U.S. Public to Politicians — We’re Not All That Jingoistic!

January 31, 2012

One would never know with all the America-first chest-pounding one hears from politicans (especially most Republican presidential candidates!), but Americans are much more internationalist than one would think. National Peace Action board member and author/professor Larry Wittner’s op-ed on History News Network makes a compelling, well-documented case that progressive policy-makers, if they would have the courage of their convictions to promote less militaristic and unilateral, more diplomatic and international policies and solutions, could garner strong public support. Certainly this could play out in some of the core issues Peace Action works on these days, especially military budget cuts and non-military solutions to the problem of Iran’s nuclear (NOT “nuclear weapons”) program. And of course, through our Peace Voter 2012 campaign, we’ll raise the voices of the pro-peace voters.


Responding to the State of the Union

January 26, 2012

by Peter Deccy, Peace Action

President Obama’s third State of the Union message began and ended in homily honoring our men and women in uniform.  The President referred to them as the one institution that actually worked like it should.  Mission focused, trusting one another, working as a team.

He encouraged our government to be just like them.  We’ll see…

If you were watching the address on the CSPAN website, you could see Members of Congress furiously tweeting their thoughts which then appeared below the screen.  Many of them apparently didn’t hear the clarion call for togetherness, instead engaging in accusations of class warfare and decrying higher taxes for the rich as soon as the President’s words on those topics left his lips.

The President made a great case for the rich paying its fair share, a call for fundamental fairness in taxation.  He called for investment in energy independence and job creation as expected, but still, welcome words to the progressive wing of his party.

He was passionate.  He was confident. In response, Governor Daniels provided an uninspired regurgitation of the standard Republican line, very Herbert Hoover, circa 1928. Very 1%.

Peace advocates however, should be concerned.  The President seemed to be capping Pentagon cuts at $500 billion, far below what is possible, leaving spending at intolerable and unsustainable levels. It’s just as he described in his speech; “somebody else has to make up the difference— like a senior on a fixed income; or a student trying to get through school; or a family trying to make ends meet.”

He basically promised Iran he would order a military strike on their alleged nuclear facilities if he became convinced they were about to build their first nuclear bomb.  He made no reference to abolishing nuclear weapons, his claim to Nobel fame, his Prague pledge.

Afghanistan? The President recommitted himself to withdrawing the remaining surge troops this summer, but then spoke of an “enduring partnership” to prevent the return of al-Qaida. With some 65,000 troops left in Afghanistan after the summer drawdown, the President may well be signaling a long and costly US military presence. Given the levels of corruption in Afghanistan’s government, which really controls very little of the country, the grinding poverty and an insurgency that is unlikely to disappear as long as foreign troops remain, very long and very costly.

A Veterans Job Corps sounded good, but he really didn’t have enough to say about our returning veterans either.  Will they, each and everyone, receive the medical care they need, and everything else the recruiter promised them.

In the end, the President returned to honoring the dedication and professionalism of our military. He used the raid on bin Laden as his touchstone.  This is how all America should confront its challenges; working together, focused on the mission at hand.  How could Republicans possibly resist working with the President for the sake of America.

Nicely done, but the tweets told me don’t get my hopes up.


2012: Ending the War in Afghanistan

January 26, 2012

by Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action

On the heels of nearly all U.S. troops leaving Iraq, thanks to your pressure and others in the peace movement, troops are slowly coming out of Afghanistan.  In 2012, we will continue to push to accelerate the withdrawal and ensure all foreign troops leave as soon as possible.

The NATO Summit in Chicago in May represents our first opportunity.  Already, our affiliate, Chicago Area Peace Action, is organizing various grassroots events to pressure NATO to get out of Afghanistan.

We suspect that in this election year, Congress will have few if any opportunities to vote on Afghanistan policy.  We will continue to pressure congress and use non-legislative methods to pressure the President.

For example, last year, we successfully organized 27 Senators on a letter asking the President for a “sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011.”  This year, we plan a more strongly worded letter.

After last year’s letter, President Obama announced the withdrawal of 33,000 troops by this September.  Along with our allies, we will continue to pressure for a quicker drawdown of troops with a definitive end date as soon as possible.

As November draws near, we will use the elections to pressure the President, lawmakers running for reelection and congressional hopefuls.  We have questions about Afghanistan in our candidate questionnaire and will endorse, raise money and help elect a congress that will get the U.S. out of the country.  Additionally, our affiliates will distribute tens of thousands of voter guides comparing candidates on Afghanistan and other peace issues.

