New START showdown heats up in lame duck

November 29, 2010

The current “lame duck” session of Congress will at least partially be defined by a high-stakes game of political chicken (sorry to use two fowl metaphors in one sentence!) over New START ratification between the White House and Senate Democrats on the one hand and Republican Senate obstructionists on the other. Read Peace Action board member, author and SUNY Albany Professor of History emeritus Larry Wittner’s article on History News Network.

Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) will be sworn in to President Obama’s former Senate seat today, and is a new “swing” senator on New START. Land of Lincoln residents (I used to be one!) should call him at (202) 224-2854 to urge him to support New START ratification.

Yesterday, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) appeared on Meet the Press and verbally jousted over policy and politics surrounding the nuclear arms reduction treaty. A video and transcript of the program are available on the show’s website.

Farewell to Arms Reduction Treaties?

November 23, 2010


Please see the trenchant analysis and commentary below by Alicia Godsberg, the new Executive Director of Peace Action of New York State, in response to an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times.

Dear Colleagues,

Below is the text of an Op-Ed in today’s New York Times by SIPA professor James Rubin. I do not necessarily agree that the age of the international treaty is over, but I absolutely DO agree that the money being promised to the NNSA for nuclear weapons research and “modernization” efforts is a high and unnecessary price to pay for achieving the modest cuts to nuclear weapons and their delivery systems in the New START treaty. If President G.W. Bush could eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons unilaterally – and get the Russians to do the same in return – with his Presidential Nuclear Initiatives that did NOT need Senate approval, why is President Obama not pursuing more aggressive cuts in nuclear weapons and their delivery systems (along with new similar mutual agreements on verification) on his own? Does he think this money will buy CTBT ratification too? This is a dangerous strategy, one that seems to be hitting snags even as it tries to get going in the Senate.
Senator Kyl and friends are the reason why I doubt the incremental approach to nuclear arms control. However, we find ourselves feeling like we have to support New START so that more meaningful cuts can come in the future. Maybe drastic cuts can ONLY come by cutting out the middle – cutting out the elected officials who don’t want to close laboratories or bases in their districts or states – and having a visionary President act boldly. As this article says, funding NNSA will end up undermining President Obama’s stated goal of working toward a world free of nuclear weapons and the U.S.’s obligation to work toward nuclear disarmament (in article VI of the NPT); in so doing, the U.S. ends up also undermining the efforts of the international community to pressure states to live up to their own NPT nonproliferation obligations.
So, we are pushing for ratification of the New START treaty and hoping that we can fight each appropriation for nuclear weapons research and modernization capability as they reach Congress over the coming years – we have our work cut out for us either way.
In peace,

Four More Years?!?!?! US/NATO says it will keep forces in Afghanistan until at least 2014, possibly longer

November 19, 2010

Against growing public opposition in the US (new poll today from Quinnipiac University – 50% against, 44% in favor of continuing the war in Afghanistan), President Obama is in Lisbon, Portugal for the NATO Security Summit.

The news from the summit is pretty much all bad, as NATO continues to desperately seek to justify its existence. US/NATO forces intend to stay in Afghanistan for at least four more years, Obama said “missile defense” will cover all NATO members, and NATO will keep its (well really they are US) nuclear weapons (see the BBC News report).

Of course, Obama and his partners in war and militaristic folly will not have the last word on these disastrous policies.

The good news is the protests of our European peace movement colleagues, in Lisbon and in London, the former organized by sister peace groups from around Europe, the latter by our good friends Stop the War Coalition and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The Afghanistan-Pakistan war, missile defense, and nukes are even more unpopular in most NATO countries than here, and that will be evident in the streets today and tomorrow. Our good friend Joseph Gerson from American Friends Service Committee is in Lisbon, and reports  “at least 151 nonviolent peace activists have been prevented from entering Portugal for a conference and nonviolent demonstraton against NATO, including its war in Afghanistan.”

