Durham “Peaceful Means” Film Series 2013

Feb 3: Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2009) shows what happened when Leymah Gbowee of Liberia told herself to “stop acting as a victim and get up and do something!” What she did resulted in a 50-year prison sentence for dictator Charles Taylor, peace for Liberia, and a Nobel Peace Prize for herself. Film named Best Film, 2009 Tri-Continental Film Festival.

Feb 17: The Good Soldier (2009) is an Emmy Award-winning film showing five generations of battle-tried (but unbroken) combat veterans who served the US as valiant patriots, and suffered a painful deliverance from innocence, as they come front and center and lay it in the line.

Mar 3: Run Granny! Run! (2007) At the age of 89, Doris (Granny D) Haddock laced up her sneakers and walked across America to rally against the influence of big money in elections. At age 94, she was a candidate for the US Senate, hoping to restore a government of, by, and for the people. A film both “funny and perceptive….”

Mar 17: Bringing Pedro Home (2012) Only 8-years-old when brought to the US, Pedro (now married and with a son of his own) is arrested by US immigration authorities in Wake County and detained for 19 grueling months. This exceptional documentary tells one family’s story of courage and determina-tion to fight the injustice of current US immigration policies.

April 7: Bringing Down a Dictator (2002documents the defeat of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, not by force of arms but by an ingenious nonviolent citizen strategy of honest elec-tions and massive civil disobedience. By using rock concerts and ridicule, the internet and e-mail, they accomplished what no army could do.

April 21: Sir! No Sir! (2005) The story of the rebellion of thousands of American soldiers against the Vietnam War has never before been told in film, and few today know of its history-changing events. This film changes all that as it brings to life the history of the GI movement and explores its profound impact on the war and the military.

May 5: The Take (2005) In Buenos Aires, 30 laid-off workers walk into their idle factory, roll out sleeping mats and refuse to leave. All they want is to re-start the silent machines. But this simple act has the power to turn the globalization debate on its head. What shines through is the workers’ simple demand for dignity and the injustice of dignity denied.

May 19: We Women Warriors (2012) follows three native women, caught in the crossfire of Colombia’s warfare, using nonviolent resistance to defend their peoples’ survival. This film bears witness to human rights catastrophes and inter-weaves personal stories about female empowerment, unshakable courage, and faith in the endurance of indigenous culture.



Shaky Assumptions about Military Spending


June 28th 2012


Fear can be a great motivator – and a great manipulator. Those who oppose cuts to military funding play on our fears to convince us that any reduction in the defense budget would be a dangerous threat to our national security and to our economy. But is this level of panic justified? An examination of the assumptions that underlie the fears will expose just how shaky those assumptions are.


Shaky Assumption 1: The US must control, by force, the air, seas, and land of the entire planet.

Why such overwhelming military power? The US spends more on our military than our next 14 military competitors combined — six times more than China, 13 times more than Russia, and 73 times more than Iran. While we funnel roughly half of our discretionary tax dollars into military programs, China is capturing the market for solar panels. Most countries are fearlessly investing in health care and education for their citizens while the US is pulling funding from those very hallmarks of a great society. The result is that the US now ranks 37th on health indicators and our students rank 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.


Shaky Assumption 2: We need high priced weapons systems such as the F-15 and the “advanced multi-role stealth fighter jet” to keep us safe.

Our current “enemies” have no air force and no navy, and it is a stretch to claim that terrorists even have an army. The Rand Corporation, a think-tank allied with U.S. government military and intelligence forces, concluded that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism. Since 1968, only 7% of all terrorist groups were taken down by military force. In contrast, 40% of those groups were defeated through police and intelligence work, and 43% gave up their terrorist tactics as they were integrated into the political process.


Shaky Assumption 3: The military is a good jobs program.

According to analysts at the University of MA-Amherst, spending $1 billon on education and mass transit would produce more than twice as many jobs as spending $1 billion on defense. Spending on healthcare and construction for home weatherization and infrastructure would produce about 1-1/2 times as many jobs. The Pentagon spends $1 million/year to field a soldier in Afghanistan. With that same amount, we could hire nearly 30 teachers for a year. Additionally, many jobs learned in the military do not translate to civilian employment so the jobless rate for returning veterans is far higher than for the general population.


Shaky Assumption 4: Reducing military industries will hurt our economy. 

Many people are employed by military contractors and in service industries near military bases, but does our economic health depend on this? Military spending has grown by 81% in the last decade, the period of the worst recession since WWII. Clearly, high military spending is not the key to our economic well-being. People employed in weapons industries, making products that kill people and destroy property and ecosystems, could just as well be working in jobs that improve our communities and our quality of life here at home.


Shaky Assumption 5: We need the military for innovations such as the microwave oven, the GPS, and the Internet.