There will be no rest for the weary in 2012 on the Afghanistan issue.  Last year, we accomplished much and plan to do even more this year.  Watch your inbox for opportunities to take action.


We can’t afford to wait until the bombs drop

January 26, 2012

by Peter Deccy, Peace Action

Last week, Peace Action launched its petition to President Obama calling on the President to prevent a military strike on Iran, by either the US or Israel.  We’re presently making arrangements to deliver the petitions to the White House on Thursday, February 2.  If you haven’t yet signed our petition, please do so.  And if you have friends you know are concerned about the prospects of a new war in the Middle East, please share this link with them: http://bit.ly/yDlbjn

For the past several weeks, tensions have been rising as a new round of sanctions on Iran were approved and Iran responded with a threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, a move certain to invite a military response from the US.

In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, the President took a menacing tone toward Iran, stating: “Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.“

The President noted that “peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better” and he’s certainly right about that.

But wait a minute…the US and Israel seem to agree that Iran has not yet decided whether to become a nuclear weapons state.  Earlier this month on Face the Nation, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asked and answered the question directly;  “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.”  For its part, Israel is reported to have offered the same conclusion to Joint Chief Chair General Martin E. Dempsey last week in the form of an intelligence assessment.

So if Iran isn’t actually trying to develop a nuclear weapon, why all the talk of war?

Thirty-five percent of the world’s seaborne oil shipments, and twenty percent of oil traded worldwide travels through the Strait of Hormuz. It’s a 34-mile stretch of water between Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In his final State of the Union address in 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced the United States would use military force if necessary to defend its interests in the Persian Gulf region. Today its known as the Carter Doctrine and its objective is to ensure the free flow of oil.

In the 30 years that followed, the US has increased its influence in the region through hundreds of billions of dollars in weapons deals to Gulf states and nations in the Middle East aligned with the US and two wars launched against Iraq.

In December, The Obama administration announced an arms deal with Saudi Arabia valued at nearly $30 billion, an agreement that will send 84 F-15 fighter jets and assorted weaponry to the kingdom. That followed news that the administration was planning to provide the UAE with thousands of advanced “bunker-buster” bombs and other munitions.

Another weapons deal with Bahrain was delayed when Representative James McGovern (D-MA), a close friend of Peace Action, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced resolutions to prevent the sale “until meaningful steps are taken to improve human rights” there, a response to Bahrain’s violent suppression of ‘Arab Spring’ activists.

Along with a series of punishing sanctions and US aircraft carrier groups operating in the Gulf, these efforts to bring Iran to heel have done more to set the stage for a military strike than resolve the dispute over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

This policy appears more intent on pushing Iran into the arms of the nuclear genie than it is intent on preventing Iran from joining the so-called ‘nuclear club.’

And North Korea?  The US and its allies have been bargaining with them for over a decade now. They have no oil and no one appears to be losing sleep over their nuclear weapons.

The other key difference is our ‘special relationship’ with Israel. Again, the President in Tuesday’s State of the Union speech: “Our iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history.”

A military strike on Iran – by either the US or Israel – would cause a dramatic spike in the cost of oil, threaten US forces in the area and potentially lead to a prolonged conflict the US can ill-afford.

That’s why Peace Action believes now is the time to act.  We can’t afford to wait until the bombs to drop.


Excellent Op-Ed on the Military and Climate Change by Tim Rinne of Nebraskans for Peace

January 23, 2012

Not only is the U.S. military the largest consumer of fossil fuels and the largest polluter in the world, it knows the climate crisis is real and can drive future military conflict. Tim Rinne, State Coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace (a Peace Action affiliate) nails the issue in his op-ed in Saturday’s Lincoln Journal Star. For a terrific resource on this issue, see the website for the film Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives: The Environmental Footprint of War, which Peace Action helps promote as an educational and organizing tool linking peace and environmental concerns. You can view the film online and order DVD’s for home or public viewing.

BY TIM RINNE | Posted: Saturday, January 21, 2012 11:57 pm | (5) Comments

Skeptics of human-caused climate change unremittingly contend that the science is inconclusive and the debate still is unsettled. The U.S. military, on the other hand, entertains no such doubts.

