Candidates Listen up!

September 28, 2012

What happens on Election Day is a snap shot of everything that has happened before that day: our daily experiences, the debates on TV and around the dinner table, and countless polls. Then voters become the deciders.

Before Election Day, the peace and justice movement must find every way possible to raise the issues that matter and stir up debate. Our issues must be at the center of the political stage.

We need to question the candidates and write letters to the editor to affect what voters do on Election Day.

We are asking that you start by signing a voters pledge. And ask your friends and family to do the same.

We need elected officials who will:

Cut funding on weapons and war, and move the money to create jobs and meet the needs of our communities.

• Overturn “Citizens United” because corporations are not people, money is not free speech and war profiteering is not defense.

• Reduce the number of U.S. military bases around the world. Our economy can no longer afford, and does not need, a 20th Century global military presence.

• Pursue a foreign policy premised on diplomacy, international cooperation and human rights, not the interests of the military contractors or the 1%.

Sign the pledge to send the message to candidates that peace and justice movement has a plan.

Poll after poll shows people want the government to cut Pentagon spending and fund human needs. A recent survey showed 80% of voters in Congressional districts represented by Democrats and 74% in Republican districts favored lower military spending – putting them at odds with their Congressional representatives.

A Voters Pledge is taking a personal stand that contributes to growing a movement that can have an impact on government policies.

Peace Action’s local affiliates are busy doing Congressional voters guides and other Get Out the Vote organizing because it is one tool in the movement building toolbox.

Don’t you think that the candidates for Congress and the White House should tell us what they will do to end the corporate and Pentagon robbery of resources needed for community services, or how they will revamp foreign policy from wars and occupations to promoting a more peaceful world? Sign the voters pledge!


Budget for All: Referendum to Reach 1M Massachusetts Voters

September 24, 2012

By Cole Harrison, Massachusetts Peace Action

Grassroots organizations develop advocacy campaigns around individual issues, but the current U.S. economic crisis is making it more and more difficult to win with that approach, as our agendas are pitted against each other.  The labor movement, the peace movement, human service advocates and racial justice organizations have all faced an uphill struggle in recent years due to an overall climate of austerity that shows every sign of deepening rather than dissipating. Meanwhile, Washington-centric top-down progressive coalitions, formed and re-formed every couple of years, have lacked the long-term commitment required to sink their roots deep and stay the course.

The crisis and conflict reflected in Washington’s current budget impasse are fundamental and will be with us for decades.  In response, a progressive coalition must also go deeper.  Single-issue groups will continue to fail and austerity will continue to be the order of the day unless substantial new revenues are available.  They can only be found by taxing the 1% and curtailing U.S. militarism.

The money is there. The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ annual alternative budget, which in 2012 is called the Budget for All, gives the lie to the austerity agenda promoted by both Republicans and mainstream Democrats. Its four-point agenda calls for preserving critical services and benefits, investing in jobs, taxing upper incomes and corporations, and cutting bloated military spending – and it balances the federal budget faster than either the Ryan budget or President Obama’s budget.  The Budget for All resolution received 78 yes votes in the House of Representatives in March.  Our goal is to expand this voting bloc in Congress by holding legislators accountable to the Budget for All agenda.

In Massachusetts, Peace Action is helping to build a budget coalition that first came together in Fall 2011 to resist the bipartisan effort to gut the social safety net in the guise of the SuperCommittee.   Under the slogan “Stop the Cuts – Invest in Jobs – Tax the 1% – Reduce Military Spending,” the Budget for All coalition includes 44 organizations — labor unions, low-income and people of color community organizing groups, tenants’ groups, Democratic and Green party groups, Occupy groups, and peace groups.

To bring our issues into the 2012 election season, we created a Budget for All non-binding referendum question.   We gathered over 25,000 signatures to put it on the ballot in 8 state Senate and 24 state Representative districts, including all or part of 91 Massachusetts cities and towns across the state.  About 33% of the Massachusetts electorate, or about 1 million voters, will have the opportunity to vote on the Budget for All November 6.  The Budget for All Referendum has been endorsed by Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep. Ed Markey, and by a dozen state legislators.

We achieved this by coupling the door-to-door organizing capacity of low-income Boston community groups with the suburban reach of the peace movement.

