Four More Years of War? Not On Our Watch!

June 24, 2011

I made notes on President Obama’s “war lite” speech the other night, intending to rebut many of his points, but it’s too easy, and also not really what I want to convey. However, here are a few points:

-The mainstream media frame that Obama is withdrawing more troops than the military wanted, so this will help his anti-war base, if way, well, off-base. While the 10,000 troops coming home this year and additional 23,000 by next September is too small, it’s larger than it would have been without our tireless grassroots and congressional organizing. So we recognize our power, and will re-double our efforts; we are not in the least appeased by the president’s half-measures, and neither is Congress. A bi-partisan letter to Obama is already in circulation calling for a bigger, faster troop withdrawal.

-The president said violence is declining, but that’s not at all true. This year has been the deadliest both for Afghan civilians and for our troops (and violence is on the rise in Baghdad, too, now one of our “other wars”).

-The president talked about devoting resources to rebuilding our country, but he has just committed us to another $300-400 billion of war over the next four years in Afghanistan.  The U.S. Conference of Mayors didn’t buy it; last weekend in Baltimore, they passed a strong anti-war resolution (their first since 1971 during the Vietnam War). 

-Nobody in the Administration will admit this, but these (too small) withdrawals do indeed change the strategy, at least looking past a year. As my colleague Bill Goodfellow from the Center for International Policy points out, 68,000 troops is too small a force to continue a counterinsurgency strategy, so our pressure has forced a strategic shift.

Peace Action got some good media hits after the president’s speech, here are a few of them:

John Nichols on The Nation, NPR and CBS websites (quotes our tireless Organizing and Policy Director Paul Kawika Martin)

Augusta Free Press

 

Long Island Newsday

 

Peace Action also got a “tip of the hat” in Tom Hayden’s article in The Nation

For some terrific analysis of the president’s speech and the way forward, try these:

Rebecca Griffin of Peace Action West

Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies on AlterNet

Former Peace Action Executive Director (back in the day when we were Sane and Sane/Freeze) David Cortight on CNN.com

And finally, my article which draws a bit of a broader frame, and will be in our next Action Report newsletter:

When I first heard a report of President Obama’s decision to remove only 5,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year (which turned out to be only half what he announced June 22, with another 23,000 troops to leave by September, 2012), my first thought was “did he forget a zero?” The decision was disappointing but not surprising. Remember, candidate Obama promised to escalate the Afghanistan war (which he did, twice), and as president, he has committed himself to “winning” it (whatever that means, I’m reminded of the pacifist Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin’s quote, “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake”).
Moreover, the military has consistently and effectively influenced the president’s decisions on the war, with former Secretary of War Robert Gates, Generals David Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal and others constantly speaking in public and to the media “setting policy,” which the president has enabled (Truman or Eisenhower would doubtless have fired them for that).
The President’s decision to prolong the war despite escalating public and congressional pressure surely reflects the malign influence of the Military-Industrial Complex (though I don’t mean to give the president a pass here, he is accountable for his decisions). The MIC won’t be taken down quickly or easily, perhaps not in our lifetimes.
But it will be taken down. The U.S. Empire is on the decline. Let’s replace it with a flowering U.S. Republic (in the phrase of the philosopher Johan Galtung). Protesting the wars and scourges of the Empire is only half our job. Empowering people to envision and decide what comes after, or along with, that decline is even more important. Even some in the military realize the U.S. needs a new foreign policy, one based less on belligerence and military might and more on peaceful diplomacy and international cooperation, as the recent “Mr. Y” article showed.
At reception near the United Nations at which I was humbled to be honored by non-governmental organizations that work at the UN, I asked attendees to close their eyes and envision that more peaceful, just world we will help build as the Empire declines. I asked folks to shout out what they envisioned. “A peaceful future for our children,” “meaningful jobs for all,” “an environment restored, with green energy technology and good public transit,” “health care for everyone” and “the end of nuclear power” were just some of the inspiring visions shared that night. It was beautiful!
So this is not a time to despair. Yes, we at Peace Action are sick of all wars, whether a Republican or Democrat is in the White House. But signs of our successes at shaping that new world abound:
-Public opinion is now solidly against the Afghanistan war – that’s our doing!
-The House and Senate finally sent strong messages to Obama of their opposition to the war, mostly because of our hard work.
-Congress is pushing the administration on the illegality of the Libya war.
-(Now former) Secretary of War Gates on the defensive in his last Senate hearing, reduced to declaring about Afghanistan “it’s not a war without end.”
-The recent U.S. Conference of Mayors resolutions calling for redirecting war spending to human needs and advocating the global elimination of nuclear weapons.
- The military budget is still gargantuan, but the organizing and political climate for working on this issue is the best we’ve seen decades – our Move the Money campaign is growing every day!
-Next year’s Peace Voter 2012 campaign could be one of our most important yet, as citizen-activists take control of the debate over wars, military spending and nuclear weapons and force House, Senate and Presidential candidates to address our issues on our terms!
-The Peace Action affiliate and chapter network is growing, very impressively, into new states and regions (please see the “Affiliates in Action” article and photo of Nebraskans for Peace, our new affiliate, in this issue!)
Peace and justice work is hard, there’s no question about it. That’s why we call it “the struggle,” not “the picnic.” But we have momentum, and the power of the people, on our side, let’s never forget that, and most importantly, let’s organize that power!

President Announces Decision: What’s Next?

