Stop Militarizing the Police

August 15, 2014

The tragic death of Michael Brown at the hands of the Ferguson police is a reminder that the upsurge in violence is not restricted to the Middle East or any one place.  It’s right here in our own communities.

Like the Trayvon Martin killing two years ago, the problems of racism, easy access to firearms, and the assault on our civil rights are all, once again, in the spotlight. I suspect I don’t have to explain why peace activists are taking action, mostly in support of activists of color who are leading the organized response to this latest perversion of justice.  Anti-violence is at the very heart of our struggle.

In this case however there is another element that directly connects to our ongoing work to build a more peaceful and just future – that is – militarism.  It’s time to demilitarize our police.

As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ‘wind down’ (though clearly not all the way down) the Pentagon has been offering surplus weapons to local police forces for free.  Tens of thousands of M-16’s, as well as mine-resistant trucks and other battlefield hardware have already been transferred to jurisdictions around the country – but the Pentagon still has lots and lots of free stuff to give away.

A bipartisan chorus has already begun to speak out in Congress against this practice.  Even Tea Party and right wing extremist Ted Cruz is raising alarm.

Tell your Member of Congress where you stand.

How much military hardware has been transferred to local jurisdictions?  It’s not easy to know as the Pentagon makes the trail difficult to track.  Most of the data available comes from local and state officials – like the State of Missouri which CNN reports has received some $17 million worth in transfers from the Pentagon.

I find, and I’m confident you do as well, the images of police in full military gear aiming assault rifles at unarmed protesters upsetting.  We can expect to see more and more of this in the future too, if we don’t do something about the economic terrorism visited upon the poor in our society at the hands of the 1 percent.

We know, for example, the Pentagon has in place plans for dealing with civil disorder brought about by economic or environmental disaster threatening the stablity of the government.  Arming local jurisdictions is a step in the wrong direction.

Since the 1980’s the US government has enabled the militarization of the police force as part of its so-called War on Drugs.  Post 9/11 politics opened the flood gates with grants from the federal government to prepare for the imminent terrorist threat.  Now, as combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended, the Pentagon is literally giving battlefield hardware away.

The militarism of policing – both in terms of weaponry and tactics – is a threat to our freedom as great as any coming from outside our borders.  It’s time to put it to a stop.

Write you Member of Congress today!

Please forward this message to your friends.


Urgent – Tell Congress: Cut Pentagon Pork, End War, Don’t Start a New One!

June 18, 2014

Today, the House is taking up its version of the National Department of Defense Appropriations Act.  This is one of the few chances that Congress votes on issues we care about.  Votes may start as early as this afternoon and continue through Friday afternoon.

Please call (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Representative (or give the operator your zip code to be directed) and say:

“My name is _______ and I am a constituent.  I am calling to request that Rep. _______ support amendments to Defense Appropriations that cut Pentagon spending and that end the Afghanistan war as soon as possible.  Thank you.”

This bill gives nearly half a trillion dollars to the Pentagon.  And that doesn’t include monies for the Afghanistan war and funding from an $80 billion slush fund called the Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) account.  Nor does it include most of the budget for nuclear weapons.  Again, all combined, the U.S. spends almost as much as all other countries in the world combined on military-related programs.  Does that represent your values?

Take a moment now to call your Representative.

We expect amendments that will:

*End the Afghanistan War at the end of this year — it’s time to bring all troops and contractors home and not leave any behind after this year.
*Bar sending combat troops into Iraq — we’ve been down that horrible road.
*Cut the F-35 — the most expensive plane and Pentagon project in history.
*Cut the Littoral Combat Ship — experts say it will cost over three times the original estimate.
*Cut fighter jet research — the U.S. has already wasted enough tax payer money on over-priced planes that don’t work.

Again please take time NOW to CALL your Representative to cut the Pentagon budget so we can afford other priorities like job creation, education and infrastructure.  Use the phone number and script above.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. Please call your Representative now at (202) 224-3121 and follow the above script to reduce Pentagon spending and end the Afghanistan War.  The sooner your call the better, but you can call up to Friday afternoon.


