Action Alert: Sign and Circulate the Jobs Not Wars Petition!

January 17, 2013

One of the best ways to reduce the deficit is to put people back to work.  It’s time to invest in our people, and our communities. Let’s create stable jobs at living wages, rehabilitate our nation’s infrastructure and invest in programs that serve the needs of people and communities, and develop a sustainable economy that protects the planet.

That’s why I’m asking you to sign the Jobs not Wars Petition.

The extreme right has used the fiscal crisis over the last four years to force deep cuts in discretionary spending on programs that make up the social safety net.  Now, they have their sights set on Social Security and Medicare.

I need your help to make a clear statement to those in Congress, and the administration, to Move the Money from wars and weapons to fund jobs and human services.

Peace Action’s Move the Money Campaign has been all about building common cause with unions, environmental advocates and anti-poverty and civil rights activists.

When I told you about our petition campaign last month there were just over 80 groups gathering signatures.  There are now 135 endorsing organizations working to remind Congress and the Obama administration we need to fundamentally change federal budget priorities from wars and ever more deadly weapons to jobs and meeting the needs of our communities.

So please sign the Jobs not Wars Petition.  Once you have, please forward this email. Ask your friends and family to join you in signing the Jobs Not Wars Petition.  Post this link http://bit.ly/jobs-not-wars-PA on your Facebook page and tweet it to your social network.  There is strength in numbers.

In November, we voted to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and end the wars in order to reinvest in our communities.

The pressure we are building is having a real impact on the debate on federal spending priorities.  With decisions on the debt ceiling and sequestration and votes ahead on both the 2013 and 2014 budgets, it’s critical we keep pressing.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action


Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99%

December 18, 2012

published by Foreign Policy in Focus

Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99 Percent

By Kevin Martin, December 18, 2012

Relief, rather than elation, was probably the emotion most U.S. peace activists felt when President Barack Obama won re-election. While Obama has been very disappointing on most peace issues, Mitt Romney would have been all the worse. So what now to expect from a second Obama term?

Most likely, more of the same; anyone expecting Obama to be decidedly more pro-peace this time around is likely to be sorely dispirited. However, there is a diverse, growing peoples’ movement in the United States linking human and environmental needs with a demand to end our wars and liberate the vast resources they consume. This, combined with budgetary pressures that should dictate at least modest cuts in the gargantuan Pentagon budget, could lead to serious constraints on new militaristic ventures such as an attack on Iran, “modernization” of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise at a cost of over $200 billion, a permanent U.S. force of up to 25,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, or an absurd military “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific aimed at isolating Russia and especially China.

We in the peace movement need to be able to think, and act, with both a short- and long-term perspective. In the near term, swiftly ending the war in Afghanistan and ensuring no long-term U.S./NATO troop presence, stopping drone strikes, preventing a war with Iran and building support for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, pushing for serious cuts to the Pentagon budget, and advocating progress toward nuclear disarmament will consume most of our energies. Renewed emphasis on a just and lasting peace between Palestine and Israel should also garner more attention and activism. Finally, peace activists will need to lend solidarity those working to save social programs from austerity-minded elites and to address climate chaos.

In the longer term, we need to hasten what Professor Johann Galtung calls “The Decline of the U.S. Empire and the Flowering of the U.S. Republic.” We have an opportunity in opposing the outrageous “Asia-Pacific Pivot,” which the military-industrial complex has concocted without asking the American people if we support it or want to continue borrowing from China to pay for it (too weird, right?). We can point out the insanity of this policy, but we can also devise a better alternative, including building solidarity with the peoples of Okinawa, Jeju Island, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and other nations in the region opposing the spread of U.S. militarism and advocating peaceful relations with China.

Defining the Democratic Deficit

This pivot is just the latest example of the fundamentally undemocratic nature of U.S. foreign policy.

The more we in the peace movement can point out that our tax dollars fund policies contrary to our interests, the easier it will be not just to build specific campaigns for more peaceful and just policies, but also to create a new vision for our country’s role in the world—to create a new foreign policy for the 99 percent.