There will be a fair amount of news and analysis coming from Lisbon which we’ll share in the next few days. Here is an excerpt from a statement about the NATO nuclear weapons issue put out by our colleagues at the Arms Control Association and British-American Security Information Council:

(London/Berlin/Washington, D.C.) U.S. and European nuclear arms control and security experts criticized NATO’s new “Strategic Concept” as a conservative, backward-looking policy, a missed opportunity to reduce the number and role of the 200 forward-deployed U.S. tactical nuclear bombs and engage Russia in a dialogue on removing all tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.
“In an astonishing demonstration of weakness, NATO Heads of State have failed to tackle the Cold War legacy of the deployment of U.S. nuclear gravity bombs in Europe, threatening the credibility of NATO members’ claims to be interested in non-proliferation and global disarmament,” said Paul Ingram, executive director of the British American Security Information Council in London.

Under NATO’s long-standing “nuclear-sharing” arrangements some 150-200 forward-deployed U.S. tactical nuclear bombs are based in five European NATO countries-Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey. Originally deployed in the 1950s to counter a possible Soviet land invasion, U.S. military officials acknowledge that tactical nuclear weapons no longer serve any practical military or deterrence function not already addressed by other U.S. military assets including U.S. conventional forces and the United States’ 1,900 strategic nuclear weapons.

“The Strategic Concept fails to acknowledge that tactical nuclear bombs are not ‘credible’ weapons and are irrelevant for the defense of the alliance,” said Daryl G. Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association in Washington.


November 17, 2010

START: 73% can’t be wrong!

A CNN poll shows that a super majority want New START ratified. The Republicans  are treating the New START treaty like a hostage.  They keep questioning the wisdom of the treaty despite overwhelming support in military circles and in public opinion.

More than 20 Senate hearings have been held. The administration answered more than 900 questions from senators in the last 8 months.

Sen. Kyle (R-AZ) keeps upping the ransom that he and other Hawks (inside and outside of the Senate) want to modernize the nuclear weapons complex.  And then he says no way? He demanded $10 billion on top of the billions already in the budget. And this week, a bit more was proposed.

And then they say no way?

Lame duck or bust! This is it. Unless we get it onto the Senate floor, it may be our last, best chance to win ratification of this modest treaty. Truth is, in the next session of Congress we are going to have to maximize pressure on the White House to take steps on disarmament that don’t require Senate approval and lead the opposition to the promised monies for modernization!

If any headway will be made towards abolition, we have got to get New START passed.

Call your Senator: We need a Senate vote on ratification! Call 202-224-3121.  Email your Senator.

Organize phone banking to swing Republican Senators: If your group is able to coordinate one or two nights of phone banking in November or December, please contact Katie Heald at Peace Action West. Call 510-830-3600 x122 or email

Coalition for Peace Action, Mass Peace Action, Peace Action Maine, NH Peace Action, have already done a fantastic job!! They can tell you how easy it is.



Thank you, you made a difference in the elections.

November 5, 2010

Thank you for voting and supporting Peace Action’s unique Peace Voter work.  We, along with our affiliates, helped thousands of voters get to the polls and educated them about how candidates stood on peace issues.  16 out of 25 candidates that Peace Action endorsed or supported won their elections.  Peace champions like Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Jim McGovern and Sen. Barbara Boxer stood strong against the wave election.

To see the whole list of Peace Action candidates that won and to help them stay in office click here:

Representative Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ 7th), campaign came to us for help earlier this year.  Because we recognized the threat before the political handicappers did, Peace Action PAC gave the maximum $5,000 to his campaign and supporters like you chipped in raising another $5,200.  Peace Action supporters volunteered for the campaign.

Thanks to your generosity, we sent our National Field Organizer, Judith LeBlanc, with over thirty years of experience to work the final crucial week coordinating the “predictive calling center” where she helped volunteers make over 70,000 calls to voters.

Senator John McCain — who responded to a birdogging question by a trained New Hampshire Peace Action staffer that the U.S. should stay in Iraq for 100 years — and the Tea Party threw money and staff to defeat

This morning it was official, Raul won by a mere 5,900 votes. As the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Raul and his staff praised Peace Action for financial help and also for putting “sweat equity” into the campaign.

Look to see all the Peace Action candidates that joined Raul in victory and give them some early money for their next election.

Even in races where we lost, we are laying the groundwork for peace champions to win in the future.  For example, our own Jonathan Williams joined with volunteers from New Hampshire Peace Action to help get out the vote for Ann McLane Kuster’s first run for Congress.  They contacted thousands of voters face-to-face and on the phone.  Kuster lost by only one percent and is poised to win next time.

Thank you for your help and support of our Peace Voter work.