America is Tired of Afghanistan War – Peace Action Op-Ed published by USA Today

May 30, 2014

Our Policy and Political Director, Paul Kawika Martin, was asked to submit this piece to USA Today, which published it yesterday. Please like, share, forward, comment on the site, write a supportive letter to the editor, etc.

Bring the troops home as soon and as safely as possible.

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President Obama announced on Tuesday that the U.S. would extend the Afghanistan War, the longest in American history, an additional two-and-a-half years. What will that get us?

For most Americans, the answer is unclear. Despite polls saying that a majority of Americans think the Afghanistan War was a mistake and not worth the blood and treasure, the U.S. will leave 9,800 troops and an untold number of contractors in the country after the end of this year.

OUR VIEW: Obama’s risky Afghanistan exit

Economists estimate that the long-term costs of being at war in Afghanistan for nearly 13 years will exceed a few trillion dollars. That’s enough tax dollars to take care of all our woefully needed infrastructure investments through 2020. So why spend more taxpayer dollars on the Afghanistan War?

The president claims that we need the troops to continue training Afghan forces for stability and to continue our fight against terrorists such as al-Qaeda.

Yet, the surge of troops in 2009 and 2010 into the country failed to quell the violence, showing that large troop numbers neglect to lead to stability or lead to a democratic or even a well-governed Afghanistan. Historically, political solutions are the best solutions to produce stability, even if difficult to obtain.

Also, history teaches us that local policing, working with the local populace, is far more likely to reduce terrorists than foreign forces that may increase recruitment by killing innocents and arousing resentments.

In 2009, senior U.S. military intelligence officials claimed that fewer than 100 members of al-Qaeda remained in Afghanistan. In contrast, nearly 15,000 operate in Syria. And remember that Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan, where experts think that al-Qaeda is led in the tribal regions.

While it’s unlikely that the Obama administration will change its mind on wasting two more years with a military presence in Afghanistan, Congress should take its war powers back and force the president to listen to Americans. Bring the troops home as soon and as safely as possible.

Paul Kawika Martin is the policy and political director for Peace Action — the nation’s largest grassroots peace group (www.Peace-Action.org). He traveled to Afghanistan in 2010.


Might Doesn’t Make Right (or even get a country what it wants)

May 12, 2014

With his essay “What you need to tell people when they say we should use the military,” Peace Action Board Member Larry Wittner makes a very succinct and persuasive case on History News Network that military might, especially as wielded by the United States, achieves little in international relations.

tags: Military Power

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Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, “What’s Going On at UAardvark?

SIPRI Fact Sheet:  TRENDS IN WORLD MILITARY EXPENDITURE, 2013

Is overwhelming national military power a reliable source of influence in world affairs?

If so, the United States should certainly have plenty of influence today. For decades, it has been the world’s Number 1 military spender. And it continues in this role. According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spent $640 billion on the military in 2013, thus accounting for 37 percent of world military expenditures. The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively. Thus, last year, the United States spent more than three times as much as China and more than seven times as much as Russia on the military.

In this context, the U.S. government’s inability to get its way in world affairs is striking. In the current Ukraine crisis, the Russian government does not seem at all impressed by the U.S. government’s strong opposition to its behavior. Also, the Chinese government, ignoring Washington’s protests, has laid out ambitious territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. Even much smaller, weaker nations have been snubbing the advice of U.S. officials. Israel has torpedoed U.S. attempts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, the embattled Syrian government has been unwilling to negotiate a transfer of power, and North Korea remains as obdurate as ever when it comes to scuttling its nuclear weapons program.

Of course, hawkish critics of the Obama administration say that it lacks influence in these cases because it is unwilling to use the U.S. government’s vast military power in war.

But is this true? The Obama administration channeled very high levels of military manpower and financial resources into lengthy U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ended up with precious little to show for this investment. Furthermore, in previous decades, the U.S. government used its overwhelming military power in a number of wars without securing its goals. The bloody Korean War, for example, left things much as they were before the conflict began, with the Korean peninsula divided and a ruthless dictatorship in place in the north. The lengthy and costly Vietnam War led to a humiliating defeat for the United States — not because the U.S. government lacked enormous military advantages, but because, ultimately, the determination of the Vietnamese to gain control of their own country proved more powerful than U.S. weaponry.

