“Cease Warfare, Stop Wasting Money” (!)

June 25, 2012

–Kevin Martin

That was the headline given by the letters editor (thanks!) for my letter to the editor published in the actual newspaper print delivered to my doorstep version of the Washington Post this morning. The online header is not as cool, “Economic reasons to end war” but glad it got published.

Here’s the text:

In his June 21 Fine Print column, “Somebody in the government finally raises a question about war and taxes,”  Walter Pincus and some members of Congress posed an interesting idea: raising taxes to fund U.S. wars.

Putting wars on the credit card (actually, borrowing from China) that our children and grandchildren will have to pay is indeed irresponsible. Here’s a better idea: End all the wars now (as well as drone strikes in various countries) and scrap any plans to start new ones.

A more peaceful foreign policy would not only make the United States safer — earning us fewer enemies — it would also be great for the budget and overall economy. The United States spends more than $700 billion per year on the military (almost as much as the rest of the world combined). That’s our tax dollars not going to, among other things,  housing, infrastructure repair, cancer research, green energy and environmental protection.

According to the Global Peace Index, on which the United States ranks 88th out of 158 countries, a 25 percent reduction in global violence would add a peace dividend of $2.25 trillion to the global economy. War is very costly. Peace is not only priceless, it’s bountiful.

Kevin Martin, Silver Spring
The writer is executive director of the Peace Action Education Fund.

 

 

 


Diplomacy, Not War, With Iran

June 21, 2012

So here’s the paradox. There’s a growing consensus that a military strike on Iran would be disastrous while at the same time the likelihood of such a disaster is also increasing.

Please take a moment to sign Peace Action’s petition calling on the President to use all means at his disposal to prevent a military strike on Iran – by either the US or Israel.  Then, please send it to your friends.

The third round of talks between Iran and the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, or P5+1 ended without a major breakthrough.  Given the level of mutual distrust that’s not surprising.  Anyone who thought the talks could succeed simply by dropping a take-it-or-leave-it-demand on the table doesn’t understand diplomacy.

Last week, 44 U.S. Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to consider abandoning further negotiations with Iran “and instead focus on significantly increasing the pressure on the Iranian government through sanctions and making clear that a credible military option exists.”

You would hope our ‘leaders’ had learned their lesson.  The unintended consequences that plagued the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan are surely at play with regard to Iran.  An attack on Iran would send energy prices through the ceiling and reverberate throughout the vulnerable global economy.

Earlier this year, Peace Action,and our allies at Credo, turned in over 70,000 signatures to President Obama and I’m convinced it helped steel him and his administration against the war cries from AIPAC and war hawks in the U.S.  Now, the pressure is mounting again.

Sign our petition to prevent a war with Iran that would surely have unintended consequences no one can either predict or prevent once they begin.

Diplomacy takes time and patience. The cost of war is measured in blood and treasure.

A Tuesday article in the Christian Science Monitor by Howard LaFranchi summed up the situation well:

“The P5-plus-1 world powers…had three basic demands, which they summarized as “stop, shut, and ship:” To address international concerns that it is amassing the elements of a nuclear bomb, Iran should stop enriching uranium to 20-percent purity, a level not far from weapons-grade; shut its underground nuclear facility at Fardow; and ship its stockpile of 20-percent-enriched uranium out of the country.

On its side, Iran had two key demands: that the international community recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and that world powers (specifically the US and the EU) agree to soften economic sanctions on Iran as an inducement for Iran to accept certain limits on its nuclear program.”

The problem in a nutshell is the U.S. is insisting Iran fold on all three demands as a condition for further negotiations giving Iran nothing in return.  For its part, Iran is also taking a hard line, insisting the P5+1 acknowledge its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes without providing for the verification required to satisfy the West’s concerns about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.

Given time, these matters can be resolved and the world can be made a much safer place.  But first, we need to get between the President and those who won’t be satisfied unless Iran knuckles under completely.

Help me generate thousands of signatures over the next two weeks to counter the renewed sabre-rattling.

Please take a moment to sign Peace Action’s petition calling on the President to use all means at his disposal to prevent a military strike on Iran – by either the US or Israel.

 

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

PS: Please act today.  A strong response will have a powerful impact at a critical moment.  After you sign a ‘tell a friend’ page will appear.  Please forward this petition to people who know war isn’t working.  Thank you.


Peace Actionistas in the News, From Nebraska to New Jersey!