Possible Impact of the Mid-Term Elections on Peace Action’s Agenda, and a Review of a Few 2009-2010 Accomplishments

November 3, 2010

So the early reactions from peace activists to the mid-term elections seems to range from “catastrophic” to “really, really bad” to “coulda been even worse.” I’d love to hear your thoughts, please feel free to comment on this blog, and also any thoughts on the topics below — how the elections may impact our work ahead, and our recent accomplishments.

1. New START ratification – this looks tough, but it still could be approved by the Senate in the upcoming “lame duck” session, something we will vigorously advocate. Some Republicans are arguing to postpone a vote until the new Senate convenes next year, so new senators have time to assess the treaty, but their motive is almost assuredly to block ratification, as there will be fewer reliable Democratic votes for the treaty in the new Senate. Either way, we will need a new strategy on nuclear disarmament moving forward, one that will likely emphasize pressing the Obama Administration to take executive action to reduce nuclear weapons dangers, rather than the painstakingly difficult treaty negotiation and ratification processes. (More on this soon!)

2. Afghanistan –  some Dems may feel more empowered to oppose the war, but Republicans and even some in the military will press the president to ditch his plan to begin withdrawing US troops next July. Our strategy will likely be focused on the cost of the war and its devastating effect on the economy, and, strategically, on Obama’s re-election prospects. It’s hard to see how his base will support him in 2012 if we are not well on our way out of Afghanistan. These issues can be linked for the president and his administration – end the war, re-invest resources in jobs and the economy, win re-election.

3. Iraq – like Afghanistan, there will be pressure on the administration to postpone the December 31, 2011 deadline for all troops, contractors and bases to be out of Iraq. We will need to be vigilant to make sure there is no backsliding on this deadline, nor on our country’s commitment to helping the Iraqi people rebuild their devastated society.

4.Iran – there is cause for real concern here, as the Republicans (and many Dems) will push harder to ratchet up economic sanctions and military threats against Iran. New House International Relations Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is probably already booking a room for regime change in iran hearings in January (I’m not really exaggerating here! Or at least not much). Our message will be simple – start a third war? What are they smoking? Diplomacy with Iran is the only way to address concerns over its nuclear program, and the best solution would be the establishment of a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone, which we support and will campaign for along with peace movement and governmental allies in the Middle East and Europe.

5. Cutting the gargantuan US military budget – this is a long-term campaign, but with a possible short-term opportunity around the president’s deficit reduction commission, which will likely put military spending cuts on the table (more on this soon, too!). And some Republicans, even Tea Partiers, are raising the idea that the military budget needs to be cut. While this will not be easy, my sense is we now have the best opportunity in nearly twenty years for progress on this issue.

A general note – we shouldn’t write off everybody in the Tea Party movement as hopeless dupes or racists, though some of the “we want our country back” rhetoric does have some very troubling racist undertones to it. That said, many voters and activists are understandably motivated by fear and economic insecurity, and understanding that could be important to building new alliances. Our chapter in the Stamford/Greenwich are of Connecticut was able to find some common ground over concern about excessive military spending with local Tea Party supporters, so this isn’t just theoretical.

As we look to the challenges and opportunities  ahead, it is also good to acknowledge important 2009 and 2010 accomplishments like the following:

-Helping turn the tide of public, media and even Congressional opinion against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (of course we are not nearly done, but the end is perhaps finally in sight, especially in Iraq);

-Playing a lead role in organizing  a highly successful mobilization at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations last May, including a 15,000 person string rally and march, and a conference of over 1000 people from nearly 20 countries at historic Riverside Church. At the gathering, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told us that we, the grassroots peace activists of the world, hold the key to abolishing nuclear weapons;

-Building new alliances at the local, national and international levels calling for dramatic cuts in spending for war and militarism in order to reinvest in human and environmental needs and a more sustainable, just economy;

-Expanding Peace Action’s national grassroots affiliate network to new states including Idaho, Illinois and  Utah, with promising prospects for growth into several more states in 2011.

Please take a moment to share your thoughts on the topics above by commenting on this blog.


November 2, 2010

A Few Hours Left in AZ. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist! It takes a movement.