June 23, 2011

Last night, we watched together as the President announced his plans to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and another 23,000 troops by September 2012. President Obama’s decision leaves nearly double the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan than when he took office.

What did you think of the President’s speech? Click here to let the Administration know!

The President’s plan is clearly out of step with the majority of the public, who want to see an end to the longest war in U.S. history “as soon as possible,” according to a recent Pew poll released yesterday.

Moreover, the President’s decision to once again support a military solution to the conflict ignores the recommendations of RAND, the Pentagon’s own think tank, which stated that terrorism is best defeated by negotiations, police work, and political engagement – a sentiment that matches a recent BBC World Service poll of 24 nations indicating global public support for negotiations with the Taliban.

What is your opinion? Click here to tell the Obama Administration!

One can’t help but wonder what decision President Obama would have made had it not been for the organizing efforts of citizen activists like you. Thanks to your calls, letters, petitions, public events, and community efforts, we have not only turned public opinion but we have undoubtedly made an impact in Congress and subsequently on the President:

  • In the Senate last week, thanks to countless calls from constituents like you, over one-quarter of the Senate signed a bi-partisan letter to President Obama calling for a “sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan”
  • In the House last month, a record number of Representatives, including 26 Republicans, voted for an amendment to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act requiring the President to establish a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

So What’s Next?

With our new allies in Congress, including many Republicans calling for a speedier withdrawal from Afghanistan, we have a major opportunity to keep Afghanistan at the forefront of the Presidential debates. Our Peace Voter efforts in the 2012 elections will be all the more impactful with a greater cross-section of the public in favor of bringing the troops and war dollars home.

Keep the wars in the elections debate. Click here to contact the Obama Campaign Headquarters and let them know what you thought of the President’s decision.

Meanwhile, we must continue to struggle for long-term change. It is clear that elections alone will not end the wars or transform our economy.

This is precisely why Peace Action continues to drive ahead with our Move the Money campaign.

On Monday, successful pressure from citizen activists led the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution calling on Congress to redirect military spending to domestic priorities – their first resolution on foreign policy since the Vietnam War. Check out the CNN coverage of the story.

This historic resolution passed thanks to pressure from citizen activists like you.

The resolution would never have been passed had it not been for the work of the Fund Our Communities, Bring the War Dollars Home coalition in partnership with CODEPINK. Peace Action Montgomery founded the coalition as part of our national Move the Money campaign. Members of the coalition did an extraordinary organizing job–leafleting at all different times to the mayors, organizing a teach-in on Friday night, and organizing a rally and march on Saturday. The citizen activists forced a debate and ultimately, the Mayors voted to pass the resolution.

As we continue to journey on the long, hard road ahead, we will have many more success stories to share.

In the meantime, let’s keep up the pressure. Click here to contact the Obama Administration and let them know that we will hold the President accountable in 2012 and beyond.


Voters Disappointed with Obama Afghanistan Drawdown

June 22, 2011

Washington, DC — June 22, 2011 — President Obama’s announcement this evening of a limited troop withdrawal from Afghanistan — America’s longest war — is bound to disappoint Members of Congress and an electorate tired of the conflict.

 

As has been reported, senior White House officials confirmed that the President plans to remove 10,000 troops by the end of this year and another 23,000 troops by September 2012.

 

“Removing a few brigades this year, then several more next year, still leaves more than double the U.S. troops in Afghanistan than when President Obama took office.  There’s no military solution in Afghanistan.  It’s time to bring all troops and contractors home and focus on the political solution, which is the only way this costly war will end,” observed Paul Kawika Martin, the political and policy director of Peace Action — a group founded in 1957 and the largest grassroots peace organization in the U.S.

 

The pace of troop drawdown is significantly smaller than asked for by some in Congress.  Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chair of the Arms Services Committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) wanted 15,000, 30,000, and 50,000 out this year, respectfully.  Today, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) the minority chair of the Sen. Foreign Relations committee said the withdrawal was inadequate.

 

The President’s numbers for this year represent a small percentage of the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and over 100,000 additional contractors.

 

Both chambers of Congress on a bipartisan basis have pushed for a sizable number of troops to leave.

 

Last week, a bipartisan group of 27 U.S. Senators — led by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Udall (D-NM) — sent a letter to President Obama asking for a “sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011.”  A half dozen more Senators made similar statements individually.

 

Last month, the House sent a clear signal to President for an accelerated withdrawal by narrowly failing to pass an amendment offered by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Walter Jones (D-NC) and others to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act.  204 Representatives voted aye, including a record 26 Republicans.

 

Congress has been feeling voter pressure on the war.  A pew poll released yesterday showed a strong majority of Americans support bringing troops home “as soon as possible.”  Peace Action organized twenty-five national organizations, representing over 30 million voters, to sign onto a letter echoing this sentiment by asking for a “sizable and sustained” withdrawal.

 

With the high costs of $10 Billion a month for the war, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and locally are questioning whether the costs are making the U.S. safer.  The U.S. Conference of Mayors just approved a resolution calling for a speedy end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and redirection of scarce dollars for “urgent domestic needs.”

 

The war has become more deadly to U.S. troops, which has weighed heavy on lawmakers.  Over 1,600 U.S. troops have been killed in the nearly ten-year long war.  This year has surpassed 2009 as the deadliest year of the conflict, killing 57 percent more American service members.  Tens of thousands more have been wounded physically and mentally.  An unknown number, but estimated to be in the tens of thousands, of Afghan civilians have perished, and the United Nations reported that so far, 2011 is the worst year for civilians deaths.

