Toward Murder

by Joe Burton

published January 13th 2012 by the News & Observer

It is extremely troubling that all of the GOP presidential candidates, except Ron Paul, believe that U.S. presidents can authorize the killing of people, even U.S. citizens, they “deem threats” (“Use lethal force on citizens? OK,” Jan. 1 article), thus continuing a practice begun in the Bush administration and now frequently used by President Obama. Are we so fearful as a nation that we will kill people because of what we think they might do?

There are two good words in the English language to name this practice: assassination and murder. But neither is used. Instead, we see terms like “lethal force,” “extraordinary action,” “taking out” and “targeted killing.” Currently, drone-launched missiles are used to assassinate suspects. Those missiles often kill or maim persons who happen to be with the suspect – his family or perhaps his neighbor. And that is “collateral damage,” not murder.

The unwillingness to honestly name drone attacks suggests that deep down, our political leaders know that it is wrong to use them. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, before voting against a war in Afghanistan, said “Let us not become the evil that we deplore.” A policy of deliberate murder and assassination suggests that we are now sliding down that slope.

Do We Have Our Priorities Straight?

An Op-Ed by Betsy Crites, from The Durham News – August 31st 2011
What do Durham and Afghanistan have in common?

We are worlds apart, but we both have people who need jobs, health care, schools, transportation and sewers, and help for our homeless, elderly and hungry. Neither of us is getting our critical needs met in part because a war neither of us really wants is draining our economies, killing and injuring our young people, and depleting our spirits.

We don’t often make the connections with this far-off country, but we need to.

We’ve been told that deficits and debt are why we must endure major cuts in educational programs, health care, environmental protection and a wide array of services offered by non-profits. We are rarely told that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to account for 23 percent of our deficits since 2003 (as reported in an article by N.C. Rep. Walter Jones in the Feb. 18 Washington Post).

A look at the numbers helps to understand how Durham and the countries where we’ve been at war are connected. In fiscal year 2011, the United States funneled $122 billion into the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan and $47.4 billion for military in Iraq. The combined $169.4 billion amounts to $3.2 billion a week.

Taxpayers in Durham are paying $106.8 million of that bill in 2011. With just a fraction of that money, we could easily cover the shortfalls in Durham’s education budget. Instead we will need to raise the sales tax just to keep schools afloat and begin funding a light rail system.

What else could Durham do with that $106.8 billion in war taxes? We could pay for:

  • 45,204 children receiving low-income health care for one year;
  • Or 1,977 elementary school teachers for one year;
  • Or 13,817 Head Start slots for children for one year;
  • Or 15,351 military veterans’ VA medical care for one year;
  • Or 2,111 police or sheriff’s patrol officers for one year;
  • Or 19,238 students receiving Pell Grants of $5,550.

With state and federal deficit hawks cutting everything from education programs to environmental protection, we have an obligation to ask: “Do we have our priorities straight?”

In case anyone thinks that Afghanistan is profiting from the huge influx of money and soldiers, consider these sad numbers: The per capita annual income is $330. The entire gross national product of Afghanistan is only $11.7 billion. (Recall the U.S. war there costs $122 billion.) It is a desperately poor country that needs schools, clinics, water systems, and health care. One out of eight Afghan mothers dies in childbirth. If they are ever going to rebuild, they need peace.

Neither Durham nor Afghanistan, Pakistan nor Iraq is getting what is needed to sustain a decent, secure life for their citizens, and they won’t until we make the connections and speak up about our priorities.

Durham citizens and community leaders are posing this question to our local elected officials. The U.S. Conference of Mayors and Los Angeles City Council passed resolutions to end the wars and fund human needs, sending a clear message to federal officials. Durham can do the same.

We invited concerned citizens to join the discussion with our local elected officials on Sept. 10, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 305 E. Main St., Durham. Members of the City Council, Board of County Commissioners, Board of Education, and members of the General Assembly from our area will be present. All are welcome.

Betsy Crites is the director of NC Peace Action in Durham;

© Copyright 2011, The News & Observer Publishing Company

“Extra Casualties”: The MIC’s Long-Term Effects on Veterens, Families, and Society – Mia Austin-Scoggins

It is a pleasure and a privilege to be at the MIC @ 50 Conference with you at beautiful Guilford College.  I want, especially, to thank Judith, Bill, and Christian, for so ably presenting us with an overview of the Military Industrial Complex, and providing a context for the presentations, panels, workshops, and discussions that we will enjoy over the weekend.

