If you are a regular listener to NPR radio affiliate KWMU, you may have heard Robert Greenwald, the documentary director who created the Wal-Mart movie, talking about war profiteering in Iraq and the St. Louis premiere of his new documentary, "Iraq For Sale," in September. What you may not remember was the name of the organization that brought the filmmaker to St. Louis: the Peace Economy Project.
Robert Greenwald's visit to St. Louis and the special advance showing of his film about war profiteering was one of PEP's many outreach and education efforts on military spending.
The Peace Economy Project is a local, grassroots, non-profit research and education organization with a more than 25-year history of educating citizens, especially in St. Louis, about the dangers of an unchecked military-industrial complex.
Formerly known as the St. Louis Economic Conversion Project, PEP's mission is to conduct research on military spending and raise awareness of the dangers of an unchecked military-industrial complex. PEP also advocates for conversion from a military-based economy to a more stable peace-based one, and supports locally based businesses, which do more to benefit the local communities.
One of PEP's primary areas of focus is the military industry and particularly, the Boeing Corporation. Boeing is arguably the world's largest military contractor and arms trader. Boeing is also the nation's second largest military contractor and also has contracts for homeland security and other surveillance programs. Boeing's weapons division is based in St. Charles, and it builds missiles, fighters and "smart bombs" in the St. Louis area. Once a commercial company, Boeing has steadily been converting itself into primarily a military contractor, seeing government contracting as a lucrative option to commercial competition. The employment "revolving door" between the Pentagon and military contracting means that the contractors often exert undue influence in military contracting and are more in charge of our tax dollars they should be. PEP is concerned that people understand the full nature of their work.
One of the other areas in which Boeing increasingly does work is the field of space. In seeming defiance of the rest of the world community, the United States government appears determined to militarize the use of space. PEP believes that people need to realize all the implications of such a policy.
In keeping with its traditional mission, PEP continues to explore ways by which this nation might reduce war profiteering, excessive military spending which drains resources from domestic concerns, and foreign arms sales which fuel conflicts around the world.
As an educational and research organization, PEP's work is conducted through a combination of offering a speaker's service, hosting conferences, publishing a newsletter and website of our research, cooperating with other organizations in non-violent actions and communicating with the media, political leadership and its members.
The PEP Speaker's Bureau is a free service that offers groups of any size one of four expert speakers on topics such as weapons in space, new small nuclear weapons, ethics in military contracting and PEP's work in general. The speakers include a physician, a former Boeing engineer, a retired city planner and long-time local activist and PEP founder Mary Ann McGivern.
Recent PEP sponsored events have included a talk by documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald in conjunction with the first Missouri screening of his film on war profiteering, "Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers." Last spring, PEP hosted a screening of "Why We Fight," an excellent documentary on the modern military industrial complex and how Eisenhower's warning has come to pass. Last year, PEP hosted the "Peace Cruise" on Sept. 11, 2005, as a different way to mark the anniversary and reflect on whether the nation is moving in the right direction. PEP continues to host a number of other educational events, including film series, and collaborates with organizations such as St. Louis Instead of War Coalition, Veterans for Peace, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and American Friends Service Committee.
If you have any questions or would like more information on PEP and its work, visit its website at www.peaceeconomyproject.org; you may contact PEP at 314-726-6406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writer-researcher Catherine Marquis-Homeyer has been the Coordinator of the Peace Economy Project for three years and also serves as PEP's publisher and webmaster. She lives in Ballwin, MO.