Believe it or not, Congress has your budget – Take Action now to support the Back to Work Budget!

March 14, 2013

That’s right the Congressional Progressive Caucus just released its alternative budget called the Back to Work Budget which cuts Pentagon bloat, makes the wealthy pay their fair share and protects Social Security and Medicare benefits for everyone.  On the other hand, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget would dismember Medicare, slash spending on education and infant nutrition, and repeal ObamaCare.  Which one more represents your values?

These budgets could be voted on soon, so call your Representative now at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to support the “Back to Work Budget” by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The “Back to Work” budget saves money by fully funding troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within a year, significantly reducing the Nuclear Weapons complex, cutting private contractors and wasteful weapons systems all while protecting important veterans benefits.

Additionally, the Back to Work Budget provides a roadmap to economic recovery and progress.  It will create 7 million jobs in the first year, bring in taxes by closing corporate tax loopholes and taxes on those who can afford it, preserve services our people depend on, and balance the budget.

Please call the Congressional Hotline at (202) 224-3121 between 9 AM and 6 PM EDT.  They will connect you to your Representative.  Or you may click here to find the direct line to your Rep. and possibly leave a message after hours.

Now is the time to for your voice to be heard as Rep. Ryan wants to destroy Medicare so the ultra-wealthy can have tax breaks and some Democrats are willing to make weak compromises.  Call now to support the progressive solutions in the Back to Work Budget.

For a more just budget,

Paul Kawika Martin
Political Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Votes are expected soon on the U.S. budget.  Call your Representative now to support the “Back to Work Budget” which cuts wasteful Pentagon spending and protects vital services Americans depend on.


The Endless War Machine’s Toll On Our Troops – Suicides Exceeded Combat Deaths Last Year

January 15, 2013

The Associated Press reported yesterday the Pentagon’s internal statistics show more U.S. troops committed suicide last year than died in combat in Afghanistan. The Pentagon noted the rate of suicides in the military is below the civilian population – is that supposed to be somehow comforting?

In addition to ending the war now, leaving no residual troops in Afghanistan, not starting any new wars against Iran or anyone else and ceasing drone strikes in countries we are not at war with, the troops need real support, not the platitudes one hears constantly on NFL telecasts. Our sisters and brothers at Iraq Veterans Against the War are providing leadership with their “Right to Heal” Operation Recovery campaign, to stop sending troops on repeated combat tours and get them the treatment and support they need and deserve. Help IVAW out, and spread the word to those you think really want to support the troops.

 


Thanks to Veterans Who Struggle for Peace – Please Add Your Favorite Veterans to This List

November 9, 2012

 

Veterans Day, also Remembrance Day and Armistice Day, is this Sunday, with the Monday holiday observance. The mainstream message we usually hear is thanks to veterans and to troops serving now for “protecting our freedoms” or something along those lines, which as a peace activist gives me pause. Of course I respect and honor the sacrifice of those who serve in the military, but “protecting our freedoms” is, and has often been, more honestly “projecting U.S. power abroad” or “overthrowing governments we don’t like in favor of corporate interests” or “killing an awful lot of people for absolutely no good reason.”

 

So, when I think of the veterans I cherish and respect, it is mostly those who have dedicated themselves to the struggle for peace and social justice because they’ve seen firsthand the horror, futility, waste and stupidity of war. Here are some of my favorite vets, please add yours to the list:

 

My Dad, Paul Martin (Air Force, radio technician, lucky for him and for me, he served in between the Korean and Vietnam Wars)

 

My Uncle, Randall Quinn, who just passed away two weeks ago. His time as a pilot in the Air Force led to his career as a commercial airline pilot and a lifelong love of flying. Neither my Dad nor my Uncle ever romanticized their time in the service, and they never tried to recruit my brothers or me to the military, for which I was and am grateful.

 

My Cousin, Ted Lyon, US Army (luckily he never saw combat)

 

Howard Zinn, WW II

 

Kurt Vonnegut, WW II

 

Lester Schlossberg, WW II, decorated in the European theater and devout opponent of war thereafter

 

Bob Cleland, WW II, decorated in Pacific theater. Bob was on a troop ship to Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He didn’t take the position that “the A-Bomb saved his life,” he dedicated his life to peace and nuclear disarmament.