In our major wars since World War Two, by official figures, the US has lost at least 101,000 soldiers killed, and 296,000 troops wounded. Here’s the breakdown:

  • In Korea, 38,000 dead, 103,000 wounded.
  • In Vietnam, 58,000 dead, 153,000 wounded
  • In Desert Storm, 294 killed, 458 wounded
  • In Iraq, 4600 dead, 31,000 wounded (817 from NC)
  • In Afghanistan, 1455 dead, 9200 wounded (273 from NC)

There were several smaller wars that we’ll have to skip over due to time constraints. But  101,000 killed and 296,000 wounded are substantial losses, and we grieve for all of them. Read more

Reflections on “A Journey to Peace” – Wally Myers


Our three guests, in different circumstances, may have been firing guns at each other, but after stepping away from violence, these two Iraq War veterans and their Iraqi refugee friend have joined forces to bring a message of peace.

A soldier turned conscientious objector, Stieber, 22, decided that if he believed war created more problems than it solved, he would journey to learn about, promote, and invest his military pay to peaceful alternatives. His journey began in early summer 2009 in Washington D.C. and after 3000 miles; Stieber reached San Francisco by walking and bicycle.

While Stieber was passing through Ohio he met Curran, 26, a former Marine and fellow Iraq War veteran. The two decided to complete the remainder of the trip together. It wasn’t until the last stop of the trip that the two Iraq war veterans met Hassan, an Iraqi refugee, who hosted the men at his house during their stay in San Francisco.

Stieber was a member of the Army unit which made international headlines in the Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” video and has been actively speaking about his experiences. Hassan is able to share the perspective of an Iraqi living under both Saddam’s regime as well as the U.S. occupation. Curran has a journey to share regarding his diagnosis with PTSD and his path to healing. Along the way, these men will be joined from halfway across the world via Skype by Our Journey to Smile, a group of Afghan youth campaigning for peace.

Please welcome our Peace Pilgrims.

Conner Curran

Conner Curran, a marine veteran with 2 tours in Iraq, was trained by the military to look at the world as the worst case scenario. One insurgent set off an explosive with a cell phone and, with the worst case scenario training, every Iraqi using a cell phone triggers his fear mechanism. The world becomes the worst possible. Conner was on a house-to-house detail and notices a beautiful lawn and garden in the middle of desolation; and instead of appreciating it; it becomes an object of suspicion. Wouldn’t this lawn and garden be the perfect place to hide weapons? Where did the owner get the money to afford this? Convinced by the dark imaginings of worst case scenario training, Conner and his marines power their way into the house and start turning over everything searching for incriminating evidence. Conner went to the garden and started pulling plants up and poking holes all around to find the weapons of his worst case imagination. And then from this disregard, this disrespect, this violation of privacy something unexpected happens. The owner of the house brings tea to the marines. Conner looks into his eyes and sees only love and compassion. The Iraqi asks about his family, about his parents, his brothers and sisters. Conner realizes that this man is returning kindness for the marines’ aggressive behavior, and thinks how strange. Back at the barracks, the guys talk about it a little and then it was forgotten.

But the training was not forgotten even though Conner left the marines and returned home, the worst case training is still rattling around in his head. The military doesn’t un-train soldiers; they are left to work it out by themselves. His body was walking in downtown USA; but his mind is still war-torn. Then comes one of those pivotal events that can save us. Conner sees this nice looking old lady walking toward him and he’s wondering what threat she poses. The worst case scenario training has gone too far and he realizes that this is part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But at a gut level he realizes he is crazy. Then he flashes back to the Iraqi who served him tea and realizes the difference between returning kindness for aggression and his returning suspicion for the neutral behavior of the lady. And in that instant, Conner realizes that he is the victim of worst case training and decides to stop it and try on the kindness and compassion of the Iraqi. So he experiments with his day-to-day activities and finds that his interaction with people is getting better. His relation with his family is helpful and healing. He tells his family of his experiment in kindness and they start running the experiment too. Conner sees that the lesson in kindness in Iraq has now travelled to his home in Ohio. And this was how Conner’s life was transformed from worse case scenario to kindness makes the world better. His enthusiasm is powered by his success for turning negative situations into opportunities of understanding with kindness, compassion and love; this was his “Journey to Peace”; the one he is sharing across America.

