Putting the Nation at Risk
by the Center for International Policy
Senate Office Building Room 106
resigned/retired Foreign Service Officer and retired US Army Reserves
Colonel Mary A. (Ann) Wright
Senator Dodd and
other members of the US Congress, Congressional staff members,
Ambassador White, fellow panel members and friends, it is a pleasure
to be back in Washington and to be asked to offer my views.
After almost 30 years
of military and diplomatic experience proudly representing our
country in some of the most isolated and dangerous parts of the
world, I resigned from government service in March of this year. I
strongly believed the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war
in Iraq without international consensus and the resultant diversion
of resources from completing the mission to eliminate Al Queda and
eliminate the Taliban was wrong.
I also believed that
the administration should have worked harder to resolve the
Israeli/Palestinian conflict and should have opened some level of
dialogue with North Korea. I also disagreed with the unnecessary
curtailment of civil liberties under the Patriotic Act.
6 Months Later
6 months later, I
continue to believe the administration’s rationale of going to war
in Iraq was faulty and dangerous. 6 months later, I am firmly
convinced the actions of the administration have put our nation’s
economy at risk.
6 months later, I feel
the actions of the administration have placed our nation’s security
at even greater at risk than it was before. 6 months later I know
the administration’s actions have lowered America’s moral stature
in the eyes of most of the citizens of the world.
6 months later, the
security environment of neither Iraq nor Afghanistan has been
resolved. Iraq and Afghanistan are smoldering; Israel and Palestine
are in flames and North Korea is test firing missiles. An unknown
number of Americans and non-US citizens have been in detention for an
unknown period of time, for unknown reasons.
I truly feel the
decisions of the administration have made not only America, but the
world, a more dangerous, not a safer place.
Let me start by
recalling a bit of distant history. Twenty years ago almost to the
day, a US Naval Task Force on its way to the Middle East to recover
the remains of 222 US Marines who had been killed in the bombing of
the marine barracks in Beirut. The Task Force was diverted suddenly
to the Caribbean and became the platform for the “rescue” of
American students attending a medical school on the tiny island of
Grenada. The murders of one part of the ruling Marxist regime by the
other part and subsequent chaotic conditions arguably jeopardized the
lives of hundreds of American medical students.
And those conditions
provided the opportunity to eliminate the Grenadian part of the
Reagan Soviet era Western Hemisphere “Axis of Evil” that
consisted of Cuba, Nicaragua and Grenada.
At the time, I was US
Army major assigned at Ft. Bragg, NC. I deployed to Grenada on the
third day of operations to assist the XVIII Airborne Corps in meeting
its International law obligations including protection of public and
private property of Grenadians from theft and looting—in Grenada
this theft and looting was caused by poorly supervised US troops and
resulted in the courts-martial of about 20 US soldiers and greater
emphasis by the Army on better instruction and supervision of
soldiers in combat operations.
I will come back to
obligations of an occupying power in a few minutes and my deep
concerns in that regard about US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I later was second in
command of the US Army Special Operations Civil Affairs unit that
helped with civilian reconstruction efforts in Grenada. Since
Grenada, the US government has been involved in many post-combat
civilian reconstruction projects in Panama, Haiti, Somalia, the
Balkans and Afghanistan. We should know how to calculate civil
reconstruction costs by now. We’ve had lots of experience.
I, myself, have been
involved in civilian reconstruction projects in Grenada, Somalia and
Afghanistan and in post-conflict operations in Sierra Leone.
Analysis Based on My
Military and Diplomatic Service Experience Indicated a Flawed Plan
Now, let’s fast
forward 20 years to 2002. The administration’s claim that America
and the world was in imminent danger from Iraq’s weapons of mass
destruction did not ring true to me. There were no claims at that
time that Iraq was a center for terrorists, particularly those
terrorists connected with the September 11 tragedies.
The administration made
the claim that the US must have a doctrine of preemptive strike.
