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Organizing The Military
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Veterans for Peace
Ellen Hinchcliffe interviews Chante Wolf
S upport Our Troops remains the favorite cliché to haul out during every war to silence dissent. A review of the facts, however, exposes the expression for the bankrupt rhetoric that it is. Just one example that seems to defy irony is that the day after the GOP-controlled Congress passed a symbolic Support the Troops resolution, they voted to cut $25 billion over the next ten years from the Department of Veterans Affairs budget and $204 million from Impact Aid, an education program for children of service members.
As a veteran from the first Gulf War, Chante Wolf is well-versed in empty promises. Growing up in a working class, military family Chante dreamed of being a photographer for National Geographic . Uncertain how to pay for college, Wolf, at the suggestion of her father, joined the Air Force. Although promised a career in her chosen field, she was never trained as a photographer.
Wolf served nine years in the Air Force, mostly in Spain, until she was sent to Saudi Arabia in 1991. After returning to the U.S., the experience in the Gulf, coupled with the intense misogyny and homophobia of the military, led her to attempt suicide. Wolf grabbed at the early out option being offered and left the Air Force in 1992. She then came out as a lesbian and began to unravel her experience with the military. Chante Wolf is the first person in her family to graduate from college and is now a dedicated activist with Veterans for Peace. I interviewed Wolf between speaking engagements on Veterans Day.
What’s the difference between Veterans Day and what used to be called Armistice Day after World War I?
Armistice Day was changed by an act of Congress in 1954. I assume they were thinking there had been so many wars since the “war to end all wars” so let’s bring in the idea of supporting the troops; but really you are not supporting the troops, you are supporting the war.
So instead of the idea of a memorial to remember all those lost to war it becomes…
Rah, rah the veterans. The same thing that is going on now. They tell us, got to get behind this war. Any veteran who has the courage to stand up and say no to this war has every right.
Even on the left it has become a knee jerk response, “We support our troops too.” How do we support them and what do we support? Do we support AWOL soldiers? Do we support soldiers shooting into crowds of Iraqi demonstrators?
Those are the questions I ask when I go out and do talks. Do I support the Marine that kills an Iraqi woman and says, “Chick got in the way.” Do I support rape as psychological warfare or shooting fleeing people in the back? I may understand where it’s coming from, but I don’t support that kind of violence. What I do support is that the men and women who enlist in this country’s military be told the truth that they are not protecting the United States, they are and always have been protecting corporate interests.
Talk about recruitment; I know it’s a big part of the work you do.
They are going to Mexico and waving the green card around and then they send them right to the front. There is no real front with today’s technology; they just ship them over there to be grenade fodder. Right now approximately one out of every ten soldiers that dies in Iraq is not a U.S. citizen. They are getting recruits any way they can. Leave No Child Behind has a stipulation that schools must give the names, address, and phone numbers of juniors and seniors to recruiters on demand or they will lose federal funding.
In the education bill?
Yeah, Leave No Child Behind.
Leave no child unrecruited.
Right. How many of those politicians who wrap themselves up in the flag have kids in the military? Bush was AWOL for the last 18 months of his National Guard duty—during wartime. The military spent $42 million of our tax dollars to design an interactive video game aimed at recruiting our kids. I was reading yesterday how they went to a school and gave kids a ride in a helicopter. See how fun and cool this is, see what you are going to be doing for your country and you can also get an education. I would like to know how many kids in Edina [wealthy suburb] are going to be required to kill people to get an education.
There is a Marine I’m in contact with that had three anthrax shots and became ill and went to the VA. He started asking questions. They tried to have him committed, said he was insane. Now they are withholding his education money because they say he’s violent. So you go and do whatever for the country, but they make the rules and they can break them.
So what are you asking for with recruitment?
Veterans for Peace wants equal time with ROTC in the schools and wherever they have recruiters present. I want our stories in there with the polish and spit shine. The idea is for Vets for Peace to offer balance. We talk about what we found out after being in the military, then they make up their own mind. I’m not anti-military per-se…
You don’t sound very convinced of that.
I’m not a pacifist. I would kill any person that attacked me. So that’s not being a very good pacifist.
I think there is a difference between real self-defense and what they call defense.
I had a Marine in my audience ask me, “So where do you stand on war?” He wasn’t being nasty he was really asking. So I was quiet for a moment and then I said, “You know that’s a very good question. Would I defend my country? You bet I would.” Just show us a real threat. If we were being invaded like what we did in Iraq, if I were on the other end, I would defend my family and my home, just like they are doing now. In Veterans for Peace there are so many different sentiments, but we all agree on the bottom line, which is to abolish war as an instrument of foreign policy. In my opinion once you do that war is not necessary anymore.
Something our society refuses to deal with is that war and violence changes people forever. I have a friend from Iraq that survived the bombing in the first Gulf War and he will never be okay. He is in a pretty constant state of self-medication. Right now they are charging this Special Forces guy with cowardice for flipping out after seeing the mangled bodies of Iraqi people. He couldn’t stop shaking and vomiting and now he could actually go to prison for being a coward.
He is not the coward; Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Bush, and the rest are the cowards. In 1991 when I was waiting for my plane to the Gulf a Marine told me, “Stay away from anyone eager to fight, these people will get you killed faster than the enemy.” I found out in wartime there are certain things you just don’t address or you would go crazy. Because once you ask the one question, it’s like a domino effect and it would break apart the whole façade of how you keep your heart safe. It all comes home. It comes home in the domestic violence; it comes home in the substance abuse. It comes home with the depleted uranium and all the other garbage. It comes home in the Timothy McVeighs and the DC sniper and the murders at Fort Bragg.
We are losing a lot of people over there—7,000 wounded and a lot of them are going to die and never be reported; 17 confirmed suicides in Iraq and God knows how many accidents and friendly fire incidents.
This is what the antiwar folks need to demand—to oppose the wars and be an ally to the people whose lives are being destroyed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the U.S.
Yes, I challenge people that say they support the troops. I say good, now go walk into a VA hospital and take a good look around at what’s in the lobby. It’s row after row after row of wheelchairs because they come home legless, missing arms and eyes. They come home with their souls left in Korea, in Germany, in Vietnam, in Iraq. They don’t fit anymore because they have killed people, “I killed thirty-five people in Iraq can I please have a job?” Their friends and family won’t be able to deal with their anger or silence, won’t want to hear their stories. How many times can you tell the same story? I do it all the time. I walk into a party or Thanksgiving and I don’t know how to have a normal conversation.
I’m really glad I have gotten involved in everything and found Veterans for Peace. It is such a great group of loving, validating people. I have found the same thing with the peace movement; they give me meaning and the will to carry forward with compassion.
Ellen Marie Hinchcliffe is a poet, videomaker, and graduate of ZMI 2003.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.