The Movement for Global Nuclear Weapons Abolition: On from Vienna to New York City!

December 16, 2014

- Peter Deccy, Development Director

Peace Action and our allies in the global movement for nuclear abolition won a small but significant victory at the Third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons last week in Vienna.  We have been pressing the administration for over a year now demanding greater participation in international fora dealing with nuclear disarmament.  This was the first time the United States was present to address the impact of nuclear weapons and the potential for their use on human health, the environment, agriculture and food security, and the economy.

The U.S. was absent at the first two of these international conferences, a visable reminder to the growing number of nations working for zero nuclear weapons that the U.S. wants to keep nuclear weapons out of their hands but isn’t planning to give up its nukes anytime soon.  The Obama administration needed to demonstrate it is taking their work seriously or risk serious blowback at the next year’s review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT RevCon).

Peace Action’s Field Director, Judith LeBlanc and our chapters in New York and New Jersey are playing a key roll in organizing an international grassroots presence at the NPT review conference, just as we did at the last one in 2010, organizing an international conference and a 15,000 person march to the United Nations.

Peace Action and the American Friends Service Committee have dedicated staff working with an ad hoc committee of nuclear abolition allies formulating plans for the our presence at the NPT review conference which will involve:

•    Organizing an inclusive international Nuclear Weapons Abolition conference on the eve of the NPT RevCon;
•    Organizing a mass rally and march on the eve of the Review Conference to demand nuclear weapons abolition, peace and justice – including reducing military spending and the funding of essential human needs;
•    Organizing an international  peace festival at the conclusion of the rally and march;
•    Facilitating organizing by the rising generation of young nuclear abolitionists;
•    Facilitating delivery of millions of Japanese petition signatures urging negotiations without delay for a nuclear weapons abolition convention;
•    Facilitating the organization of an international interfaith service on the eve of the Review Conference;
•    Facilitating the visits of Hibakusha and international peace activists to communities in the United States to encourage nuclear weapons abolition organizing; and
•    Exploring additional nonviolent actions that can reinforce our demand for nuclear disarmament.

You can expect to see more from us on our NPT actions as plans are finalized early next year.  We certainly hope you will take action in support of our nuclear abolition campaign in the coming months and we promise to provide you with ample opportunities to do so.


Senate Committee approves limited authorization for war on ISIS

December 16, 2014

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Last Thursday, The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10 to 8 in favor of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS/ISIL in Syria and Iraq, but with some limitations, read more in this article in Stars and Stripes. The importance of this vote remains to be seen, as neither the full Senate or House plans to take up the AUMF issue before the end of the year, so this committee vote will “expire,” and the new Congress may not take up the AUMF until March or April.

The vote was, somewhat predictably, along party lines, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed. While the vote is largely symbolic, key issues surfaced not just in the vote itself but in the debate leading up to it, including possible prohibition or limitations on the use of U.S. combat forces (the bill would allow the use of ground forces for some special missions), the duration of congressional authorization (three years in the bill that passed in committee, meaning it would last into the next presidency), geographic limitations (Sen. Rand Paul’s attempt to limit military operations to Iraq and Syria failed in committee) and sunsetting the previous AUMFS for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

This committee vote fell far short of Congress doing its Constitutional duty regarding authorizing war, especially for a conflict the U.S. entered last summer. Peace Action will of course keep you apprised of the situation and how you can make an impact, including national lobby days, demonstrations and call-in and email actions early in 2015. On a somewhat related issue, we will also keep you informed on how to continue to support diplomacy rather than war or increased sanctions against Iran. While there may some tough moments ahead, resolving the issue of Iran’s nuclear program in the next several months could lead to broader benefits for Middle East peace.


Torture is wrong, illegal and ineffective – do we really need to debate this?

December 16, 2014

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Apparently we do. Last week’s release of the Senate report on CIA torture, er “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” provoked a quite a media storm, including Dick Cheney and other Bush-league torture apologists and enablers defending not just their actions in the past, but the possible use of torture in the future.

While more information will presumably be forthcoming (it was only the executive summary that was released), a key issue for the peace and human rights advocacy community, and presumably for our country, is what steps should be taken now.

There are two main approaches being floated, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on which Peace Action ought to emphasize, or tell us your own ideas using the comments section below this post.