Salam Talip

Salam Talip is a refugee from Iraq. He’s running an experiment too. He knows that human beings are not by nature violent. So he wonders how does the American culture build soldiers? His experiment – look at media violence, the whole history, from Tom and Jerry cartoons to Clint Eastwood. After subjecting himself to this, he realized that it is getting more violent. Conclusion: in our media culture heroes are often killers.

Salam is a computer engineer and he sees the same thing happening with video games. So Salam runs an experiment. He has some kids play a bang-bang-shot’m-up video game and they are having an exciting time blowing away the enemies. Salam stops the game and shows them video footage of real people who are shot and in agonizing pain. He invites the kids to return to their game play. But after viewing the more painful outcomes of the violence; they didn’t want to play the game. Conclusion: Violent games are ignoring the suffering of violence.

Salam also told us about another experiment with combat trained GIs. He asked the GI’s if they saw in on an Iraqi street would they shoot him. Short answer: yes. Then Salam talks to the GIs for a half an hour and then asks if they would shoot him. Short answer: no. “Would you shoot any who were surrounding me?” No. “If you were ordered to shoot me, would you? No. Conclusion: it takes about ½ hour to make a friend and you can’t kill a friend.

For Salam American nationalism is a problem that is being protected by an embargo on information that comes to us from Iraq. Iraqis and GI are not allowed to bring videos or pictures from Iraq. The effect is to block the pain of violence from being seen on American media. It also limits our view of the humanity of Iraqis. And it covers up the brutality of hero as killer.

Having lived through Sadam Hussian and the US occupation, Salam calls us to take a look at the violence of our media, the bias of nationalism, and instead take ½ hour to know an Iraqi personally. And this will be A Journey to Peace.

Josh Stieber

Josh Stieber feels betrayed. After attending a Christian high school where The Faith of George W. Bush was required reading, Josh had faith in our mission of bring democracy and freedom to the backward Iraqis. These ideals motivated Josh to join the Army. During basic training, Josh had an inkling that something was wrong. Some of the cadences that he marched to told them to take a machine gun and spray in the market. His training included videos bombing Iraqis and rock and roll “Die Terrorist Die” (lyrics) by Dope. Warning: these links are so filled with hate, I was shocked and dismayed at the cruelty. I feel that anyone subjected to this combat training, needs an equal amount of training to undo it before returning to civilian life. When Josh told his minister he was encouraged to go along with the training. And he did. When he arrived in Iraq he was became part of the army unit that gained international notoriety when a Wikileaks video, “Collateral Murder”, showed their helicopter gun ship killing Iraqi civilians and 2 Reuters journalists. Stieber does not excuse the behavior, but advises listeners to consider the social and military training that leads to such actions. Josh felt betrayed. His “willingness to sacrifice for good ideals were exploited so that we ended up doing what we were there to prevent. Our mission betrays our ideals. I have more in common with my enemies than with those who told us who our enemies are.” Josh rejected that exploitation and became a conscientious objector. He brings a message from Afghan children to America in his Journey to Peace.

Reflections on Terrence Rynne’s “Gandhi and Jesus: The Saving Power of Nonviolence” – Patrick O’Neill

Terrence Rynne


by Patrick O’Neill

As he was driving to Garner for the first time Oct. 23, Marquette University professor, author—and pacifist—Terrence Rynne didn’t know where he would be delivering his breakfast talk to the inaugural gathering of The Garner Peace Committee. Rynne, who was following another car to his destination, said he was glad when the lead driver passed by Locked & Loaded Grill along Hwy. 70.

“I was afraid as we were driving that we were going to have this breakfast at the Locked & Loaded Grill,” Rynne said getting a laugh from the dozen folks sitting around the table. “And I was happy to see the Old Garner Road Diner; that is perfect.”

Rynne, 68, made a stopover in Garner on the final day of his speaking tour through North Carolina to promote his book, “Gandhi and Jesus: The Saving Power of Nonviolence.” In the book, Rynne, who is founder of Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking, makes the case that “nonviolence is at the very heart of Christian salvation.”

