Peace Action Responds to Kerry’s Hearing with Soldiers on Afghanistan Occupation

April 23, 2009

While sitting in the Senate Foreign Relations hearing “Soldiers’ Stories from the Afghan War,” I thought that it was important to hear the views of U.S. soldiers at all ranks regarding the occupation of Afghanistan.  Senators Kerry and Lugar’s hearing is a good start.  The Afghanistan occupation deserves full, robust hearings like those Senator Fulbright conducted during the Vietnam war and where the young Sen. Kerry testified.

I agree with the wisdom of many U.S. troops such as Corporal Rick Reyes who testified ‘Sending more troops will not make the U.S. safer, it will only build more opposition against us . . . More troops, more war is not the answer.’

He is right:  21,000 more troops, air and Predator drone strikes and night raids that kill, injure and traumatize innocent civilians drive people to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.  Instead, the U.S. and international community should increase funding for Afghan-led humanitarian aid, development work, and landmine clean up while supporting regional diplomacy.

I continue to think that the public yearns to hear the Obama Administration’s exit strategy and ‘metrics’ that will get us out of the costly occupation of Afghanistan and into providing more resources for smarter foreign policy and solving Americans’ problems.


Lawsuit targets Iraq war’s validity

April 22, 2009

Rutgers prof: Bush ignored Constitution
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
BY JOE RYAN
Star-Ledger Staff
When lawyers and judges cite the original intent of the framers of the Constitution, they’re often marshaling conservative arguments. And Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, noted for his right-leaning views, is a leading figure in the stick-to-the-original-text school of jurisprudence.
But conservatives don’t hold a monopoly on the theory.
In federal court in Newark yesterday, a Rutgers University law professor arguing a lawsuit on behalf of a peace group told a judge that President George W. Bush violated the Constitution’s initial intent when he ordered the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Frank Askin, founder of the constitutional litigation clinic at the Rutgers School of Law in Newark, said the framers clearly gave Congress — not the president — authority to declare war. Afterward, he even mentioned Scalia.
“We think Scalia is going to love this case. It’s all about the initial intent of the founders,” said Askin, who argued the suit for the group New Jersey Peace Action.
During yesterday’s hearing, a Justice Department attorney asked U.S. District Judge Jose Linares to dismiss the suit, which seeks to have the war in Iraq declared unconstitutional.
The government’s lawyer, Jeffrey Smith, argued that Congress debated vigorously before giving Bush authorization in 2002 to deploy troops. The invasion began six months later.
“It’s clear that Congress was participating in the decision,” Smith said.
But Askin and fellow lawyer Bennet Zurofsky said Bush needed a formal declaration of war to send troops into a sovereign nation.
The suit, filed in May, does not call for the U.S. to withdraw troops from Iraq. Instead, it seeks to ensure future presidents do not impinge on Congress’ sole authority to declare war, Askin said.
“That power was delegated by the founders to Congress and Congress alone,” Askin said.
The suit also was filed on behalf of two women whose sons served in Iraq: Paula Rogovin of Teaneck and Anna Berlinrut of South Orange.
Linares said he would decide “quickly” whether to dismiss the suit.
Askin declined to speculate on how the judge would rule. But ultimately, he predicted the case would wind up before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — one judicial step away from Scalia himself.

Joe Ryan may be reached at jryan@starledger.com or (973) 622-3405.

©2009 Star Ledger
© 2009 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.


War Toll

April 15, 2009

Those who died in Iraq from Apr 5 to 11:

Sgt Daniel Beard 24  Buffalo NY
Cpl Stephen Dearmon  21  Crossville TN
Spc Israel Mejias  28  San Loenzo PR
Sgt Edward Forrest  25  Fenton MO
Pvt Bryce Gautier  22  Cypress CA
Cpl Jason Pautsch  20  Davenport IO
Sgt Bryan Hall  32  Elk Grove CA
Sgt Gary Woods Jr  24  Lebanon Jct KY

24 have been seriously wounded.
10 wounded were returned to occupation.
150 Iraqi sisters and brothers were killed.

