(Article copied from Peace & Planet News Fall 2023 Edition).
Following in the footsteps of Ray McGovern, Jeffery Sachs, Max Blumenthal and Randy Credico , Col. Ann Wright was asked to speak Monday, Dec. 11, at the U.N. Security Council on weapons being supplied to conflict areas and their role in preventing resolution of those conflicts. She prepared a statement that focused on the current Israeli assault on Gaza, but two hours before the meeting she was informed that since the meeting was on Ukraine, if she spoke about Gaza instead, the president of the council would cut her off and she would lose the opportunity to speak. She quickly amended her statement to focus more on Ukraine, and you can hear the remarks as she gave them in the video below. We are publishing her statement as originally written.–The editors of Peace & Planet News
On the Issue of Weapons Supplied into Conflict Areas and their Detrimental Effect on the
Prospects for the Settlement of Conflicts
By Ann Wright, U.S. Army Colonel (retired) & Diplomat (resigned)
I am pleased to address you on the issue of weapons supplied into conflict areas and their detrimental effect on the prospects for settlement of conflicts.
I served 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. While in the U.S. Army, I taught the Law of Land Warfare and the Geneva Conventions at the JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was in the U.S. Army during the U.S. wars on Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama and the U.S. Central American wars in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
I was also a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. I was on the small team that reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December 2001. At the last four Embassies, I was the Deputy Chief of Mission.
In Somalia, I was seconded to the United Nations Mission in Somalia, UNOSOM, in 1993-1994 as the head of the Justice Division with the mission of reconstituting the Somali police, judicial and prison systems.
But, I resigned from the U.S. government twenty years ago in March 2003 in opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq, a war that, to its credit, the U.N. Security Council refused to authorize.
I recount my personal history to underscore my thorough familiarity with conflicts in various regions, and to share my view of the futility of relying on military action instead of diplomacy for conflict resolution.
As a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former U.S. diplomat, I speak on my own behalf now as a concerned U.S. citizen who as a taxpayer pays for the weapons my country uses and sells to fuel wars that kill innocent civilians.
On the topic of today, there is no doubt that weapons supplied into conflict areas have a detrimental effect on the prospects for settlement of conflicts. In fact, the continued supply of weapons will prolong any conflict.
The important question is, how do you get conflicts to end?
I will begin with a reminder that the process for ending wars begins with a ceasefire. The process can be very long and thousands of people – millions even – can be killed before there is an agreement on a ceasefire.
For example, during the Korean war from 1950-1953, talks between parties to the conflict began in 1951 and finally concluded, after 575 meetings, with an armistice in 1953. During that war, over 4 million Koreans from the North and South, military and civilian, 500,000 Chinese military, 35,000 U.S. military and tens of thousands in the U.N military command were killed.
For our planet’s situation today, on behalf of the millions of concerned citizens worldwide who have been demonstrating over the past two years for a CEASEFIRE in Ukraine, and for the past two and one-half months for a CEASEFIRE in Gaza, I say:
STOP THE KILLINGS! CEASEFIRE NOW! NEGOTIATE !
In the 70 days of the Israeli-Gaza conflict, over 18,000 Palestinians in Gaza have already been killed, 7,000 children and 4,000 women. An estimated 6,000 are still under the rubble of their homes. 43,000 have been wounded. Over 260 Palestinians have been killed and 3,365 wounded during this period in the West Bank and thousands have been arrested and subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment.
The Israeli military has reported that 1,147 civilians in Israel and 418 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the horrific October 7 Hamas attack and the subsequent Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. We now know that the Israeli military knew of the pending attack and did not defend against it.
There has been only one six-day temporary ceasefire in the fighting, to allow for the release of hostages and release of Palestinian young detainees who were jailed without charges or trial.
This temporary ceasefire allowed for a very short time for a minuscule amount of medical, relief and food supplies to come into the Gaza ghetto for the 2.3 million who have been ordered by Israel into one-third of the area of the Gaza in forced displacement. WHO (World Health Organization) reports that Palestinians are starving.
Only 10 percent of the food to feed 2.3 million has been allowed into Gaza by Israel. Israel is again starving the people of Gaza as they did in 2006 when they infamously put “Gaza on a diet” and only allowed into Gaza food of a limited caloric value.
Food items such as pasta, flour, yeast, rice, salt, sugar, chickpeas, lentils, beans, olives, canned tuna and powdered milk were restricted or prohibited.
Sanitary items such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, diapers, baby wipes, detergent and dish-washing liquid were also restricted or prohibited.