 

Republican Presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul are also calling for a quicker end to the war.

 

Peace Action calls for all troops and contractors out of Afghanistan within one year with resources focused on political reconciliation and Afghan-led aid and development.

 

“In November 2012, voters will want to see less than 67,000 troops and even more contractors still in Afghanistan.  The President will need to speed up his plans and announce more troops coming home to please the electorate,” concluded Martin.

 

The President announced his first surge of 20,000 troops in spring 2009. Then started sending another 33,000 in December of that year nearly tripling the number of troops on the ground when he took office.

 

###

 

Founded in 1957, Peace Action (formerly SANE/Freeze), the United States’ largest peace and disarmament organization, with over 100,000 paid members and nearly 100 chapters in 36 states, works to abolish nuclear weapons, promote government spending priorities that support human needs, encourage real security through international cooperation and human rights and support nonmilitary solutions to the conflicts with Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. The public may learn more and take action at http://www.Peace-Action.org. For more up-to-date peace insider information, follow Peace Action’s political director on Twitter. http://twitter.com/PaulKawika

 

If you wish to unsubscribe from further emails from Peace Action, please write pmartin@peace-action.org with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

 

Editors Notes:

 

1.  The Pew poll can be found here:

 

http://people-press.org/2011/06/21/record-number-favors-removing-u-s-troops-from-afghanistan/

 

2.  The Letter to President signed by 27 Senators:

 

June 15, 2011

 

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We write to express our strong support for a shift in strategy and the beginning of a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011.

 

In 2001 the United States rightfully and successfully intervened in Afghanistan with the goals of destroying al Qaeda’s safe haven, removing the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursuing those who planned the September 11 attacks on the United States. Those original goals have been largely met and today, as CIA Director Leon Panetta noted last June, “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less” al Qaeda members remaining in Afghanistan.

 

In addition, over the past few years, U.S. forces have killed or captured dozens of significant al Qaeda leaders. Then, on May 2, 2011, American Special Forces acting under your direction located and killed Osama bin Laden. The death of the founder of al Qaeda is a major blow that further weakens the terrorist organization.

 

From the initial authorization of military force through your most recent State of the Union speech, combating al Qaeda has always been the rationale for our military presence in Afghanistan. Given our successes, it is the right moment to initiate a sizable and sustained reduction in forces, with the goal of steadily redeploying all regular combat troops.

 

There are those who argue that rather than reduce our forces, we should maintain a significant number of troops in order to support a lengthy counter-insurgency and nation building effort. This is misguided. We will never be able to secure and police every town and village in Afghanistan. Nor will we be able to build Afghanistan from the ground up into a Western-style democracy.

 

Endemic corruption in Afghanistan diverts resources intended to build roads, schools, and clinics, and some of these funds end up in the hands of the insurgents. Appointments of provincial and local officials on the basis of personal alliances and graft leads to deep mistrust by the Afghan population. While it is a laudable objective to attempt to build new civic institutions in Afghanistan, this goal does not justify the loss of American lives or the investment of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.

 

Instead of continuing to be embroiled in ancient local and regional conflicts in Afghanistan, we must accelerate the transfer of responsibility for Afghanistan’s development to the Afghan people and their government. We should maintain our capacity to eliminate any new terrorist threats, continue to train the Afghan National Security Forces, and maintain our diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. However, these objectives do not require the presence of over 100,000 American troops engaged in intensive combat operations.

 

Mr. President, according to our own intelligence officials, al Qaeda no longer has a large presence in Afghanistan, and, as the strike against bin Laden demonstrated, we have the capacity to confront our terrorist enemies with a dramatically smaller footprint. The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits. It is time for the United States to shift course in Afghanistan.

 

We urge you to follow through on the pledge you made to the American people to begin the redeployment of U.S. forces from Afghanistan this summer, and to do so in a manner that is sizable and sustained, and includes combat troops as well as logistical and support forces.

 

We look forward to working with you to pursue a strategy in Afghanistan that makes our nation stronger and more secure.

 

Sincerely,

 

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

 

3.  A letter from 25 organizations representing over 30 million voters urging Senators to sign Merkely-Lee-Udall letter:

 

We, the undersigned 25 organizations representing over 30 million voters, strongly urge Senator Feinstein to join 27 other Senators and sign this bipartisan letter to President Obama urging a “sizeable and sustained” reduction in forces from Afghanistan beginning in July.

 

While many of us are calling for a more accelerated transition and may not agree with every word of the letter, it represents a step in the right direction. It is clearly time to begin the process terminating the United States military engagement from the war in Afghanistan.

 

Please let Paul Kawika of Peace Action know how you plan to act on this important issue at pmartin@peace-action.org or 951-217-7285.

 

Sincerely,

 

Matthew Hoh

Director

Afghanistan Study Group

 

Karen Showalter

Executive Director

Americans for Informed Democracy

 

Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey

Co-Directors

Campaign for America’s Future

 

William C. Goodfellow

Executive Director

Center for International Policy

 

Don Kraus

Chief Executive Officer

Citizens for Global Solutions

 

John Isaacs

Executive Director

Council for a Livable World

 

Michael Kieschnick

President

CREDO Action

 

Robert Naiman

Policy Director

Just Foreign Policy

 

Justin Ruben

Executive Director

MoveOn.org Political Action

 

Jenefer Ellingston

Delegate

National Green Party

 

Simone Campbell

Executive Director

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

 

Terry O’Neill

President

National Organization for Women

 

Jo Comerford

Executive Director

National Priorities Project

 

Dave Robinson

Executive Director

Pax Christi USA

 

Paul Kawika Martin

Policy and Political Director

Peace Action

 

Peter Wilk, MD

Executive Director

Physicians for Social Responsibility

 

Jean Stokan

Director

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas — Institute Justice Team

 

Mark C. Johnson, Ph.D.