 

Lane Evans, former US Congress Member from Illinois and one of the most pro-peace members of Congress when he served from 1983-2007. Vietnam era vet (never saw combat, was a Marine supply sergeant in the Pacific)

 

David Cortright, Vietnam era vet and rabble rouser – his book, Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance in the Vietnam War is a must read regarding the anti-war movement of soldiers in the ‘60s, which he helped lead

 

Barry Romo, Vietnam vet and leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a smart and tireless advocate for peace and for veterans, and an awfully sweet man

 

Ray Parrish, Vietnam vet who dedicated himself to “counter-recruitment” and counseling vets and prospective recruits on conscientious objection and other issues

 

Admiral Eugene Carroll, one of the nicest men one could ever hope to meet, and a terrific analyst of US military policy

 

General Robert Gard, one of the best retired military leaders we have today in terms of advocating more peaceful and sane policies

 

Eric Swanson, our Database Manager here at Peace Action since the mid-90’s

 

Gregory McDonald, Iraq vet (Marine) who volunteered at Peace Action in 2002 before the war started. He was against the war but thought he had to go, that he couldn’t let down the others in his unit. He wanted to learn Arabic, gain some experience in the region, and help bring peace to the Middle East. I and others tried to counsel him to declare conscientious objector status, but he couldn’t see his way clear to do that. He died in Iraq in a vehicle accident.

 

Michael McPhearson, first Iraq War, formerly of Veterans for Peace, now with United for Peace and Justice, a steadfast, patient, wise and gentle leader, a healer, a builder

 

Erik Gustafson, first Iraq War, tireless advocate for peace and reconciliation with and for the people of Iraq

 

Will Hopkins, Iraq vet, Director of New Hampshire Peace Action, who speaks so clearly and convincingly of the horrors he saw and participated in in Fallujah, Iraq, and how peace activism became his calling and his home

 

John Heuer of North Carolina Peace Action, a great movement builder

 

Maggie Martin, Iraq vet, a leader of Veterans for Peace and for the movement on the right to heal for returning soldiers

 

Aaron Hughes, Iraq vet, a strong leader in Iraq Veterans Against the War, one of the main organizers of the moving and powerful veterans demonstration at last May’s NATO Summit in Chicago, where dozens of veterans of the “Global War on Terror” threw away their service medals

 

Ellen Barfield, a veteran with a tireless commitment to nonviolence and alliance building

 

Matt Southworth, Iraq vet, now with the Friends Committee on National Legislation

 

Bradley Manning, in prison for trying to help tell the truth about our awful wars

 

And lastly, a non-veteran but someone who works to help heal veterans, my brother, Kris Martin, a psychologist at the VA hospital in the Bronx (meaning unfortunately he has a job for life, with all of the psychological trauma we’ve inflicted on our veterans from our endless war-making)

 

I’m sure I’ve left some folks out, for which I’m sorry.

 

Who are your favorite veterans you are thankful for? We’ll need to do another list of those who went to jail to resist war, won’t we? They deserve our thanks every bit as much.


Afghanistan – the Who Cares War?

October 9, 2012

Not Exactly, But it Fails the Real Definition of a Just War

–Kevin Martin 

Amid all the grim news in Afghanistan as the war enters its 12th year, a new initiative by the youth-led Afghan civil society organization Afghan Peace Volunteers called 2 Million Friends for Peace in Afghanistan (http://www.2millionfriends.org) looks like a ray of hope. The two million refers to the approximate number of Afghans killed in forty years of war. The campaign aims to find two million friends or supporters worldwide, and to deliver its call for a cease fire and negotiated end to the war to the United Nations on December 10, International Human Rights Day. 

 

Here in the U.S., the war in Afghanistan is hardly mentioned by the presidential or congressional candidates (Mitt Romney completely omitted it from his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention). With only about one percent of the population directly involved in the war, with a family member in the service, the war is so low on the public radar screen that Council on Foreign Relations analyst Max Boot dubbed it the “Who Cares?” war, and many in the military fret about the seeming indifference to the sacrifice and hardships of our troops and returning veterans. This angle was prominent in 9/11 anniversary news coverage.

 

Such a narrative is too shallow, as there are many ironies and contradictions regarding public support, or lack thereof, for the Afghanistan war, and as to how the public feels about the troops and veterans.  

 

As a peace activist, invariably opposed to this country’s many, many wars, I do care about the troops and returning vets (my brother is a psychologist at the Veterans Administration hospital in the Bronx, meaning unfortunately he has a job for life dealing with the trauma our endless war making inflicts on those who fight them), as do all the peace activists I know.