By Judith Le Blanc

Congressman Raul  Grijalva’s Tea Party opponent, Ruth McClung, has a couple of catchy campaign slogans,  “It takes a rocket scientist. “(She works for Raytheon.) “Grijalva Kills Jobs” or “Boycott Grijalva, not AZ.” ….catchy and misleading to say the least.

Today as people gathered at 4 AM at the Grijalva Campaign headquarters to go out and put up signs or go to the polls with literature, we are putting the icing on the campaign cake. The main ingredient in this recipe is people talking to people, one on one, at their doors or on the phone.

Since February, Raul’s supporters have been door knocking every weekend.  When, hopefully, Raul wins tonight, it will have been done the old fashion way: listening and talking to as many people as possible.

We are in the final few hours of calling people to get to the polls. Some are cranky because they have been called more than once. Most are happy to know that we are out to do some Tea Party butt-kicking…smile.

One of the phone canvassers I am working with is a postal worker. He comes every day to the calling center I coordinate. He told me, ”People want the opportunity to talk . If they think you are open to listening, then they more often then not, respond well to ideas running counter to what they see in the attack ads on TV.”

He is really proud of his work on Raul’s campaign because he has convinced a fair number of folks to vote. He likes telling folks that the Republicans, including Ruth McClung, are controlled by corporate money and that they are who the Republicans will support once they get into office.

This week, in AZ, that was again proven to be absolutely true. Private prison corporations and their pals decided that the next “growth market for big profits” were the thousands who would and could be stopped  and detained  based on racial profiling under the AZ State Bill 1070 (SB 1070) passed earlier this year. They colluded with their cronies in the state legislature and got it passed.

Twenty-one college students from California came in to work on the campaign because of SB 1070 and the national movement that opposes it. They told me that we need more congress people like Raul, “to stand up for the community.”

Raul told canvassers preparing to door knock on Saturday morning that Ruth is right. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist! It takes passion, integrity, purpose and a set of ideals.” It also takes grassroots, community based movements.

It is critical and strategic, for the peace and justice movements to be involved in electoral struggles. Elections are all about the issues and building grassroots understanding of what we must and can do together to change government policies. When people from grassroots movements run for office, like Raul Grtijalva, it is a winning combination.  Hopefully, we will win tonight when Raul is reelected.

Feminism, Women’s Rights and Peace in the Mid-term Election

November 1, 2010

Hours remain until the polls open and Peace Action’s organizers, members and volunteers are knocking on doors, making phone calls and doing last-minute campaign work for peace-minded Congressional candidates across the country. In the past week, however, Peace Action has drawn critical attention and much needed resources to five candidates running in close Congressional and Senate races in Arizona, New Hampshire, California, Washington and North Carolina. These candidates, whom Peace Action endorsed, are Suzan DelBene (D) in Washington’s 8th Congressional District; incumbent Raul Grijalva (D-Az. Dist.7); North Carolina’s Democratic Senatorial candidate Elaine Marshall; Ann McLane Kuster (D) running to represent New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional district; and Steve Pougnet (D) running for California’s 45th District.

As Judith LeBlanc, Peace Action field organizer, wrote last week from the Grijalva campaign in Arizona, losing peace-minded candidates like Grijalva will be a setback not only for the country but also for the peace movement. But as a feminist activist and scholar working on peace issues, I argue that losing any of these five candidates will be a further blow to the peace movement and the feminist women’s movement in the U.S. Aside from the fact that three of these Peace Action-endorsed candidates are women, all of them support feminist issues of pay equity, improved health care access for women, reducing unintended pregnancies and protecting abortion rights. DelBene, Marshall and Kuster also support an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy that disproportionally affects female soldiers in our military. In 2008, The New York Times reported that 46 percent of Army soldiers discharged under this policy in 2007 were women, although women make up 14 percent of Army personnel. Although many feminists vigorously debate the issue of women in the military, the high number of women discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation deserves swift attention and action.

As Representative of Arizona’s 7th Congressional District, Grijalva co-sponsored the Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act to promote the economic security and safety of victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Violence against women within our own borders is a huge problem that is ignored in our national consciousness and often portrayed as something that happens to other women in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, 1 in 6 American women will be a victim of sexual assault, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).

As the economy struggles to get out from the grip of the Great Recession, the stakes couldn’t be any higher for American women, who now comprise nearly 50 percent of the workforce but still earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job. Depending on a woman’s race or ethnicity, her share of earnings could get smaller. So what do these feminist issues have to do with peace?

