Call Congress on Afghanistan war supplemental funding bill

June 29, 2010

Callscript

Call (202) 224-3121 between 9-5 PM Eastern or look up your Congresspersons’ phone numbers here.

“Hello, my name is __________. I’m a constituent and a member of Peace Action.

I’m calling from __________ (city or town).

Could I speak to your staff person who handles Afghanistan?

If no:

Leave a message urging the Senator/Representative to support and co-sponsor the bill _______ (S. 3197 or H. R. 5015) introduced by ______ (Senator Fiengold or Representatives McGovern and Jones) and to vote against all future war funding.)

If yes: “I’m very concerned about our present strategy in Afghanistan and would like the Senator/Representative to support (S. 3197 or H.R. 5015) introduced by (Senator Fiengold or Representatives McGovern and Jones). This bill would set a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Furthermore, I would like the Senator/Representative to vote “no” on all future funding requests for the war in Afghanistan.

Can you please get back to me when you’ve found out what the Senator/Representative plans to do in support of this bill?”

Reportback

After you’ve made all three of your calls, please let us know how the call went by commenting on this post.


Peace Action in the House at the US Social Forum in Detroit!

June 25, 2010

The US Social Forum is an amazing gathering of over 15,000 peace- and justice-mongers in Detroit. The Forum kicked off with a high energy, spirited march into downtown Detroit on Tuesday. Judith LeBlanc and I had the pleasure of marching with our Peace Action of Michigan homies, and also Will Hopkins from New Hampshire Peace Action. Peace Actionistas from many other states are here as well!

On Wednesday we had a terrific mini-organizers meeting, led by Paul Kawika Martin, Jonathan Williams and Judith, with leaders from affiliates and chapters from across the country. That night we hosted a wonderful reception at the Swords into Plowshares gallery and peace center near downtown Detroit. Thanks to Helen Weber, national Peace Action co-chair and PA MI stalwart, for her work, and also to the other wonderful Michigan volunteers who made the event a success.

Workshops and Peoples’ Movement Assemblies on a plethora of issues have dominated the agenda at the USSF yesterday and today (right now Judith and I are at a workshop led by Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, a national network of predominantly people of color-led community organization, linking the crises of the economy, ecology and empire). We will lead a workshop later today on moving the money from the war machine back to our communities, and tomorrow morning are co-hosting an anti-militarism caucus.

Wish you were here!

(Check out other photos from the USSF.)


Letter to Speaker Pelosi Signed by 30 bipartisan Members of Congress to Answer Questions on Afghanistan before Supplemental

June 24, 2010

The below letter to Speaker Pelosi, signed by 30 bipartisan Members of Congress, was delivered today at 1:00 PM and requests answers to questions on Afghanistan before the Supplemental comes to a vote on the House floor.

HouseAfghanLettertoPelosi


Preventing Both an Iranian Nuclear Weapon and War

June 23, 2010

by Norman Robbins and Kevin Martin

The risk of war with Iran has increased. The US rejection of the nuclear swap arranged by Brazil and Turkey, the recent arrival of Israeli and American nuclear armed submarines in the Persian Gulf, Obama’s exclusion of Iran from previous agreements that nuclear states would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, the impending doubling of US carrier task forces in the Gulf, and the upgrading of an U.S. airbase in Afghanistan 30 km from the Iranian border — all signal or increase the likelihood of an intentional or unintentional clash.

In addition, Israeli officials have said that if there was no progress in stopping Iran’s uranium enrichment by this summer or fall, they would consider an attack. Since hardly a single Iran expert expects sanctions to stop Iran from enriching uranium, this redline moment is bound to arrive unless cooler heads prevail. The failure of the President or Congress to back an impartial UN investigation of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla events, assures Israel that the US would likewise treat an attack on Iran as “self-defense”.

There is almost no media discussion of the inevitability of US forces being involved in the aftermath of an Israeli attack, or the price in lives and treasure we would pay (this raises a seemingly taboo subject, that Israel’s and the United States’ interests are not necessarily always identical). Lastly, Congress may well pass legislation which would cut gasoline supplies to Iran — hurting civilians, forcing reformist Iranians to unite with the hardliners, and further increasing tensions.