In Afghanistan were killed:

Pvt Azdin Chadi  20  Holland
Spc Adam Kuligowski  21  Arlington VA
Cap Vasile Unguras  32  Romania
Cpl Blaise Oleski 22  Holland Patent NY
Air Jacob Ramsey  20  Hesperia CA

134 Afghans and Pakistanis were killed.

Cf:   http://www.icasualties.org


ANOTHER $77.1 BILLION FOR THE IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN WARS NPP RELEASES LOCAL COST OF WAR BREAKDOWNS and LAUNCHES COST OF AFGHANISTAN WAR

April 15, 2009

For Immediate Release Contact: Jo Comerford, Executive Director 413-584-9556 (o); 413-559-1649 (cell)

NORTHAMPTON, MA – As Congress considers President Obama’s $83.4 billion supplemental request for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2009, $77.1 billion of which is dedicated to Iraq and Afghanistan war funding, National Priorities Project offers a state-level tradeoff and breakdowns of U.S. war spending costs by state, congressional district, county and town. NPP’s trade-offs page offers similar breakdowns for approved totals to date and the pending supplemental, showing what the equivalent sums could buy in healthcare, education and renewable energy services. Of the $77.1 billion war spending request, roughly $52.7 billion is dedicated to the Iraq War, while $24.4 will fund the expanded U.S. war in Afghanistan. The total cost for both wars, including approved spending and the pending supplemental is $907.3 billion. The cost to Alabama for the additional pending war funding would be $705 million while the cost to California would be $9.8 billion. In comparison, without including the pending supplemental, California has spent $105 billion in aggregate war costs since 2001. “In a departure from previous years, NPP is releasing total war spending for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and launching a cost of war counter for Afghanistan,” notes Jo Comerford, Executive Director of National Priorities Project. “While we applaud Defense Department efforts to cut waste and unnecessary weapons systems, we are mindful that the current efforts facilitate a shift of funds within the U.S. military budget rather than amounting to a substantial budget decrease.”

In addition to the Afghanistan cost of war counter, NPP is co-releasing, with the American Friends Service Committee, a primer on the human and economic cost of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The four page publication is due out later this week. Comerford continues, “21,000 additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan represent a 55% increase in combat personnel from current levels. NPP’s tools will help people across our nation understand the war’s escalating financial impact at home.”

The National Priorities Project (NPP) is a 501(c)(3) research organization that analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand and influence how their tax dollars are spent. Located in Northampton, MA, since 1983, NPP focuses on the impact of federal spending and other policies at the national, state, congressional district and local levels. For more information, go to http://nationalpriorities.org.

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Tax Day Penny Protests

April 14, 2009

On April 15th millions of Americans will take their tax returns to the post office. Join Peace Action in or campaign to educate these citizens about how their taxes are spent.

Sign Our Petition to Cut Pentagon Bloat

JOIN THE CALL TO:
1.) End the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq. Bring all troops and National Guard home;
2.) Save $60 billion annually by cutting Cold War weapons systems;
3.) Reduce the US military footprint on the planet by closing unnecessary US military bases overseas; and,
4.) Invest in diplomacy with Iran, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East.

Organize a Penny Poll Protest
Join thousands of other activists who will organize penny polls at local post offices. Click on the link above to access instructions as well as a personal fundraising page you can use to support a more peaceful economy. In these days of so much political change we all need to be community organizers – join the action TODAY!

Meet Up with One of Our Affiliates Nation-wide
We have affiliates planning actions across the country. Click here to find one near you!

Resources:
Paper Petition: Collect signatures and return to Peace Action
Penny Poll Handout
Peace Action Primer on the Military Budget
Pentagon Bloat Fact Sheet
eAction Report: Pentagon Spending


Rethinking Afghanistan

April 14, 2009

Tuesday 14 April 2009

by: Anne Miller, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Last week, the US Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was revealed that the Obama administration is planning on sending an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan with no clear benchmarks for progress or “success” yet in place.

The lack of serious scrutiny of the president’s Afghanistan policy is nothing short of stupefying, especially given our recent misadventures in Iraq. Where is the critical debate?

The mantra of many Democrats is that military force alone won’t solve the problem in Afghanistan. The “problem” seems to be how to keep the corrupt US-backed central government in Kabul from falling, and what to do about the thousands of al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Meanwhile, many conservative members of Congress lament that the president isn’t sending additional brigades.

