The legacy of WMDs in Iraq – the real ones, courtesy of Uncle Sam

October 20, 2014

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Below is a letter to the editor sent to the New York Times (they didn’t publish it, happens to the best of us) prompted by an article last week on the actual weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq — no, not the nukes Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld lied to us about in order to invade Iraq, the chemical weapons supplied by the United States to Saddam Hussein and company in the late 70s and early 80s, sacrebleu! The article by C. J. Chivers is tough reading, but highly recommended.

Apart from the awful possibility that ISIS has gotten or could get its hands on these horrific weapons, this should be a lesson in how short-sighted our government’s weapons proliferating practices are and how they nearly always come back to hurt us — our troops, our allies and the security of the American people.

October 16, 2014

To the editor,

Revelations by the Times of the recent discovery of forgotten – or worse, covered up — chemical weapons stashes in Iraq and negligence in the treatment of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and police exposed to sarin and mustard agents would be shocking, but they are unfortunately all too predictable. Similarly, if ISIS has gotten hold of and perhaps used some of these horrific weapons, no one should be surprised.

The effects of decades of the United State and other western powers pouring conventional and unconventional weapons into the Middle East are wide-ranging and unpredictable, except that they will likely prove disastrous, as they have time and again. From Gaza to Syria to Iraq to Egypt to Libya to Afghanistan, U.S. and western military intervention and/or an always open spigot of weaponry (with American taxpayers usually footing the bill) amount to attempting to put out the region’s near-constant fires with gasoline.

In the near term, working with the new Iraqi government and international agencies to secure and destroy the remaining chemical weapons, as is underway in Syria, and delivering fair and just treatment to those exposed to these weapons need to be urgent priorities.

More broadly, it’s time for a fundamental re-orientation of our policies away from failed militaristic, weapons-based stratagems that make the region and the United States less safe. Instead, we need a more sustainable commitment to diplomacy (such as restarting negotiations to end the Syrian civil war), strict arms control (beginning with establishing a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East and serious curbs on conventional weapons transfers) and international cooperation instead of bombing or invading as the way to address the threats of violent extremism.

Sincerely,

Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Peace Action


Your Opinion Matters – Survey on U.S. War in Syria and Iraq

October 17, 2014

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Please take a minute to complete a simple, four question survey regarding U.S. military action in Iraq and Syria..

It helps to know what you think.  We want our communications, and most especially our calls to action, to align with your interests and concerns.  That means greater participation and greater impact on decision makers.

Asking you to share your views is something we don’t do enough of, so please take a minute – just a minute – to answer four questions.


Peace and Climate Justice: Inseparable

September 29, 2014

–Judith Le Blanc, Field Director

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The largest climate justice march in history thronged New York City September 21 and Peace Action helped to make it happen.

Why? We because we believe that the only way we can save Mother Earth is by ending wars and militarism, which are the biggest obstacles to funding initiatives to address global warming. Wars prevent and disrupt the necessary collaboration between countries to address climate crisis. Both wars and climate crisis require a political solution which can only become a reality if the climate justice movement links to ending wars and militarism and the peace movement connects to justice: climate, economic and racial justice.

Peace Action, as a national endorser, jumped into the organizing from the beginning launching the Peoples Climate March Peace and Justice Hub. The Hub brought together peace and faith groups to organize a No War, No Warming contingent and rally. George Martin, Peace Action Education Fund board member, Cole Harrison, executive director of Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA), Jim Anderson, Peace Action of New York State (PANYS) Chair and Natia Bueno, PANYS Student Outreach Coordinator, led the way.

Peace Action affiliates and activist members worked on filling buses, outreach and preparing the logistics for pre-march rally. PAEF board member George Martin said, “It is very significant that Peace Action was engaged from national to affiliate level, volunteering, planning and giving leadership on how war and militarism and climate justice are interconnected.”

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MAPA drafted the Appeal to the Peace and Climate Movement outlining the high stakes and why the peace movement must join in the mobilization. It also argues for why we need a peace and justice movement, which must address the root causes of wars and inequality as the basis for strengthening our work.

Peace Action affiliates worked with allies to fill the buses from as far away as Milwaukee. The Coalition for Peace Action organized a conference with local environmental leaders in the lead up to the march.

PANYS mobilized its membership, especially student chapters across the state. Natia Bueno co-chaired the No War, No Warming pre-march rally.  She was excited by the turnout, stating “It was amazing to see so many people, especially from so many different ages, states, and walks of life come together under the idea of saving our planet.” The pre-march rally included peace and justice speakers as well as performers Holly Near and Emma’s Revolution.

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We rallied and marched with our banners on Sunday and on Saturday, Peace Action dug into the debates and issues as part of the Climate Convergence.

I spoke on two panels at the convergence. The first panel, Climate Change and Militarism: Following the Money and Understanding the Costs was sponsored by Institute for Policy Studies and the International Peace Bureau. Both groups spoke about their new reports: Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization and Military vs Climate Security: The Budgets Compared.