How did we arrive at this tinderbox moment? Whether the risk of a disastrous war is 10% or 40%, what can we do to de-escalate and still move toward the goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon?

As in the run-up to the Iraq war, the American mainstream media persist in presenting one “common wisdom” view about Iran, regardless of the real facts and options. As a result, most Americans do not know:

  • that Iran’s per capita military spending is miniscule compared to that of the US, Israel, and Turkey;
  • that US intelligence and even some prominent Israeli leaders do not believe Iran would launch a suicidal attack on Israel;
  • that the nuclear swap agreement with Brazil and Turkey, while not stopping enrichment, could prevent Iran from enriching uranium to 20% for its medical reactor and could establish a precedent of Iran sending its enriched uranium outside the country for conversion to fuel rods under tight international inspection;
  • that Iran has repeatedly expressed interest in an international or capped enrichment program within Iran in return for intrusive inspections, which arms control experts say is the best insurance against a nuclear weapons program. This option seems far better than more futile sanctions, war, deterrence, or acceptance of an Iranian nuclear weapon;
  • that Iran backs a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, which would require intrusive inspections in all participating countries if it is to work;
  • that Middle East experts repeatedly point out that Iran and the U.S. have strong common interests in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, which could save American and civilian lives and reduce our expenditures, if only there could be a nuclear agreement as well, and
  • that indirectly or directly, an Israeli attack on Iran would endanger American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, de-stabilize those countries still further, increase terrorism recruitment, hike gas and food prices, depress our economy, and suck money and attention away from desperate needs here at home.

Perhaps the most important lasting solution, which might well have other benefits in the realm of peace-building, would be the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free, indeed a weapons of mass destruction-free, zone in the Middle East. Israel’s unacknowledged nuclear arsenal of at least 200 warheads will likely not be disposed in any other, less comprehensive fashion. While we advocate the global elimination of nuclear weapons, ridding one of the world’s most troubled regions of the world’s worst weapons should be an urgent, near-term priority. The consensus report from last month’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference called for a conference on a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone to be held in 2012. The U.S. complained, and Israel was mum, as it is not a party to the treaty, but both countries should seize the opportunity presented by this call, rather than continue to block progress toward this long-sought goal.

Here’s what we can do to prevent a disastrous war with Iran, and still respect the security interests of all parties:

  1. Get informed: See further background and references at: http://www.peace-action.org/Iran/index.html
  2. Don’t miss any opportunity to explain the better solutions to the Iranian nuclear issue than sanctions or war;
  3. Stay alert to mainstream reports that leave out critical information or provide misleading information (an almost daily occurrence), and respond with letters to the Editor or call in, as appropriate;
  4. Call or write a personal letter to your Senators and Congress people, to counter their cave-in to unbalanced media reports or pressure groups.

Norman Robbins is an Emeritus Professor at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio and Iran consultant to Cleveland Peace Action. Kevin Martin is Executive Director of Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 100,000 members. www.peace-action.org

Reprinted from Common Dreams


New Report Urges Pentagon Cuts for Deficit Reduction

June 11, 2010

Barney Frank and the Sustainable Defense Task Force, including Peace Action's Political Director Paul Kawika Martin

New Report Urges Pentagon Cuts for Deficit Reduction
Cites Potential Savings of Nearly $1 Trillion Over Ten Years

Washington DC, June 11 — A new report identifies $960 billion in Pentagon budget savings that can be generated over the next ten years from realistic reductions in military spending.  The report was produced by the Sustainable Defense Task Force, a group convened in response to a request from House Financial Services Committee Chair, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), to explore options for reducing the Pentagon budget’s contribution to the federal deficit without compromising the essential security of the United States.

“Leaders from the left, right and center agree on two major policy changes: the U.S. deficit must be reduced and the Pentagon budget can reverse its exponential growth while keeping Americans safe,” claimed Paul Kawika Martin, policy and political director of Peace Action (the nation’s largest grassroots peace organization) and a member of the task force.