A 2012 joint report by Save the Children and UK-based Medical Aid for Palestinians revealed that 10% of children under the age of 5 experienced stunted growth due to prolonged malnutrition due to the Israeli blockade and siege on Gaza.
The same study revealed that 58.6% of Gaza’s school children were anemic, as were more than 68% of children aged nine to 12 months and nearly 37% of pregnant women.
There is no safe place left for Palestinians in Gaza from the massive U.S. supplied to Israeli bombs, rockets and other munitions.
The targeting of the general population of Gaza and level of destruction of medical, academic, residential and commercial areas under the guise of eliminating Hamas is a textbook case of genocide and it must end now.
U.N. Secretary General Guterres invoked Article 99 and has warned: “Amid constant bombardment by the Israeli Defense Forces and without shelter or essentials to survive, I expect public order to completely break down soon, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible.” He also warned of possible epidemics.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken said there is a “gap between … the intent to protect civilians, and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground” in Gaza. Yet, three days ago, on Friday, December 8, in this very room, the U.S. vetoed a U.N. security council resolution for a humanitarian pause/ceasefire in the fighting in Gaza which would have protected civilians. This veto was indefensible and wrong.
The U.S. veto of the Ceasefire in Gaza is a moral failure and a dangerous move that ensures continuation of the Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.
That U.S. veto does not reflect the view of the U.S. citizenry who want the killing in Gaza to end. The Biden administration is on thin ice with the American public for its support and protections of the Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.
The U.S. speaks of its shared values with Israel.
U.S. values do not include the bombing, shelling, destruction of hospitals, schools, universities, residential areas, water supplies, electrical networks, sewage networks, degrading behavior towards those who are still alive, and making return of 75% of Gazans to their homes purposely impossible—the genocide in the Gaza Ghetto.
U.S. values do not include [13,981 120mm high-explosive] tank shells worth $106 million to be immediately sent to Israel for shelling Palestinians civilians, bypassing any congressional oversight.
Somehow the U.S. government, the President, White House, State Department, Congress seem to have forgotten that everyone has the right to “Self-Defense.”
Israel is not the only country that can use that term.
Palestinians have the right of self-defense against 75 years of occupation, blockade, siege, quarantine, theft of lands, bombing of homes, hospitals, universities, schools, imprisonment without charges.
My remarks are not anti-semitic. They are honest assessments of the actions of the State of Israel and my own government, the United States.
This is not anti-semitism; it’s the description of the criminal actions that Israel and the United States are perpetrating on the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
Today, the United States is providing weapons to two major conflicts: the one between Israel and Gaza, and the one between Russia and Ukraine.
The U.S. provides $3.8 billion annually to the Israeli government for Israeli military use.
Now, the Biden administration has asked the U.S. congress to approve another $14 billion with virtually no restriction on their use against the people in Gaza
On December 7, 2023, only four days ago, in a press conference with the new UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said that over the last two years, the United States has provided $70 billion to support Ukraine and European allies have provided more than $110 billion. Biden said, “If you look at the investments that we’ve made in Ukraine’s defense
to deal with this aggression, 90 percent of the security assistance we’ve provided has actually been spent here in the United States with our manufacturers, with our production, and that’s produced more American jobs, more growth in our own economy. So this has also been a win-win that we need to continue,” Blinken said.
This is not a “win-win” for civilians in conflict areas.
The win-win is for the military industrial complex and the politicians and retired government officials who receive senior positions in the weapons industry after their retirements!
In closing, I will read part of a poem that describes how some parents in Gaza have resorted to writing their children’s names on their legs to help identify them should either they, the parents, or the children be killed in Israeli bombing.
It was written for the children of Gaza but is applicable to children in all conflict areas:
Write My Name on My Leg, Mama.
By Zeina Azzam
Write my name on my leg, Mama
Use the black permanent marker
with the ink that doesn’t bleed
if it gets wet…
Write my name on my leg, Mama
and on the legs of my sisters and brothers.
This way we will belong together
This way we will be known as your children.
Write my name on my leg, Mama
When the bomb hits our house
When the walls crush our skulls and bones
our legs will tell our story, how
there was nowhere for us to run.
On behalf of the people of the world who want to live in peace and safety, I say again:
STOP THE KILLINGS!
NEGOTIATE ANY DISAGREEMENTS!
Zeina Azzam’s poem can be found here.
Ann Wright is a 29-year U.S. Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired U.S. Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She is a member of the Veterans For Peace Advisory Board. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand people during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She is most noted for having been one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in direct protest of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Wright was also a passenger on the Challenger 1, which along with the Mavi Marmara, was part of the 2010 Gaza flotilla. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book Dissent: Voices of Conscience. She has written frequently on rape in the military.