As far back as 2003, during the first term of the Bush/Cheney Administration, a specially commissioned Pentagon report titled “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and the Implications for United States Security” warned that rapid climate change could “potentially de-stabilize the geo-political environment, leading to skirmishes, battles and even war” over scarce food, water and energy supplies. The threat of climate change, the report went on to state, needed to “be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a U.S. national security concern.”

By the time the Defense Department’s Center for Naval Analyses released its landmark 2007 report, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” the Bush/Cheney Administration had officially acknowledged the reality of global warming — although it continued to question whether humans were the cause. The 11-member Military Advisory Board of retired three-star and four-star admirals and generals who headed up the Center’s study, however, unanimously accepted the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, concluding that “the evidence is sufficiently compelling and the consequences sufficiently grave” to warrant the military’s urgent attention.

The MAB asserted that climate change acts as a “threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.” In response, the MAB proposed a number of recommendations, including that

· The national security consequences of climate change should be fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies;

· The United States should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability;

· The United States should commit to global partnerships that help less-developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts.

The report also called upon the Pentagon to adopt its own energy efficiency measures.

Every four years, the Department of Defense issues a congressionally mandated “Quadrennial Defense Review” framing the Pentagon’s strategic choices and establishing priorities to determine appropriate resource investments. In February 2010, for the first time, climate change was formally designated in the QDR as a “National Security Threat.”

Climate-related changes, from increases in heavy downpours and rises in temperature and sea levels to rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost and earlier snowmelt “are already being observed in every region of the world, including the United States and its coastal waters,” the QDR notes. It warns that “climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration. While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability and conflict …”

The 2010 QDR also addresses the fact the Defense Department is itself the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels and, correspondingly, the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases. In the review, the Pentagon pledges to dramatically reduce its own carbon footprint through increased energy efficiency and major investments in renewable energy.

The Republican Party for decades has styled itself as the party of national defense and military strength. Yet debunking the international scientific consensus on climate change has become a veritable article of faith among Republican candidates and officeholders. That position puts the GOP squarely at odds with the military establishment, which has unequivocally accepted the scientific conclusions of the 97 percent of the world’s climatologists who actually conduct research on climate and publish in journals reviewed by their peers.

This past November, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board released its own study, “Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security.” The study asserts that “climate impacts are observable, measurable, real, and having near and long-term consequences.” Failure to anticipate and mitigate these changes, the report argues, “increases the threat of more failed states with the instabilities and potential for conflict inherent in such failures.”

Climate change, the Defense Science Board warns bluntly, already is occurring and is destined only to grow as a security concern for the United States. And the longer we (and the GOP’s skeptics and deniers) delay acting, the worse it will be for all of us, everywhere.

Tim Rinne is the State Coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace and a member of 350.org — Nebraska.


Recall Walker!

January 18, 2012

A few weeks ago, Peace Action staffers Judith Le Blanc, Jonathan Williams and I had the delight of stopping by the Recall Walker (that would be the union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker) table in the middle of the Milwaukee Airport! (We were in Milwaukee for a terrific weekend training retreat with our Peace Action affiliates from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri/Kansas.) The petition signatures to force a recall election were delivered yesterday.

Enjoy this video of an MLK Day address by Law professor Sherrilyn Ifill at the Wisconsin Capital with Walker listening to her excoriating conservative policies.


Peace Action of New York State: Press Release on “New” Pentagon Strategy Announced by President Obama and Secretary of Defense Panetta Today

January 5, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                  CONTACT: Alicia Godsberg

(646) 723-1749

alicia@panys.org

 

New Defense Strategy: Not Sounding That New

 

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (January 5, 2012) — Today the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff outlined a new strategy for the Department of Defense. This new direction focused on reorienting the U.S. military toward the Asia-Pacific region and decreasing the number of active duty service members. President Obama proudly reminded the crowd that the Pentagon’s budget will continue to grow, even if it does so at a slower rate, and will remain higher than at the end of President Bush’s last term. Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey stated that the U.S. will retain the ability to fight more than one war at a time, and the U.S. will retain a safe, secure, and reliable nuclear deterrent. This broadly outlined “new” strategy does not sound all that different than the one we have now, which is contributing to our country’s economic decline by maintaining expensive and useless nuclear weapons and projecting U.S. power needlessly around the world.

Nuclear weapons were only hinted at in the press conference, with President Obama stating:

We’ll continue to get rid of outdated Cold War-era systems so that we can invest in the capabilities we need for the future…

The Pentagon’s report on this new strategy was also released today, stating:

It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy. 