The report comes at a time when the federal deficit is drawing increasing attention from policymakers in Washington.  President Obama has appointed a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to look at long-term budgetary trends; the administration’s new National Security Strategy has argued that we need to “grow our economy and reduce our deficit” if we are to ensure continued U.S. strength and influence abroad; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has spoken of eliminating unnecessary weapons systems and reducing overhead costs at the Pentagon; and key Congressional leaders are speaking of a bottom-up review of military spending to look for potential cuts.

“At a time of growing concern over federal deficits, all elements of the budget must be subjected to careful scrutiny. The Pentagon should be no exception,” said Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives, an author of the report.
In making the case for substantial reductions, the report notes that federal discretionary spending – the portion of the budget other than entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare – has nearly doubled since 2001.  Over one-third of that increase is accounted for by the base Pentagon budget, which excludes the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Major options for reductions in Pentagon spending cited in the report include the following:

•       Over $113 billion in savings by reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal to 1,050 total warheads deployed on 450 land-based missiles and seven Ohio-class submarines;

•       Over $200 billion in savings by reducing U.S. routine military presence in Europe and Asia to 100,000 while reducing total uniformed military personnel to 1.3 million;

•       Over $138 billion in savings by replacing costly and unworkable weapons systems with more practical, affordable alternatives.  Suggested cuts would include the F-35 combat aircraft, the MV-22 Osprey, and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

•       Over $60 billion in savings by reforming military health care; and

•       Over $100 billion in savings by cutting unnecessary command, support and infrastructure funding.

The report also includes a set of possible reductions based on a strategy of restraint that would emphasize the ability to bring force from the sea to defeat and deter enemies rather than putting large numbers of troops ashore in extended operations.  The savings from this approach would total $1.1 trillion.

The full report may be read at:
http://www.peace-action.org/awayforward/

Members of The Sustainable Defense Task Force:
Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives
Benjamin Friedman, Cato Institute
William D. Hartung, New America Foundation
Christopher Hellman, National Priorities Project
Heather Hurlburt, National Security Network
Charles Knight, Project on Defense Alternatives
Lawrence J. Korb, Center for American Progress
Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action
Laicie Olson, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Miriam Pemberton, Institute for Policy Studies
Laura Peterson, Taxpayers for Common Sense
Prasannan Parthasarathi, Boston College
Christopher Preble, Cato Institute
Winslow Wheeler, Center for Defense Information.


What’s Next for the Nuclear Disarmament Movement?

June 10, 2010

The last 19 months have been a tumultuous time for the nuclear disarmament movement, placing it, today, on the cusp of some important decisions about its future direction.

Many advocates of nuclear disarmament felt considerable elation at the election of Barack Obama in 2008. In the previous years, the Bush administration had scrapped the ABM treaty, refused to support ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, championed the development of new U.S. nuclear weapons, and abandoned arms control and disarmament negotiations. Obama, by contrast, not only promised to reverse these priorities, but — during and after his campaign — stated his commitment to building a nuclear weapons-free world.

To be sure, there was a sense of letdown among disarmament activists in April 2010, when the Obama administration’s long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review showed no significant departures from previous U.S. nuclear doctrine. Furthermore — in an apparent attempt to secure Republican support for Senate ratification of nuclear disarmament treaties — the administration began championing a ten-year, $180 billion plan to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. Nevertheless, the successful negotiation of the New START Treaty with Russia and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, scheduled for May 2010 at the United Nations, raised expectations for substantial progress on banning the Bomb.

The NPT review conference, particularly, provided a focal point for nuclear disarmament movement energies. About a year before, recognizing the opportunities for publicity and change provided by the conference, peace and disarmament organizations began to draw together around plans for it. In the United States, these organizations included the American Friends Service Committee, the disarmament group of United for Peace & Justice, Peace Action, and the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom. Abroad, their ranks included Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Japan Council against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs.

Meanwhile, mainstream organizations proclaimed their support for nuclear abolition, including the National Council of Churches, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the International Trade Union Confederation.

