Ann Wright Testimony on Downing Street Memos

Submitted by Bill Crosier on August 22, 2006 - 11:38am. :: | |







JUNE 16, 2005



My name is Mary A. (Ann) Wright. I was one of three US diplomats who resigned from the federal government in 2003 in opposition to the war in Iraq. I served my country for over thirty-five years. I was a US diplomat for sixteen years and was the Deputy Chief of Mission in our embassies in Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan (briefly) and Mongolia. I was a member of the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December, 2001. I had also had assignments in Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Grenada and Nicaragua. I received the State Department’s Award for Heroism as Charge d’Affaires during the evacuation of Sierra Leone in 1997. I also was 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and participated in civil reconstruction projects after military operations in Grenada, Panama and Somalia. I attained the rank of Colonel during my military service.

In my March 19, 2003 letter of resignation, I told Secretary of State Colin Powell that I disagreed with starting a war with Iraq without the authorization of the UN Security Council. In the letter I also noted my disagreement with the Administration’s unbalanced policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the lack of policy on North Korea and the unnecessary curtailment of civil liberties in the U.S under the Patriot Act. I believed the Administration’s policies were infuriating much of the world’s population who were opposed to those policies and that those policies were making the world a more dangerous, not a safer, place. I resigned as I did not want, and could not in good conscience, represent the policies of the Bush Administration, particularly the Iraq war.

Two years after I resigned, the Downing Street memos have surfaced and provide a strong written basis for my concerns about the Bush policies and strategies which led the United States into an illegal war of aggression in Iraq. The July 23, 2002 Downing Street memo records the steady legal advice from the UK’s Attorney General and the Foreign Office’s Legal Advisor that a desire for regime change was not a legal basis for military action. The UK Attorney General said there were three possible legal grounds for military action: self-defense, humanitarian intervention or United Nations Security Council authorization. But in March, 2003, the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, succumbed to political pressure and changed his legal opinion to agree with Tony Blair and the Bush administration that war could proceed without meeting any of the three criteria.

Just two days ago, I returned from a short visit in London. While I was there I met with Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the former Deputy Legal Advisor of the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Ms. Wilmshurst also resigned from her senior position in the UK government in March, 2003, also in opposition to going to war in Iraq without a second Security Council resolution. She too had served over thirty years for her government. As the Deputy Legal Advisor to the Foreign Office, she had a long and distinguished career in the UK diplomat corps including heading the UK delegation to set up the International Criminal Court and serving as the legal advisor for the UK mission to the UN.

She said in her letter of resignation: “I regret that I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force against Iraq without a second United Nations Security Council resolution. I can not in good conscience go along with the advice which asserts the legitimacy of military action without such a resolution, particularly when the unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression; nor can I agree with such action in circumstances which are so detrimental to international order and the rule of law. My views accord with the views that have been given consistently in this office before and after the adoption of UNSC 1441 and with what the Attorney General gave us to understand were his view prior to his letter of 7 March. (The view expressed in that letter has of course changed again into what is now the official line.)”

The last sentence was redacted from the resignation letter made public in March, 2003, but surfaced finally two years later in March, 2005 causing much embarrassment to the Attorney General and the Blair government.

Wilmshurst concluded her letter of resignation with “Therefore, I need to leave the Office; my views on the legitimacy of a war in Iraq would not make it possible to continue my role as the Deputy Legal Advisor or my work more generally. In context with the International Criminal Court, negotiations on the crime of aggression begin again this year.”

The Downing Street memos and Ms. Wilmshurst’s letter of resignation are very important as they provide evidence that solid, consistent legal judgments from the Attorney General and the Foreign Office from July, 2001 on the illegality of the war were overturned in March, 2003 for political expediency with the pretext of national security.

Additionally, the Downing Street memos provide information on provocative actions the Bush administration took against the Iraqi regime to attempt to force the regime to respond so the administration could justify military action. According to the Downing Street memos, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld called the provocations “spikes in activity” by US government agencies. These “spikes” included the resumption in bombing of targets in Iraq. In March 2002 no bombs were dropped on the south of Iraq but in April ten tons were dropped and increased to 54.6 tons in September, 2002, alone. No one knows how many innocent Iraqi civilians were killed by the resumption in bombing-a resumption for the sole purpose of inciting retaliation that could be used to justify an otherwise unjustifiable war. ( is the UK website where answers to Parliamentary questions are found, including the information on tons of bombs dropped in 2002.) But the Iraqis did not respond to the dramatic increase in bombing.

We do not know yet what other types of “spikes of activity” or more accurately “spikes of provocation” the White House ordered the US military and the Central Intelligence Agency to conduct to provoke the Iraqi regime. Having been in the US military for 29 years and in the special operations field, particularly in the areas of psychological operations and civil reconstruction, I can assure you, the US military has a vast on the shelf storehouse of ideas and activities that could be used to create political, economic and security instability in any country. Now that we know through the Downing Street memos that conducting “spikes of provocation” was a tactic of the Bush administration, we can go back in the records and find other incidents in Iraq in 2002 that, under the cover of dealing with activities in the no-fly zones and UN sanctions on Iraq, were purposeful, provocative events intended to force the Iraqi regime to respond militarily.

While the UK and Europe was buzzing with the details of the Downing Street memos over six weeks ago, I strongly believe the US media was incredibly negligent and unprofessional in failing to cover the May 1 disclosure of the Downing Street memos in the UK press. Even the June 15 Washington Post editorial claims there is nothing new in the memos, so why the big fuss. I would correct them—there is much important new material in the memos, information that is critical to our understanding on why our country is at war now. That new information includes:

--the Bush policy of provocation of the Iraqi to elicit a response that could be used as a rationale for war;

--the provocative, unnecessary and therefore illegal bombing which resulted in the deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians;

--the concern of the UK government in as early as March, 2002 about the lack of a legal basis for a war against Iraq;

--the acknowledgement that without a legal basis for war, military actions against Iraq would be termed illegal and therefore criminal acts of aggression;

-- the unlawful “fixing” of intelligence to create the conditions necessary to justify the war;

--the lack of a strategy to deal with post-war Iraq. Despite UK urging, a post-war strategy was not developed in the year after the Downing Street memos and now two years later is very rudimentary. The lack of planning for post-war Iraq has resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and is a violation of the Law of Land Warfare, which is a violation of the Law of Land Warfare that requires an occupying state to provide for the occupied state..

These are facts made available through the Downing Street memos that an independent press and a concerned citizenry should use to hold an administration accountable for its illegal actions.

I suggest that a very good “spike of activity” that should come from the information contained in the Downing Street memos, is a dramatically increased effort for the impeachment of President Bush and the criminal prosecution of senior members of the administration including Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, current the Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor Rice and former Director of Central Intelligence Tenet for ordering provocative aggressive acts against Iraq, conducting an illegal war of aggression in Iraq, lying to the US Congress and the people of the United States on the reason for the war and prosecuting the war with misfeasance which has resulted in the unnecessary loss of tens of thousands of US, coalition and Iraqi lives. Impeachment of President Bush and criminal prosecution of the others should be the legacy of the Downing Street memos.

Finally, I call on good, conscientious US government employees in the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the White House to recognize that the US public and the world should know the details of how the Bush administration political machinery ran over the conscience of the nation in conducting this illegal war in Iraq. I ask that they, like their British colleagues who placed the Downing Street memos in the public record, do the same with US government memos. As we have seen from making the UK memos public, national security will not be jeopardized by their disclosure but rather enhanced by holding accountable an administration for its actions.

Mary A. Wright