Executive Director

The Fellowship of Reconciliation

 

James E. Winkler, General Secretary

General Board of Church and Society

The United Methodist Church

 

Lisa Schirch, PhD

Director

3D Security Initiative

 

Marylia Kelley

Executive Director

Tri-Valley CAREs

 

Jeff Blum

Executive Director

USAction

 

Michael Eisenscher

National Coordinator

U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

 

Stephen Miles

Coalition Coordinator

Win Without War

 

Susan Shaer

Executive Director

Women’s Action for New Directions

 


Summary of Peace Action’s 2011-2016 Strategic Plan

June 20, 2011

Building a grassroots movement for peace and justice:

Peace Action’s Long-Range Strategic Plan, 2011-2016

Summary and Overview

 

Our Vision

 

Peace Action is a grassroots-based national organization, committed to building a peaceful world. We share a vision of world peace, in which: the menace of nuclear weapons has forever been erased; war has been abolished as a method of solving conflicts; all human beings are assured the wherewithal to live in health and dignity; and no one is denied the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect the common good.

 

Our Mission

 

The most important threats to the people of this country are not terrorists or foreign enemies but joblessness, foreclosures, gaping holes in the safety net, the climate crisis, concentration of wealth, influence of major corporations, and absence of true democracy. Our current foreign policy and military spending threaten our democracy at home and our security abroad. Abolition of nuclear weapons, an end to the international arms trade and reductions in military spending will

free up resources to address our real needs at home. Support for international law, humanitarian aid, and diplomacy will save lives and promote peace with justice abroad

 

Peace Action seeks: (1) the global abolition of nuclear weapons and other means of mass destruction; (2) the end of the international arms trade; (3) significant reductions in worldwide military expenditures and implementing an effective program of economic conversion.

 

Peace Action supports: (1) the development of creative, democratic international non-military peacekeeping initiatives and institutions; (2) globally sustainable and economically just societies dedicated to ensuring basic human rights.

 

Peace Action will mobilize Americans to secure:

 A demilitarized, sustainable economy;

 A nuclear weapons-free world; and

 An end to U.S.-supported wars and occupations.

 

Policy and Program Goals and Objectives

 

A. A Demilitarized, Sustainable Economy

 

 Reduce the military budget by 25%

 Reduce the number of U.S. foreign military bases by 30%

 Reduce the amount of the military budget that goes to contractors by 35%

 Demilitarize public schools by increasing to twelve the number of states with legislation prohibiting the use of military testing for recruitment purposes.

 

 

 

B. A Nuclear Weapons-Free World

 

 Prevent “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear weapons production complex and upgrading of delivery systems;

Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

 Achieve progress towards nuclear disarmament outside the treaty process.

 Negotiate three international treaties to end the threat of nuclear war: Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East; abolish nuclear weapons worldwide; stop production of nuclear weapons-grade materials worldwide

C. An End to U.S.-Supported Wars and Occupations

 In Afghanistan and Pakistan, end U.S. military operations, support regional peace-making: bring home all U.S. military personnel and close all U.S. military bases, and contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

 In Israel/Palestine, promote sustainable peace with justice by supporting peacemakers in both communities and by pressing for an end to U.S. financial and military aid to the Israeli government until it complies with international law.

 Defuse the U.S./Iran conflict, as reflected in the creation of a regional security network with participation from all Middle East countries.

 End the U.S. occupation of Iraq by the end of 2011: bring home all U.S. military personnel and all contractors, close all military bases in Iraq, and contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq.

 Support and strengthen the United Nations as a guarantor of international security, human rights and social progress.

 


A Celebration of Peace Action and our International Work

June 13, 2011

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

I was so humbled to be honored last Wednesday at a reception at the German Mission to the United Nations in New York City. The occasion was the second annual celebration of NGO (non-governmental organizations) work at the UN. I was an honoree, along with former Bangladeshi Ambassador to the UN Anwarul K. Chowdury, who has done groundbreaking work on the promotion of a culture of peace, and who spoke in favor of NGOs having votes at the UN, not just consultative status (here, here!).

Peace Action is among the leading NGOs at the UN (there are over 1500!), and of course our work with peace movement allies around the world is very important, going back several decades to delegations to the Soviet Union. I’ve been proud to represent Peace Action on trips to Russia, China, Japan, Mexico and Britain, and other staff  and volunteers have represented the organization in many other countries as well – Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Mexico,  and Palestine to name just a few.

This September, Germany will host the annual NGO conference in Bonn, which is why the event last week was at the German mission. Two years ago, Peace Action’s Chuck Hitchcock did a magnificent job co-chairing the event in Mexico City, which I was privileged to attend along with other PA staff and volunteers.

Speaking of volunteers, our International Committee in New York is an entirely volunteer operation, led by Chuck and our indefatigable chair, Judy Lerner. So while I was extremely grateful to be an honoree, it was really in recognition of all the work of Peace Action, and especially our terrific International Committee in New York (in addition to Judy and Chuck, International Committee members Pauline Cantwell, Joanne Robinson, Chung Ja Jadwat, Shirley Chesney and Amibelle Olatunji joined us at the event). I was also grateful that my brother, Kris Martin, uncle, Todd Whitmer (who took the photos below!), sister-in-law, Barbara O’Brien, and niece, Sophia O’Brien-Udry were there for the celebration!