That doctrine would
have made sense in Afghanistan with its Al Qaeda bases and the links
of Al Qaeda to past bombings, but the doctrine rang dangerously
hollow with Iraq and dangerously arrogant and aggressive to the Arab
and Muslim world.
Preemptive strike is a
concept that once used by any power, opens the door of its use to all
comers—thereby jeopardizing and making the world more dangerous
rather than safer.
I was on the State
Department team that opened our Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in
December, 2001 and spent almost four months there as the first
political officer and later as the Deputy Chief of Mission. Sitting
in the bunker of the US Embassy in Kabul in January 2002, I listened
in disbelief when President Bush declared the US would be looking
closely at the actions of today’s so called “Axis of Evil”,
Iraq, Iran and North Korea—when the war in Afghanistan was far from
The Taliban had been
routed from Kabul and other cities and the Al Qaeda bases had been
blown apart, but we in Kabul knew that many more international
military forces were needed all over the country to keep our new
allies, the warlords, in check, while we and they continued to fight
“remnants” of Al Qaeda and the Taliban--remnants that have proven
to be much larger than had been anticipated.
We in the bunker at
the Embassy in Kabul were astounded that the administration was
threatening additional military campaigns when the operations in
Afghanistan, operations that were a direct response to the
perpetrators of September 11, were far from over.
One year later, as the
drumbeat to war in Iraq reached a crescendo, when it was even more
evident that we were a long way from defeating Al Qaeda and the
Taliban and stabilizing Afghanistan, the rationale of why we would
jeopardize our commitment to free the world of Al Qaeda and
Afghanistan of the Taliban by undertaking operations in Iraq was a
mystery to us in Kabul.
Flawed: Law and Order and Civil Reconstruction Requirements Not Met
I knew from personal
experience in Somalia and Afghanistan, the US would be involved in an
intricate and expensive civil reconstruction program if we decided to
invade and occupy a country as large and as culturally complex as
It seemed obvious that
it would be particularly difficult and expensive in a country that
had for ten years been under a US sponsored UN embargo and therefore
unable to maintain its relatively sophisticated urban infrastructure
of water, electrical and sewage systems, plus the extensive oil
pipelines and oil storage facilities. There would be much more
infrastructure to fix in Iraq than in Afghanistan, and we were
already having trouble getting the funds to fix Afghanistan.
Knowing that the US
Congress and the American people would blanch if they knew the number
of soldiers required to provide a level of security and law and
order to protect this infrastructure immediately after combat
operations, I strongly believe Department of Defense politicians
risked the success of the military operation by gutting the original
plans developed by the military component commanders for the Central
Command and reduced the military personnel level to a dangerously
low, but politically sellable level.
Former US Army Chief of
Staff General Shinseki alerted the political leaders of the
Department of Defense six months before the war began that the
civilian-mandated operations plans for Iraq were woefully short on
soldiers to do the missions required by the operations plan. Anyone
who has ever been associated with combat operations knows that by the
second day in those operations, many civil affairs and military
police units are needed to handle the large number of civilians that
the combat units find on the battlefield, battlefields that in this
day are generally urban areas of a country. The numbers of civil
affairs and military police units needed were not included in the
operation plan has a special annex that identifies cultural monuments
and public infrastructure that by international law, the Law of Land
Warfare, must be protected by an occupying power. And the plan
identifies the numbers of soldiers that will be needed to protect the
infrastructure and culturally important sites. UNESCO rosters of
culturally important sites in Iraq have been known by US military
planners for decades.
In fact in the early
1980s when I was a soldier at Ft Bragg, NC, I helped write an “on
the shelf” operation plan for possible Middle East operations.