Peace is more than just the absence of war, the withdrawal of American and foreign troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and the beginning of diplomatic and humanitarian solutions. For American women in this mid-term election, peace is also about ending economic and social violence that subordinates women to a lower paycheck, targets them for rape and sexual assault and discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. Peace begins at home and in our relations between men and women. Feminism is the goal of challenging and changing women’s subordination to men, which is often embedded in larger macro-political and economic structures like war, militarism, poverty and globalization. For women, the fight for gender justice is inherently a part of the broad, humanistic goals of the peace movement that seeks to end war, outrageous military spending and the development of nuclear weapons.

David Broder, Really? Obama Should Threaten War with Iran to Stimulate the Economy and Improve his Re-election Prospects?

November 1, 2010

Veteran Washington Post writer David Broder is generally thought to be a decent guy, one of the “deans” of Washington journalism and punditry. I’m not a huge fan of his, I think his politics are kind of “high-brow moderate,” but his colums in the Post and appearances on TV are generally okay, at least reasonable, even if one disagrees with his viewpoint (and his campaign trail reporting usually rings true).

So his Post column yesterday advocating President Obama threaten war with Iran in order to improve the economy and his re-election prospects was a bit of a shocker to read over my morning coffee.  I was tempted to ask what he was smoking, but Harvard Professor Stephen Walt beat me to it with his blog for  Foreign Policy.

Lots of activists and bloggers are refuting Broder, which is good and necessary, and it’s possible Broder may even decide to retract or “advise and extend his remarks” as they say in Washington. A few good ones I’ve read are from Juan Cole, Dean Baker and Marc Lynch, which take on the economic and moral aspects of Broder’s “argument.”

I wrote a letter to the editor to the Post, so I need to be careful not to reveal too much here (as they won’t print anything that has already been published elsewhere), though I did bring in an element I haven’t seen in other blogs so far, that the solution to Iran’s possible pursuit of nuclear weapons is to establish a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East (a conference is to be convened in 2012 to do just that). After you read Broder’s column, please write a letter to the editor (send it to and Cc Broder at, it would be great for the paper and for Mr. Broder to hear from a lot of folks with better ideas about resolving conflict with Iran, rejuvenating the economy and, if you wish, how the president might get re-elected.

UPDATE: The Post published two other pretty good letters challenging Broder today, so they likely won’t print mine. Here’s what I sent in:

To the editor:
David Broder (“The war recovery,” Op-Ed, October 31) ends his column about the economy, President Obama’s 2012 re-election prospects and Iran stating that he does not advocate the president “incite a war to get re-elected.” Yet how else would the reader interpret Broder’s suggestion that the president spend the next two years “orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs” which will “help him (the president) politically?”

Broder’s column troubles me on so many levels it’s hard to de-construct them all, but here are three aspects for starters. Number one, independent economic studies over the last few decades have shown military spending is just about the worst way to stimulate the economy. Investing a given amount of money in any other sector of the economy (education, infrastructure or health care for example), or just giving a broad tax cut, stimulates more jobs and economic activity than military spending.

Broder’s argument is also extremely troubling, both morally and practically, in a “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” kind of way. Would he advocate Iran’s “orchestrating a showdown” with Israel or other neighbors as a way to stimulate its faltering economy? How about India and Pakistan threatening each other with their nuclear arsenals in order to boost their economies? Japan and China are now arguing over islands each claim in the Pacific Ocean – should they threaten war over this, or over their interests in the region? All these conflicts need fewer, not more, military threats or orchestrated “showdowns.”

Finally, Broder ignores the most common sense way to deal with Iran’s possible nuclear weapons ambitions, the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East. This has been advocated since the 1970’s, and it received renewed attention at last May’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which issued a call for a 2012 conference on this issue to be convened. Iran and nearly all the countries of the region, except Israel, the only current nuclear power in the Middle East, have endorsed the concept of a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone.

Broder noted the president is smarter than all his potential challengers. Let’s hope he’s also smarter than Broder, and decides negotiation rather than brinksmanship is the way to deal with Iran, and finds ways other than threatening another war to stimulate the economy. Coincidentally, those steps might well guarantee Mr. Obama’s re-election.


Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund



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