I presented a case study on the work underway in Wisconsin to organize a local initiative to support labor, local elected officials, peace and community groups to develop a defense industry transition project. The premise of the case study was that facts need to be translated into local movement building that will improve peoples’ lives. Peace Action’s Move the Money Campaign aims to build a movement for local, green, sustainable economic development which is not dependent on military contracts for good paying jobs.

The second panel in which I participated examined how to build the movement to save Mother Earth from climate and nuclear destruction. The panel included the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands , Tony DeBrum, who spoke about the impact of the historic lawsuit brought by the Marshallese government against the U.S. for the nuclear weapons testing which has harmed generations of the Marshallese people.

The panel also included the Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, Franklin Cownie, a leader of Mayors for Peace who discussed the significance of the resolution calling for nuclear disarmament and demilitarizing the federal budget passed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Natia, the PANYS student organizer said, “I knew the numbers were going to be large, but it was another thing seeing it. It was amazing to see so many students there. In my experience, I have seen people especially around my age or younger not caring about the future. It was a nice to be surrounded by that many people that care. I only hope that it sparks others to start caring.”

A ready-made resource for immediate follow-up with our allies is a new film for local events. Longtime Peace Action supporter and documentary filmmaker John Ankele has a new film on climate change, “The Wisdom to Survive: Climate Change, Capitalism and Community,” available for community screenings or individual purchase.


Elections Matter!

September 29, 2014

By Paul Kawika Martin

As you know, midterm elections are only 5 weeks away. And one of the unique aspects about Peace Action is that we use all the tools in the social tool box to create a better world. Our comprehensive electoral work includes registering voters, educating candidates and the electorate and endorsing and financing peace candidates.

Already this year, Peace Action and our PAC has made a difference by endorsing candidates, contributing to primary elections, briefing candidates and collecting candidate questionnaires.

Please give a contribution to Peace Action PAC now. Even $5 can make a difference. By law, $5,000 is the maximum you can give. You may consider a recurring gift so that our PAC is always prepared even for surprise special elections.

You may have heard that control of the Senate is up for grabs. Peace Action is non-partisan. For example, earlier this year we endorsed Walter Jones (R-NC) because of his tireless work to bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan and to cut the Pentagon budget. That said, it is clear that a Republican controlled Senate would not have passed the New START Treaty a few years ago and would not be good for Peace Action issues.

It is for that reason that we are supporting candidates in several close Senate races like Gary Peters in Michigan, Bruce Braley in Iowa and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.

Shortly, Peace Action will be deciding where to send organizers to help candidates in key races and where to focus our financial resources. Your contribution now will help us know what we can afford to do to make a more peaceful Congress.

As a reminder, Peace Action PAC has helped elect such peace leaders as:

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) — A leader in bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and ending the Iraq War
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) — Another leader in stopping endless wars and cutting the Pentagon budget
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) — Co-chair of the Progressive Caucus

Besides endorsing and giving money to candidates, we will be bird dogging candidates and distributing voter guides to help voters in their decisions.

In November, we expect a number of hot races in California, New Hampshire, Iowa, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to name a few states. Your support can make a difference. It’s not just electing Members of Congress that will vote the right way. That certainly helps. But the key is electing leaders on peace issues who will lead a number of lawmakers to vote the right way. Leaders who will do the hard, behind the scenes work on issues you and I care about that will make a lasting difference.

Please take a moment now to make a gift so that we can make a difference in key elections.

Please share this article and link with your friends, family and colleagues.

https://secure.actblue.com/page/peace-action


War – What Is It Good For?

September 25, 2014

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–by Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Two weeks ago the House of Representatives voted 273-156 to fund and train “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight the radical terrorist group Islamic State or ISIS. Thank you for your calls against this ill-advised scheme especially since Congress has not authorized the president’s new war in Syria and Iraq. Now, please call your representative via the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and let him or her know what you think of his or her vote.

Congress then adjourned to campaign for re-election, which was an abdication of its responsibility. They certainly could and should have remained in session for a week or more to debate and vote on whether to authorize President Obama’s intervention into the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars. While Congress failed to do its job, we at Peace Action won’t fail to do ours. Our members and activists will bird-dog candidates on the campaign trail and press Members of Congress to explain themselves at community meetings. Peace Action Education Fund Board President Mike Keller wrote this excellent report of such a meeting in Annapolis, Maryland with U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) who was surprised to catch flak from liberal activists for his vote to arm the Syrian rebels.

Last week, President Obama spoke at the UN and chaired the Security Council meeting, where a resolution calling on states to stop the flow of foreign fighters to groups like ISIS passed 15-0. This sounds good, but as expected this was not Security Council approval for military intervention in Iraq and Syria, as required by the UN Charter. So the president is still 0 for 2 in domestic and international law.

