Usually, "Sir! No Sir!" is the perfect negative response on a military base. But retired Army colonel and antiwar activist Ann Wright was detained for two hours at Fort McNair Monday when she tried to pass out postcards for "Sir! No Sir!" -- a documentary about military opposition to the Vietnam War.
A 29-year veteran of the Army and Reserves, Wright quit the State Department in 2003 over White House policies and now travels the country protesting the Iraq war. On Monday, Wright and other activists headed to Fort McNair to demonstrate during the Abu Ghraib court-martial. As a retired military officer with ID, Wright was allowed on base only to learn the trial had been moved to Fort Meade in Maryland -- so she decided to leave promotional postcards for the film on the base.
A young sergeant approached Wright, she says, and told her she was passing out "seditious material." Wright, 59, said she was a retired colonel and was not argumentative: "I just wanted him to understand it's a very serious thing to detain people." She was searched, handcuffed and transported to the military police station, where she sat shackled to a chair until an Army lawyer arrived. He explained that advance approval was required to distribute or post literature on military bases; the cuffs came off. No charges were filed.
Barbara Owens , spokesperson for the Army Military District of Washington, gave a similar version of events, explaining: "Because of the demonstration that was ongoing, the command had a concern for the safety and security of the servicemembers and civilians working on post." Wright was in violation of Army Regulation 210-7. Owens said authorities found the postcards in both the men's and women's latrines. "Colonel Wright did have a calm, rational and compliant demeanor," she said.
"You've been very polite," Wright told the same sergeant who cuffed her, when he escorted her to the gate. He saluted her; she saluted back.
Yesterday she was back in action, getting tossed out of the National Press Club after heckling Sen. Hillary Clinton . "It just never ends," Wright said cheerfully.