Gaza-Israel Peace Events in DC this week, starting tonight

July 30, 2014

There is a lot of activity happening here in the nation’s capital calling for an end to the siege of Gaza, here is a summary with links for more information.

Washington Post op-ed by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-MN, “End the Gaza Blockade to Achieve Peace”

Candlelight vigil for Gaza, tonight at 7 pm at the White House, organized by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Palestine Voices Global FaceBook demonstration, Thursday, 8:00 pm 

Congressional Briefing this Friday, August 1 on Capitol Hill, 2103 Rayburn House Office Building , 2:00 pm , “Is Israel Complying with U.S. and International Laws” sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and four other organizations. Panelists will include Tariq Abu Khdeir, Palestinian-American teenager from Tampa, Fla. who was brutally beaten by Israeli security forces while restrained and unconscious

Gaza Update with special guest Tariq Abu Khdeir and other speakers, this Friday, August 1 at 7:00 pm, Busboys and Poets 5th and K Sts., NW, Washington, DC

National March on the White House: End the Massacre in Gaza, this Saturday, August 2, 1:00 pm, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, called by ANSWER

 


July 24 National Day of Action for an Immediate Ceasefire & Ending Assault on Gaza

July 22, 2014

Originally posted on Peace Action Blog:

By Judith Le Blanc, Field Director, Peace Action

On Thursday, July 24, Join Peace Action and other in a national day of Congressional action for an immediate ceasefire and for an end to the Israeli military attack on Gaza. History proves that even after decades of violence on all sides, ceasefire and negotiations are the only way out of a devastating humanitarian crisis.

Two ways to join the July 24 national day of action:

Call the Senate: (202) 224-3121  Urge an immediate ceasefire. The U.S. can and should join the international call, including the United Nations Security Council, for an immediate ceasefire. Instead last week, the Senate voted to send an additional $621 million to Israel, on top of the $3.1 billion already being sent to Israel every year which is largely military aid. Our government’s one-sided support to Israel is causing misery for the people of Gaza and…

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Some good news on the extension of nuclear talks with Iran

July 22, 2014

Amid the mostly awful daily news from the Middle East, one piece of good news came late last week. Iran and the “P5 +1″ (the U.S., Russia, England, France, China and Germany) agreed to continue negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program for another four months. The interim Joint Plan of Action deadline was July 20, but as expected, all parties agreed enough progress and benefits have been seen to continue negotiations.

Our colleagues at Win Without War (a coalition Peace Action has been a part of since 2002) compiled supportive statements from editorial boards and experts and also from Members of Congress.

You can show your support for continued diplomacy with a FaceBook graphic from our friends at Council for a Livable World or by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper (or posting on a blog), and here are some talking points from Rethink Media and National Security Network to help you write your letter or post:

Extending the negotiations is a “win/win” for the US.

 

  • The nuclear inspectors on the ground in Iran have confirmed that Iran has frozen and even rolled back its nuclear activities – living up to its promises under the current deal.

 

  • By continuing the talks, Iran’s nuclear program remains frozen, and we get extra time to work on eliminating the possibility of an Iranian bomb.

 

  • Soundbite: It’s far better to secure a deal in overtime than quit and go home.

 

Continuing diplomacy is better than rushing to war.

 

  • If Congress kills the negotiations by imposing new sanctions or unworkable terms for a final agreement, Iran will unfreeze its nuclear program without restriction…which means either Iran gets a nuclear bomb or we have to fight another war in the Middle East.

 

  • After more than a decade of war, Americans strongly oppose the prospect of another military conflict. As their representatives, we owe it to them to explore every diplomatic opportunity.

 

  • Soundbite: What we’re doing now is exactly what we should have done instead of invading Iraq. 

 

Adding more sanctions will do more harm than good.

 

  • Exploiting the extension as an opportunity to impose new sanctions or terms for a final deal would kill the talks and likely lead to the collapse of international sanctions.

 

  • All of the countries that matter support the negotiations. We should continue to work with our allies rather than taking unilateral action and undermining the talks.

 

  • Soundbite: Sanctions brought Iran to the table, but sanctions didn’t roll back Iran’s nuclear program – negotiations did.

July 24 National Day of Action for an Immediate Ceasefire & Ending Assault on Gaza

July 22, 2014

By Judith Le Blanc, Field Director, Peace Action

On Thursday, July 24, Join Peace Action and other in a national day of Congressional action for an immediate ceasefire and for an end to the Israeli military attack on Gaza. History proves that even after decades of violence on all sides, ceasefire and negotiations are the only way out of a devastating humanitarian crisis.