So we peace activists need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We need to offer credible, sustainable alternatives on the issues listed above, with specific actions ordinary people can take that make a difference. But we must go further and advocate a foreign and military policy that is in the interest of the majority of this country, one that comports with widely shared ideals of democracy, justice, human rights, international cooperation, and sustainability.

It’s no news flash that elite and corporate interests have long dominated U.S. foreign policy. Illustrating this democratic deficit has two related aspects. The first is the question of access: “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” Currently, although it technically foots the bill, Congress—let alone the public—has barely any say in how U.S. foreign policy is set or implemented. On a second and integrally related note, in whose interest is it to perpetuate a gargantuan military budget, maintain a vast and expensive nuclear arsenal, or start an arms race with our banker, China? It’s hard to imagine that any ordinary person could conclude these policies serve anyone but the 1 percent.

Notions of justice and human rights are widely resonant in the United States, but they require careful consideration and explanation. “Justice” should not be invoked simply as it concerns parties to a conflict, but rather should entail racial, social, and economic fairness for all those who are affected by the grinding military machine. Emphasizing the broader social consequences of militarism will be key for growing our ranks, especially among people of color, community activists, and human needs groups. And while “human rights” is a no-brainer, it requires courage and commitment to communicate how U.S. foreign policy constantly contradicts this ideal abroad, even as our government selectively preaches to other countries on the subject.

International cooperation, while it can seem vague or milquetoast—especially given the neglect or outright stifling of “global governance” structures by the United States—is a highly shared value among people in this country and around the world. Selling cooperation as a meaningful value is fundamentally important for undermining the myth of American exceptionalism, which so many politicians peddle to sell policies that only harm our country in the long run.

Finally, while the environmental movement still has loads of work to do, the successful promulgation of the concept of sustainability is an important achievement, one we can easily adapt to military spending, the overall economy, and a longer-term view of what kind of foreign policy would be sustainable and in the interest of the 99 percent. Climate activists and peace activists need to know that they have a vital stake in each other’s work.

A glimpse of the power of democracy was in evidence on Election Day, and not just in the legalization of gay marriage and recreational marijuana in a few states. When given a choice, as in referenda in Massachusetts and New Haven, Connecticut advocating slashing military spending and funding human needs, people will choose the right policies and priorities; both initiatives won overwhelmingly.

Contrary to the hopes many people in this country and around the world invested in Barack Obama (which he didn’t deserve and frankly he never asked for), it’s never been about him. It’s about the entrenched power of the U.S. war machine, and about how we the peoples of this country and around the world can work together to create more peaceful, just, and sustainable policies. We can do it; in fact we have no choice but to do it.

Kevin Martin has served as Executive Director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund since September 4, 2001, and has worked with the organization in various capacities since 1985. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 90,000 members nationwide.

Recommended Citation:

Kevin Martin, “Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99 Percent” (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, December 18, 2012)


Take Action: Tell President Obama and Congress – Jobs Not Wars!

December 11, 2012

                      Send President Obama and Congress a Message

On Election Day, we sent a message.  Protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. End the wars and reinvest in our communities.

The wars and tax breaks for the rich and corporations got us into this mess. Move the money from wars and weapons to fund jobs and human services and make the rich pay their fair share of taxes.

Sign the Jobs not Wars Petition. http://bit.ly/jobs-not-wars-PA

 

One of the best ways to reduce the deficit is to put people back to work.  It’s time to invest in our people and our communities to create stable jobs at living wages, rehabilitate our nation’s infrastructure and programs that serve the needs of people and communities, and develop a sustainable economy that protects the planet for future generations.

We want the war in Afghanistan to endand for substantial cuts to be made to runaway Pentagon spending.

Sign the Jobs not Wars Petition. http://bit.ly/jobs-not-wars-PA

 

Over 80 organizations are gathering signatures to remind Congress and the Obama administration we need to fundamentally change Federal budget priorities from wars and ever more deadly weapons to jobs and meeting the needs of our communities.

We will present the Jobs Not Wars Petition to Congress & President Obama around the time of the Inauguration.