Martin pontificating as usual!

Peace Actionistas at the celebration last Wednesday night


Thanks for calling your Senators to sign the Merkley-Lee-Udall letter to the President to bring troops home from Afghanistan

June 10, 2011

Thanks for calling your Senators to sign the Merkley-Lee-Udall letter to the President to bring troops home from Afghanistan.  A significant 27 Senators signed.

While Peace Action wants to see all troops and contractors out of Afghanistan with a year and we don’t agree with every word of this bipartisan Senate letter, the main message is politically important:  urging President Obama for a “sizeable and sustained” reduction in forces from Afghanistan beginning in July.

Peace Action worked hard with others to get the 27 Senators.

The letter was sent Tuesday, June 14th.

Below you’ll find:

1.  The text of the Senate letter with 27 signers

2.  A letter from 25 organizations representing over 30 million voters urging Senators to sign.

3.  A letter from military officials supporting the letter

_______________________________________________

1.  The text of the Senate letter that currently has 27 signers

June X, 2011

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to express our strong support for a shift in strategy and the beginning of a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011.

In 2001 the United States rightfully and successfully intervened in Afghanistan with the goals of destroying al Qaeda’s safe haven, removing the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursuing those who planned the September 11 attacks on the United States. Those original goals have been largely met and today, as CIA Director Leon Panetta noted last June, “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less” al Qaeda members remaining in Afghanistan.

In addition, over the past few years, U.S. forces have killed or captured dozens of significant al Qaeda leaders. Then, on May 2, 2011, American Special Forces acting under your direction located and killed Osama bin Laden. The death of the founder of al Qaeda is a major blow that further weakens the terrorist organization.

From the initial authorization of military force through your most recent State of the Union speech, combating al Qaeda has always been the rationale for our military presence in Afghanistan. Given our successes, it is the right moment to initiate a sizable and sustained reduction in forces, with the goal of steadily withdrawing all regular combat troops.

There are those who argue that rather than reduce our forces, we should maintain a significant number of troops in order to support a lengthy counter-insurgency and nation building effort. This is misguided. We will never be able to secure and police every town and village in Afghanistan. Nor will we be able to build Afghanistan from the ground up into a Western-style democracy.

Endemic corruption in Afghanistan diverts resources intended to build roads, schools, and clinics, and some of these funds end up in the hands of the insurgents. Appointments of provincial and local officials on the basis of personal alliances and graft leads to deep mistrust by the Afghan population. While it is a laudable objective to attempt to build new civic institutions in Afghanistan, this goal does not justify the loss of American lives or the investment of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Instead of continuing to be embroiled in ancient local and regional conflicts in Afghanistan, we must accelerate the transfer of responsibility for Afghanistan’s development to the Afghan people and their government. We should maintain our capacity to eliminate any new terrorist threats, continue to train the Afghan National Security Forces, and maintain our diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. However, these objectives do not require the presence of over 100,000 American troops engaged in intensive combat operations.

Mr. President, according to our own intelligence officials, al Qaeda no longer has a large presence in Afghanistan, and, as the strike against bin Laden demonstrated, we have the capacity to confront our terrorist enemies with a dramatically smaller footprint. The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits. It is time for the United States to shift course in Afghanistan.

We urge you to follow through on the pledge you made to the American people to begin the redeployment of U.S. forces from Afghanistan this summer, and to do so in a manner that is sizable and sustained, and includes combat troops as well as logistical and support forces.

We look forward to working with you to pursue a strategy in Afghanistan that makes our nation stronger and more secure.

Sincerely,

 

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

_______________________________________________

2.  A letter from 25 organizations representing over 30 million voters urging Senators to sign:

Dear Senate Staff Person,

We, the undersigned 25 organizations representing over 30 million voters, strongly urge Senator XXXXX  to join 27 other Senators and sign this bipartisan letter to President Obama urging a “sizeable and sustained” reduction in forces from Afghanistan beginning in July.

While many of us are calling for a more accelerated transition and may not agree with every word of the letter, it represents a step in the right direction.

It is clearly time to begin the process terminating the United States military engagement from the war in Afghanistan.

Sincerely,

Matthew Hoh

Director

Afghanistan Study Group

Karen Showalter

Executive Director

Americans for Informed Democracy

Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey

Co-Directors

Campaign for America’s Future

William C. Goodfellow

Executive Director

Center for International Policy

Don Kraus

Chief Executive Officer

Citizens for Global Solutions

John Isaacs

Executive Director

Council for a Livable World

Michael Kieschnick

President

CREDO Action

Robert Naiman

Policy Director

Just Foreign Policy

Justin Ruben

Executive Director

MoveOn.org Political Action

Jenefer Ellingston

Delegate

National Green Party

Simone Campbell

Executive Director

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Terry O’Neill

President

National Organization for Women

Jo Comerford

Executive Director

National Priorities Project

Dave Robinson

Executive Director

Pax Christi USA

Paul Kawika Martin

Policy and Political Director

Peace Action

Peter Wilk, MD

Executive Director

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Jean Stokan

Director

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas — Institute Justice Team

Mark C. Johnson, Ph.D.