Two ways to join the July 24 national day of action:

Call the Senate: (202) 224-3121  Urge an immediate ceasefire. The U.S. can and should join the international call, including the United Nations Security Council, for an immediate ceasefire. Instead last week, the Senate voted to send an additional $621 million to Israel, on top of the $3.1 billion already being sent to Israel every year which is largely military aid. Our government’s one-sided support to Israel is causing misery for the people of Gaza and Israel.

Join or organize an event at the offices of your Congressional representative on Thursday, July 24.  Actions have taken place around the country and that will continue, but doing something together at Congressional offices will focus on the need for action by our government now!  Add your Thursday local action to the list here: 

Search for an event in your area on this international website.  On this website you will also see the activities being organized around the world.

For those in the Washington, DC metro area, join the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Code Pink, and others for Capitol Hill visits. ADC will conduct a  briefing in the Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2456 at 9am before going to y Congressional offices.

Background:

• “This isn’t the first time a massive and lethal Israeli air campaign was launched against Gaza, and not the first time rockets were fired from Gaza.  But  when ceasefires have been in place, they protect lives – Israeli lives even more than Palestinian lives (because even during ceasefires Palestinians are killed with disturbing regularity). During 2013 and 2014 – during the ceasefire that ended Israel’s eight-day attack on Gaza in November 2012 – no Israelis were killed by rocket fire.  If Israel were seriously trying to protect its population, it would have called for an immediate ceasefire long before now.” For the full analysis for the need for Congressional action for an immediate ceasefireread Phyllis Bennis in The Hill

• July 17, 2014, Thursday,the Senate voted to send an additional $621 million to Israel. This is on top of the $3.1 billion we already give to Israel every year. According to a Congressional Research Service Report from April, 2014: “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $121 billion in bilateral assistance. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance.” Congress claims that this strong bilateral relationship is based on “a mutual commitment to democratic values,” yet Israel is clearly not committed to democratic values; Israel has been bombing civilians and children in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. From American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)

• Organizations also supporting the July 24 National Day of Action: Adalah-NY, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, CODEPINK, Friends of Sabeel–North America, Global Exchange, International Socialist Organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, Just Foreign Policy, Peace Action, Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (List in formation.)


July 15, 2014

Your opposition to the Iraq War forced the Bush administration to lie and dupe the American public to allow the invasion.  Our opposition ended that war earlier than the Bush administration wanted though at the cost of many American and Iraqi lives as well as trillions of tax payer dollars.  Don’t let the Obama Administration make the same mistake.

Tell your Member of Congress:  No New Iraq War!

The current situation in Iraq has grabbed the nation’s attention, and President Obama has already deployed around 750 American troops to Iraq in response to the crisis. While some of these troops were understandably sent to protect our embassy, hundreds were sent as ‘advisers’ to the Iraqi security forces. The American public has been clear: the Iraq War was a mistake and we don’t want to send our troops back into the middle of a civil war. As more and more Americans are sent into harm’s way in Iraq, Congress needs to hear from you.

Help stop the march to war: email your Representative today!

Thankfully, Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) have introduced legislation to force a debate and vote on this buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq. Last week, these champions for peace introduced H Con Res 105, which would invoke the War Powers Resolution, and, if passed, would bring home the American advisers and prevent any further military intervention in Iraq. While the resolution would allow for the U.S. to continue protecting its embassy and diplomatic personnel, it would be a crucial step in preventing America from sliding back to a war in Iraq.

Please take two minutes to ask your Representative to cosponsor the bipartisan resolution!

Washington is once again full of hawks calling for war. Dick Cheney penned an op-ed defending the Iraq War and calling for new airstrikes and boots on the ground. You would think that after costing nearly 4,500 Americans their lives, wasting trillions of taxpayer dollars, and having been exposed for selling the Iraq War on lies, no one would bother listening to Cheney anymore. But sadly, many Members of Congress are ready to do just that. That is why your voice is so important. We weren’t quite able to stop Cheney in 2003, but, if we speak up now, we can stop him before we repeat the same mistakes again!

Make your voice heard: Urge your Representative to cosponsor the Iraq War Powers Resolution!

The situation in Iraq is difficult as the nation continues to be roiled in a complex sectarian crisis. But the solution is not American bombs or troops. Help make clear that America will not go back to war in Iraq by asking your Representative to cosponsor this important resolution.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. – We helped end the Iraq War and we don’t want the U.S. embroiled in another war there again.  Write your Member of Congress now! 


Interview on Iraq on Radio New Zealand

June 30, 2014

Our executive director Kevin Martin was interviewed about the situation in Iraq by Radio New Zealand on Saturday, give it a listen, it’s the second link on this page. Kevin’s interview follows an excellent commentary by Wayne Brittenden at about 4:50 minutes in.

