On Sept. 23, retired United States Army Col. Ann Wright met with a sizeable audience at the Interfaith Center to deliver a lecture titled "What Are We Doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? How Does It Affect Iraqi, Afghan and U.S. Women?"
Wright, author of Dissent: Voices of Consequence - Government Insiders Speak Out Against the War in Iraq, was a member of the U.S. Army through eight presidential administrations and 29 years. She said she decided to join the military because it was "a good way to get out of Arkansas."
"It's not like I drank the Kool-Aid on everything," Wright said, explaining that her opinions on military matters did not always agree with those of the government. She added that she felt morally obligated to resign once the U.S. began the "invasion and occupation of a nation that did not attack" and posed "no definitive threat to the international community."
Wright said that the use of unmanned drones in modern warfare, especially in current U.S. military operations, is an issue of particular importance to her. She said she believes that they are nothing more than "computer games of death" in which "civilians are collateral damage."
It is because of this grief, Wright said, that she was on the fleet of ships that traveled to Gaza this past May on a human rights endeavor. There will be another flotilla in late November or early December that will include a U.S. ship - "The Audacity of Hope" - and possibly American reporters. The goals of the Gaza trips are detailed at ustogaza.org.
Wright also discussed the impact of war on soldiers. "They probably won't sleep at night for the rest of their lives," Wright said.
Soldiers face physical trauma daily: bombs, shrapnel, burns and the possibility of death. She said that even troops designated as non-combat face very real threats. The same is true for civilians and insurgents. Their survival, she said, is often a daily question.
During the question-and-answer section, the game Humans vs. Zombies was addressed. According to Wright, we have turned war into a game. Students use Nerf guns and socks instead of M-16s and cluster bombs, but that doesn't make it acceptable, she said. "In my opinion, it does not belong here," she said, suggesting that the game feeds into the dehumanization of war.
Freshman Robert Wojcikiewicz said that the lecture was "pretty bleak, but you have to have hope."
After the lecture, Wright said that the dehumanization of war concept was not unique to American. In Israel, there is a unit in which young women remotely guard the border of Gaza with machine guns by playing what appears to be a violent video game. She said that if you can't look at a person's face, it is easy to forget that he or she is a fellow human.