Executive Director

The Fellowship of Reconciliation

James E. Winkler, General Secretary

General Board of Church and Society

The United Methodist Church

Lisa Schirch, PhD

Director

3D Security Initiative

Marylia Kelley

Executive Director

Tri-Valley CAREs

Jeff Blum

Executive Director

USAction

Michael Eisenscher

National Coordinator

U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

Stephen Miles

Coalition Coordinator

Win Without War

Susan Shaer

Executive Director

Women’s Action for New Directions

_______________________________________________

3.  A letter from Military officials supporting the letter:

June 2, 2011

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As former military officers and defense officials, we endorse the Senate letter to the Administration to order a “sizeable and sustained” reduction in troop levels in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011.

We agree that the United States has successfully deployed its military and intelligence assets to accomplish our stated mission of destroying al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan and degrading the leadership by killing or capturing dozens of significant al Qaeda leaders, culminating in the operation that eliminated Osama bin Laden.

Furthermore, we do not believe it is a top national security interest of our country to utilize our military forces to undertake nation-building activities in an internal Afghan conflict that stretches back to the 1970s.

We congratulate you on the successes achieved by our forces, and urge you to begin a substantial and responsible redeployment of our forces this summer.

Sincerely,

Evelyn Foote, Brig Gen., U.S. Army (Ret.)

Robert G. Gard, Jr., Lt. Gen., U.S. Army (Ret.)

Sam Gardiner, Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

Matthew Hoh, U. S. Marine Corps (Iraq), State Department Officer, (Afghanistan)

John H. Johns, Brig. Gen., U.S. Army (Ret.)

Lawrence J. Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Captain, U.S. Navy Reserves (Ret.)

Karen Kwiatkowski, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.)

Paul R. Pillar, Former U.S. Intelligence Officer

James M. Thompson, Lt. Gen., U.S. Army (Ret.)

Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Ann Wright, Colonel, U.S. Army Reserves


NUCLEAR TWO-STEP, ONE STEP FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK

June 10, 2011

By Yeabu Conteh

CTBT– The Next Sensible Step Toward Nuclear Abolition

Long part of Peace Action’s strategy for a nuclear-free world, we are renewing our efforts to secure Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).  CTBT is a multi-lateral treaty that outlaws explosive nuclear testing and is a simple, but effective, way to help stop the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.  Currently, 179 nations, including the United States have signed the CTBT and 144 have ratified it.  In order for the CTBT to become recognized internationally as law, the United States and eight other nations must ratify it. 

In May, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Ellen O. Tauscher spoke before the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting on “The Case for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.”  She informed those present that the Obama administration would soon begin talks with Republican and Democratic Senators on the CTBT, including a discussion of key technical issues that was met with some resistance during a congressional debate on the treaty in 1999. The President also plans to soon start an education campaign to help lead to CTBT ratification.

As we near the start of another election campaign season, Peace Action will be working closely with our congressional and organizational allies to make the case for CTBT ratification.  There is a good chance that a vote will happen before the 2012 elections. Given the success we had with passing START (Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty), we are in a good position to ratify CTBT, but only if we keep the pressure on.

From our founding in 1957 as the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy, Peace Action has been a principal advocate of a test ban, working to impose a moratorium on testing during the administration of George H.W. Bush and pressing for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) during the Clinton Administration. 

What’s the Bottom Line?
By ratifying CTBT, the Obama administration will fulfill an important campaign promise taking another step along the path he laid out in Prague in 2009, the path that leads to nuclear abolition.  It will take a lot of work from those of us who care about our planet, the future of our children and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, but in the end our world will be much safer for our efforts.
 

COMPLEX “MODERNIZATION” – Don’t Step Back

When the Senate ratified New START in December, it was a satisfying victory for Peace Action and the peace and disarmament community as a whole. The underlying stipulations for its passage however, specifically the bargain struck between President Obama and Senate Republicans to invest approximately $185 billion over the next ten years to “modernize” the nuclear weapons production complex, demonstrates the extent to which the far-right and the military-industrial complex are committed to this ‘nuclear weapons forever’ program.  This move clearly undermines President Obama’s stated commitment to a nuclear-free world and the work of the disarmament community to help the President achieve this goal. 

For fiscal year 2012, the Department of Energy requested $7.63 billion for nuclear weapons programs and activities.  After inflation, this request is 21 percent more than Ronald Reagan’s largest nuclear weapons budget and 19 percent more than George H.W. Bush’s highest spending level.  Instead of spending nearly $8 billion to upgrade nuclear weapons, that money would be more wisely spent on increasing the rate of dismantling the U.S. stockpile.  Less nuclear weapons makes Americans safer and sends the right message to the rest of the world.

Currently, there are plans underway to “modernize” the following nuclear weapons facilities in the United States:

  • CMRR-Nuclear Facility at Los Alamos, NM
  • Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 in Oak Ridge, TN
  • Kansas City MO Plant

In addition to these rather new facilities, the US currently maintains and operates five other facilities; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Nevada Test Site, Pantex Plant, Savannah River Site and the Sandia National Labs.