Forward this email. Ask your friends and family to join you in signing the Jobs Not Wars Petition.  Post this link http://bit.ly/jobs-not-wars-PA on your Facebook page and Tweet it to your social network.  There is strength in numbers.

Don’t let our elected officials forget what we voted for. Time to change federal spending priorities from the “military industrial complex” to reinvest in our communities.

Humbly for peace,

 

Kevin Martin


It’s Not About Obama, It’s About Us!

November 26, 2012

–Kevin Martin

I was asked by our colleagues at the French Peace Movement (Mouvement de la Paix) to write an article a couple of weeks ago for their excellent magazine Planete Paix on the outcome of the presidential election and what it will mean for our work in the next few years. Here it is, and it may appear in longer form somewhere else soon. I’d be interested in your comments!

Relief, rather than elation, was the emotion most U.S. peace activists felt November 6 when President Obama won re-election. While President Obama has been very disappointing on most peace issues (and right now most peace activists are furious at him for drone strikes killing civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and maybe other countries), Mitt Romney would have been awful as president. So what now to expect from a second Obama term?

Most likely, more of the same policies of the first term. Anyone expecting Obama to be decidedly more pro-peace than in his first term is likely to be sorely dispirited. However, there is a diverse, growing peoples’ movement in the U.S. linking human and environmental needs with a demand to end our wars and liberate the vast resources they consume. This, combined with difficult budgetary pressures (which should dictate at least modest cuts in the gargantuan Pentagon budget) could lead to serious restraints on possible militaristic policies such as an attack on Iran, “modernization” of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise at a cost of over $200 billion, a permanent U.S. force of 25,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 and an absurd military “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific aimed at isolating Russia and especially China.

We in the peace movement need to be able to think, and act, with both a short- and long-term perspective. In the near term, swiftly ending the war in Afghanistan and ensuring no long-term U.S./NATO troop presence, ending drone strikes, preventing a war with Iran and building support for a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East, pushing for serious cuts to the Pentagon and advocating progress toward nuclear disarmament (including building new boycott/divestment campaigns utilizing the excellent International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons  “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” report) will consume most of our energies. Also, peace activists will build alliances with and lend solidarity to efforts to those working to save social programs and address climate chaos.

In the longer term (and looking through a broader lens), the U.S. is hopefully heading toward, in the analysis of Johann Galtung, “The Decline of the U.S. Empire and the Flowering of the U.S. Republic.” We need to understand and hasten that process as much as we can. We have an opportunity in opposing the outrageous “Asia-Pacific Pivot” (which the military-industrial complex has concocted, without asking the American people if we support or want to pay for it, as an obvious attempt the justify its continuing rasion d’etre), building solidarity with the peoples of Okinawa, Jeju Island, Guam, Hawaii and other nations in the region opposing the spread of U.S. militarism there and advocating peaceful relations with China and all in the region. Surely that is a better idea than trying to isolate China militarily, politically, economically and geo-strategically.

Contrary to the hopes many around the world invested in him (which he didn’t deserve and frankly he never asked for), it’s never been about Obama. It’s about the entrenched power of the U.S. war machine, and about how we the peoples of this country and around the world can work together to demand and create more peaceful and just policies.

 


A Huge Election Victory You Probably Didn’t Hear About – Budget for All Initiative Wins by 3 to 1 in Massachusetts!

November 7, 2012

You’ll hear more soon about big successes in Peace Action and Peace Action PAC’s electoral work (a strong majority of our endorsed pro-peace candidates for House and Senate won yesterday), but Massachusetts Peace Action and its allies deserve special kudos for the landslide victory of the Budget for All, which won 74% of the vote in towns and cities across the Commonwealth. The B4All calls for ending the wars, cutting Pentagon spending, investing in human needs and fair taxation. Here’s their press release:

PRESS RELEASE

Paul Shannon American Friends Service Committee

(617) 623-5288 pshannon@afsc.org

Laurie Taymor-Berry Survivors Inc

(617) 491-1318 laurietaymorberry@yahoo.com

 

Budget for All!

