Bennis and Martin on Obama’s Afghanistan Review on AlterNet

December 24, 2010

The inimitable Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies that is. Way more Phyllis than me (which is a very good thing!). Here is our take, including policy, political and movement analysis, on last week’s “review” of Obama’s escalation of the Af-Pak war on the progressive news website AlterNet.

Have a lovely holiday everyone!

A Timely X-mas Gift to Celebrate the Passage of New START – Tad Daley’s Apocalypse Never

December 22, 2010

Looking for a last minute Christmas gift? How about a well-written book making a compelling case for the abolition of nuclear weapons (to celebrate the Senate passage of the New START pact!). Tad Daley’s Apocalypse Never:  Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World couldn’t be more timely.

Dr. Daley is the Writing Fellow with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (winner of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize), a former policy analyst for the RAND Corporation, and a former speechwriter for Congressman Dennis Kucinich and the late U.S. Senator Alan Cranston.

APOCALYPSE NEVER, released last summer by Rutgers University Press, is a primer on the nuclear big picture for a broad general audience. The book launches a wholesale assault on the nuclear double standard, arguing that it is both morally indefensible and politically unsustainable. It makes the case that for the United States today, nuclear weapons are both militarily unnecessary and militarily useless. It decisively repudiates the most frequent objection to abolition, “the breakout scenario” — the possibility that after abolition some nation might whip back the curtain, reveal a dozen nuclear warheads, and proceed to “rule the world.” And it envisions some of the possible global governance architectures we will have to invent both to bring about and to maintain a nuclear weapon free world.

The “customer reviews” for APOCALYPSE NEVER on AMAZON indicate that readers find the book “neither academic nor preachy,” and “clear, real, and concrete,” and “literate and engaging,” and “compelling and inspiring,” and “headed for my kids now.” And so too do many of the 27 luminaries who offered advance praise for the book, including former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, Martin Sheen, Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, Jr.,  Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Michael Douglas, Rabbi Michael Lerner, William Hartung of the New America Foundation, Peace Action’s own Kevin Martin, and Pulitzer Prize winner Martin Sherwin. All that praise, along with the entire first chapter and much else on the topic — even audios and videos of Tad in action out on the stump — is available at

And at last count, 13 of 14 AMAZON “customer reviews” had awarded the book 5 stars.

Washington Post columnist and American Prospect editor Harold Meyerson says, “For those of us who think that freeing the planet from the specter of nuclear holocaust is the most important task before humankind, Tad Daley has drawn us a roadmap for the journey ahead. Mixing political sobriety with existential urgency and just plain damn good writing, Daley shows us the way.”

Daniel Ellsberg says, “Tad Daley has performed a truly rare feat. He doesn’t offer the same tired survey of Iran and North Korea and the contemporary nuclear landscape. His wonderful first book will enable both experts and regular folks to see, breathe, and believe in the dawn of a nuclear weapon-free world.”

Apocalypse Never builds a compelling case for one of the most urgent causes of our time—the global abolition of nuclear weapons. Tad Daley writes with all the seriousness the subject requires, but refreshingly eschews the jargon too often applied by ‘experts’ that estranges those not conversant in their lingo.”

—Kevin Martin, executive director, Peace Action (hey that’s me! the inside cover of the book blurb!)

Tad Daley told us, “I like to say to disarmament advocates and experts that I hope mine is the kind of book you can give to your brother-in-law, someone who has always been vaguely on your side but never done a whole lot more than say, in response to your abolitionist entreaties, ‘Yeah – I’m for that too.’ My ultimate aspiration is for the book to serve as a tool for us, to help us grow and galvanize the grassroots nuclear disarmament movement, and make it into a mighty political force that politicians will find impossible to ignore. I cannot promise that result. But as the hockey star Wayne Gretzky likes to say, you always miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.”

You could do much to spread the word if you would become a fan of the book on Facebook at

Tad Daley will be available throughout 2011 for speaking appearances, online author chats, webinars — however you might wish to utilize him, and APOCALYPSE NEVER, to preach beyond the choir, and to grow our collective voice. You may contact him directly at

Senate Ratifies New START pact 71-26!

