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War Resister Chuck Wiley to Speak Across Nova Scotia

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

Chuck Wiley was born in Kentucky, an only child in a family with a long and storied military history. Uncle Wiley took pride in the claim that the tribe of Wiley had had a member in every American war since the Revolution. While some dream of cars, and some dream of sports, young Chuck dreamed of serving his country with pride.

Wiley first enlisted in the US Army in December of 1989, fresh out of high school. Congressional cutbacks in 1992 saw Wiley jump ship for a career in the Navy, where he was first trained and employed as a nuclear engineering technician.

“For most of that time you can just go through the day.” says Wiley “...look at the engine room, do the stuff you have to do in the engine room...go to your bunk, go to the mess where you eat...back to the engine room...and what goes on outside the ship, and what the ship is doing, isn’t necessarily really part of your daily routine.”

In 2000, Wiley transferred to an instructor tour, out of South Carolina. He was promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. In 2004, he transferred back out to sea as the Chief Petty Officer aboard the US Navy's flagship aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise. In 2006, the Enterprise was deployed to the Persian Gulf, in support of US operations in Iraq.

“That was really where all of my major issues with what was going on started.” says Wiley.

“Because I had just finished my instructor duty, I had a lot of advanced engineering qualifications that a lot of people on the ship didn’t have. I was chosen to (to be) the engineering liaison with the operations department. Normally it’s a guy who is fairly well-versed with how the ship’s plans work, and they stick him up with the combat guys. It’s an interface with the combat operations people, when something strange is going on with the engineering plans. It was an opportunity for me to get my air warfare qualifications done, which is something to put on your CV in the military, essentially.”

Wiley’s new position placed him in charge of one of the four propulsion plants aboard the Enterprise, specifically the plant that provides all power to weapons and flight systems.

“What I normally tell people,” says Wiley, “is that it’s the cool parts of the aircraft carrier that you’ll see in movies. The flight deck, the little dark radar rooms, and so forth.”

In Wiley’s new role he worked with a daily-issued document known as the ‘Air Plan of the Day’. As the name suggests, the Air Plan of the Day provides the crew with an overview of the operations that are slated to go on that day aboard the carrier.

“The thing that started the entire ball rolling for me was a particular mission that left the ship. The pilot was on his way back. I got a call from my boss while I was on watch at my propulsion plant saying that we needed to institute some emergency measures to put the ship in a state to recover a damaged aircraft.”

The air plan of the day, however, didn’t have any aircraft slated for combat.

“The guy who was coming back was supposed to be on a relatively peaceful mission profile where he would have been too high for anybody really to shoot at him from the ground, and shouldn’t be coming back damaged.”

Curious, Wiley stuck around on deck to get a look at the damaged aircraft.

“We did what we needed to do, and myself and some of my controllers were on the watch as we were kind of curious as to what kind of damage the guy had on his flight. The guy was missing part of his wing and the plane was just riddled with bullet holes. So that raised a few questions. How did this guy get shot at, with the mission profile that was given to us? How did this guy get shot up with ground fire? These are rifle bullets.”

Wiley began sniffing for answers. He asked a few questions, but was basically told to keep his mouth shut, and his mind on his duty.

“The next day, the same pilot who had gotten shot up was back up on a flight plan. So that bugged me a little bit. So I asked about that, if the pilot got his plane shot up yesterday, how is he still qualified? Why is he still on the flight plan? It was at that time that I was taken aside and I was told 'Look, you need to shut up about this stuff. The mission profile as its flown is a little bit different from what's actually on the Air Plan.'”

By this point Wiley had been a Navy man for 14 years. As a Chief Petty Officer, with a number of personnel below him, he felt he was entitled to some straight answers.

“I started asking some of the other chief petty officers working in some of these departments, exactly what this is all about...If you don't want to tell the press back home exactly what you do that's one thing, but why are you putting it out on board the ship that we're flying missions...and then doing it a completely different way? That doesn't put us in a good posture to be able to react when something goes wrong, because I'm standing there asking questions instead of doing what I need to be doing. When I don't understand what the hell you're actually flying the mission for.”

