This story ran in the Halifax Chronicle Herald. If you live in Nova Scotia, please consider writing a letter to the editor in support of Chuck's bid to stay in Canada. He needs your support.
By the time he reached the age of 38, Kentucky native Chuck Wiley thought he would be retired from the United States military and working at a civilian power plant "until I was too old to get out of bed."
Instead, the trained nuclear engineer has been living in Canada since 2007. He has not spoken to his parents since moving north and is waiting to learn if he’ll be deported back to the United States, where he’s sure he’ll be jailed as a deserter from the U.S. navy.
A former chief petty officer, Wiley has paid a high professional and personal price for his decision to oppose the Iraq war.
"I wish it could have gone better," he admits. "But at the end of the day, the fundamental problem is that what the military is doing in (Iraq) is wrong. It’s legally wrong, it’s morally wrong and it shouldn’t be happening."
There are about 50 former members of the American military seeking sanctuary in Canada. They are pressuring Ottawa to enact safe haven legislation for anyone who opposes fighting in a war not sanctioned by the United Nations.
But as it stands now, the federal government is moving to deport Wiley and the others back to the U.S.
Wiley is in Nova Scotia this week speaking to various groups about his opposition to the war in Iraq and the push for sanctuary for war resisters through War Resisters Support Campaign.
The sailor is as surprised as anyone that his life has taken such a turn.
Coming from a family with a long history of military service, he happily signed up at age 17 with the consent of his parents.
"It was the honourable thing to do for the men in my family," Wiley said.
He started off in the army in military intelligence but later transferred to the navy where he was trained as a nuclear engineer.
By 2006, he had been promoted to chief petty officer and was sent to Iraq aboard the USS Enterprise, an aircraft carrier.
Wiley said he spent most of his time in the military doing what was asked of him and not getting mired down in the politics of the war.
"It was easy to stick your head in the sand and not be concerned about what was going on outside the ship," he said.
"At that point, I didn’t see anything wrong with what was going on."
Eventually, though, he started asking questions about certain missions that didn’t seem right, he said. The answers he received didn’t add up and, eventually, he questioned the point of the entire exercise.
"I kind of got into a pissing contest with my chain of command, for lack of a better term. I asked questions and I got responses like, ‘you need to shut up and go back to work. This doesn’t concern you.’ That offended me."
. . .
He said Canada Border Services Agency will interview him next week about why he wants to stay in the country but other American servicemen before him have been sent back and jailed.
While the personal price to object to the war has been high, Wiley said he could not condone what he considers to be an illegal war.
"It wasn’t just that we have found ourselves in the midst of a wrong operation, but the feeling I got from my chain of command is that we’re willingly doing something that we know is wrong," he said.
"That to me, honestly, is exactly what a military force can’t ever be."
Stay tuned for new information about how you can help Chuck and other US war resisters in Canada.