December 22, 2010

Peace Action Statement on Senate Passage of New START pact

December 22, 2010
For Immediate Release, Contact Kevin Martin or 301-537-8244
Silver Spring, Maryland — Peace Action, the country’s largest grassroots peace and disarmament organization with 100,000 members around the country, welcomes today’s U.S. Senate vote to ratify the New START nuclear arms reduction pact, which will reduce U.S. and Russian deployed, strategic nuclear weapons by up to 30%, to 1,550 warheads each.

“While a modest step on the path toward a nuclear-weapons free world, today’s Senate vote to ratify the New START pact is cause for celebration in this season of ‘Peace on Earth,’” noted Peace Action’s Executive Director, Kevin Martin. “While the process of Senate ratification was difficult, and the political price paid for the treaty was high, everyone concerned with reducing the danger posed by nuclear weapons should see this as significant progress.” Martin referred not only to the bruising, partisan politics employed by some senators, but also the Obama Administration’s promise of $184 billion in funding for “modernizing” the nuclear weapons production complex and delivery systems over the next decade.

Peace Action’s members, and especially grassroots activists with our affiliates and chapters across the country, worked very hard to educate the public and pressure senators to support the treaty. Lobby visits with senators and their staff members, email alerts to hundreds of thousands of supporters, letters to the editor and other media work and generating tens of thousands of calls to senate offices were hallmarks of the START ratification campaign over the last few months.

Martin added, “As we celebrate this important victory in the Senate, we also rededicate ourselves to the struggle for further steps toward nuclear disarmament, which we will engage Congress, the Obama Administration, the American public, and the international community on early next year. New START must truly be a new start toward wiping the scourge of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth. We who believe in peace and disarmament cannot rest until it comes!”

Wash Post – New START Ratification Vote Likely Today!

December 22, 2010

According to the Washington Post, NPR and other sources, it looks like we have the 67 Senate votes needed to ratify New START, but calling your Senators this morning is still worthwhile. FCNL’s toll free number makes it easy. Dial 888-475-8162 and ask for your Senators’ offices by name.

Getting Close on New START Ratification, Keep Up Calls to Senate Offices

December 21, 2010

A front-page article in this morning’s Washington Post paints a pretty good picture of the prospects for ratifying the New START nuclear arms reduction pact this week, but it’s not a done deal yet. Please call your Senators, using the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s toll-free number if you like. Dial 888-475-8162 and ask for your Senators’ offices by name.

The conservative National Review appears to have thrown in the towel on defeating START, but again nobody should count the chickens before they hatch!

The “Golden Rule” Will Sail Again, And Enrique Alvarez, Presente!

December 20, 2010

Two excellent articles from national Peace Action board members:

The story of the “Golden Rule,” an original “peace boat” that sailed into the Pacific nuclear test zone of the US in the 1950’s to protest nuclear testing is an inspiring, gripping tale of non-violent resistance to the insanity of nuclear weapons and war. The boat is now being restored by Veterans for Peace activists in Northern California.

Peace Action board member, author and SUNY/Albany professor Larry Wittner has an uplifting article on the Golden Rule on the History News Network website, it’s worth a read!

John Lamperti, Dartmouth professor, national Peace Action board member and long-time peace activist, was recently in El Salvador on the 30th anniversary of the murders of Enrique Alvarez and other opposition leaders by Salvadoran police and military.  John reports,  “Huge problems continue, but the political situation there, at least, seems to be improving somewhat. Read John’s article on truthout.


While Prez Rationalizes Afghan War Inside White House, Peace Activists Protest Outside White House in the Snow

December 16, 2010

President Obama delivered a “stay the course” on the Afghanistan-Pakistan war speech inside the White House this morning in conjunction with the release of the administration’s review of his year-old escalation of the war. The review amounts to a “things are better but we need more time, money, troops, weapons and drone strikes” self-justification, even as the intelligence community’s National Intelligence Estimate, as well as reports from the International Red Cross and mainstream media articles paint a far grimmer picture of the reality on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan. More on the dueling analyses soon.