The Air Plan described the mission as a 'Presence Mission', where planes are flown at high altitudes over the lesser-populated regions of Iraq. Fighters jets on presence missions go out unarmed, and basically just let the locals know that the Americans are still in control of the skies above them. But Wiley found that the planes were not flying presence missions at all, and that something much more sinister was going on.

“In reality,” says Wiley, “the way that the missions were actually flown, the planes were being used in a sort of round-up manoeuvre against civilians...After the 2004 Faluja attack that drew a lot of international criticism, the United States figured that they needed a different way to flush people out of these towns and villages when we wanted to talk to them, rather than going door to door and knocking down houses and so-forth. So what they decided to do is post units on the roads, to monitor everything coming in and out of these villages, easy overland in and out transfer routes.”

Wiley continues.

“Once we have those transfer routes cut off, then we...take a couple of planes and do a lot of low, very high speed passes back and forth over these villages, and just literally scare the hell of everyone there. There are teenagers now in Iraq that have never known life out from under an F-18. They know very well what an F-18 does. They know very well that its a fighter-bomber that carries bombs, that when you see one it drops bombs. So they see one, they run. And that's really the fear that this was capitalizing on. You do a lot of slow high-speed passes, maybe you break a little glass, these people panic, they get in their cars, they start leaving because they think bombs are about to start dropping, and now instead of having to go door to door, you have them all spread out on a nice road.”

Incredulous, Wiley felt certain that there was some piece of information missing. After 14 years of devotion to the Navy, he wanted to believe that this wasn't true. But as he asked more and more questions, doors literally began to close in his face. Around this time, the Navy dealt his confidence a decisive blow.

“It was at this time that detailers came on board. Detailers are the people that hand out orders.”

The detailers informed Wiley that the Navy was about to effectuate a 'Stop-Loss' provision.

“The stop-loss program was basically a provision that allowed (the Navy) to identify...critical manning specialities...different job descriptions that it was very hard to keep people on active duty for, and would be very hard to fight a war without. (The purpose of) Stop-loss was to be able to stop them from leaving the military when their contract expired. So if you sign an enlistment contract that says that at the end of four years you get out of the military and go home...if you happen to be in one of the jobs that they declare was a critical job, they simply had to hand you a letter saying 'No, you've been stop-lossed, you're now indefinitely on active duty until we decide we don't need you any more.'”

Wiley, in charge of several personnel to who stop-loss would apply, was warned not to inform his people of the impending policy, and to allow them to reenlist.

Now completely disillusioned, Wiley finished his stint in the Persian Gulf aboard the Enterprise and returned to the United States. When he was ordered to redeploy to the Gulf, he knew the time had come to head north.

Chuck Wiley will be speaking across Nova Scotia at the following times:

March 16, 7:00-9:00 p.m., Community Rm., New Glasgow Public Library, 182 Dalhousie St. New Glasgow.


    March 17, 12:00-2:00 p.m., Riverview Room of Jenkins Hall, Nova Scotia Agricultural College, College Road, Bible Hill.


    March 17, 7:00- 9:00 p.m., Rm. 241, Beveridge Arts Centre, Acadia University, 10 Highland Ave.,Wolfville.


      March 18, 12:00-1:30 p.m., Rm. 1107, Mona Campbell, Dalhousie University, 1459 LeMarchant St., Halifax.


      March 18, 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Sobeys 255, Sobeys Bldg., 903 Robie St. Saint Mary’s University, Halifax.


        (*Vigil for Justice for Iraq) Sat. March 19, 1:00-2:00 p.m. at Halifax Public Library, 5381 Spring Garden Rd., Halifax


          The film 'Breaking Ranks' will also be screened at Mr. Wiley's speaking engagements. 


          About War Resisters Campaign Canada: www.resisters.ca - LET THEM STAY

          For more information about the Nova Scotia Tour, please contact Halifax Peace Coalition:

          (Web) www.halifaxpeacecoalition.ca (Email) hfxpeace@chebucto.ca (Facebook) “Halifax Peace Coalition” 

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