Rynne said his study of Gandhi gave him “a thrilling understanding of the New Testament,” one that he shares in the book. “I really want people to see the New Testament as being fundamentally nonviolent,” Rynne said.

Although he was raised Hindu, the renowned Indian pacifist leader, Mohandas K. Gandhi, studied the world’s great religions, paying close attention to their messages on peace and nonviolence. Rynne says Gandhi read the New Testament, and was convinced Jesus was nonviolent, and wanted his followers to practice nonviolence.

Gandhi enjoyed the study of other religions, and he tried hard to understand other religious traditions, even adopting other religions’ prayers as his own, Rynne said. “In his daily prayers, he would give prayers for many different faiths, consistently trying to enter into the heart of the many various religions, and finding great commonalities, of course.”

Because of negative encounters with fire and brimstone evangelists who railed “against the multi-gods of Hinduism,” Gandhi initially did not respect Christianity, Rynne said, but when he started to read the Bible, his views changed. Some of the Jewish scriptures, such as Numbers and Leviticus put him to sleep, Rynne said, but when Gandhi read the New Testament “it went straight to his heart.”

In his nonviolent campaigns against British occupation in South Africa and India, Gandhi had successes, but he also took umbrage when someone said nonviolence was a tactic “of the weak,” Rynne said. Gandhi did not view his campaigns as passive resistance, but rather as active nonviolence that in many ways involved the same risks as violent campaigns.

To help better explain nonviolent resistance, Gandhi came up with the name Satyagraha or “firmness in the truth,” Rynne said.

The word truth, from the Hindu word, Satya, “was just a very deep belief in Hinduism,” Rynne said. “It means the order in the universe, but it also means ‘we are one.’” If human beings are one, therefore “to do any violence to anybody else is doing violence to us,” Rynne said.

Christians also believe that “in the Body of Christ, we are one,” said Rynne, who was a Catholic priest for 10 years before leaving religious life to marry his wife, Sally. The couple have six children and 16 grandchildren.

Gandhi also spoke of Ahimsa or “the refusal to to do harm,” and Tapasya or “self suffering.” Self suffering, Rynne said, when experienced for a cause or for the love of others sets an example for others to follow. At the heart of Gandhi’s nonviolent campaigns was his belief that oppressors could only prevail if permitted to do so.

In India, Gandhi wondered how 150,000 British could control a country of 250 million.  “Because we’ve given them these powers,” Rynne said quoting Gandhi. “And for some reason we think they’re legitimate here, so we’ve given them authority.”

By 1930, the world had come to know of the nonviolent campaigns of Gandhi, whom Time Magazine called, “the little half-naked brown man.” In 1930, Time named Gandhi Man of the Year, saying his “mark on world history will undoubtedly loom largest of all.”

Rynne said nonviolent conflict resolution is not only a moral imperative, but it is in fact a practical imperative at a time when the world is embroiled in endless wars, nuclear weapons proliferation continues and global calamities such as global warming and economic uncertainty threaten life as we know it.

“I think I’m more motivated and moved by the richness of the human community; I didn’t find Gandhi taking a fear-based approach,” Rynne said. “It was the love that he experienced and that he could draw out from other people that was the center of his concerns. He knew the impotence of violence.”

At Marquette, Rynne wants the Center for Peacemaking to help incorporate peacemaking into the heart and soul of the university. “It’s mission is to have Marquette University become a university that makes a basic turn towards peace so that the whole university would see that,” he said, “so people graduating understand and are ready to be peacemakers. So that means getting over the sound of peace as a fluffy term.”

The center has been working to organize the Marquette faculty, to see how many disciplines across campus are “actively, currently doing research under the umbrella of peace studies and peacemaking,” Rynne said.

Gandhi demonstrated that nonviolence can work, Rynne said. For peacemaking to catch on, it has to happen with individuals, he said.

“Anyplace that somebody stands I think they can begin to make a difference,” he said. “We have such a long way to go to be an antidote, a serum against the belief in violence. It is just so endemic in our culture. All our stories about conquering the West, the power of the Winchester rifle, goes into all the stories that kids see on television. It’s always somebody who’s down and beaten but comes back. So to tell stories of the effectiveness of nonviolence, it’s just so important because people can’t believe it unless they see it at work and witness other people living that way.”