The result was an impressive mobilization of civil society. From April 30 to May 1, 2010, the organizers convened, at New York’s Riverside Church, an International Conference for a Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World. Attended by more than 800 people from 30 nations, this standing-room-only gathering featured speeches by numerous movement leaders, including Tadatoshi Akiba (Mayor of Hiroshima) and Tomas Magnusson (president of the International Peace Bureau). In a keynote address to the assemblage, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared that “what I see on the horizon is a world free of nuclear weapons. What I see before me are the people who will make this happen.”

On May 2, a mass nuclear abolition rally and march swept through New York City, from Times Square to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the United Nations. Among the 15,000 participants were several thousand Japanese and other demonstrators from overseas. Two days later, event organizers delivered nuclear abolition petitions, signed by some seven million people, to the chair of the NPT review conference.

These important and colorful events were met with an almost total news blackout by the mass communications media. None of the major newspapers or commercial television networks in the United States gave any coverage to this outpouring of civil society. The usual silly chatter about movie stars, athletes, and terrorist threats flooded the TV news networks ad nauseum. But the rising public demand for nuclear disarmament — the largest since the 1980s — went unmentioned.

The outcome of the NPT review conference was certainly more encouraging. By the end of May, the U.N. conferees had come up with a consensus document that urged nations with the largest nuclear arsenals to lead efforts toward disarmament, called on all nations to agree to more thorough inspections of their facilities, and announced plans for convening a conference in 2012 “on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons.”

Against the backdrop of the disastrous NPT review conference of 2005, some arms control and disarmament organizations expressed guarded praise for what had been accomplished in 2010.

But, from the standpoint of the activist groups that had pulled together the popular mobilization for nuclear abolition, the NPT conference resolution was a serious disappointment. Highlighting the fact that the resolution largely re-stated past commitments, many leading activists emphasized its failure to break new ground. “This is an action plan for treading water,” observed Jackie Cabasso, a key figure in the UFPJ disarmament group. Similarly, the Abolition Caucus of NGOs argued that “the gap between reassuring rhetoric about nuclear disarmament and real programs to rid the world of nuclear weapons” remained “unacceptably wide.”

What, in these new circumstances, will nuclear disarmament activists do? Reflecting on the contrast between the Obama administration’s nuclear abolition rhetoric and its record, Kevin Martin, executive director of America’s largest peace organization, Peace Action, concluded that supporters of a nuclear-free world needed to wake up to the reality that, without very substantial movement pressure, the administration’s nuclear disarmament activities were going to be quite limited. In this context, peace and disarmament groups would have to endorse incremental measures while, at the same time, keeping the idea of nuclear abolition at the forefront of public discussion.

In specific terms, this approach will probably mean that the nuclear disarmament movement will back U.S. Senate ratification of the New START Treaty and of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and oppose Congressional funding of the administration’s nuclear “modernization” plan, while steadfastly championing the opening of negotiations for a nuclear abolition treaty.

Can this mixture of incremental steps and of a dazzling long-range vision — the vision of a nuclear-free world — be sustained? It will not be easy. But with wise leadership and a committed following, the nuclear disarmament movement might be able meet this challenge.

[This is an abbreviated version of an article published in Foreign Policy in Focus.]

Lawrence Wittner is Professor of History at the State University of New York/Albany. His latest book is Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford University Press).


Global Peace Index Released – US 85th of 149 countries

June 9, 2010

Almost surprised we’re that high. Maybe if we end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, close Guantanamo, overturn the racist Arizona immigration law, cut military spending and invest in human and environmental needs, severely reduce domestic violence, pass more serious restrictions on guns, etc. we could move up a bit.

Check out the Global Peace Index


Cut the Nuclear Pork Action Week

June 2, 2010

Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering the budget for next year, and, while it imposes a spending freeze for most domestic programs, somehow there’s money to spare when it comes to nuclear weapons pork. The budget request for nuclear bomb activities next year is $7 billion, which is a 14% increase over last year’s budget for the same programs, and a whopping 40% over the $5 billion (in 2011 dollars) spent on average each year for these activities during the Cold War era.

This is outrageous, unnecessary, dangerous — and expensive.

