A newly-released film takes a look at dissent in America during a time of war. "The Peace Patriots" follows the activities of anti-war activists before and after the Iraq invasion. We play an excerpt of the film and speak with the film’s director. [includes rush transcript]
The anti-war group United for Peace and Justice has organized a major demonstration for this Saturday in New York. The demonstration will echo previous calls for an end to the US occupation of Iraq. But organizers have also included a new demand — that the US not attack Iran. A massive turnout is expected. The march comes as polls show public support for President Bush and the war in Iraq is at an all-time low. Just 32% approve of the President’s job performance, while 58% believe the invasion and occupation of Iraq was unnecessary.
A new film has just been released that documents some of that anti-war sentiment in this country. "The Peace Patriots" follows the activities of anti-war activists before and after the Iraq invasion.
We play an excerpt of "The Peace Patriots" and speak with the film’s director:
- Robbie Leppzer, an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker, with over twenty film, video and public radio documentaries to his credit. His films include "An Act of Conscience" and "Harvest of Peace."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: In a minute, we’ll be joined by the film’s director, but first we go to a clip of the film. In this excerpt, the film follows Eric Wasileski, an army veteran turned peace activist.
ERIC WASILESKI: We are at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts. And what we’re doing here today is we’re demonstrating against the war, and we’re here to promote peace.
My name is Eric Wasileski. I grew up in Greenfield, Massachusetts. It’s in Western Massachusetts. I am a veteran. I served for eight years in the military — two years in the Army and six years in the Navy. And during the time of my Navy services, when I was in combat.
The reason why I personally came here is I have experienced combat. In December of 1998, my ship, U.S.S. Stout, was ordered to launch Tomahawk missiles into Iraq. And we launched 52 Tomahawk missiles into Iraq during the presidency of Bill Clinton. What we were doing was we were attacking people that could not attack us back. There was no way for them to strike back at us. So we were standing in a very safe, very secure place, launching some of the most deadly ordinance known to humanity. It’s kind of like — the folks on the ship were kind of like having a party. Like "Woohoo!" They were yelling and screaming. It was a killing frenzy, I’ll tell you. It was very difficult to see it. And this did not feel honorable, the fact that we were, in essence, slaying people, just killing them indiscriminately. My heart, it aches every time I think about what happened and the fact that I was a part of it.
I’m going to be committing an act of civil disobedience today, because I have done everything else that I could do. I have written letters. I have emailed. I have fasted. I have walked over 350 miles. I have done everything I could think of up to this point to try to bring peace, to try to bring understanding and try to get my message out. And I feel as though this is the last — this is the thing I have to do now.
I went to Westover Air Force Base and took part in a large demonstration, in part to voice my dissent as an American, as a veteran, and as a man of God. I definitely have a debt to pay to society, and that debt is I was a war maker. And the only way I can think of to pay that debt is to become a peacemaker.
AMY GOODMAN: That was former U.S. soldier turned peace activist, Eric Wasileski, from the new film Peace Patriots. We’re joined now by the film’s director, Robbie Leppzer, award-winning independent documentary filmmaker with over 20 films, video and public radio documentaries, to his credit. Welcome to Democracy Now!
ROBBIE LEPPZER: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: So, your DVD comes out now in the lead-up to the major peace protest planned for New York. You focus on an area of Western Mass, with students, with professors, with former soldiers. What are you trying to do with this film?
ROBBIE LEPPZER: Well, the film is really about showing how huge this peace movement is, the diversity of the peace movement, different ages, different backgrounds. And the film really relies on grassroots groups to get this film out. So we’re encouraging groups to have house parties with the film, individuals, have groups, have community premieres of the film. Peace groups around the country can use the film as a fundraiser. I am conducting a college speaking tour. I have already been to colleges in Arkansas and Ohio recently. And people can find out more about the film at the film’s website, which is thepeacepatriots.com. Particularly college campuses, if they want to get in touch with me —
AMY GOODMAN: I think the power of the film is how the community, where you come from, in Western Mass, you’re not focusing on the mass protest. You’re looking at one community and how many different antiwar threads there are in this community, all different kinds of people, like Eric.
ROBBIE LEPPZER: To me, the veterans speak the strongest against war, because they know what war is really about. And for me, their stories, their perspectives were very important to include in this film.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, you had kids as young as middle school speaking out at these local rallies.
ROBBIE LEPPZER: I was blown away by these young people. I mean, their passion, their conviction, you know, 13, 14 years old. The diversity. I have a 75-year-old star that ends by saying, you know, "This is what democracy looks like," because the film, it’s about how to be engaged citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there, but you can find out more on the website at thepeacepatriots.com. Robbie Leppzer, award-winning independent documentary filmmaker, congratulations on the film.
ROBBIE LEPPZER: Thanks, Amy.