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
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 theNY 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 articleabout 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.
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.”
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
UPDATE! Durham County has already had great success with its flagship Cost of War campaign in the City of Durham. Due to this Durham Town Hall Meeting, in the Fall of 2011:
The Durham City Council called upon the president and Congress “to bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy and reduce the federal debt.” (Read full resolution here.)
The Durham County Commissioners called “upon the United States Government and President Barack Obama to responsibly end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring our war dollars home”. (Read full resolution here.)
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.
UPDATE! To read the full report and see what wonderful results we have had with the Durham Cost of War Campaign, please see the full report here and also get involved with the next phase of the campaign here.
Original Event Details:
As part of our “Bring the War Dollars Home: Fund our Communities,” show your support of this program by attending Durham’s Town Hall Meeting on Saturday, September 10th from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM.
Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, the military budget has increased 67% but universities are forced to slash budgets and hike tuition, public servants are laid of, care for sick and elderly is reduced, and environmental protection is threatened. Read more