 

The U.S. has a stockpile of 8,500 nuclear weapons. Approximately $700 billion of tax payer money will be spent on nuclear weapons programs in the next decade. Billions can be saved by:

-          Cutting the Navy’s procurement of new nuclear-capable submarines from 12 to 8. Savings = $27 billion over 10 years and $120 billion over the life of the program.

-          Delaying work on a new long-range nuclear-capable bomber. Savings = at least $18 billion over the next decade.

-          Cancelling the Mixed Oxide Fuel Plant. Savings = $4 billion.

-          Cancelling the construction of a new plutonium pit/nuclear weapon core factory (CMRR-NF). Savings = at least $3 – $5 billion.

Additional savings can come from eliminating the approximately 1,000 U.S. military bases overseas, starting with the European bases left over from the Cold War that ended over 20 years ago. Closing 300 bases alone would save at least $12 billion.

Specific budget cuts will be outlined in the weeks to come, leading up to the new budget that will be released in February. Peace Action New York State will continue to work to cut unnecessary nuclear weapons programs and close overseas bases, and redirect that money to help our communities and fund human needs.

 

 

About Peace Action New York State

PANYS is dedicated to promoting the non-violent resolution of conflict, the abolition of nuclear weapons, and changing federal spending priorities away from the military and toward human needs. We believe that war is not the suitable response to conflict, that every person has the right to live without the threat of nuclear weapons, and that America has the resources and responsibility to both protect and provide for its citizens. Peace Action New York State is part of the national organization Peace Action, which is the largest grassroots peace organization in the country. Peace Action recognizes that real change comes from the bottom up and is committed to educating and organizing at the grassroots level in over 30 states across the country.

 

http://www.panys.org

https://twitter.com/PeaceActionNY

tiny.cc/PANYSfacebook


Powerful Op-Ed on the Iraq War in the Kansas City Star by Peace Action national board Co-Chair Dave Pack

January 4, 2012
 
http://www.kansascity.com/2012/01/03/v-print/3350801/the-iraq-war-was-our-greatest.html

Iraq War Was the United States’ Greatest Foreign Policy Disaster 

By DAVID J. PACK
Special to The Star

We should all stop to take solemn note that the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq on Dec. 17, 2011, nominally ending a war that was started by President George W. Bush in March 2003, almost 9 years ago.

I say “nominally” because the war continues in many very real ways for all Iraqis, but especially for some 3.5 million who are either internally displaced within Iraq or refugees in another country. It also continues for many of the 1,500,000 Americans who have served in Iraq and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other physical and mental health problems that have contributed to more of our troops committing suicide than dying in combat in recent years.

I view the Iraq War as the greatest foreign policy disaster in the history of the United States to this point in time (though the War in Afghanistan is running a good race here). It was an unprovoked act of military aggression against a nation that had not attacked us and posed no meaningful threat to us.

We were lied to about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. We were told it was about democracy and saving Iraqis from Saddham Hussein.

Tell that to the 100,000 or more Iraqis who have died during the war. Tell that to the Texans whose congressional districts were gerrymandered to elect more Republicans to Congress in 2004, or to voters in Ohio who saw voting machines placed abundantly in conservative areas but sparingly in liberal areas by a GOP state administration.

If we care about democracy, we need to look to the home front because our own democracy is increasingly an empty sham.

What is the reality of present day Iraq after our expenditure to date of over $800 billion, some 4,500 U.S. combat deaths, over 1,000 U.S. troop suicides and over 30,000 injured? The war has left a ruined country that was formerly one of the most advanced in the Middle East in terms of health and education:

Up to 70 percent lack access to clean water.

Up to 80 lack access to sanitation.

Half of the doctors are either dead or have emigrated.

Average electricity availability is 14.6 hours per day.

The $800 billion will grow substantially despite the war’s nominal end because as a nation we must keep our commitment to care for the veterans of this war.

To understand the magnitude of the potential costs, note that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has a proposed budget of $132 billion for 2012.

Sadly, the number of suicides will also grow with passing years.

While damning this war as a moral, humanitarian, financial, and foreign policy disaster for this country, let us affirm the sacrifices of the 1,500,000 who have served in Iraq. Their sacrifice is no less for them having been placed under false pretenses in a war that should not have been.

Indeed, for many of them the sacrifice has been overwhelming as they have returned to Iraq for additional tours of duty. So let’s honor those who served. Let’s be certain they receive the benefits they deserve for their service.