Culturally sensitive locations and the number of soldiers needed to
protect those areas were identified twenty years ago –and the
numbers of soldiers required was a daunting number back then. Those
same places we identified twenty years ago were not protected and
subsequently looted in the wave of lawlessness that occurred when not
enough soldiers were available to establish a secure environment and
to guard key facilities. The looting of museums, libraries, schools
and hospitals in Baghdad and other major cities in Iraq should have
I firmly believe
Pentagon E-ring civilian “warriors” risked the lives of military
personnel and the prestige of the United States on their war plan, a
war plan that senior military officers were telling them was
commanders now say more military forces are needed in Iraq. They are
careful to say that they don’t need more US forces as those
comments would be career suicide. The administration continues to
offer large financial incentives to countries to send troops to help
fight the guerilla war that has developed in Iraq, a guerilla war
that was predictable and predicted by those who know the Iraqi
With all due respect to
U.S. military prowess, ten years after the rout of Iraqi forces in
Gulf War I and the destruction of much of its military hardware,
followed by a ten year embargo on replacement military equipment, the
Iraqi military was not a military that posed a major challenge for
the best equipped and best trained military on earth.
One could easily
predict that much of a military looking down the barrels of such an
overwhelming U.S. military force would take off their uniforms and
disappear into the cities and countryside rather than stand, fight
and be slaughtered. These “disappeared” Iraqi military, now
apparently joined by international fighters some of whom appear to be
parts of terrorist organizations, are exacting causalities now
greater than those sustained during initial “combat” operations.
Because of the
administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq, we now are faced
with tremendous economic risk. The huge amount of funding necessary
to replenish, re-outfit and pay our military forces, plus the funding
the administration feels is necessary for the US to provide for the
reconstruction in Iraq are staggering. Despite what the Secretary of
Defense has said, I believe that these expenditures have placed the
nation at economic risk.
National economic risk
becomes a national security risk when the nation’s expenditures
outstrip our revenues. Huge expenditures for unnecessary wars and
tax cuts for political purposes place our country at both security
and economic risk.
Using Warlords to
Fight our Battles: Obligation to Investigate War Crime allegations
Earlier I spoke of
American military violations of Law of Land Warfare in Grenada.
I want to use the
opportunity of speaking on this panel to raise an incident in
Afghanistan that must be investigated to determine if American
military forces may have violated international law, a violation so
grave that it will deeply affect the image of the US military and of
the United States itself. For the moral fiber of America and our
image outside of the country, I feel it is incumbent upon the
administration to ensure that these types of allegations are properly
addressed. But after 18 months since the alleged incident, DOD has
not launched any investigation.
Ironically, I bring
this incident up on the heels of publicity over the weekend
concerning the actions of a US Army Tiger unit in Vietnam almost 35
years ago in which hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese villagers were
killed. The Army reportedly spent over 4 years investigating and
documenting killings that took place over a 7 month period in 1967.
Those who were responsible have not been held accountable.
35 years later, in
Afghanistan, US military forces reportedly failed to prevent the
deaths of approximately 3000 Taliban fighters that had surrendered. I
firmly believe the US government must investigate these allegations
and if they are true take appropriate measures to hold those
decision to hire many Afghan warlords to fight a major part of our
war on terrorism against Al Qaeda and to free the people of
Afghanistan from the misery of Taliban rule, no doubt saved numerous
American military lives. However, by hiring these warlords to fight
for us, I believe the administration assumed the moral responsibility
of supervising how “our” warlords fought. .
In November, 2001,
approximately 8,000 Taliban surrendered at Kunduz. 470 Taliban broke
away and ended up being killed in a final battle near Mazar-e-Sharif.
At the Kalai Janghi prison where many surrendered Taliban were held,
an uprising broke out and CIA agent Mike Spann was killed. The
American Taliban John Walker Lindh was discovered there and a huge
media blitz followed. Most journalists left northern Afghanistan
after reporting the Walker story.
other 7,500 Taliban were then processed through Kalai Janghi prison.
The plan reportedly was to take all the prisoners to the Sheberghan
prison to be interrogated and to root out which men were Taliban and
first 3,000 were transported in open trucks to Sheberghan prison
where they were processed by American forces who checked for identity
cards and any thing else of intelligence value.