 

 


Breaking News and Perspectives on Iraq

June 19, 2014

no good war banner pic

 

President Obama just spoke on Iraq, here are some points from Win Without War, a coalition Peace Action helped found to oppose the Iraq war in 2002:

Moments ago, the President finished a brief press conference in which he discussed the situation in Iraq. He announced that the US would be sending up to 300 special operations forces as advisors to Iraq (they will reportedly be broken into teams of 10-20 and forward deployed with Iraqi units). He also stressed that the US is now ready to make ‘limited, targeted’ air strikes if the situation the ground dictated it. While the President also made several positive statements stressing his opposition to ‘ground troops’ and that this remains an Iraqi problem that will require an Iraqi solution, we are troubled by some of these developments.

Here are our top line message responses.

  • This is a dangerous escalation of US military involvement in a problem the President himself has said has no military solution. It is also a dangerous retreat from the conditions that the President set for US engagement
  • What in needed in Iraq is a political solution, and any US support must only be made after changes to the policies of Prime Minister Maliki that are fueling sectarian tensions and growing this conflict.
  • History has shown that advisors can become ground troops, despite the best intentions.
  • President is still threatening airstrikes which would be counterproductive and firmly make America part of what is a growing Iraqi civil war.
  • President Obama needs to listen to the American people who do not want to restart the Iraq war.

Longtime Peace Action board of directors member Lauri Kallio of Albuquerque wrote this summary yesterday, which prompted a thoughtful reply by Bj, an activist with our Sacramento chapter:

President Barack Obama’s initial statement on the insurgency in Iraq was that all options are open. All options would include boots on the ground and bombing, with nuclear bombs not being ruled out. Later, Obama specifically excluded sending U.S. troops in, but reports were that the White House was mulling over the bombing option. Bombing attacks would would almost certainly produce noncombatant casualties and would likely provoke Sunni anger over the U.S. siding with the increasingly Shiite-dominated government. On June 16, media reports were that 100 Special Forces troops would be sent in to train Iraqi security forces.

 

President Obama also said that U.S. military aid would be premised on Iraqi government assurances to make political accommodations to relieve Sunni and Kurdish grievances about being largely excluded from power sharing. The U.S. troop surge well into the war was primarily designed to achieve some 18 socioeconomic and political goals — some hard to measure. I wrote a piece in my almost daily logbook on the war in Iraq, sometime after the surge took place, in which I demonstrated that there had been little or no progress on the goals, particularly on the two key goals of resolving Kurdish territorial land claims and an equitable sharing of oil revenues. The failure to resolve land claims alienated the Kurds and the failure to craft a plan to share oil revenues disadvantaged the Sunnis the most.

 

Staying with the theme of the futility of relying on the Iraqi government to become more inclusive,shortly before the troop surge took place, the U.S. began paying stipends for Sunni tribal groups to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq  Later, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was to strike a major blow against the Sunnis by cutting off the stipends.

 

When Nuri al-Maliki achieved his latest grip on power, his faction actually received fewer parliamentary seats than a competing faction led by a former foreign minister of Iraq; however, by more adroit political maneuvering, al-Maliki made deals with other small political factions to be elected prime minister.

 

After al-Maliki consolidated political power, he began a campaign to discredit the Sunni vice president, culminating in a murder charge for running a death squad, causing the vice president to flee the country.

 

Reports coming out of Baghdad form a pretty consistent picture of Prime Minister al-Maliki building an increasingly Shiite-dominated regime; thereby making it a naive move on the part of Obama to trust any promise of a more politically inclusive regime in Iraq.

 

If the argument is made that we must come to the aid of a democratically elected government in Iraq, given the extreme weakness of the Iraqi parliament and the ability of al-Maliki to rule largely by decree, the aid-to-a-democracy argument becomes very suspect.

 

If the argument is made that the U.S. should supply more arms to help the Iraqi security forces fight the insurgents. the last major clash should give one pause. Reports are that 30,000 Iraqi troops fled when confronted with 800 armed insurgents. Many of the fleeing Iraqi troops discarded their uniforms in the apparent hope that having no uniforms would save their lives if they fell into the hands of the insurgents. The insurgents found themselves with a yet-to-be-determined cache of U.S.-supplied weapons.

 

The word that the  U.S. may send in 100 Special Forces to train Iraqi security forces hinges on the absurd. Not only have Iraqi security forces failed to stand up to numerically inferior insurgent forces, but they have not been able to stop the ongoing mass violence against Iraqi citizens since the U.S. forces left.

