Retired Colonel Argued for Afghanistan Withdrawal during Atlanta Visit


10-20-09, 10:37 am

Original source: The Atlanta Progressive News

(APN) ATLANTA -- Retired Colonel Ann Wright, who resigned from the US State Department over the US Invasion of Iraq, was in Atlanta last week to promote her new book and argue for a phased US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Wright's visit was sponsored by the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, Atlanta, and included several events around Atlanta. Wright made a keynote address Tuesday evening, October 06, 2009, at the First Iconium Baptist Church.

'I helped open the US embassy in Afghanistan in 2001...We thought there was a small window of opportunity for the international community to get together,' to try to improve the country, Wright said during her speech.

Wright noted that first the former USSR had invaded Afghanistan, in an occupation which lasted ten years. During this crisis, the US 'was giving weapons to the Mujahideen to force the Soviets out of the country,' Wright said.

'Now the weapons are owned by warlords. The Mujahideen triggered the formation of the Taliban... students who came together who are now known as the Taliban,' Wright said.

'Then the US came in after 9/11, going after Al-Qaeda, forcing out the Taliban,' Wright said.

'Some of the warlords are part of the current Administration of Afghanistan,' Wright said.

'The US recognized the [current] Karzai government, despite irregularities,' Wright said.

'Remember what the Administrations the US supported in Vietnam? Administrations the people of Vietnam didn't want,' Wright said.

'It's been eight years [since the invasion]. We're already in a quagmire,' she said. 'Almost a trillion dollars spent. Tens of thousands of deaths of Afghan people. Everybody knows this is the graveyard of empires.'

'This is wrong. We've got to get out of Afghanistan,' Wright said.

'I've just come back from Afghanistan. It was a pointed time to come back after eight years,' Wright said. She said when she originally went in with about 5 US diplomats in 2001, they thought the US would provide physical infrastructure, schools, roads, and clinics.

'But the Bush Administration didn't put its mind to it. They already had aspirations for other countries. We started sending messages back to Bush: where is everybody? Why are we here?'

'The diplomats were watching TV from a bunker in January 2002 when the President made his State of the Union address. We said we'll finally get answers. Bush said there are other countries besides Afghanistan--Iraq, Iran, and North Korea--an axis of evil,' Wright said.

'There was no guidance out of Washington of what were we supposed to be doing there? We made many suggestions,' Wright said. 'It was about other places the empire wanted to go.'

'North Korea fired off a nuclear weapon. They said we think you're gonna come after us,' Wright said. 'This is why there's the beginning of nuclear energy in Iran.'

During her recent trip to Afghanistan, 'we talked to hundreds of people from nongovernmental organizations. The resounding comment was, you can't leave now. You do have other forces by paid groups in Pakistan who have an interest in the country not for the people.'

'They want us to build up their own army and equipment. That flies in the face of what most of us believe.'

This can be done 'fairly quickly,' Wright said. 'But people say, if we don't have some force to defend us from forces to force women back into burqas, no school for girls, no school for boys unless Madrassas... They say why don't you have Pakistanis clean up along the border? Al-Qaeda is still there. Why don't you stand out of our way when we try to get moderate Talibans over to our side?'

'Why don't you pay for work? Employment possibilities? Don't stand in the way to giving farmland. You spent $1 trillion [on this occupation]. Why haven't you bought some tractors?'

'Only 30% of the money we spend goes to Afghanistan. 70% goes to corporations getting big contracts,' Wright said. 'War is a racket and we're seeing it.'

'Afghanistan is a quagmire and it's going to be sucking the life out of the Administration. Obama said as a candidate he would increase the war in Afghanistan and be taking us into Pakistan,' Wright said.

'I think 40,000 new US troops is going to be very dangerous for America,' Wright said. 'The US has 135,000 still in Iraq. Obama is sticking to the timeline the Bush Administration had. We may still have 50,000 for a long time to go. Plus there are 180,000 contractors in Iraq with private security firms.'

'I think we need to be very, very forceful with the new President. We need to take to the streets, we need to let the President know what we want. He said he wants us to talk to him.'

'I want him to succeed... but he's got to succeed at getting us out of wars we shouldn't have gotten into. With Afghanistan, maybe there was sort of a reason to go in in the first place, but we stayed longer than we should've.'

'The people of Afghanistan will take their country back. The question is if the US leaves with its tail between its legs, or we could say we're leaving you with schools, roads... thank you very much, we're going back home,' Wright said.

After Wright's speech, the floor was opened up for questions. Two Atlanta activists, Ingemar Smith and Tracie Stern challenged Wright on her position that the removal of US troops should be phased, and said they believed that all US troops should be removed from Afghanistan immediately. --Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at