How is Peace Action Responding?
Peace Action chapters and activists in communities long forced to live with nuclear bomb making plants in their backyards are mobilizing local opposition to these plans.  Peace Action New Mexico, Peace Action West and Kansas City PeaceWorks have already done some excellent work to educate their communities and build local campaigns to stop plans for ‘modernization.’
Peace Action is lobbying Congress and the Obama administration to overturn this exorbitant and hypocritical proposal, as it directly undermines progress toward nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

In 2008, Peace Action defeated similar plans to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal by then President George W. Bush called the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) and in 2009 we defeated Bush’s plan for Complex Transformation (better known in activist circles as “Bombplex”), the Bush administration’s $150 billion proposal for rebuilding US nuclear weapons production capabilities, enabling the production of as many as 125 new nuclear warheads a year.  Bombplex proponents refused to accept the defeat and waited for a suitable hostage (New START) to leverage support for their nuclear weapons forever program.

In May of this year, Peace Action lobbied Congress to increase funding for nuclear non-proliferation programs designed to dismantle Russia’s nuclear arsenal and secure its bomb grade materials by $190 million over their previous levels. Republicans sought a $600 million cut in funding. So, rather than spend $600 million to help reduce Russia’s nuclear arsenal, congressional Republicans – deficit hawks all – would spend $185 billion in the next 10 years building up our nuclear overkill. 
 
This is far from over.  We will be ramping up our outreach and education campaigns across the country around our annual Hiroshima/Nagasaki commemorations in August.  Watch for alerts and bulletins from Peace Action on how you can organize and participate in your community.

 

 


June 10, 2011

Let’s Give Congress Something to Talk About
By Judith Le Blanc

The Congress is debating the federal budget   It is time to tell Congress what we want. The Senate is writing next year’s budget now. To cast your vote  take the Peace-Action New Priorities Budget Preference Poll.

The media makes it sound like there are only 2 ways to deal with the economic crisis: The President’s budget or the GOP’s, when polling shows that people want a budget that moves the money from military spending, tax cuts for the rich and subsidies to Big Business to fund human needs. The Congressional Progressive Caucus proposed a budget to do just that: the People’s Budget.

“Not a single hard news story on the proposal (the People’s Budget) ran in the New York Times, Washington Post or USA Today.” according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). Unfortunately, the mainstream media is not informing the grassroots that there is an alternative to slashing human services.

That’s why we are partnering with the New Priorities Network to launch a campaign to bring our voices into the debate.

Take the Peace-Action New Priorities Budget Preference Poll..  Cast your vote for the President’s, Ryan’s or the People’s Budget. We want to know what you think, and we will share it with your Congressional representative.

Please join Peace Action in a campaign that will
*bring tens of thousands of people into the public debate on the budget
*pressure Congress to cut military spending by hundreds of billions of dollars a year
*call for shifting funds to our communities and people in need
*put military spending on the map for the media and the 2012 elections
*Strengthen working relationships between the economic justice and peace movements

Cast your vote: take the Peace-Action New Priorities Budget Preference Poll.

If you’re an individual, you can publicize the online poll by email, Facebook, and Twitter; help organize a Town Hall Meeting in your city; and pull in organizations you know. Just put this link in your emails and on Facebook: https://PeaceActionFederalBudgetPoll.questionpro.com

The campaign offers two ways to bring the debate into our communities:

1. An online poll where people can choose between the GOP budget, President Obama’s budget, and the “People’s Budget”.

The online poll https://PeaceActionFederalBudgetPoll.questionpro.com is available and it can be installed on the website of any organization that agrees to promote it. If you would like to put it on a website, contact Judith Le Blanc at (917) 806-8775.  Poll results by state and congressional district will go to Members of Congress, Senators, and the media. It comes with a toolkit, an email message you can send to your list, a press advisory, fact sheet, and sample op-ed.

2. Town Hall Meetings on jobs, taxes, democracy – and the People’s Budget. Get groups together to sponsor a town hall meeting and invite local elected officials to hear the testimony.

If you need more information about participating, contact Peace Action at jleblanc@peace-action.org.


Let’s Give Congress Something to Talk About

June 9, 2011

By Judith Le Blanc

The Congress is debating the federal budget It is time to tell Congress what we want. The Senate is writing next year’s budget now. To cast your vote take the Peace Action New Priorities Budget Preference Poll.

The media makes it sound like there are only 2 ways to deal with the economic crisis: The President’s budget or the GOP’s, when polling shows that people want a budget that moves the money from military spending, tax cuts for the rich and subsidies to Big Business to fund human needs. The Congressional Progressive Caucus proposed a budget to do just that: the People’s Budget.

“Not a single hard news story on the proposal (the People’s Budget) ran in the New York Times, Washington Post or USA Today.” according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). Unfortunately, the mainstream media is not informing the grassroots that there is an alternative to slashing human services.

That’s why we are launching a campaign to bring our voices into the debate.

Take the Peace Action New Priorities Budget Preference Poll. Cast your vote for the President’s, Ryan’s or the People’s Budget. We want to know what you think, and we will share it with your Congressional representative.

Please join Peace Action in a campaign that will
*bring tens of thousands of people into the public debate on the budget
*pressure Congress to cut military spending by hundreds of billions of dollars a year
*call for shifting funds to our communities and people in need
*put military spending on the map for the media and the 2012 elections
*Strengthen working relationships between the economic justice and peace movements

Cast your vote: take the Peace Action New Priorities Budget Preference Poll.