The US military has a very large budget to fund research and development, but innovation can, and does, come from anywhere. On June 26, 100 university presidents from across the US sent a letter to President Obama calling for an easier path to permanent resident status for foreign students. Why? Because they found that of the 1,500 patents awarded to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the US, three-quarters had at least one foreign inventor, all-told they represented 88 countries. Rather than triggering that old “fight or flight response “at the mere mention of reducing military spending, let’s develop a new adaptive “stop and think” response. We will survive a reduction in military spending. We could even thrive if we redirected our tax dollars to productive and innovative ways of improving the well-being of our citizens and the world at large.


Betsy Crites

Durham, NC


War Warnings

Letter to the Editor, by Betsy Crites. Published March 2nd 2012, News & Observer. 

As Afghanistan comes unraveled and U.S. officials scramble to justify 11 years of war, four North Carolina members of Congress signed a letter to President Obama saying it’s time to leave, and sooner is better than later. As The N&O reported, U.S. Reps. Walter Jones, Brad Miller and David Price all spoke to the issue at a Town Hall Meeting on Feb. 20. (The fourth congressman, Howard Coble, was not present.) Jones was especially passionate about questioning the human and economic toll, asking “Where is the outrage?”

At the same meeting Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department official in Afghanistan, who resigned in protest of U.S. policies, said our soldiers are caught in the middle of local feuds that have nothing to do with our security. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the U.S. $1.5 trillion in direct costs and will cost at least that much in ongoing care of wounded vets and war debt, according to Hoh.

Now, some U.S. senators and media are pushing for war in Iran. As Gen. Anthony Zinni said, if you liked Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.

See the original Letter to the Editor here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/03/02/1897373/war-warnings.html#storylink=cpy


February 20, 2012: Bring The War Dollars Home: Raleigh


Matthew Hoh addresses town hall attendees - with (from left to right) Congressmen Walter Jones (Dist 3), Brad Miller (Dist 13), and David Price (Dist 4); NC State Senator Ellie Kinnaird, Representative Paul Luebke, & NC Peace Action Director, Betsy Crites.

The Town Hall Meeting in Raleigh, February 20th, brought together 150 peace advocates to send the message for a need to reorder our priorities.  We need to “Bring Our War Dollars Home and Restore Our Communities.“

The keynote speaker was Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Dept. official who resigned his post in Afghanistan in protest of US policies.  He encouraged people to advocate for hearings for Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, the recent whistle blower on Afghanistan.  See the NY Times brief and a link to the full report. Also view the video interview with PBS Newshour.

Mr. Hoh also quoted the World Economic Forum, which ranks the US 52nd in the world for math and science education.  Even if you believe we need a strong military, he said, “you can’t have kids steering air craft carriers who don’t know math and science”. Read more about this in The Independent article about the event.

Hear more from Matthew Hoh on Frank Stacio’s “The State of Things”, airing on WUNC radio Thursday Feb 23rd, 9:00 and 12:00.

Congressman Walter Jones

Three North Carolina Congressmen were present, Walter Jones (Dist 3), Brad Miller (Dist 13), and David Price (Dist 4).  Each presented their views on the theme to “Bring Our War Dollars Home, Restore Our Communities.”

The three US Representatives were applauded for uniting around the message to move up the timetable for withdrawal of combat troops form Afghanistan to the end of 2013.  See N&O article on the event and this issue.

Along with 84 others, including NC Rep. Howard Coble, they all signed a letter to the President, stating in part:

The United States intervened in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda’s safe haven, remove the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursue those who planned the September 11th attacks on the United States; those objectives have largely been met and no longer require a large presence of combat troops in Afghanistan.”

Congressman David Price

State Representative Paul Luebke introduced the event.  He spoke about how the Triangle cannot afford a regional mass transportation system.  We finally had to pass a ½ cent sales tax increase to try to develop a fund for the system.  Meanwhile we send away billions of dollars a year to be used for war making.   Also participating as moderator of the press conference was State Senator, Ellie Kinnaird.

Several speakers from the audience talked about the hardships they face or the people they work with are facing.  In an economic downturn, with so many people without work, how can we afford to continue funding a military bigger than the next 14 countries combined? (Even if we could afford it, is it wise?)

Rev. Nancy Petty, Senior Pastor of Pullen Baptist Church, closed the event encouraging the audience to make peace not war and be foolish enough to think that we can make a difference.

We extend our gratitude to the Congressmen, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, Rep. Paul Luebke, and Matthew Hoh for their presentations and leadership and to all who attended, participated, and helped with organizing.

Please continue to be involved through our “Cost of War” groups.  We need people to write letters to the editor, call Congress, plan educational events, fund-raise, and strategize.  The next step of the campaign will be called “Peace Voter”.  We will send a questionnaire to all candidates about these issues.  Contact Betsy Crites at (919) 381-5969.

Bring The War Dollars Home: Restore Our Communities

Town Hall Meeting
Raleigh, Legislative Buidling
February 20th, 2012

Read more

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

Lunacy Over Afghanistan – John Heuer

As much as I would like to believe our officials’ statements about progress in our 10 year war in Afghanistan, there are three issues I find troubling.

The first has to do with reports that 25% of Afghan soldier and police trainees desert their forces after they have received their enrollment bonus, training and weapons. According to this desertion rate, we are guaranteed an ever growing number of insurgents against whom our soldiers are deployed.