-Legislative clarification/remedy – while torture is already illegal under U.S. and international law (and the U.S. is bound by the United Nations Convention Against Torture), some members of Congress think further clarification or specification on what constitutes torture and what is and isn’t allowable in “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” could be beneficial.

-Call for Accountability/Prosecution – the only official in jail as a consequence of the CIA torture program is whistleblower John Kiriakou. Briefly stated, they got the wrong guy. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Rice, Brennan, Yoo and company are the ones who should have to face the music, or at least prosecution. While I didn’t agree with President Obama’s 2009 decision not to pursue prosecutions, I understood the political calculation he made at the time.

But he certainly could reverse that decision now. While it’s extremely unlikely he will, it would be a righteous act in the final two years of his presidency, and it’s really not optional, under the Convention Against Torture the U.S. has a duty to prosecute torturers, as several UN officials noted last week.

Personally, I favor the option of calling for accountability and prosecution over a legislative approach as I fear opening up the issue of torture to becoming even more of a political football, but I could support legislation if congressional leaders made a strong case for it, and if there is a likelihood it would pass in the new Congress, which is no sure thing. A bill that failed to pass might be worse than not trying at all. On a conference call last Friday of some key Peace Action affiliate and chapter leaders, there was a consensus on the demand for prosecution rather than legislative approach.

I’d love to hear what you think, so again feel free to use the comments box below.


Update on Senate Panel Vote: Today is a good day to tell the Senate, “No More War!”

December 10, 2014

 

 

 

 

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UPDATE DECEMBER 11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-8 in favor of the AUMF for Syria and Iraq, but with some limitations, read more in this article in Stars and Stripes. The importance of this vote remains to be seen, as neither the full Senate or House plans to take up the AUMF issue before the end of the year, so this committee vote will “expire,” and the new Congress may not take up the AUMF until March or April. Peace Action will of course keep you apprised of the situation and how you can make an impact.

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Tomorrow, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The vote is somewhat symbolic, as it’s just a committee vote, and the full Senate and House will not vote on any AUMF before the new Congress convenes in January, meaning they would need to start from scratch on this issue.

 

However, the vote could be an indicator of the depth of support, at least in this important committee, for yet another endless war in the Middle East. The Obama Administration apparently wants at least a three year authorization (stretching beyond the end of the president’s term in office), with no geographic limitations, and no prohibition on deploying U.S. ground troops. Sure looks like a slippery slope to another endless war.

 

I need you to call your senators today, especially those on the Foreign Relations Committee (check the committee roster here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_Committee_on_Foreign_Relations)

 

Regardless of whether you have a senator on the committee, it’s a good day to tell the Senate, “No More War!” Thanks to our colleagues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, you can call toll-free at 877-429-0678.

 

Today is International Human Rights Day, and we at Peace Action certainly believe peace is a fundamental human right. Please call your senators today, toll free at 877-429-0678, on behalf of peace and stopping yet another endless war.

 

Yours in Peace,

 

Kevin Martin

Executive Director

 

P.S. For years Peace Action has advocated the repeal of both war authorizations for Afghanistan and Iraq, passed well over a decade ago. While we opposed both authorizations at the time, many who supported them then now agree that they are outdated and far too broad and should be repealed (we agree).

 

The Obama administration has been leaning on both authorizations for its military intervention in Iraq and Syria, though now it wants Congress to pass a new AUMF. We oppose a new AUMF as Peace Action thinks not enough energy has been spent on a political solution to the Syrian civil war and on starving ISIS of resources (oil, antiquities and sex trade revenue, weapons and foreign fighters).

 

Please call your senators today, toll-free at 877-429-0678, and thank you for all your support as we observe this season of peace.


Do Wars Really Defend America’s Freedom?

December 1, 2014

Not so much, according to Peace Action national board member and SUNY/Albany Professor Emeritus Larry Wittner. See his article on History News Network.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, “What’s Going On at UAardvark?

U.S. politicians and pundits are fond of saying that America’s wars have defended America’s freedom. But the historical record doesn’t bear out this contention. In fact, over the past century, U.S. wars have triggered major encroachments upon civil liberties.