At the same time as Obama’s speech, several hundred peace activists, led by Veterans for Peace, gathered in front of the White House in a cold, wet snowstorm to demand an end to the madness. Well over one hundred folks, many of whom are veterans who know the insanity of war all too well, were arrested by DC Park Police in a high-spirited, inspiring, non-violent act of civil resistance. CNN reports 131 arrests!

Among the heroes and sheroes arrested for their acts of conscience were Peace Action Montgomery’s Jean Athey, North Carolina Peace Action’s John Heuer, and New Hampshire Peace Action Director Will Hopkins. John and Will are veterans, and this was Will’s first arrest for peace!

North Carolina Peace Action's John Heuer at the White House this morning

New Hampshire Peace Action's Will Hopkins in front of the White House this morning

Getting Close on New START ratification in Senate, Action Still Urgently Needed!

December 16, 2010

Just got back from a successful two-day trip to New York City for major donor visits and a conference on UN-civil society partnerships keynoted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. It was the third time I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him speak, he was brief but powerful and to the point, focused on the UN’s role in working on climate change, development, humanitarian relief and disarmament. He was very blunt about the need for the US Senate to ratify New START, and for continued progress on nuclear disarmament. He is very strong in his convictions, and sincere in wanting strengthened partnerships with non-governmental organizations in the US and worldwide.

Below is an update on the progress in the Senate on New START from the indefatigable David Culp of FCNL.


To:     NGO Colleagues

From: David Culp, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Re:     New START Treaty Update

Date:  December 15, 2010

As most of you know, the START treaty is now on the Senate floor. This afternoon, the Senate voted 66-32 to bring the treaty up. All Democrats and Independents voted “yes,” with the exception of Bayh who missed the vote. (He will vote for the treaty.) Thus, we have two thirds of the Senate in favor of ratification.

Nine Republicans voted to begin debate on the treaty: Sens. Bennett, Brown (MA), Collins, Graham, Lugar, McCain, Murkowski, Snowe, and Voinovich. They should get “thank you” emails for their votes today.

We believe we will pick up additional Republicans on final passage. Most likely swing votes are Sens. Chambliss, Corker, Crapo, Grassley, Gregg, Isakson, and LeMieux.

Also possible are Sens. Alexander, Brownback, Cochran, Hatch, and Kirk.

FCNL has provided a toll-free telephone number (888) 475-8162 to the Capitol switchboard. We will keep the number up until the treaty is ratified or we run out of money. Feel free to share it with your constituents.


At some point this week, the Senate will stop working on START and move to take up the appropriations bill. That bill will take several days. After the Senate completes floor action on the appropriations bill, it will return to START. There will be additional days of debate on amendments and eventually final passage. Majority Leader Reid has committed to keep the Senate in session until the treaty is done. The Senate will be in session this Saturday and perhaps on Sunday. A final vote on the treaty could come this weekend or next week. The Senate may be in session through Christmas Eve.

What to Do

Ask your constituents to call their senators, in particular those listed above. Ask them to support the START treaty. Remember the toll-free telephone number is (888) 475-8162.

We have gotten to this point because of the tremendous effort of dozens of national and local organizations. We are very close to a major victory—but we are not there yet.


Radio Interview on New START, and It Was Thirty Years Ago Today – Remembering John Lennon

December 8, 2010

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

While far from a certainty, there is reason for cautious optimism that the U.S. Senate will vote on New START ratification next week. This modest but important treaty would cut deployed, strategic nuclear warheads in the U.S. and Russia by about 30%, to 1,550 each. I was interviewed today on the Worldview program with host Jerome McDonnell on Chicago Public Radio WBEZ-FM. The first segment is on North Korea, and the snippets I heard sounded pretty good. My segment begins 23:30 into the program.