Stop the Cuts · Invest in Jobs · Fair Taxes · End the Wars

11 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138

www.budget4allmass.org   617-354-2169

 

 

Mass. Voters Urge Tax Fairness, Military Cuts

to Avoid “Fiscal Cliff” and Protect Vital Programs

 

Boston, November 7, 2012 – By a three to one margin, Massachusetts voters yesterday sent a clear message to both Democrats and Republicans in Washington about the federal budget crisis and the impending “fiscal cliff”.  The Budget for All ballot question passed by 661,033 to 222,514 votes.  It calls for no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or other vital programs; investment in useful jobs; an end to corporate tax loopholes and to the Bush cuts on taxes on high incomes; withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan now; and redirection of military spending to domestic needs and job creation.  The question passed by a wide margin in every district and all 91 Massachusetts cities and towns where it appeared on the ballot, ranging from most of Greater Boston to Holyoke to Norwood, Lawrence and Fall River.

 

“The election was just yesterday, but already Washington elites are talking about a ‘Grand Bargain’ that would cut Social Security, Medicare and programs for the poor with only token tax increases on the rich and cuts to the bloated military budget,” commented Michael Kane, executive director of the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants. “The reported ‘Grand Bargain’ would cut two and half times the amount raised in new revenues to reduce the federal deficit.   The people of our state have voted for an alternative to prevent cuts to programs that benefit us all and to invest in jobs instead.”

 

The Budget for All passes at a critical moment as the “fiscal cliff” and “sequestration” loom on Washington’s horizon.  Unless Congress acts now, automatic cuts in needed programs will go into effect beginning January 1.  And even bigger cuts will follow.

 

“We see there’s a war going on in our own neighborhoods, where people are dying from shootings and killings and issues in our communities.   It frustrates residents to see that so much is being spent on the military and overseas instead of bringing those resources right here in our own neighborhoods,” said Mimi Ramos, Executive Director of New England United for Justice.

 

Adds Laurie Taymor-Berry of Survivors, Inc., “Yesterday’s vote sends a clear message to Senator Kerry, Senator Brown, Senator-Elect Warren, President Obama and other elected officials to deal with the deficit by changing the policies that caused it, not by cutting teachers’ jobs, mass transit, Medicaid and food aid.”

 

Initiated by over 80 community, peace, labor, and faith groups, the Budget for All is supported by State Treasurer Steve Grossman, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, and Representatives Barney Frank, Mike Capuano, Jim McGovern and Ed Markey, along with 10 State Senators, 18 State Representatives, and 15 city councilors.

 

The Budget for All Coalition is gearing up to expand its work to ensure that Congress heeds the expressed will of the people of Massachusetts.

 

#  #  #

 


Mitt Romney sounded like Gandhi last night, and Au Revoir to a true man of peace

October 23, 2012

Mitt Romney sure mentioned the word “peace” an awful lot in the last presidential debate Monday night. While my take is that he did so in a pretty cynical way, trying to make folks think he is less of a dangerous guy than he really is, it was interesting, and I think good sign, perhaps counterintutively.

Now I don’t for a moment want Mitt Romney to be president. His proposals to amp up Pentagon spending, his hawkish views regarding Iran, his desire to build up U.S. nuclear forces instead of reducing them, his kowtowing to Bibi Netanyahu and conservative Jews in the U.S., to name just a few policies that are out of whack with the interests of the American people, speak much more loudly than his kumbaya-ing last night.

However, it’s clear that Romney and his campaign handlers want to at least appear to be breaking with some of the policies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (and with some of his own previous bellicose positions), to appear kinder and gentler, more acceptable as a possible commander in chief. And even if it was cynical, the fact that he thought he had to appear to be more of a peacenik is a good sign. “Peace” shouldn’t be a dirty word in presidential campaigns, especially in a country nearly always at war (and where the current Nobel Peace Prize-winning president presides over drone strikes to get folks on a “kill list,” yet who is also talking like he wants his second term to be more peaceful, many contradictions with his current policies notwithstanding).

I guess for me it comes down to being somewhat surprised, but glad, that the two main presidential candidates are talking about peace, even when we know their policies don’t live up to their words. Peace is one of the values that human beings hold dearest, but it shouldn’t be used cynically. And of course our job is to hold them accountable to actually carrying out more peaceful policies after the election.