The sad reality is that the people who get us into misguided wars like this are inclined to deny war’s terrible consequences and seek to get out of paying for them so they can get on with their next war.

Don’t let our politicians break the promises made to our veterans.

David J. Pack, of Lenexa, is co-chairman of the board of the national peace group Peace Action, is on the board of their local affiliate PeaceWorks Kansas City and is a member of the Kansas City American Friends Service Committee Program Committee.


Ending Iraq War: Op-ed in Bloomfield (NJ) Life newspaper by New Jersey Peace Action Executive Director

January 3, 2012
 
BY MADELYN HOFFMAN
GUEST COLUMNIST
Bloomfield Life, December 28, 2011

 
As 2011 ends, it is time to reflect upon continuing U.S. involvement in overseas wars and the impact that involvement has here at home. It is a good time to reflect on the role that protest played in getting us here and what those protests still want to achieve so the U.S. is genuinely safe and secure.

On Dec. 17, the last U.S. soldier was photographed leaving Iraq and the media proclaimed an end to the war which began on March 19, 2003 – almost nine years ago. The war cost the U.S. taxpayer more than $800 billion and claimed 4,483 U.S. soldiers’ lives. At the war’s height, the war in Iraq was costing taxpayers $12 billion each month.

Additionally, more than 1 million Iraqi civilians died, and 4.5 million became refugees. And during the last two years, more U.S. soldiers died by their own hands than in combat. On average, we lose 18 veterans to suicide each day.

So while it is important to mark the “official end” to the Iraq War, it is difficult to muster many cheers. Instead, it is critical to conduct an honest assessment of what happened.

First, we must acknowledge that U.S. presence in Iraq has not ended. The Project On Government Oversight argues that taxpayers will now provide funding for 14,000 to 16,000 contractors in Iraq. According to POGO, some of the companies who will provide contractors in Iraq – KBR, DynCorp and Blackwater – are in the POGO Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (www.contractormisconduct.org). All three contractors have extensive misconduct histories, yet they continue to operate.

Second, U.S. presence in Afghanistan remains – and may extend past 2014. According to a Dec. 20 article in the New York Times, the senior American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen, suggested that American forces could remain in the country beyond 2014, despite increasing public opinion to withdraw forces from Afghanistan at an accelerated pace.

Lastly, we need to acknowledge the role that “The Protester,” Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year,” played in changing the course of this war, and what these protesters would like to see in 2012.

Bloomfield-based New Jersey Peace Action opposed the war in Iraq starting in the summer of 2002, many months before the war began. More than 800 protesters marched in Newark in December 2002, drawing the connection between the tremendous costs for war and how each dollar spent on the war would be a dollar taken away from programs and services that cities like Newark require.

Hundreds participated in national marches in Washington, D.C., and millions rallied worldwide on Feb. 19, 2003, trying to prevent the war in Iraq from ever beginning. That anti-war movement continued even after the first bombs were dropped, in an effort to end the war as quickly as possible.

Bloomfield residents started a weekly peace vigil in front of the Bloomfield Public Library shortly after the war began and continued it for years, as part of this national and international effort to stop the war.

While the consistent activism did not stop the United States from starting a war against Iraq, the ongoing activism did influence public opinion to the point where, by 2006, the majority of those polled were against the war. The 2006 elections, when many pro-war elected officials were beaten by anti-war challengers, were seen as a reflection of this shift.

Public opinion against the Iraq war deterred decision-makers from authorizing an invasion of Iran.

Protests to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and to treat returning veterans well upon their return continue today. NJPA is part of a national “Move the Money” campaign to take at least 25 percent of the money from the military budget and move it into funding programs that address community needs.

According to the National Priorities Project, war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan for 2011 was $169.4 billion. This is more than enough money to erase every state’s budget deficit. No deficits mean more money for towns like Bloomfield and a lighter burden on local taxpayers.

NJPA, joined by Bloomfield residents, recently participated on day 170 of the People’s Organization for Progress’ Campaign for Jobs, Peace, Equality and Justice. The campaign honors the 381-day, 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., which led to the desegregation of city buses. POP’s call is for jobs – with the understanding that the overseas wars must end, so that money can be used to help create much-needed jobs.

All are invited to participate in the these efforts to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring the war dollars home for our communities – for education, housing, jobs, health care and more.

“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.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

The author is executive director of Bloomfield-based New Jersey Peace Action.


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