Shortly after the United States entered World War I, seven states passed laws abridging freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In June 1917, they were joined by Congress, which passed the Espionage Act. This law granted the federal government the power to censor publications and ban them from the mail, and made the obstruction of the draft or of enlistment in the armed forces punishable by a hefty fine and up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Thereafter, the U.S. government censored newspapers and magazines while conducting prosecutions of the war’s critics, sending over 1,500 to prison with lengthy sentences. This included the prominent labor leader and Socialist Party presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs. Meanwhile, teachers were fired from the public schools and universities, elected state and federal legislators critical of the war were prevented from taking office, and religious pacifists who refused to carry weapons after they were drafted into the armed forces were forcibly clad in uniform, beaten, stabbed with bayonets, dragged by ropes around their necks, tortured, and killed. It was the worst outbreak of government repression in U.S. history, and sparked the formation of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Although America’s civil liberties record was much better during World War II, the nation’s participation in that conflict did lead to serious infringements upon American freedoms. Probably the best-known was the federal government’s incarceration of 110,000 people of Japanese heritage in internment camps. Two-thirds of them were U.S. citizens, most of whom had been born (and many of whose parents had been born) in the United States. In 1988, recognizing the blatant unconstitutionality of the wartime internment, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, which apologized for the action and paid reparations to the survivors and their families. But the war led to other violations of rights, as well, including the imprisonment of roughly 6,000 conscientious objectors and the confinement of some 12,000 others in Civilian Public Service camps. Congress also passed the Smith Act, which made the advocacy of the overthrow of the government a crime punishable by 20 years’ imprisonment. As this legislation was used to prosecute and imprison members of groups that merely talked abstractly of revolution, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately narrowed its scope considerably.

The civil liberties situation worsened considerably with the advent of the Cold War. In Congress, the House Un-American Activities Committee gathered files on over a million Americans whose loyalty it questioned and held contentious hearings designed to expose alleged subversives. Jumping into the act, Senator Joseph McCarthy began reckless, demagogic accusations of Communism and treason, using his political power and, later, a Senate investigations subcommittee, to defame and intimidate. The president, for his part, established the Attorney General’s List of “subversive” organizations, as well as a federal Loyalty Program, which dismissed thousands of U.S. public servants from their jobs. The compulsory signing of loyalty oaths became standard practice on the federal, state, and local level. By 1952, 30 states required some sort of loyalty oath for teachers. Although this effort to root out “un-Americans” never resulted in the discovery of a single spy or saboteur, it did play havoc with people’s lives and cast a pall of fear over the nation.

When citizen activism bubbled up in the form of protest against the Vietnam War, the federal government responded with a stepped-up program of repression. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, had been expanding his agency’s power ever since World War I, and swung into action with his COINTELPRO program. Designed to expose, disrupt, and neutralize the new wave of activism by any means necessary, COINTELPRO spread false, derogatory information about dissident leaders and organizations, created conflicts among their leaders and members, and resorted to burglary and violence. It targeted nearly all social change movements, including the peace movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the environmental movement. The FBI’s files bulged with information on millions of Americans it viewed as national enemies or potential enemies, and it placed many of them under surveillance, including writers, teachers, activists, and U.S. senators Convinced that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a dangerous subversive, Hoover made numerous efforts to destroy him, including encouraging him to commit suicide.

Although revelations about the unsavory activities of U.S. intelligence agencies led to curbs on them in the 1970s, subsequent wars encouraged a new surge of police state measures. In 1981, the FBI opened an investigation of individuals and groups opposing President Reagan’s military intervention in Central America. It utilized informers at political meetings, break-ins at churches, members’ homes, and organizational offices, and surveillance of hundreds of peace demonstrations. Among the targeted groups were the National Council of Churches, the United Auto Workers, and the Maryknoll Sisters of the Roman Catholic Church. After the beginning of the Global War on Terror, the remaining checks on U.S. intelligence agencies were swept aside. The Patriot Act provided the government with sweeping power to spy on individuals, in some cases without any suspicion of wrongdoing, while the National Security Agency collected all Americans’ phone and internet communications.

The problem here lies not in some unique flaw of the United States but, rather, in the fact that warfare is not conducive to freedom. Amid the heightened fear and inflamed nationalism that accompany war, governments and many of their citizens regard dissent as akin to treason. In these circumstances, “national security” usually trumps liberty. As the journalist Randolph Bourne remarked during World War I: “War is the health of the state.” Americans who cherish freedom should keep this in mind.