Led by grassroots community groups, the referendum qualified in the entire city of Boston, and in the depressed cities of Lawrence, Fall River, Holyoke, and Chelsea, which have substantial Black and Latino populations.  In these areas the great majority supports our agenda – people strongly agree with the need for jobs programs, care about services such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and housing, and support cutting the military. Canvassers registered many new voters and used the referendum to motivate people towards political participation.

Locally based peace groups, in some places supported by suburban Occupy groups, tackled two dozen towns in Boston’s near suburbs.  In these and other liberal, majority white areas, most people are sympathetic to our agenda, except for those who think they might earn above $250,000 someday or who express a generalized distrust of government.

The Budget for All faced its most challenging territory in far suburban areas where there has been less peace and progressive activism and more influence from right wing, anti-tax ideas.  In these areas there is more support for the military and a call to cut the military budget raises eyebrows.   Public education will be key to p

Our grassroots coalition is working hard to get out the word to the 1 million voters who will vote on the B4A on November 6.  We’re printing yard signs and flyers, we’ve begun to get press coverage and we’re using social media.  We’re setting up events and forums, giving presentations to union and community groups, and racking up  endorsements from elected officials.  And we’ll be covering the polls on Election Day to make sure voters pass the Budget for All overwhelmingly!

This fight will take time to win.  Beyond Election Day, we’ll push for a resolution on Beacon Hill to put more pressure on Congress. It’s important that the peace movement hang together with allies such as the SAVE for All coalition of human service advocates and push wavering legislators to stand up for prosperity, not austerity!

Check out the Budget for All – Massachusetts coalition at www.budget4allMass.org


Suggested Actions for the International Day of Peace – Today!

September 21, 2012

Did you know today is celebrated as the International Day of Peace? No? Don’t be embarrassed, it’s not a real big deal in the U.S., maybe because our country is nearly always making war. Anyway September 21 was established as the International Day of Peace by the United Nations in 1981. On September 7, 2001 (four days before 9/11), the UN General Assembly unanimously declared September 21 should also be observed as a global day of cease-fire and nonviolence.

Here are four completely subjective suggestions for actions you can take to honor this day:

1. Contact your Members of Congress and tell them no war on Iran! See our blog post and action alert on this from yesterday.

2. Support the civil society initiative led by young Afghans, 2 Million Friends for Peace in Afghanistan, in their call for a cease-fire and negotiated end to the war there. The 2 million refers to the approximate number of Afghans killed in nearly forty years of war. They aim to deliver a petition to the United Nations on December 10, International Human Rights Day.

3. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the end of U.S. nuclear weapons testing! The U.S. conducted 1,030 nuclear weapons test explosions (will the Earth ever forgive us for this violence against her?), the last was September 23, 1992. But with our continued vigilance and hard work, not only will the U.S. never test again, we’ll abolish nuclear weapons worldwide! Please sign onto a letter to President Obama encouraging further nuclear weapons reductions, and for him to push for Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

4. Give as generous a gift as you can to Peace Action!


Does Congress Want to Bomb Iran?

September 20, 2012
We are hearing from our Congressional allies that they are hearing more from those who want war in Iran than those who want peace. Please write now and ask your legislators to support diplomacy.

After over a decade of two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have exploded our national debt and stretched our Armed Forces to their limit, we don’t need another war in the Middle East.

But war hawks in Congress like Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman are already beating the drums of war, with Lieberman saying it “doesn’t make any sense” to wait until Iran possesses nuclear weapons to take military action.

There is also concern that, despite huge opposition in the country, the Israeli government will conduct rogue strikes on Iran.

And yet, Congress is being overwhelmed by messages calling for war with Iran, and our allies need us to show that there is a broad base of support for diplomacy, not war. Congress needs to hear from us, the voice of reason, that there is time for diplomacy and no country should use military force.

The costs of a war with Iran would be catastrophic. According to a report compiled by former government officials, national security experts and retired military officers released this week, “achieving more than a temporary setback in Iran’s nuclear program would require a military operation — including a land occupation — more taxing than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.”

Experts agree that even if — and that is a big if — Iran decides to build a crude nuclear weapon, there is plenty of time to act before they could complete the task, much less make one a missile payload or build a long-range missile system.