If you’re an individual, you can publicize the online poll by email, Facebook, and Twitter; help organize a Town Hall Meeting in your city; and pull in organizations you know. Just put this link in your emails and on Facebook: https://PeaceActionFederalBudgetPoll.questionpro.com

The campaign offers two ways to bring the debate into our communities:

1. An online poll where people can choose between the GOP budget, President Obama’s budget, and the “People’s Budget”.

The online poll https://PeaceActionFederalBudgetPoll.questionpro.com is available and it can be installed on the website of any organization that agrees to promote it. If you would like to put it on a website, contact Judith Le Blanc at (917) 806-8775. Poll results by state and congressional district will go to Members of Congress, Senators, and the media. It comes with a toolkit, an email message you can send to your list, a press advisory, fact sheet, and sample op-ed. There is also a toolkit for Town Hall Meetings.

2. Town Hall Meetings on jobs, taxes, democracy – and the People’s Budget. Get groups together to sponsor a town hall meeting and invite local elected officials to hear the testimony.

If you need more information about participating, contact Peace Action at jleblanc@peace-action.org.


Afghanistan Exit

June 9, 2011

“Nobody wants to give up the gains that have been won at such hard cost. And nobody wants to give our allies an excuse to run for the exits.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates

The image of our NATO allies breaking for the exit at the first sign the US begins withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan pretty much says it all. A bottomless quagmire, an unpopular, unwinnable war our allies can’t wait to be free of.

In the coming weeks, President Obama will announce his plan for fulfilling his promise that the 30,000 ‘surge’ troops he sent to Afghanistan would begin coming home this July. Americans no longer view the war as worth the cost. Opposition in Congress is growing, and members of his own administration, including Vice President Biden have expressed doubts about the efficacy of an all-in military campaign.

On the other side of the debate, Gates and the Pentagon Brass aren’t leading with the ‘allies running for the exit’ argument, but rather are pressing for a continuation of a strategy they say is protecting “gains that have been won at such a hard cost.” This is an argument that resonates with those predisposed to the military option.

Having toppled the Taliban, driven al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan and killed bin Laden, the US has achieved what it set out to do, albeit “at such a hard cost.” What’s left – preventing the return of the Taliban to power and al-Qaeda to its Afghanistan havens and the corresponding requirement of building a functional government to prevent that outcome, is purely a case of Gates and the Brass gambling with house money.

Let’s start with the foundation needed to achieve these objectives – building a functional government in Afghanistan that can prevent the return of the Taliban to power and al-Qaeda to its Afghanistan havens. Success hinges on the Karzai government, rigger of elections and overseer of the kleptocracy which controls only a small portion of the country. President Karzai is a harsh critic of US military strategy who even threatened to join the Taliban. A succession of US ambassadors and envoys have – at best – expressed serious misgivings as to his potential as a partner in US efforts to build a stable government.

Afghanistan’s economy is a shambles. Its two billion dollar budget will not be able to sustain the projected eight billion dollar annual cost for the security forces the US will spend some $30 billion to recruit and train.

The bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, created by Congress in 2008 to find waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement of contracts, has warned that tens of billions of dollars will be wasted on projects Afghanistan cannot sustain while tens of billions of dollars more will be eaten by old-fashion waste and fraud. The Commission concluded in its June 3 report:

“In Afghanistan, the United States has contracted for: schools and clinics that lack adequate personnel, supplies, and security; a large power plant that the host country cannot maintain or operate unassisted; roads that will need substantial and continuing maintenance; and security-force training and support whose costs exceed Afghan funding capabilities.”

While the Obama administration executes its warplan in Afghanistan at a cost of $2 billion a week, al-Qaeda’s presence in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere is growing. In Pakistan, where Taliban elements find safe haven along a porous border, the US war, drone strikes and the killing of bin Laden fuels public anger and resentment at our government and Pakistan’s as well. This not only threatens the vital supply line to landlocked Afghanistan, but the stability of our nuclear armed and increasingly disenchanted ally.

So, with our own economy at risk as well, what are the alternatives to continuing the administration’s Afghanistan gamble?

• Draw down our force levels. The President promised to begin withdrawing surge forces in July and he must stick to his commitment. The argument that the Taliban will simply ‘wait us out” fails to recognize the war has gone on for 10 years now, and the Taliban will “wait us out” another 10 years if it has to, adapting its tactics, recruiting new fighters and inflicting maximum damage as long as foreign troops occupy Afghanistan.

• End offensive military actions. Stop the night raids and drone strikes that are causing civilian casualties. Challenge the insurgency to work for a political settlement.

• Accelerate negotiations. Seek a cease fire and set the stage for fair elections in 2014 that will allow the people of Afghanistan to determine their own future.

• Reach a political settlement. Our own military leaders acknowledge this is the only way the war will end. But trying to beat the Taliban into submission so they will be more compliant to our conditions for a settlement gambles our blood and treasure with no guarantee of a successful outcome.

Peace Action and twenty of our colleague organizations launched a week of action in May to build support in the House of Representatives for an amendment to the Pentagon spending bill calling on the President to provide an exit plan that would bring our troops home well ahead of the 2014 date favored by the administration. While the amendment failed 204-214, the vote was much closer than expected and represents growing congressional opposition to the war in Afghanistan. Last year, the same bill was defeated 162-260. Our work is paying off.

We have it on good authority that the President has heard the message from the House loud and clear. Our next step is to organize a bipartisan letter from the Senate to President Obama urging a substantial and responsible redeployment of our forces this summer.

Call the Senate switchboard – (202) 224-3121 and strongly urge your Senators to sign the Merkley-Lee-Udall letter to President Obama urging a “sizeable and sustained” reduction in forces from Afghanistan beginning in July.

We will soon see if it’s enough to make July a turning point in this terrible war. Come what may, we will not let up until the last of our troops come home.


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