Congress and the public should be asking what President Obama realistically thinks the US military can accomplish with an additional 21,000 US forces in Afghanistan. What can they do that soldiers from forty-one countries in seven and a half years have been unable to accomplish? And what the British and the Soviets were unable to accomplish before that?

With respect to al-Qaeda, why do President Obama and Congress believe that tens of thousands of soldiers can dismember it? Part of the collateral damage of war is the new anti-American recruits who are created every time civilians are killed. Civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan caused by the US have steadily increased since 2007, practically ensuring the survival of al-Qaeda and a permanent insurgency in the process. One million Pakistanis have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the recent US drone strikes – what do they now think of us?

We deserve to know what we’re risking, both in dollars and in lives, in sending US forces into countries whose people don’t want us there. We have the responsibility to explore alternatives to military force, especially when the limits of this strategy are glaringly clear.

Last summer, while then-candidate Obama was talking about “finishing the job” in Afghanistan, the RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan think tank, issued a detailed report that concluded that since 1968, only seven percent of all terrorist groups have been ended as a result of military force. The report makes the strong recommendation that the US should have “a light military footprint or none at all” in Muslim countries to help mitigate the threat of terrorism. According to a February 2009 ABC poll, only 18 percent of Afghanis support more US troops in their country.

Instead of military force to combat al-Qaeda, we need to improve our intelligence and police work, and improve relationships with Middle Eastern countries to bring al-Qaeda members to justice. Members of al-Qaeda are criminals, not holy warriors, and should be dealt with through international law enforcement mechanisms.

For those of us who care about the success of President Obama’s ambitious plans for health care, education, jobs, housing and other critical social infrastructures: It was President Johnson’s decision to escalate the Vietnam War that torpedoed his domestic agenda. President Obama is about to ask Congress to fund an additional $84 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; our military presence in Afghanistan could top $1 trillion by the end of his first term. We cannot ignore the relationship between the US economic crisis, our national debt and perpetual war, which is being funded almost entirely by borrowing from other countries.

I urge readers to contact their congressional delegation and tell them to rethink Afghanistan. Now is the time to call for hearings and open debate, and to resist the reflexive urge to believe the military is the answer without vigorous and principled conversation with all stakeholders – including the American public, NATO, non-NATO countries in the region, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Let’s be clear: there is no military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan. What Afghanistan needs is a surge in diplomacy, humanitarian aid and development assistance.

In February 2009, General Petraeus said that “Afghanistan has been known over the years as the graveyard of empires.” It is hubris to believe that the US with its dwindling NATO partnerships will suffer a different fate.


Prevent Accidental War with Iran

April 10, 2009

Send a Letter Now

If the U.S. wants to have a productive relationship for peace in the Middle East our President and the Congress must act comprehensively to engage countries like Iran in diplomacy. President Obama has made productive political overtures toward Iran. His historic Norooz message laid the ground work for real diplomacy to move our two countries forward in peace.

Peace Action and our friends at the National Iran-American Council are proud to support bipartisan legislation calling for an “Incidents at Sea” agreement with Iran introduced by Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Geoff Davis (R-KY). There is no version in the Senate; but, your leadership could correct this issue. You can show your support as well by sending a letter to your Representative.

During the cold war, the U.S. and Soviet Union negotiated an “Incidents at Sea” agreement to prevent nuclear war from starting after an accidental collision between nuclear armed submarines or other vessels. We need a similar agreement between the U.S. and Iran because of the high traffic in the Strait of Hormuz and recent incidents between the two countries that could have escalated.

“The problem is that there are no mutually agreed-upon ‘rules of the road’ in the Strait of Hormuz,” said Conyers. “Today, I am introducing a bipartisan resolution with my colleague, Geoff Davis, to call for the negotiation of such an agreement. This is a common sense proposal to protect American sailors, treasure and military assets in the Strait of Hormuz and prevent an accidental war.”

In short, this legislation creates a protocol to preserve peace.

As Commander Harlan Ullman (Ret.) stated, “An incidents at sea agreement for the Gulf makes sense. Indeed, such an agreement could include each of the navies operating in the Gulf to prevent an incident from inadvertently turning into a crisis because one or another party made a miscalculation or mistake.”

Write your Congressperson today, and tell them you support H. Con. Res. 94.


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