Our Taxes Are Off to War – Terrific Resource on US Military Spending and Policy

February 23, 2011

If you care about peace, disarmament, just budget priorities, and promoting nonviolent social and political change in the world, here is a terrific resource for you from longtime Cleveland Peace Action activist Randy Schutt, in the form of a diary on the blog Daily Kos.

Randy lays out in clear terms, with charts and graphics, the nearly incomprehensible largesse of US military spending and compares it to spending on human needs here in the US and also military spending by the rest of the world’s countries. He also touches on US arms sales (we’re number one!), foreign bases (number one again!) and support for repressive regimes around the world. He argues, persuasively, that not having enemies is the best military policy, and that nonviolent resistance is the best way to bring about the downfall of dictatorships.

This is really a great resource – read it, use it, spread it around!


New Nuclear Weapons Abolition Petition Campaign

February 22, 2011

Our colleague Japanese peace and disarmament organization Gensuikyo is kicking off a new nuclear weapons abolition petition campaign, which Peace Action has endorsed. This campaign aims to build on the terrific work we did around last year’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the UN in New York, where I was honored to help deliver some of the millions of petition signatures from around the world (well over six million from Japan alone!) to delegates on the floor of the UN General Assembly.

Gensuikyo’s petition is online, very quick and easy to sign, and you can also download a pdf version of the petition to print, copy and circulate.

Here is a bit from Gensuikyo’s press release kicking off the campaign:

At present, when we will soon see the 66th Summer of the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world is rapidly changing in terms of nuclear weapons.  With our actions in New York, or in many other cities around the world, the NPT Review Conference in May last year declared it as its goal “to achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”, and called on all states to make “special efforts” to establish a framework for it, focusing on the proposal of UN Secretary General Ban KI-moon for the start of negotiations on a convention banning nuclear weapons. 

  The outcome of the session of the UN General assembly towards the end of the last year also showed a change.  Nearly all member states voted in support of a resolution that urges full implementation of all past agreements on nuclear disarmament.  The resolution calling for the start of negotiations on a nuclear weapon convention, put forward by Malaysia and many others, enjoyed support from 133 countries, including China, India and Pakistan, which possess nuclear arsenals, and even North Korea.

    Now that the voice calling for a ban on nuclear weapons represents the majority in international politics, and that the Secretary General of the United Nations is appealing that we should, with Hibakusha, “celebrate the end of nuclear weapons”, the peace movements around the world should rise up in action in solidarity to make next steps forward, and the initiative for it should be taken here in Japan the only A-bombed country, with the Hibakusha – this is what we have thought.  Thus, we have planned a new signature campaign in support of the “Appeal for a total ban on nuclear weapons”, which we are now launching in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and here in Tokyo.

    Having drafted the appeal, we have sent it to leaders and influential people in different fields both in Japan and around the world to seek their endorsement and comments.  Their responses were wonderful.

    Internationally, we have received supports and messages from, first of all, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his High Representative Sergio Duarte, Nobel laureates Jody Williams and Mairead Maguire, and international networks and national and grassroots peace groups, such as the International Peace Bureau, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and its International Campaign. The number of leading people overseas who have endorsed the “Appeal” has reached 170, representing 12 international networks and 118 peace organizations operating in 31 countries.


A Joyous Anniversary – Eight Years Since the Largest Demonstration in History

February 16, 2011

Yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of the massive February 15, 2003 demonstrations against the (at the time) impending US war on Iraq. An estimated 12 million people marched around the world, raising our voices for peace and against pre-emptive war. It was the largest demonstration in human history. Judith Le Blanc, currently Peace Action’s terrific National Field Organizer, was one of the main organizers for United for Peace and Justice, which coordinated the events in the US, and served as a liaison with peace movements abroad.

I’ll never forget it. I was in New York, and it was very, very cold, but the joy of the beautiful peace-mongers clogging the streets of Manhattan was infectious. I had the distinct and unique privilege of being with colleagues from our sister peace group Gensuikin, who had come all the way from Japan to be with us in New York. They were not well-dressed for the cold, but they were so happy to be there.