June 20, 2012

Paul Olson, former board chair of our affiliate in Nebraska, Nebraskans for Peace, had a refreshingly straight-forward op-ed on the otherwise arcane topic of nuclear nonproliferation published in yesterday’s Lincoln Journal Star. It’s not surprising Paul could pull it off, he’s a longtime scholar/activist/writer and Peace Action supporter! The piece gives appropriate credit to U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska for his sponsorship of an amendment to beef up nonproliferation funding by moving money from the Mixed Oxide Plutonium Fuel (MOX) Program.

And yesterday’s New Jersey Herald featured an article about longtime New Jersey Peace Action Executive Director Madelyn Hoffman’s bird-dogging of Governor Chris Christie at a recent appearance of his. Madelyn pressed Christie on cutting military spending and raising taxes on the wealthy. Check it out, a great example of how we organizers keep the pressure on elected officials. Way to go, Madelyn!


What’s Big Deal About Iran? & What Could I Possibly Do About It?

June 19, 2012

Chicago Area Peace Action’s Roxane Assaf on Huffington Post  http://huff.to/MbohNu 

Chicago Area Peace Action’s Roxane Assaf on Huffington Post : What’s Big Deal About Iran? & What Could I Possibly Do About It? http://huff.to/MbohNu 

 

If I were to walk into two separate movie theaters in Anywhere, USA — one playing, say, Casablanca and the other Caddyshack — and asked folks to raise their hands if they are actively concerned with averting war with Iran, I think it wouldn’t matter which crowd I polled. The show of hands would be about the same: small. Maybe that’s because the information stream on U.S. relations with Iran is forked at odd angles and pinched to a trickle where it counts.

 

U.S. relations with Iran become more acrid with each passing year. Punitive measures to get that country to knuckle under are ensuring a humanitarian crisis that will hardwire hatred in Iranian citizens for generations to come. An outright attack would do much worse — for both our countries.

 

If I were to tell the same disaffected moviegoers that they had the power to change the course of events, I might see a few more volunteers. Here are some suggestions for them.

 

But first, the information stream needs some freeflow. And fewer forks. Let’s reduce it to just three tines:

 

1) Nations in the West want guarantees that Iran is neither trying to nor able to produce an atomic bomb.

2) Iran’s production of highly enriched uranium (which could also be intended for non-violent purposes and is not weapons-grade) is the red flag.

3) Sanctions against Iran would take the form of cutting off the flow of oil, in addition to other sanctions the United States has been imposing for decades.

 

Where are we now with these points?

 

FIRSTLY

Days of meetings hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin started June 18th in Moscow with Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. A primary reason for the breakdown in negotiations so far is that the countries putting pressure on Iran (who are receiving pressure from the United States) are setting unrealistic expectations. The demand — as an unbelievable pre-condition to negotiations — is for “zero enrichment” rather than allowing what the international community considers peaceful activity — up to the point where bombs could be rapidly created.

 

Iran allegedly exacerbated the problem by refusing to declare completely its uranium enrichment activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Some leaders feel that recalcitrance alone is cause to cut them off. Meanwhile, Iranian officials express support for a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East, but Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and possesses nuclear weapons and an active nuclear arms program.

 

Both Israel and the United States declare that Iran is not capable of producing nuclear weapons, yet the sanctions loom as punishment for non-compliance with the zero rule. Iran’s nuclear technology projects include the production of atomic energy and the creation of a research reactor for medical use.

 

SECONDLY

Congress is willfully obstructing progress by cleaving to the zero enrichment demand in accordance with the wishes of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while the red line adopted by the U.S. president and the Pentagon is simpler: No nuclear weapon. Past breakthroughs that would have led to reductions in Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium have been forfeited thanks to congressional stonewalling.

 

THIRDLY

President Obama cannot do much that is risky in an election year, but he cannot do much of anything at all if Congress doesn’t allow him negotiating power he needs to let Iran comply. He missed his easier chance when there was a Democratic majority in Congress. Sanctions are about to get worse according to plan.

 

If Iran agrees to submit to transparent inspections, they should get to enrich uranium to the internationally agreed upon (and unusually restrictive) 20 percent. The president must be empowered to lift the sanctions and to halt the issuance of further sanctions in exchange for this.

 

Do the math: Zero nuclear technology allowance plus zero inspection requirement equals planned failure. Planned failure points to a military attack on Iran.

 

What’s a person to do?

 Let’s say I locked the exits on those two movie theaters and forced both groups to come up with a plan of action based on suggested ideas.

 

They could conjure ways to show politicians and voters how diplomacy is preferable to war. After the negotiations in Moscow, they could band together and write a public letter to the president urging long-term diplomacy with Iran and asserting that sanctions should be lifted in exchange for inspections. They could be audacious and call a meeting with high-level officials.

