Friday, September 16, 2011

Ann Wright: "America always has to have an enemy."

I am here at "The Military Industrial Complex at 50" national conference in Charlottesville, VA this weekend. Our Maine contingent includes Mark Roman and Pat Taub, who traveled with me today on a US Air flight where our flight attendant announced that we should all show our gratitude to those serving in the military by giving them a round of applause. Most of those so directed clapped, but we were somewhat aghast at this coerced display of militaristic patriotism. It reminded Pat of the NYT front page photo of President Obama decorating a young marine, Dakota Meyer.
 The distraught look on the young soldier's face traumatized all of us.  (I thought Obama looked pretty hollowed out, too, for a man making an opportunistic campaign appearance.)

I was warmly greeted at the door of The Haven in downtown C'ville by CODEPINK's Local Coordinator, who also helped organize the conference. Mary Beth Sullivan and Bruce Gagnon had arrived from Maine before us; both are speaking later in the weekend, as am I. We arrived in time to share a terrific Afghan meal, and then MB's friend Clare Hanrahan from Florida introduced the program by naming C'ville Mayor Dave Norris as the first mayor to jump on board the US Conference of Mayors War Dollars Home Resolution prior to its passage in Baltimore last June. This drew enthusiastic applause from about 100 people assembled for the first night of the conference. The resolution, she noted, had been sponsored by Codepink, and Clare read the text out loud as a sort of manifesto for the conference. The C'ville city council will soon consider passing their own version of the resolution also.

Mayor Norris said: "I am often told, 'You are just a dare you talk about war and peace?' He noted that C'ville's citizens that are being sent to fight, and that their tax $$ that are being spent on wars, adding, "We not only have the right, we have the obligation.”

As we listened to a thrashingly good speech by David Swanson on the vast extent of the MIC just in the state of Virginia, Ann Wright slipped in. I had just seen her smiling visage on today's Codepink Alert calling on all to assemble with her in Freedom Plaza in Washington DC on Oct 6. Organizers say they will carry out direct actions on a daily basis.
Ann explained that she enlisted out of Arkansas in order to travel and see the world, and because she was promised she would never see combat unless she volunteered. She stayed in for 29 years before resigning over her objection to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and she admitted that she is drawing a pension but said she's plowing it all right back into working for peace (applause from, among others, many members of Veterans for Peace in the audience).

Among her other talking points tonight:

  • The military is the greatest polluter in the world, for example, the depleted uranium that we're still using.
  • We always need to feed the beast according to the 3 B's of America: gotta be bigger, gotta be better, gotta be badder.
  • An article this week in Truthout about Christian teachings in the U.S. Air Force on the ethics of nuclear weapons training for new officers – some questioned why separation of church & state not being respected – the Air Force now has said they have to review all their ethical teaching of nuclear weapons. Also noting that a veteran in period costume as Mr. Jefferson had just said: be careful of how religion is used.
  • We can't figure out how to get the govt to say peace is profitable...war is the biggest profit maker in the world. We see it now as America is on its knees financially. These wars are really undercutting any chance of having education, health care, other social needs met. 
  • We've gotta stop it, and we're gonna do it. 
In response to a question about China's economic threat to the U.S., Ann observed "America always has to have an enemy." She went on to talk about the South Korean island of Jeju where a naval base is being built amid fierce resistance by the local population. Ann visited the island recently to stand with the villagers -- one more example that brought the discussion around full circle to the environmental threat of global militarism to, as Ann put it, "the future generations."

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