that I found that I could in no way represent the policies of what was happening,” she told a small crowd of students and community members at the UofA Griffels Auditorium on Sept. 25.
Now, she tours the country sharing information from her book, Voices of Conscience: Government Insiders Speak Out Against the War In Iraq (2008), and the atrocities committed by our nation. A nation our President called “exceptional” when addressing the United Nations on Sept. 24.
“When we look at what that exceptionalism is and the last decade, the United States is an exceptional country. It has invaded and occupied more countries than any other country in the world; this century and last century.” The exceptionalism of the last and current administration extended into making torture and secret prisons in foreign countries official U.S. policy. And now we have become extremely exceptional with the use of unmanned drones taking out suspects who have never been tried, civilians who happen to be near, and in countries in which we’ve never declared war.
The use of drones has taken place in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are manned by a pilot usually in the U.S., can circle from 12 hours to days at a time, and viscously target humans the United States intelligence agencies, all seventeen of them, declare as a threat.
“It’s those agencies who prepare for the President of the U.S. — our constitutional lawyer president — each tuesday, a list of who should die … and he makes a decision. He looks at the short statement by each name as to why the intelligence agencies think they’re a threat and he puts a check mark. Then the next week the drones go after them until they kill them,” Wright said somberly.
On Sept. 25, a group of Pakistani victims of a drone strike were scheduled to stand before Congress and share the horror of their experience, but the hearing wasn’t allowed to take place, announced warcosts.com. This particular drone strike killed the 67-year-old mother of a Pakistani teacher, while his children watched their grandmother die a horrible death after being seriously injured themselves.
This is just one story of the direct impact of drone strikes. Wright said the statistics show that since the CIA began operating the drone program in Pakistan, between 2,800 and 3,200 people have been killed, with 2,400 of them being civilians — unarmed and/or nonmilitant children, women and men.
The president addressed drone strikes in his speech to the U.N. saying “We have limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States. Where capture is not feasible and there’s a near certainty of no civilian casualties.”
And our presence in the Middle East is not limited to drone strikes. Right now there are hundreds of American bases in Afghanistan, thousands of military and NATO soldiers, plus about 50,000 U.S. contractors, most of whom have no quick intention of leaving. The rumor Wright heard was a residual force of 5,000 to 10,000 and five mega-bases even after the 2014 supposed withdraw deadline.
What’s all this matter to the U.S. and even to the person who doesn’t care about victims of drone strikes, innocent bystanders and international and American law? Wright seems to think it is severely hurting our national security, and for anyone in the U.S. who values even their own life and livelihood, that’s important.
“The perception of America to the rest of the world really affects our national security. And if people are perceiving that the people of the U.S. are breaking international laws and the values our country has prided itself on — our constitution, freedom — going by the by during a particular decade, our perception in the world takes a real hit.”
You see, Wright seems to think our national security is better served not through invading, occupying, torturing, lying and maliciously killing, but through following the bold morals and laws once laid out by the U.S. and the world. Since the U.S. official policy has taken the low road during the last two administrations, it seems we’ll have a new generation of enemies looking at the U.S. as a more powerful, dangerous threat than ever before.