The second issue is the bribes we pay to the Taliban for safe passage for our supply convoys through territory under Taliban control. These bribes are reported to be the largest source of income to the Taliban, and again, would seem to guarantee continued financial support for our supposed enemies.

Finally, the very idea of the USA transplanting democracy in Afghanistan ignores the obvious fact reported by journalists across the political spectrum that our own democracy is broken. If Washington DC is a mess of corruption unresponsive to the wishes of citizens, how could we possibly achieve effective democracy in Kabul?

It seems to me that ten years of this sort of “progress” is quite enough. Let’s bring our soldiers home from Afghanistan. Bring the war dollars home to fund our communities, for real security. It is time to end this lunacy.

—John Heuer, chair NC Peace Action

Endless War – David Levi

April 8, 2011

It was 1984 and President Ronald Reagan had provided amazing examples of Orwellian style doublespeak, and of life imitating art, by referring to ballistic missiles as peacekeepers. At the same time Reagan’s former Secretary of State, Alexander Haig was consulting with MGM on the military propaganda film, Red Dawn. Also the US was in the midst of the largest peacetime military buildup in history.  Factories were cranking out major weapons orders. Some were redundant, and there was little oversight as to need. Reagan had slashed taxes as well, and since there was no way to pay for this defense extravaganza, budget deficits soared.

During the Reagan years Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and his mujahidin were our friends and allies, and we armed and supported both.  It didn’t matter that Saddam had a tendency to use weapons of mass destruction. He was an enemy of Iran, our sworn enemy. Yes Iran was our enemy, but that didn’t stop Reagan’s people from selling even them weapons. The proceeds from this transaction were then funneled to the Contras, a terrorist Nicaraguan group, whose only redeeming quality was that they were not socialist. The Reagan administration came off as at best children playing at war, and at worst criminal. Any hope of justice in this matter vanished with George H.W. Bush’s pardons of those responsible. All this set the stage for the emergence  of  America as the world’s policeman, and the most awesome military juggernaut ever seen.  Everything was, of course, paid for with borrowed money.

Fast  forward to 1991. Saddam had been our friend and ally right up to the moment that he invaded Kuwait and threatened our oil supply. President  George H.W. Bush then declared him a monster and “worse than Hitler.”  He was bad, he had always been bad, and he had to be stopped. We went to war, spent a lot more borrowed money, and people at home felt good about themselves and raised American flags in front of their homes.

In 2001 Osama bin Laden and his cohorts carried out the worst attack ever on American soil. Bin Laden,  like  Hussein had once been our friend and ally. The American right wing said he attacked because he hated our freedom. Bin Laden himself said it was because US armed forces maintained a presence in Saudi Arabia, a country he considered holy.

Predictably, George W. Bush told us that bin Laden and his Afghanistan allies, who had once been our friends and beneficiaries were evil and had always been evil. We invaded Afghanistan, and then for no good reason, we invaded Iraq, a country led by our old friend Saddam. Saddam was a bad man, but he was secular and had no use for Islamic extremists. That didn’t stop the Bush administration from falsely tying him to the 9/11 attacks.

Bush’s propaganda machine then staged the infamous Mission Accomplished photo op on the aircraft carrier. Meanwhile he sent incompetent political hacks to deal with the war’s aftermath. Disaster ensued. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed and hundreds of thousands more were displaced. Al Qaida entered Iraq for the first time and found thousands of willing martyrs outraged by the occupation of their country. They then seized what they saw as opportunity. They honed their guerilla skills and learned to make deadly IEDs. Extremist Muslims in other countries joined their ranks as well.

Now our president, Barack Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient is presiding over three wars. The action in Libya has shown that doublespeak is alive and well. We are not at war but are engaged  in a “kinetic military action”. Gadhafi must go, but it is not our mission to remove him, even though we bombed his compound. We are engaged only in a no fly operation but are still allowed to bomb non aviation targets if we so desire.  We don’t know who the rebels we’re helping are, but they must be good because they’re opposed to our enemy. It also doesn’t matter that we’ve been cozying up to Gadhafi  in recent years,  since now we can see that he’s bad and has always been bad.

Middle Eastern countries also notice  the  hypocrisy  of continued US support  for repressive regimes in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Bahrain which  are still regarded as vital to our interests. They notice as well that  we continue to support Israel despite its violations of UN resolutions on building in Palestinian territories.

Our years of endless war have made us less safe, not more.  We are afraid of extremists who only hate us for our military intrusions into their lives. We continue to spend huge sums on weapons  systems that are of no use against the ragtag groups that oppose us. Intelligence, not military action has stopped  most recent attacks against us. Another kind of intelligence is called for now. We are close to outspending all other countries in the world combined on armed forces. We have more than 800 military bases in 150 countries around the world. And we are broke. Maybe at long last it’s time to redefine ourselves. Instead of the greatest military juggernaut the world has seen, we could become a good neighbor and world citizen. I’d put a flag in front of my house for that.

—David Levi