Worse, the budget has hundreds of millions in nuclear pork for new bomb plants that would enable the U.S. to increase its capacity to create new nuclear weapons in the future. For example, the budget proposes funding a new plutonium facility in New Mexico to enable a huge increase in the production of plutonium pits, which are the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons. This piece of toxic nuclear pork will cost taxpayers $225 million in the coming year, and about $4 billion by the time construction is complete. Moreover, the costs to non-proliferation and disarmament goals are incalculable.

Further, the budget request includes $252 million for a study in 2011 to upgrade the B61 nuclear bomb, which the U.S. has deployed in Europe. While Congress considers whether to spend our money on plans to “modify” and “life-extend’ this nuke, Germany, Poland and others are pressing for its removal from Europe.

You have a crucial role to play because your Senators and Representative will be voting on the nuclear weapons budget. Please call your Members of Congress through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Be sure to make your voice heard between May 31 and June 4, 2010. This is a national week of action on the nuclear weapons budget, called “Cut the Nuclear Pork.” Your action to stop nuclear weapons will be made even more effective this week by the corresponding actions of your friends, neighbors and colleagues who will also be responding to this alert.

Last year, emails and calls from people like you created the grassroots pressure that successfully eliminated pork for nuclear weapons from the economic stimulus bill. We can do it again and, this time, reduce the 2011 nuclear weapons budget.

Please call or email now and ask YOUR elected officials to cut the nuclear weapons budget and to fund other, urgent priorities instead.

Thank you for speaking out and making your voice heard.


Josh Stieber’s Memorial Day Message

June 1, 2010

A few weeks ago, I attended a friend’s graduation ceremony and sat through the long reading of graduate’s names. But my boredom turned to dismay when the keynote speaker attempted to inspire the graduating class to make the best use of their education as they go out to transform the world in the following acts of leadership: 1. Write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper 2. Post something important on facebook 3. Have a deep discussion with a friend.

I’m not saying that those are bad things to do, but I’m startled that there was no higher aspiration that these graduates were challenged to emulate. But this article isn’t about graduating seniors, it’s about our nation’s armed forces. As a veteran, I’ve certainly seen the split between how a soldier views leadership and how those outside of the military see it. I remember growing up listening to my role models accuse most folks–especially those who promoted peace–as mere whiners and complainers, while our political and military heroes were described as people of action. Without validifying this mindset, it is a discouraging comparrison to watch some young people spend four years of hard work and study and get told that they can change the world through facebook while other young people go through military training and are taught that they are making the world a better place through fighting in wars overseas and being willing to risk their lives for their country.

What’s my point? Obviously I know that the military isn’t as simple as the noble narritive that our armed forces spend their days defending the innocent and spreading freedom and democracy. I’ve spent the last several months talking about my former unit’s role in the killings shown in the Wikileaks video and explained that it was not an exception.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-k_wxZGkvc

What I am trying to say on this Memorial Day is that many impressionable young people grow up believing that the military is a noble way of making a difference in the world… or even if they don’t believe it’s noble, they may even fight as a sad, but neccessary task and they don’t know how else to create change. And as we take this day to reflect on those lives that have been lost in combat, I hope we can reflect on the world we pass along to our young people. If we want to keep from adding new names to the list of the dead whom we honor on Memorial Day, we’re going to have to do better than ask for leaders on facebook.

And those leaders are out there. All across the country and even around the world, people have stepped up to work with me on planning a cross-country tour with people from Iraq, Gaza, and Afghanistan (via skype) http://contagiousloveexperiment.wordpress.com/the-peoples-journey/. There are many inspiring projects and campaigns going on in the name of peace.

As I young veteran, I hope we can all remember that those who have died in combat did go through many hardships and lost their lives in their pursuit of shaping their world in a way they thought was best. Let us who seek to be leaders, to change our world, take part of this burden, to say that war is not the only answer and that we are willing to move beyond facebook and letter writing. The People’s Journey which I am about to embark on and countless other actions seek to break down the barriers that lead to division and fighting. In memory of those who have died in war, let us commit ourselves all the harder to work for peace and reconciliation.


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