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/157574#sthash.LdEUZxWF.dpuf


Largest Peace Group Supports Extending Iran Negotiations

November 24, 2014

Washington, DC — November 23, 2014 — In response to various sources citing that the P5 + 1 (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany) and Iran will extend their negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program beyond today’s deadline until July, Peace Action, the largest peace group in the U.S. released the following statement by its policy and political director, Paul Kawika Martin who has been working on the issue for over eight years and had the rare opportunity to spend time in Iran:

The recently announced extension of international talks with Iran over their nuclear program will continue to roll back Iran’s nuclear program and provide time to negotiate final difference and come to an agreement that guarantees Iran will not pursue a nuclear weapon makes the U.S. and the world a safer place and paves the way for more discussions that will reduce Middle East tensions and increase economic opportunities benefiting world markets.

The U.S. has come along way from the days when Vice President Dick Cheney tried to sway the Bush administration to bomb Iran, to today when the Obama administration is key to international negotiations that we hope will lead to an agreement with Iran that will roll back its nuclear program and ensure it does not build a nuclear weapon even if it wanted one.  International verification and monitoring will guarantee compliance.  This extension of talks with Iran over its nuclear program is yet another example that diplomacy is working and is far less expensive in blood and treasure than military intervention.

Unfortunately, there are some in Congress and the Israeli Government who take the Cheney tack that war is the answer.  But, this seven-month extension of talks with Iran is better than any imaginable alternative.  Military strategists have said over and over again that a military intervention into Iran would at best slightly delay any nuclear program and at worst force Iran to engage or speed up getting a nuclear weapon even if they had no such program.  Additionally, it could start another Middle East war that the U.S. cannot afford and Americans oppose.

It is vital that Congress not scuttle an agreement with Iran now that the parties are so close .  Any letters or legislation that offers more sanctions or ties the hands of the countries, preventing them from coming to an agreement, is clearly a poison pill to kill the negotiations.  That would be very short sighted, as an agreement with Iran on their nuclear program would likely lead to productive negotiations on other items of concern with the Iranian Government, not to mention, to open up important economic channels to help world financial woes.

With bad news coming out of the Middle East nearly every day, continued negotiations with Iran is something to lift up not bring down.  This is a key time to lessen tensions in the Middle East.  The extension of talks continues to heavily limit Iran’s nuclear program while providing significant safeguards and inspections to guarantee non-weapon uses of nuclear technology.

Peace Action will join dozens of other organizations to have our supporters call on their congressional delegation to publicly support the talks with Iran by asking them to make a floor statement, write an OP-ED and release a positive statement.

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Founded in 1957, Peace Action (formerly SANE/Freeze), the United States’ largest peace and disarmament organization, with over 100,000 paid members and nearly 100 chapters in 36 states, works to abolish nuclear weapons, promote government spending priorities that support human needs, encourage real security through international cooperation and human rights and support nonmilitary solutions to the conflicts with Afghanistan and Iran. The public may learn more and take action at http://www.Peace- Action.org. For more up-to-date peace insider information, follow Peace Action’s political director on Twitter. http://twitter.com/PaulKawika


Urgent Action: Tell Congress to support diplomacy with Iran

November 21, 2014

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You’ll know from the past eight years that we have been writing you about Iran.  First, we were gravely concerned that Vice President Dick Cheney would sway the Bush administration to bomb Iran.  We have come a long way.  We expect this Sunday the international community including the U.S. will announce an agreement or a negotiating extension with Iran to ensure they do not acquire a nuclear weapon even if they wanted one.

Write your Congressional delegation now to support this historic agreement that will make us safer and will be a step in reducing Middle East tensions.

Unfortunately, there are some in Congress who take the Cheney tack that war is always the answer.  Military strategists have said over and over again that a military intervention into Iran would at best slightly delay any nuclear program and at worst force Iran to engage in getting a nuclear weapon even if they had no such program.

Congress needs to hear from you now not to scuttle this extremely important deal.  Use this sample letter to write now.

With bad news coming out of the Middle East nearly everyday, an agreement with Iran is something to lift up, not bring down.  Demand that those who represent you in the Capitol speak up in support of an agreement or continued negotiations until an agreement is reached.

This is a key time to lesson tensions in the Middle East and guarantee another country promises not to seek nuclear weapons.  Your letter right now can make a big difference.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S.  It is urgent that you write Congress now to support an agreement or an extension with Iran on their nuclear program.  After using the sample letter, please forward this to your friends, family and colleagues.


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