After his presentation, Rynne autographed copies of his book, which was reviewed by South African Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu. In his comments Tutu wrote:  “At a time when all too many leaders persist in countering violence with increased violence, Terrence Rynne’s “Gandhi and Jesus” is a sharp reminder of the strength and critical need for embracing the way of nonviolence.”

To view the Center for Peacemaking WEB site go to:

The Allure of War – Wally Myers

Reflections on “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” by Chris Hedges

“The prospect of war is exciting.  Many young men, schooled in the notion that war is the ultimate definition of manhood, that only in war will they be tested and proven, that they can discover their worth as human beings in battle, willingly join the great enterprise.” —Chris Hedges

The Force of War

We have all felt the excitement of competition, the exhilaration of victory.  For those, who are engaged in hand-to-hand combat, these feelings are energized so strongly that all of their hopes, all of their allegiances, all of their righteousness, all of their support are focused on their side winning.  They can’t think about the other side’s humanity, they don’t feel compassion for the other’s injuries, they don’t question the morality of their actions, they don’t reflect on who is innocent and who is the enemy.  Combat is the time for action, for destroying and killing the enemy on the one hand, and on the other, for protecting and saving their compatriots.  It is not the time for moral quandaries. Read more

Wasted Money – Joe Burton

To the Editor:

It is very true that earmark spending has come to symbolize runaway spending by the Federal Government (N&O, 11/26).  But, why are Republicans in Congress concerned about spending millions of dollars on domestic civic projects?  After all, that spending provides work for people and infrastructure that is needed by our communities.

On the other hand, congressional Republicans have no problem spending a trillion dollars in this decade on two futile wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—wars they are directly responsible for starting.  That spending sends dollars abroad and unlike earmarks, has no positive effect for our nation—no new schools or hospitals or affordable housing, or the many other infrastructure needs of our nation. Read more

Firing General McChrystal – Betsy Crites

Firing General McChrystal was necessary and Obama is absolutely correct that the foundation of our democracy depends on civilian control over the military. However, firing a loose-lipped general does not begin to make a dent in the control our military has over our society. President Obama is as susceptible as every past president to the lure of the giant military machine that consumes almost two thirds of our government’s discretionary funding. Obama has done previous presidents better by proposing to increase the military budget by 3.4% over last year and declaring the Pentagon exempt from the freeze on spending that applies to every other area of government. In FY 2010 the military took $19.6 billion of NC taxpayer’s money. That’s an average $2,086 per taxpayer. Read more

The Costs of War – Wally Myers

The cost of war cannot be seen because war robbed us of a more beneficial future, a future that never happened. Generations ago some family friend or member was a causality and never had a chance to build a better world that would have benefited our ancestors and through them, our generation. That cost cannot be calculated; it was a better world that did not happen because of war.

In the most important calculation, the cost of war is infinite. For its tragedies are woven into our history becoming the foundation of our future. The cost too is woven-in and ongoing, like a war tax that never ends. Like our confederate forefathers, we still pay with the grudges we hold for the injustice of our loss. Like our World War II generation, we still pay for the military-industrial complex. The costs are the social programs to support and uplift that never happened. Like our Vietnam generation, we still pay for news media collusion. The costs are the truths that will never be known. But perhaps the greatest cost is our loss of peace. The war mentality asserts that we wage war now so that we can have peace later; but later never comes. The war mentality is woven deep in our culture and it prevents peace by calling peacemakers traitors, smearing the peace process as naïve, and arresting those who protest war. We pay for war with the peace that never comes. Read more

The START Treaty – Betsy Crites

The August 8 AP article “Abolishing Nukes: flicker of hope to global cause” notes the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan.  According to the article, in 3 days in 1945 the US killed 220,000 people, yet the world still stockpiles enough nuclear weapons for 150,000 Hiroshimas.

Nuclear weapons threaten all of us.  Is there any hope?  In addition to the Global Zero initiative, four US foreign policy leaders are speaking out.  Former Secretaries of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn have proposed specific steps to free the world of nuclear weapons. Read more