Please write Congress today to support U.S. diplomacy and to do everything in their power to keep Israel from using military force on Iran.


Afghanistan – The “Who Cares?” War

September 18, 2012

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Last week, veteran AP reporter Robert Burns wrote an interesting article on the 9/11 anniversary  titled “War Weary US is Numbed to Drumbeat of Troop Deaths.” Burns told moving stories of a few troops who recently died in Afghanistan, and interviewed some military brass about the supposed problem of the public “not caring” about the war. He quoted think tanker Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations calling Afghanistan the “Who Cares?” war.

The article got me to thinkin’, which was good, but I was troubled by some ironies and contradictions in this so-called problem of Americans “not caring” about the war. So I wrote a letter to Burns (he didn’t reply) raising some issues and questions that went beyond the scope of his article. Here it is, and I’m working on shaping this into an op-ed.

Dear Mr. Burns,

Thank you for your article about the “Who Cares?” war, as you quoted Max Boot on his moniker for it. I’ve enjoyed your reporting for some time now. I appreciate your focus on the cost of war in the human lives of our soldiers, but of course the toll for the people of Afghanistan is much, much worse.

I do think there are some ironies and contradictions re the Afghanistan war that go beyond the scope of your article, which I may well write about, and that I assume you have some views on.

I’m a peace activist, invariably opposed to this country’s many, many wars, but I care about the troops and returning vets (my brother is a psychologist at the VA hospital in the Bronx, meaning unfortunately he has a job for life dealing with the trauma our wars inflict on those who fight them), as do all the peace activists I know. I knew a wonderful young man, a Marine reservist named Gregory McDonald who died in Iraq. He was opposed to the war, but felt he had to go, that he couldn’t have claimed conscientious objector status (as I and others counseled him, and I believe he had a pretty good case). He felt he couldn’t let the others in his unit down, though he vehemently opposed the war. The military counts on that type of coercion or guilt to keep troops in line.

In terms of nobody “caring about the war,” there are many dynamics at play there. Polls show a solid majority of the US populace is now against the war, but there are no widespread or large protests (although I was proud to march in Chicago last May at the NATO protest with GWOT vets returning their medals to protest the wars). Certainly there is some partisan politics at play here, liberals not wanting to criticize Obama, or being “okay” with his promise to end the war by the end of 2014 (though a Foreign Policy article today speculates up to 25K troops may remain for a decade as part of an agreement with the Afghan govt.).

Additionally, it seems to me the Pentagon can’t have it both ways – they don’t want a draft, understandably, as they don’t want to deal with the hassles from soldiers who don’t want to be in the service. The poverty draft, especially in a week economy, suits them just fine. They get an endless supply of our tax dollars to fight their wars and maintain the largest military in human history. They want us to “care” more? Even with multiple “support the troops” programs and manifestations all over society (Michelle Obama and Jill Biden are constantly stressing this, as do many others)? (Which is not to disparage such efforts, we do need to support the troops, and the best way would be to get them home to their families ASAP and provide them the absolute best care we can).

And if there were a draft, the war would be over in a month, the public wouldn’t stand for it, because this war fails the definition of a just war miserably (the horse sense definition, not the Catholic Church’s official Just War theory). The real definition of a just war is one you’d send your kid to.

Thanks and Peace,

Kevin Martin

Executive Director

Peace Action

 


Train for Change! Peace Action Education Fund’s Move the Money Training Program, and FaceBook Action to Press Prez Candidates to Cut Pentagon Budget!

September 14, 2012
President   Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation of the dangers of a military   industrial complex which had begun to influence all aspects of our society   – “economic, political, even spiritual — felt in every city, every   State house, every office of the Federal government.”Ike   was right!

More   than half of all yearly discretionary spending goes to the Pentagon budget   separate and apart from the costs of the wars. Now they employ more than   1,000 lobbyists, nearly two for every Congressional representative. Take a   moment to go to Facebook and let the presidential, and your congressional,   candidates know that Ike was right!

Post   to Facebook: “Time to change national spending priorities, move the   money from the Pentagon budget to fund jobs and community services.” http://www.facebook.com/mittromney and http://www.facebook.com/barackobama

A   new grassroots movement is growing in support of moving the money from   weapons and wars to funding our communities. The movement is mobilizing to   pass city council resolutions calling on their Congresspeople to cut the   Pentagon budget and bring the war dollars home.