Were you there? Or in the streets in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, London, Paris or elsewhere? I’d love to here your memories of the day, please share them if you feel so moved.

Though we had been working for months to build opposition to the war, we didn’t really expect such a massive expression of the will of the people of the world to oppose George Bush’s outrageous drive to war. In the weeks and days before February 15, I didn’t think we could stop the war, but that day, I thought just maybe our voices were so strong and clear they could not be ignored. The New York Times gushingly editorialized the next day that we represented the world’s second superpower, world public opinion against the war. (David Cortright titled his history of the anti-war movement of 2002-2003 A Peaceful Superpower.)

Of course we did not stop the war. George Bush ignorantly and arrogantly dismissed us as a “focus group” (really? 12 million people, a focus group?).

The US war and occupation was, as we predicted, a calamity. Eight years later, Iraq is still a wreck, and it’s not clear the US will completely remove all troops, bases and contractors by the end of the year, as we are obliged to under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) Bush signed with the Iraqi government. While most peace activists are focused more on Afghanistan and other issues, we must remain vigilant and hold President Obama accountable to this withdrawal deadline, and we must repay the huge debt owed the Iraqi people for the immense destruction of their country. I haven’t seen any definitive estimate of what a just amount for reconstruction and reparations would be, but it must surely in the tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars.

Some decry the current reality that the peace movement can no longer rally millions of people in the streets to demand an end to the war in Afghanistan. However, we have turned the tide of public opinion against that war, and we are building powerful alliances to demand serious cuts in military spending in order to reinvest in human needs.

I am privileged to work for peace with brilliant, indefatigable activists all over the country and around the world. I am sustained in this work every day by what I know people can do when we come together, as the recent remarkable revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East have shown the world. And I’ll cherish the memory of February 15, 2003 as long as I live.


Mubarak Steps Down! A Remarkable Nonviolent Victory for the Power of the People!

February 11, 2011

The People!

United!

Will Never be Defeated!

Nonviolence works!

Watch al-Jazeers live from Egypt.


Nebraskans for Peace Joins the Peace Action Family!

February 10, 2011

Nebraskans for Peace, a strong, statewide 40-year old organization, just became the newest Peace Action affiliate. Check them out online.

We are in communication with peace groups in half a dozen states about affiliating or associating with Peace Action. If you know of groups that would be a good addition to the team, or would like to start your own Peace Action group, please get in touch!  

In other organizational news, we just finished a very productive five days of board of directors and organizers meetings here in Washington, DC. Very soon, we’ll share our new Five-Year Plan adopted by the boards of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund, and our organizing campaign plans for this year.


2012 Elections and the Afghanistan War

February 10, 2011

By: Judith Le Blanc, National Field Organizer

President Obama was elected with broad support by those who opposed the war in Iraq. For many voters, his pledge to end the war was a key factor. Bob Woodward’s recent book, “Obama’s Wars,” documents the struggle within the administration over the direction of the Afghanistan war, and also details the president’s awareness of declining public support.

During the press conference on the release of the administration’s year-end review of the war, Secretary of State Clinton said the administration cannot govern based on opinion polls when a reporter reminded her of recent surveys showing declining support for the war.

No doubt polls are being monitored by the White House and the Obama campaign re-election team now being assembled. With the GOP controlling the House of Representatives, very little legislation is expected to pass (though Peace Action and others will use the legislative process to advance our views on ending the war). So political tactics are the order of the day.

The big question for the peace movement is the following: how to fl ex our political muscle on behalf of the over 60% of the public (and over 80% of Democrats) who no longer see the war as worth fighting? Peace Action is launching a unique petition campaign to mobilize the broad cross-section of self-identified Obama campaign supporters to press the administration to take action now, before the real electioneering begins. The petition campaign will be the linchpin of a political strategy to remind Candidate Obama that inaction on this issue would endanger the possibility for as big and excited a grassroots mobilization in 2012 as he enjoyed in 2008.