How did you react to Romney’s peace prose last night? Please share your thoughts and feelings.

Remember the last true peace candidate for president (of the “major” parties that is)? Senator George McGovern passed away at the age of 90 over the weekend. I couldn’t add anything to this moving tribute by William Greider at The Nation, so I won’t try, except to say he was the first candidate I can remember. My mom volunteered for him, and in the straw poll in my 5th grade class (I think it was 5th grade), I may have been the only McGovern “supporter.” Rest in peace, good man, and thanks for all your peace-and-justice-mongering and truth-telling. Would that we had some leaders like you today.


Excellent Op-Ed by Jon Rainwater of Peace Action West – Two Questions for Obama and Romney on Afghanistan

October 18, 2012

Published by The Hill, an influential Capitol Hill publication

By Jon Rainwater, executive director, Peace Action West and the Peace Education Fund – 10/18/12 02:30 PM ET

When voters mark their ballots on November 6th, there will be 68,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. In spite of a long campaign, it’s still unclear what each candidate believes should happen with those soldiers after Election Day.

Nothing captures the ambiguity better than Tuesday’s news from the State Department about the formal opening of negotiations to extend the US troop presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. This follows on the heels of Vice President Biden’s much-noted statements in the vice presidential debate that, “We are leaving in 2014, period.” President Obama has also been trumpeting the coming end of the war, with a partial withdrawal completed this summer. But the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement he signed this year, along with statements from the Pentagon, leave the door wide open to a large troop presence as far out as 2024.

In his recent foreign policy address, Gov. Romney tried to distinguish himself from the president on the war, but offered little proof of a real difference between them. Both candidates are keeping their options open, essentially only committing to figuring it out as they go.

 

 

After 11 years, that’s not good enough. Next week’s foreign policy debate could be voters’ last opportunity for answers before November 6. Here are two questions about the war that voters should be asking.

First, what are we waiting for? Neither candidate has publicly considered withdrawing before the end 2014. But they have also failed to offer a compelling case that another two years will strengthen US and Afghan security.

There are fewer than 150 al Qaeda operatives left in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden has been dead for more than a year. The original rationales for military action are no longer relevant.

The main thrust of current U.S. strategy is the operation aimed at training Afghan security forces. But there has been widespread evidence of problems with that program. Nothing exemplifies this better than the huge spike in insider attacks by Afghan security forces. Just this year, more than 50 US and NATO troops have died in attacks orchestrated by insurgents infiltrating the training program. Those attacks have sent shockwaves throughout the entire operation. As U.S. General John Allen, Commander of U.S. and NATO forces, put it, “You know, we’re willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign. But we’re not willing to be murdered for it.”

We are losing lives and spending billions to at best spin our wheels, and at worst, arm and train insurgents. The candidates need to clarify how long they plan to keep troops on the ground, and if they want more time, offer evidence that it will make a difference.

The second question we should be asking is, if there are gains to be made, are they worth the cost? In Romney’s terms, is this war worth borrowing even more from China to pay for? And the far more serious question: is this war worth dying for?

The federal government is facing looming spending cuts due to a financial crisis partially driven by more than eleven years of off-books war spending. Neither candidate has detailed how much the taxpayers will shell out for an extended military presence in Afghanistan, but we’re already looking at $88 billion for 2013. Can either candidate argue that this spending is worth it, when the $1 million it takes to keep just one soldier in Afghanistan for a year could create 14 jobs in health care or 15 in public education here at home?

In addition to the financial cost, our armed forces have been overworked and stretched thin, and we have not adequately cared for our veterans. More than 2,000 soldiers have died in Afghanistan; 1,000 were killed in the last 27 months of an eleven-year war. More than 17,000 have been wounded. The presidential candidates have flown under the radar on this issue, but the stakes continue to be great for Americans, and for Afghans. In recent surveys, 66 percent of Americans say they oppose the war, and 49 percent want it to end immediately. The presidential candidates owe us an answer as to why neither of them has made a clear commitment to making that happen.

Rainwater is executive director of Peace Action West and the Peace Education Fund.


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