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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
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.