3,000 Taliban were still to be processed by the American forces at
Sheberghan. But there was no room at the inn. The prison was several
times beyond capacity.
3,000 surrendered Taliban soldiers were packed into airtight
containers on trailers to travel many miles to their destination -–
the Sheberghan prison.
Before long, Northern Alliance soldiers hear pounding inside the
containers as the men inside are gasping for air. There are witness
reports of Northern Alliance soldiers supervised by US Special Forces
soldiers or CIA operatives shooting into the containers create
ventilation holes. The shots killed many Taliban in the closed
containers and wounded many more. So many had been wounded or killed
that blood ran under the doors of the containers onto the ground.
trucks filled with the remaining 3000 Taliban took up to four days to
get to Sheberghan. Once there, the trucks filled with dead and
dying surrendered Taliban were queuing in long lines outside
Sheberghan Prison. Once inside the prison, the living and the dead
were poured out of the containers. American CIA and Special Forces
then searched for identification, along with the Northern Alliance
soldiers. The dead and the living, many of whom had simply lost
consciousness, were then thrown back into the trucks and reportedly,
under the orders of an American official, taken out to the desert.
One of the persons who witnessed this was told by the American
official, "Get rid of them. Just get them out of here before
satellite pictures can be taken."
bones and clothes of these 3000 have been found in a mass grave in
sands at Dasht Leile.
Andy McEntee, the
former chairman of Amnesty International of Great Britain and now the
Human Rights director of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe and film director Jamie Doran, have documented
these deaths in a film entitled “Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of
This film has been seen
throughout the world, but has received little attention in the United
States. I urge each of you to watch this documentary and press the
Department of Defense to investigate the allegations contained in the
As a retired US Army
colonel with a background in the Law of Warfare, I believe deeply
that our military is built on honor and integrity. Soldiers are
well-trained and know their responsibilities. Those who break known
rules jeopardize the honor and integrity of the others. Therefore it
is incumbent upon senior leaders of the US military, for the
protection of the majority of excellent soldiers, to honestly
investigate these allegations.
Lack of balance in
As a final comment, I
believe the administration’s actions have created and are
continuing to create a huge flow of negative feelings toward America.
The level of dislike in other countries (many that have been our
consistent allies) for administration policies is extraordinarily
Lack of US effort to
resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the perception in the
Arab and Moslem world that US policies are overwhelming pro-Israeli
are fueling a tremendous anti-American feeling in the Moslem world
and elsewhere. The administration veto against the UN resolution
condemning Israel’s barrier fence that separates workers from their
employment, divides farmers from their farms and generally disrupts
Palestinian life in order to protect illegal Israeli settlements in
Palestinian territory is guaranteed to continue anti-American
feeling. The administration’s weak comments when Israel attacked
Syria and virtual green light for Israel to destroy houses in Rafah
increases anti-American feeling in the region.
And now we have a
Palestinian group successfully targeting American embassy vehicle and
personnel with a bomb detonated under a passing embassy convoy. When
in the eyes of Palestinians and other of the Moslem world, America’s
Middle East policy and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Middle
East policy are impossible to distinguish, and then we should
anticipate that we could become the targets of suicide bombers as
No US administration
has used the ultimate chip in the Israel-Palestinian conflict—the
4.5 billion dollar subsidy the US gives to Israel each year. I
suggest that at some point, the circle of violence between the two
protagonists will be broken when Israel is forced to deal in an
honest and forthright manner on land settlements, barrier fences and
occupation issues. I believe the only way to get Israel to such a
point is withholding large amounts of the US financial subsidies to
To end, I wish to state
again that I believe the administration’s rationale of going to war
in Iraq was faulty and dangerous. I am firmly convinced the actions
of the administration have put our nation’s economy at risk. I
feel the actions of the administration in the past year have placed
our nation’s security at even greater at risk. I know the
administration’s actions have lowered America’s moral stature in
the eyes of most of the citizens of the world.
I truly feel the
decisions of the administration have made not only America, but the
world, a more dangerous, not a safer place.