 

But maybe some people refuse to act due to reasoned cynicism. They know too much. Reality check? New sanctions have passed in both the House and Senate. According to govtrack.us, the bill has a 42 percent likelihood of being enacted. The drumbeat in Congress for zero enrichment is growing stronger, raising the question of whether the talks are designed to fail so interested parties can benefit. The President could lose leverage, but maybe he wants it that way! Iran’s predictable reaction to the sanctions is to threaten to close the Strait of Hormuz, the passage through which a large percentage of the world’s oil supply moves, determining global oil prices and, therefore, the state of the world’s economy.

 

But it’s the bad news that gets the shakers moving. My guess is American ingenuity would triumph in both movie houses, and innovative solutions would roll. People just have to know that the power is in their hands.

 

 


On the Ballot: jobs, public services, taxes, military spending

June 15, 2012
iPay |  Military Budget Wonders

iPay | Military Budget Wonders (Photo credit: celine nadeau)

By Cole Harrison, Massachusetts Peace Action

Massachusetts Peace Action is an important part of a coalition of Massachusetts community, labor, and peace organizations that are now working to put a non-binding referendum on the November ballot in districts across Massachusetts.

Called the Budget for All Referendum, the public policy question or referendum addresses jobs, public services, taxes, military spending, and the Afghanistan war. It is named the “Budget for All” (B4A) after the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ anti-austerity budget proposal which received 82 votes in the House of Representatives in March. Five Massachusetts members of the House voted Yes on the B4A – but five more voted No. The referendum campaign will increase pressure on those five to support next year’s CPC budget.

The case for the Budget for All was recently strengthened by a recent study.  The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has regularly published figures showing that U.S. military spending is a poor job creator – generating fewer jobs than the equivalent amount of spending on education, healthcare, green projects, or even tax cuts.   Now, “Military Spending and Jobs in Massachusetts,” by PERI author Heidi Garrett-Peltier and Peace Action’s Prasannan Parthasarathi, shows that the same is true in the state of Massachusetts – more jobs would be created in the state if military spending were instead used to bolster schools, healthcare, transportation, and the environment.

The Budget for All coalition is an outgrowth of last fall’s Super Committee fight, when Massachusetts housing, labor, human service and peace groups joined to prevent Senator Kerry from making a bad deal with budget-slashing Republican zealots.  It also continues the work of the 25% Campaign which has called for cutting the military budget 25% to adequately fund human services and jobs creation.

The coalition’s housing and community groups are strongest in Boston and some other urban areas, while Mass. Peace Action and its peace movement allies bring depth in suburbs and small towns.  The campaign is also helping Peace Action mobilize its supporters statewide behind a common project.  With our work on this project, Peace Action is solidifying our alliance with groups whose fight against militarism and austerity is a matter of survival – an alliance which will continue to strengthen our agenda in the years to come.   We are also building our capacity to engage in electoral work.

We expect the question will be on enough districts to give some 750,000 Massachusetts voters the opportunity to vote on the question in November.  In the fall, we’ll be campaigning for a “Yes” vote with educational events, rallies, and discussions in the media and in spring 2013 we’ll take it to the State House.

The question reads:

Shall the state Representative (or Senator) from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon the Congress and the President to:

1. Prevent cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans benefits, or to housing, food and unemployment assistance;

2. Create and protect jobs by investing in manufacturing, schools, housing, renewable energy, transportation and other public services;

3. Provide new revenues for these purposes and to reduce the long-term federal deficit by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending offshore tax havens, and raising taxes on incomes over $250,000; and

4. Redirect military spending to these domestic needs by reducing the military budget, ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing U.S. troops home safely now.



Report from the Field

June 14, 2012

New Jersey Peace Action’s Grassroots Activist Skills Building Day

–Jessica Camacho and Madelyn Hoffman, New Jersey Peace Action

On June 9th New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) held a grassroots activist skills-building day to make peace the issue this election year. More than 50 people attended the event in Montclair, and it was a great  kick-off for our Peace Voter 2012 campaign!

National Peace Action Executive Director Kevin Martin’s keynote talk addressed this year’s elections and the issues Peace Action is focusing on nationally.  Kevin later conducted a workshop about the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Challenges for Peace Action in 2012 in ending the war in Afghanistan and preventing a war against Iran.  The workshop produced useful information for NJPA as we do our work for peace.

