Interview: US Soldier Who Deserted the War in Iraq
Interview with Chriss Capps, a deserter of the US Military Interviewer: Patricio Cammarata (PdAC – Italian section of the IWL-FI)
Chriss Capps is living now in in Henau, close to Frankfurt, Germany where he works for Iraq Veterans Against The War. He has been an active participant since 2007, the year he left the military, while he was stationed at the USAF and NATO bases in Europe. Capps was invited on 8th November, to Vicenza, by the organizers of the Vicentina chapter of the Global March for Peace and Against Violence*, in order to become involved in the movement and to get the contacts of two soldiers from the AfriCom barracks who are thinking about leaving the military.
PdAC: The other day a psychiatrist from the US military, Nidal Malik Hasan, who did not want of be sent to Iraq, led a massacre in the Food Hood, Texas military base. He opened fire on soldiers in one building of the complex, killing 13 and wounding 30 more. Has the situation of the US military changed in the last 2 years?
The authorities have been able to cover up the number of desertions for a long lime but now we know: the official statistics say that, since 2003, there have been 20,000 desertions and around 150. The numbers of people enlisting has decreased significantly. But now, because of the economic crisis and the massive layoffs, the number is increasing again. It is important to recognize that the ones who are entering the military are all poor. They are not motivated by patriotism, the problem is economic. They do it in order to survive and to be able to study. In the United States, there are 10,000 homeless veterans. This is a revealing fact because it is completely disproportional considering that veterans only make up 5% of the population.
PdAC: Has your organization grown?
The organization has grown from 430 members, in 2007, to 2,000. All of them were or are soldiers in military. The ones who are still inside the military are in great danger and have the role of being a link between the outside and those inside who are in crisis and want to leave.
PdAC: What do you think is the real role of the military psychiatric hospitals?
In the moment where soldiers go in search of help, instead of giving them the opportunity to be listened to, they give prescriptions for psychiatric drugs. A very high percentage of the soldiers returning from Iraq have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The reality is that, if they really wanted to help the soldiers, they would pull them out of their units and out of the military. But, instead, since they want to do everything they can to get them back out on the battlefield as soon as possible, they just stuff them with prescription drugs. In the Vicenza base, for example, what many soldiers need is real psychological support.
PdAC: What can you tell me about the military spending since Obama took office?
The military spending has not decreased. The Democrats and conservatives behave in exactly the same way. The situation in Iraq has changed because of the fact that the violence diminished when the military pulled out of the cities and retreated to bases far from the populated zones. They aren’t talking about a full withdrawal, only a reduction of forces. They will reduce the number of soldiers to around 50,000, who will remain in Iraq. At the same time, in Afghanistan, Obama has increased enormously the number of soldiers and the generals are pressuring him to increase the troops even more. One of the strategy experts in Afghanistan, Matthew Hoh, says that the United States is increasing their enemies and the number of Taliban by continuing the war.
PdAC: What do you think of Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?
Considering that, before this, they also gave the prize to Henry Kissinger, it doesn’t surprise me that they would give it to Obama.
PdAC: Do you think that capitalism will try to get out of the economic crisis through more wars?
I wouldn’t know what to say. War produces enormous profits for private business. Two-thirds of the U.S. federal budget go towards military expenses. The war in Iraq has cost close to 500,000 million dollars.
PdAC: What do you think should be the position of the international anti-war movement in regards to the capitalist economic crisis?
It is an important opportunity to explain to people that war costs money. The money comes from taxes and is taken from the money for public services and of workers.
* This march left from Wellington (New Zealand), October 2nd, 2009, and passed through Vicenza. It has the strength of uniting the question of the war with international experiences. But, from our point of view, it also has the serious limitation of framing the question in completely institutional terms that are combatable with the system.