And now for something completely different:

I still remember where I was when I heard John Lennon had been shot (I was a freshman in college, doing laundry on a Monday night, and when I heard the news, it was too terrible to believe at first). His light has not dimmed one bit over three decades and I suspect it never will. Few people ever spread the message of peace and love as effectively as he. I have so many favorite Beatles and Lennon songs and albums I could write a long piece on that but I’ll mention just a few touchstones.

If you haven’t seen it, one of his best live performances was captured for the terrific movie The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, a raucus live concert in London in 1968 filmed for the BBC (but released only a few years ago) featuring the Stones, The Who, Mariann Faithfull, Taj Mahal, Jethro Tull and the Dirty Mac, Lennon’s pick up band with Eric Clapton on guitar, Keith Richards on bass, and Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) on drums backing John on guitar and vocals. Smokin’ is the only word to describe their performance.

Two lyrics of Lennon’s I think about all the time:

From Instant Karma, “Why in the world are we here? Surely not to live in pain and fear.” How liberating this simple phrase is, if we take seriously the challenge to eliminate or transcend the trap of pain and fear in the world, as we must.

And of course, “All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace a Chance.”

It’s about time we did, yes?

Afghan Women, War and Peace-building

December 7, 2010

A year after President Obama’s troop surge to Afghanistan, new poll results published yesterday in The Washington Post show that Afghans are less confident in the United States and its allies to provide security and are more willing to negotiate with the Taliban. More than half of Afghans surveyed nationwide said that U.S. and NATO should begin to withdraw troops from their country by mid-2011 or earlier. But buried deep in this front-page news story summarizing the poll results is a brief paragraph mentioning a 13-point jump since last year in the number of those surveyed who said that Afghan women’s rights are suffering. The situation of Afghan women’s lives and what this poll statistic means must be taken into full consideration in discussions of reconciliation with the Taliban, U.S./NATO troop withdrawal and political, diplomatic solutions to the war. The perceived decline in Afghan women’s rights, as reflected in the poll, must not be taken as a justification for continued foreign occupation by U.S. and NATO troops.

A timely report from the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at University of Notre Dame sheds some light on how Afghan women’s rights can be protected while pursuing political, peaceful ends to the conflict. The report, “Afghan Women Speak: Enhancing Security and Human Rights in Afghanistan,” argues that a militarized environment does not help Afghan women and girls move forward in securing and protecting their rights.

In field interviews with more than 50 parliamentarians, health workers, Afghan women leaders, activists and nongovernmental organization staff, researchers David Cortright and Sarah Smiles Persinger discovered that women are victimized from violence between foreign forces and insurgents, criminal gangs, local government and police chiefs. The report states that this insecurity not only directly impacts women’s access to education, employment and healthcare, but also reinforces their seclusion and their family’s control over them. According to the report, insecurity, war and militarization have also led to increased sexual assault and rape of women, early and forced marriage and trafficking of women and girls.

An excerpt:

“A group of women in Kandahar, where military operations are ongoing, told researchers for a British government report that their lives are no better now than they were under the Taliban:

‘It is like the Taliban times for women now. We are in the same situation as then. We cannot come out of the house to earn extra money or get an education. The only difference is that our honor was safe then but it is not now.’”

In conclusion, the report supports:

  • the negotiation of a political solution with insurgent groups; gradual demilitarization to reduce armed conflict coupled with an interim protection forced under the U.N.
  • meaningful representation of women in all peace negotiations and post-conflict recovery planning in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1889.
  • a political agreement and draw-down in foreign troops to be tied to a social contract that provides for long-term, sustainable investment in aid projects that support Afghan women and families.
  • U.S. and NATO governments granting asylum to women who face continuing threats on their lives for their perceived association with Western interests.

In policymaking circles, political discussions and media reporting, Afghan women’s lives are marginalized from major war and peace strategies or seen as a separate area of “development” concerns. The research done by David Cortright and Sarah Smiles Persinger place feminist concerns front-and-center in the discussion over the direction of U.S.-led military operations and the political future of Afghanistan.



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