Congress is expected to hold votes on authorizing Obama’s new war(s) when it returns after the election for a lame duck session in November or December, we will keep you posted as to developments and how you can take action between now and them. Meanwhile, here is a link to a radio interview on Chicago’s public radio station I did earlier this week prior to the initiation of bombing in Syria and a blog post on the illegality of these new wars.


Holding Congress Accountable for Syria Vote – Great Report from the Grassroots

September 22, 2014

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Mike Keller, who is president of the Peace Action Education Fund and has been active for more than 30 years with Peace Action in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, prepared the following account of a meeting he attended this past week with U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, who serves his district in the House:

“U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) held a breakfast meeting attended by approximately 50 Annapolis-area activists in liberal cause groups.  I participated.  Sarbanes’ intended agenda was to pitch a campaign finance reform proposal which he is sponsoring.  But he was peppered with questions, comments and concerns about the U.S. march to war in the Middle East.  Sarbanes said that he voted for the aid to Syrian rebels reluctantly, because he doubts it can be done effectively, that we can even identify ‘moderates’, and that we can prevent the weapons from falling into the hands of extremists.  He explained his vote as an  expression of support for the president’s attempts to ‘throw ISIS back on its heels’.  His response pleased no one in the room.  Sarbanes then noted that the authorization would expire in December and that Congress would conduct a ‘robust debate’ after the midterm elections on  the president’s use of executive action to pursue ISIS.  Sarbanes also said that he disagreed with the White House’s contention that the 2001 and 2002 Congressional resolutions could be applied to the current situation.  A member of Annapolis City Council, who attended the meeting, said that he could not trust President Obama’s pledge to keep U.S. combat troops out of the fray, because air power alone cannot defeat ISIS.  Sarbanes said, ‘I understand your concern’.

“Sarbanes could not avoid taking away from this meeting with progressive activists in Annapolis that his core constituency is worried and riled up about the prospect of getting entwined in another ruinous military adventure in the Middle East.

“Between now and the post election debate on whether to authorize the president to wage war against ISIS (assuming the White House and congressional leaders allow it to take place), it is critical that Peace Action members in alliance with individuals from other organizations and local elected officials get in the face of their House members on this issue and let them know the intensity of our opposition to the direction in which the United States in heading in the Middle East”.


Peace Action Statement on House Vote to Support Syrian Militias

September 17, 2014

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For Immediate Release:  September 17, 2014

 

Contacts:               Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action, 951-217-7285 cell, pmartin@peace-action.org

Kevin Martin, Peace Action, 301-537-8244 cell, kmartin@peace-action.org

 

Congress Shows Concern in Vote for Funding Syria Militias

 

Washington, DC — September 17, 2014 — In response to today’s House vote to arm and train Syria militias, Peace Action, the largest peace group in the U.S. released the following statement by its executive director, Kevin Martin:

 

The House of Representatives’ vote today to arm and train “moderate” elements of the Syrian opposition in the hopes they will fight ISIS seems a preposterous leap of faith and misappropriation of our tax dollars for a war Congress has not yet authorized, as the Constitution expressly stipulates it must. The U.S. military trained the 100,000+ Iraqi Army, and they failed miserably in their first encounters with ISIS fighters, so how will training 5,000 Syrian fighters do the job? As to providing weapons, it’s far easier to see how that goes disastrously than successfully, as U.S. weapons have already ended up in the hands of ISIS forces. Even the CIA, which has been running a covert program supporting the Free Syrian Army from a base in Jordan, is reportedly skeptical of this new plan.

 

This is also a poor way to run a democracy, with only one house of Congress voting on one aspect of President Obama’s strategy to defeat ISIS, as indications are the Senate will not vote on an amendment to arm Syrian rebels, but rather accept the House’s action and vote only on the Continuing Resolution to keep the government running into December, which includes the House vote. Neither the House nor Senate have voted to authorize the president to attack Syria or Iraq, and plan not to do so until December. Is this “cross our fingers and hope for the best while we campaign for re-election” strategy worthy of Congress’s Constitutional authority over issues of war and peace? The House would have done well to heed the concerns expressed by U.S.. Rep. Austin Scott, R-GA, who before the vote stated, “Every time the United States has gotten into a war, it has started with something like this.”

 

For our part, we are heartened that over two dozen organizations mobilized on short notice to oppose this dangerous plan, generating tens of thousands of calls to Congress in just two days. Peace Action members will continue to raise concerns about this new quagmire-to-be at the Peoples Climate March in New York City this Sunday, on the campaign trail by bird-dogging candidates to state clearly their positions on this new war, and when Congress gets around to voting on a war authorization in its December lame duck session.

 

Opposition to the vote by 156 Representatives (85 Democrats, 71 Republicans) shows congressional concern that weapons and training can come back to bite the U.S., that more arms in the Middle East will only fuel the fire and this can be the Camel’s nose under another war tent. We will continue to advocate diplomatic, political and humanitarian alternatives that will be more effective in combating ISIS, rather than continued military escalation.


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