The administration understands a gap on the war is growing between it and the base it needs for re-election. U.S. Representative Barbara Lee told representatives of several peace organizations in a recent meeting that President Obama needs to be convinced to “shift his political calculus” and campaign in 2012 “on a platform of ending the war in Afghanistan.” Mobilizing and focusing the attention of grassroots activists who were at the center of the historic campaign and election of President Obama is the best tactic for the peace movement in “shifting his political calculus.”

Our petition campaign will call for the administration to begin to de-escalate the war, seek a path towards a negotiated settlement and begin to withdraw troops leaving no bases behind. We will utilize both online and paper petitions. The campaign will also have a vibrant and coordinated effort to initiate visibility activities at public appearances of President Obama and the administration. We will seek out leaders and members of the Democratic Party for their support, and utilize public events to collect signatures.  Combining education with nonviolent direct action, vigils and demonstrations, our petition effort will be a Peace Action membership builder, and help expand our e-lists.

We expect other allied organizations to promote the petition as well, helping garner tens of thousands of signatures, and helping re-energize the peace and justice movement. Additionally, we will continue the push for more Congresspeople to join the Out of Afghanistan Caucus. We will support legislative initiatives such as the resolution Representative Lee will introduce on troop withdrawal, and continue to oppose war funding.

Our aim is to build momentum throughout 2011 with key dates for public events in July, the target date set for the beginning of troop withdrawal, and the October anniversary of the launch of the war. Our organizing aims to press the administration to begin the steps for peace now. As the political parties begin to gear up for the primary season at the end of the year, so will we. We will have amassed a sizable base of people who will be geared up to press Candidate Obama and all presidential and congressional candidates for a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving no bases, contractors or troops behind.


It’s not a Deficit Crisis, it’s a Revenue Crisis: Move the Money!

February 10, 2011

By: Judith Le Blanc, National Field Organizer

January 17 marked the 50th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s “military industrial complex” speech. As he left the White House, Ike warned the synthesis of the military and corporations in setting government policies would present a growing danger to democracy.

In 1953, at the beginning of his presidency, Ike gave a speech, not often quoted, in which he said, ““Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Ike’s predictions were not only true then, they define exactly where we are now. The economic crisis, high unemployment and cuts in human services compel us to organize grassroots support for even deeper cuts in the Pentagon budget.

Secretary of Defense Gates announced “preemptive cuts” to head off more aggressive proposals that are being debated among a cross section of elected officials and political pundits.

The latest “shot across their bow” is from President Reagan’s former Budget Director David Stockman, who called Gates’s proposal for a $78 billion “cut” to the military budget a “pinprick” to a military-industrial complex that must drastically shrink for the good of the country. Stockman said, “It amounts to a failed opportunity to recognize that we are now at a historical inflection point at which the time has arrived for a classic post-war demobilization of the entire military establishment.”

To take full advantage of this political moment, Peace Action is helping to organize an array of community and peace groups to form the New Priorities Network. It’s going to take long-term movement building to shift Federal funding priorities from weapons to schools, and waging wars to rebuilding infrastructure.

The New Priorities Network is launching a massive Resolutions Campaign as a tool to galvanize grassroots pressure to cut the Pentagon budget in order to fund human needs.
The aim is to build a community effort by visiting neighborhood groups and promoting educational events and building momentum for city and state bodies and elected officials to take a stand for changing the Federal spending priorities.

Sample resolutions, fact sheets and other materials will be
available soon. The Resolutions Campaign will also provide the opportunity to participate in nationally coordinated local actions throughout 2011.

We can build Peace Action’s membership, reaching communities of color and working families, if we connect with community groups in motion on the economic crisis. Engaging new people, especially those who have not been part of the peace movement, is vital to winning deeper cuts in military spending.

It is not a deficit crisis. It is a revenue crisis. So let’s organize to move the money! For more information on the New Priorities Network and Resolutions Campaign go to newprioritiesnetwork.org.


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