NC Peace Action organized in Burlington, NC for passage of the most recent   local resolution in a town of 50,000 where 14% of the population lives below   the poverty line. They may have lobbyists, but we are organizing a   politically empowered grassroots movement.

Peace   Action has partnered with National   Priorities Project to   create a model for a one day Move the Money Training. The trial runs in New   York City, Ohio and Maryland brought together community groups organizing on   labor and voters rights, poverty issues, veterans’ issues, along with faith   communities and peace activists. The participants are on the front lines of   the struggle for our communities.

The   Move the Money Training drills down into the details of the federal budget   spending priorities and how it prioritizes the Pentagon over human needs .

The   federal budget is a document much like the US Constitution and the Bill of   Rights which shapes and, in some cases, dictates how we function as a society   and therefore should reflect our core values and priorities. Through   interactive exercises, the Move the Money Training provides an opportunity to   explore the roots of the fear mongering on reducing the Pentagon budget. We   examine the ways we can take action together to weigh in on the national   debate underway in the 2012 elections and in the halls of Congress.

We   are still refining the Move the Money Training curriculum. We are preparing   to give the trainings in other parts of the country and then provide the   training materials for others to use.

Until   we are effectively mobilizing tens of thousands of everyday people into the   debate with the knowledge of the federal budget and a sense of grassroots   political power to counter the fear mongering, we will not change national   spending priorities. The Move the Money Training plus the local initiatives   to press local elected officials to take a stand are critical elements of   movement building to challenge the might of the military industrial complex.

Weigh   in with the presidential and congressional candidates and tell them: ”   All the polls show that a majority want the Pentagon budget cut at least 18%   What are you going to do to change national spending priorities?” Mitt Romney on Facebook and President Obama on Facebook

And   Like Peace Action on Facebook

The   Move the Money Trainings is one effort to strengthen community, labor and   peace movement alliances for a fundamental shift away from a militarized   federal budget and foreign policy. Please post information on your efforts at   http://www.facebook.com/peaceaction

Power to the Peaceful,
Judith LeBlanc
Field Director
Peace Action Education Fund

 


25,000 U.S. Troops to Remain in Afghanistan for a Decade After the Supposed “End of the War” in 2014?

September 11, 2012

Well, we still have tens of thousands of troops, and dozens of bases, in Germany, Japan and South Korea, don’t we?

Last spring, when President Obama announced a “Strategic Partnership Agreement” with the government of Afghanistan (which he claimed needed no congressional approval), he also announced the security arrangement (how many U.S. troops would remain) would be negotiated separately. According to Foreign Policy’s Situation Report by Gordon Lubold, those talks are beginning, and the option being floated is for up to 25,000 U.S. troops to stay.

With support personnel, guesstimates are this could cost U.S. taxpayers at least $40 to 50 billion per year, all on us. Unlike Germany, Japan and South Korea, who we strong-arm into helping defray the costs of U.S. forces on their soil, Afghanistan won’t be able to pay any of this.

Like the Afghanistan war itself, this issue is unlikely to garner much attention in the upcoming presidential or congressional elections. But it should. Congresspeople, and candidates, should demand now that this security agreement be in the form of a treaty, subject to U.S. Senate ratification, and they should ask hard questions and demand transparency in the negotiations. Seems not a lot to ask when they hold the purse-strings (to our tax dollars), yes?

An easy place to start would be to support U.S. Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in their quest to assert congressional oversight with their bill H.R. 5787, co-sponsored by Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Jim McGovern (D-MA). (Thanks to Stephen Miles of Win Without War for the reminder on this bill.) As Rep. Jones noted in his press release when he introduced the bill last May, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton supported an identical bill regarding Iraq in 2007 when they were senators. So they should have no problem with this bill now, should they?

Of course this won’t be easy. And the president’s own logic behind his plan to “responsibly wind down the war” means it should happen ASAP, not at the end of 2014. So how about we support the youth-led Afghan Peace Volunteers’ 2 Million Friends Campaign for a cease-fire and end to the war instead?

 

 


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