Other workshops were led by some of our members, special guests, and staff.  Executive Director Madelyn Hoffman led a workshop about the state and national “Move the Money” campaign and ending the war in Afghanistan. Peace Voter Coordinator Jess Camacho led a workshop about where New Jersey’s elected officials and candidates for public office stand on issues of war and peace. Jess also explained our candidate questionnaire and distributed copies of the two Voter Guides she produced in time to inform voters in two June 5th primary races. (to view copies of our Voter Guides, please visit New Jersey Peace Action)

Ali Naquvi gave a presentation about the highly controversial NYPD secret surveillance of Muslims and how members of NJPA could be supportive of the efforts to stand up for civil liberties. Larry Hamm and Ingrid Hill from People’s Organization for Progress (POP) discussed POP’s on-going 381 days of protest for Jobs, Peace, Equality and Justice and gained support for the event taking place on the 381st day – July 11, 2012. Michelle Bobrow from the League of Women Voters spoke about Congressional redistricting in New Jersey and the issues of voting machines and voter rights. Terri Suess, long-time NJPA member, conducted a very popular workshop about how to speak with people you disagree with politically. Her workshop was so informative that some wished it would have lasted longer. And Paul Surovell, of South Mountain Peace Action, held a well-attended and worthwhile workshop on how to lobby effectively.

NJPA and Occupy Wayne member Don Leich began the final plenary by showing us how to do a “human mic”. The “human mic” started with the Occupy Wall Street movement and helps get around not having a sound permit. A speaker says something and those within the sound of the speaker’s voice repeat it. This is continued until everyone gathered has heard what is being said.

Lastly, Madelyn Hoffman and Virginia Ahearn conducted the final plenary session, in which all the attendees had the chance to voice their opinions of the event and express their ideas going forward.  Many people wanted us to do another event similar to this later this year. Everyone mentioned how much they had learned!

When the plenary session concluded we asked people to sign up to volunteer with NJPA. The Peace Voter campaign needs people to table, to march in the July 4th parade, to lobby and to bird-dog candidates, and to produce and distribute Voter Guides. We also had some members volunteer to help in the office, join NJPA committees and help us to reach out to youth. We were very pleased with the response, and with the entire day, as we were building not only the skills of our members, but building community!

To see the day’s program and NJPA’s Voter Guides, please visit New Jersey Peace Action.


Scenes from an Empire in Decline, from Afghanistan, Yemen and the U.S.

June 1, 2012

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Norwegian philosopher and peace studies pioneer Johan Galtung has a very useful analytic framework for peace and justice activists in our current times, “the Decline of the U.S. Empire and the flowering of the U.S. Republic.” While Professor Galtung writes very convincingly about the nature of U.S. empire and how it can be transformed into a republic truly worthy of our national mythology and wonderful people, it’s a fairly self-explanatory concept, namely that as the U.S. Empire inexorably declines, as all empires have, there should be space and resources freed up to help the U.S. Republic really blossom. (And Peace Action’s “Move the Money” campaign to slash military spending in order to invest in human needs and environmental restoration embodies this concept in a concrete way.)

I’ll return to this theme often in the future, but for now I won’t attempt a comprehensive description of the U.S. Empire, nor the signs of its decline (which won’t necessarily be quick, or pretty). Instead, here are a few snapshots.

Reuters has an article today by Peter Apps that lays out the complexities of the political and military situation in Yemen, and what appears to be an inevitable slide into further entanglement by the U.S. and its allies, which raises serious war powers concerns. Peace movement veteran Tom Hayden’s article in The Nation puts the conflict in Yemen, including U.S. drone strikes, into the context of “The Long War” that many military analysts say could be measured in decades.

Turning to Afghanistan, the country in which the U.S. is waging its longest war (eleven years and counting, and President Obama’s agreement with President Hamid Karzai might keep U.S. troops there for another dozen years), Ian Pounds, a volunteer teacher of orphans in Afghanistan, has one of the most comprehensive, damning condemnations of the failure of U.S. policy in that country I have ever read, published by CounterPunch. It’s long-ish, but worth a read. Here’s an excerpt from near the end of the piece:

“The U.S. government pays no attention to law anymore. It murders American citizens without trial (yes, the President signed into his powers the ability to have an American citizen assassinated if he or any future president deems that person a threat to security). America tortures, still. It invades privacy without a warrant. It invades countries illegally and under false pretenses. And America doggedly refuses to take responsibility for any of its multiple failures in this war, or any war.”

So where is the “Flowering of the U.S. Republic” in this blog post, you may well ask?

People in this country and around the world working for peace and justice  are contributing to the turn from Empire to Republic, but many U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are doing more than their share in this regard. Read Iraq War vet Zach LaPorte’s moving account of returning his war medals at the terrific NATO protest in Chicago two weeks ago, published on Michael Moore’s website, and view the terrific slideshow and video of the protest on the Iraq Veterans Against the War website.

We all have a role to play in determining how the Empire ends and what comes after, and I hope we build a country worthy of the example of these vets who have sacrificed so much, and who now testify so eloquently that war is not the answer.


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