 

U.S. training of foreign military forces has been a history of failure over the past half-century. After years of the U.S. training the South Vietnamese military, it quickly crumbled before the invasion of North Vietnamese armed forces. Part of the mission of the U.S. Marines sent into Lebanon by President Ronald Reagan was to train forces deemed favorable to U.S. interests. That training was washed away in the chaotic and very destructive civil war that raged in Lebanon. Central and South American military personnel schooled at the School of the Americas — since renamed — went back home and many committed atrocities against the very citizens they were committed to protect. We haven’t seen the final result of the long period of U.S. training of Afghan recruits; however, what we know of it shouldn’t inspire much confidence. Ann Jones, who taught school in Afghanistan for six years and was still there in 2009 to witness U.S. training methods, said of the 2009 incursion into Helmand Province that it consisted of 4,000 U.S. and allied troops and only 600 Afghan security forces, some of them police forces. Jones said she didn’t know of a single Afghan who had seen a 90,000 man Afghan army, as claimed by the U.S. in 2009. She even suggested tongue-in-cheek that it probably consisted of one man enlisting for training 90,000 times. Ann Jones personally knew of a number of men who went through the training, went home and went through again under another name. She was also convinced that Taliban men would go through the training course to learn of U.S. military tactics and also get a paycheck.

 

Overall, it would seem that all U.S. military options in Iraq are fraught with disaster. Diplomacy and a political settlement have also been suggested; however, I don’t see the U.S. as having the leverage to achieve a settlement. Realistically, we in the United States must come to the realization that there are situations in nation states that the intervention of the mighty U.S. military machine will only worsen the situation, and we shouldn’t set ourselves up for the burning we will get by setting the fires.

 

Unfortunately, the U.S. cannot serve as a role model for the world, given that we have attacked at least one nation that hasn’t attacked us in every decade since World War II. Youngsters just entering their teen years have never known a time when we were not at war and many have lived through two major wars.

 

Although I am generally opposed to dividing the world into smaller political enclaves of people based on religious or ethnic identification, perhaps the best solution would be for the U.S. to propose and work for splitting Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political divisions. The Sunnis and the Shiites are at one another’s throats. The Kurds are largely autonomous in their own territory, even making their own oil concession deals, despite incurring the wrath of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

###

The US/Iran situation since the ouster of the Shah in 1979 has been ridiculous and I am very much in favor of a rational and pragmatic relationship between the US and Iran. That said, with regard to Iraq, things may not be so simple.

 

Also with regard to dividing Iraq among the sectors (Shi’a, Sunni and Kurd — who are mostly Sunni by the way) things are also not that simple. Between 1991 and 2003, those divisions were encouraged and promoted by the US through the Northern (Kurdish area) and Southern (Shi’a area) No Fly Zones during the 13 years of intense sanctions. Saddam Hussein was essentially restricted to the central, Sunni-Shi’a mixed, part of the country. And during the 2003-11 invasion and occupation, those divisions were also encouraged and promoted, it seems.

 

Were the Kurdish region of Iraq to get full nation status, a bloody chain reaction would likely follow as the Kurdish military attempted to expand into those parts of Syria, Turkey, and Iran which have significant Kurdish populations — widening and deepening an already very destructive situation in the region. It may happen, but it is not something that we should encourage.

 

I highly recommend watching today’s Democracy Now. The after-headlines-segment is with UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. It is long, but his insights are so valuable to understanding the situation.  Below is an excerpt (my bolds). Bj

 

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ambassador Brahimi, on the question of sectarianism, there have been several reports that suggest that in the initial days of the Iraq invasion in 2003, there were some neoconservative members of the Bush administration that actively fostered sectarianism between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds as a way of—as a policy of kind of divide and rule. Could you comment on that?

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: … President Bush had given full, total responsibility to the Pentagon over Iraq. What was discussed there and what they did there, I don’t know. But as somebody from the region just looking at what was actually taking place, it was extremely hard not to believe that sectarianism was being promoted and that the people that were being put in charge were—I mean, of course the Kurdish region was given to Kurds 100 percent, and no—the rest of the Iraqis had no part in it. But in the rest of Iraq, the impression one had was that the people that were preferred by the occupying powers were the most sectarian Shia and the most pro-Iranian Shia, so, you know, that Iran—that Iraq is now very, very close to Iran. Again, from the point of view of somebody who looks at things from outside, I have absolutely no knowledge of what went on in the high spheres of power in Washington. The impression we had is that these people were put in charge either out of total ignorance—and that is extremely difficult to accept—or intentionally. But the fact is, you know, that the system that was established was very sectarian.

 


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