 

I knew a wonderful young man, a Marine reservist 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 to do, 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 and returning to combat time and again.

 

In terms of nobody “caring about the war,” there are many dynamics at play. Polls consistently show a solid majority of the US populace is now against the war, but there are neither widespread protests nor large-scale organized war tax resistance (although I was proud to march in Chicago last May at the NATO protest with veterans returning their medals to protest the wars). Certainly there is some partisan politics at play here, with anti-war liberals not wanting to criticize President Obama, or feeling “okay” with his promise to end the war by the end of 2014 (though a Foreign Policy article recently speculated up to 25,000 U.S. troops may remain for a decade as part of an agreement with the Afghan govt.).

 

The Pentagon can’t have it both ways. Military brass and civilian leaders don’t want a draft, understandably, as they don’t want to deal with hassles from soldiers who don’t want to be in the service (that is a lesson the Pentagon learned from the Vietnam War and the rampant resistance and anti-war organizing by conscripts). The poverty draft, whereby urban and rural youth with poor job and educational prospects in their communities see the military as an attractive career option, especially in a week economy, suits the Pentagon just fine.

 

Moreover, the Department of War gets an endless supply of our tax dollars to fight its 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 to do that is to get them home to their families as soon as possible. Even longtime hawk U.S. Rep. Bill Young, Republican from Florida who chairs the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and is Congress’s longest serving member, now advocates this.

 

If there were a draft, the war would be over in a month if not sooner. The public wouldn’t stand for it, because this war fails miserably in meeting the real definition of a just war (the horse sense definition, not the Catholic Church’s official Just War theory regarding using force as a last resort, with proportionality and protection for noncombatants and other criteria).

 

The real definition of a just war is one you’d send your kid to.

 

So mark me down as caring about the troops, and about getting them the best possible medical, psychological, financial and career services we can provide when they get home. I don’t see how Pentagon brass can ask for more than that, unless their real goal is to continue the war indefinitely.

Kevin Martin is the Executive Director of Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with approximately 90,000 members and 70,000 online supporters nationwide. www.peace-action.org


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

 


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.


Peace Action and NATO are in Chicago

May 17, 2012

 

By Judith Le Blanc

Peace Action and 38 groups and over 200 activists are meeting in Chicago at the Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice while NATO meets to prepare for more war.

And the whole town is talking about NATO and those who believe it is time to retire that outdated military alliance. Read Chicago Area Peace Action’s opinion piece in the May 16 Chicago Tribune.

Yes, we are one of the voices  included in the mainstream media. Why? Because we are voicing the majority opinion: the US-NATO war in Afghanistan needs to end because the costs are too much to bear.

The people of the US and every NATO country are bearing the costs of this outdated military alliance. It’s time to retire NATO and form a new alliance to address unemployment, hunger and climate change.

NATO summit will be in the national news for the next 5 days. If you are not in Chicago, you can still be a part of the public education on why and how we can have a future without NATO and its wars.

With your help, we are launching a 5 day drive to write letters to the editor to take the message of the true costs of the war in Afghanistan and military spending into as many newspapers and online publications as possible.

Below is a sample letter to the editor.

Use the Frequently Asked Questions for facts you can use.

Read some of the media coverage of the Counter-Summit.

You can watch the live stream of the Counter-Summit plenary sessions on line, starting Friday and Saturday, May 18-19. Check the Network for a NATO Free Future for the Live Stream and times. 

SAMPLE LETTER to the EDITOR

Dear Editor,

As the NATO Summit in Chicago draws near, President Barack Obama should take a good look at what poll after recent poll has stated clearly: Public opinion in this country wants United States and NATO troops home from Afghanistan, sooner rather than later.

With our country still trying to dig out of the economic crisis and local services being cut, most people feel that we need to stop spending money on war and fund [INSERT SERVICES THAT ARE BEING CUT IN YOUR COMMUNITY] instead.

The trillions being spent on war would go a long way to restore [INSERT SERVICES BEING CUT].  In [INSERT YOUR CITY, STATE OR COUNTY] alone, tax payers will [GO TO http://nationalpriorities.org/en/interactive-data/trade-offs/ AND RESEARCH HOW MUCH YOUR COUNTY HAS SPENT ON THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN]

NATO should be retired, not re-purposed. Its Cold War-era ration­ale has ended, and we shouldn’t continue to funnel human and economic resources toward a military alliance that has outlived its purpose.

President Obama, the pro-peace majority in this county wants to take a different path.


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