Even CIA ventures drawing upon U.S. military power have produced a very mixed result. Yes, the CIA, bolstered by U.S. military equipment, managed to overthrow the Guatemalan government in 1954. But, seven years later, the CIA-directed, -funded, and -equipped invasion at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs failed to topple the Castro government when the Cuban public failed to rally behind the U.S.-instigated effort. Although the U.S. government retains an immense military advantage over its Cuban counterpart, with which it retains a hostile relationship, this has not secured the United States any observable influence over Cuban policy.

The Cold War confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet governments is particularly instructive. For decades, the two governments engaged in an arms race, with the United States clearly in the lead. But the U.S. military advantage did not stop the Soviet government from occupying Eastern Europe, crushing uprisings against Soviet domination in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, or dispatching Soviet troops to take control of Afghanistan. Along the way, U.S. hawks sometimes called for war with the Soviet Union. But, in fact, U.S. and Soviet military forces never clashed. What finally produced a love fest between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and ended the Cold War was a strong desire by both sides to replace confrontation with cooperation, as indicated by the signing of substantial nuclear disarmament agreements.

Similarly, the Iranian and U.S. governments, which have been on the worst of terms for decades, appear to be en route to resolving their tense standoff — most notably over the possible development of Iranian nuclear weapons — through diplomacy. It remains unclear if this momentum toward a peaceful settlement results from economic sanctions or from the advent of a reformist leadership in Tehran. But there is no evidence that U.S. military power, which has always been far greater than Iran’s, has played a role in fostering it.

Given this record, perhaps military enthusiasts in the United States and other nations should consider whether military power is a reliable source of influence in world affairs. After all, just because you possess a hammer doesn’t mean that every problem you face is a nail.

- See more at: http://hnn.us/article/155550#sthash.YqVs3dTk.dpuf


Move the Money, Crush the Slush Fund

May 3, 2014

Over 70 U.S. events and actions were held to mark Tax Day and the 4th Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS).  As you probably know, Peace Action was the US coordinator of GDAMS events for the 2nd year running.

With the 2014 elections just six months away, PAEF’s campaign to Move the Money from the Pentagon to our communities has never been more prominent in the national discourse.

Members of both parties in Congress are exploring military cuts as part of efforts to reduce deficits.  Predictably, vested interests are working overtime to preserve, and even increase where possible, the current, historically high, levels of military spending.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported the costs of major weapons acquisitions, like the F-35, have risen $500 billion above their orignial projected costs.  Congress loudly denounce cost overruns even as they look for ways to increase Pentagon funding.

Peace Action has renewed its fight against one of the ways the Pentagon hopes will permit it to restore funding for items left out – for the moment – to keep the Pentagon under budget control limits.  For example, Congress could allow the Pentagon to use funds from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), meant to fund military operations in Afghanistan, to restore eight F-35’s left out of the President’s budget.  The Pentagon has used the OCO as a slush fund to reduce Pentagon cuts this year to just $3.5 billion dollars while domestic spending was slashed by $15 billion – not exactly the shared pain sequestration was supposed to deliver.

Working with our allies, Peace Action is circulating a sign-on letter to Members of Congress from a host of organizations working in our Move the Money coalitions reminding them that: “According to the Pentagon, from FY 2013 to FY 2014, approximately 39 percent fewer personnel will be deployed to Afghanistan (with none in Iraq). Yet, in the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill, Defense Subcommittee funding in the OCO account will actually increase from FY 2013 to FY 2014.”

Call your Senators and Representative and tell them the Overseas Contingency Operations should not be used as a slush fund for runaway Pentagon spending.  Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.


Zero

February 24, 2014

Here’s an easy quiz for you. According to an article in the Washington Post over the weekend , the Obama Administration is considering four options regarding leaving U.S.  troops in Afghanistan after the end of this year. What do you think the number should be?

A.      10,000 (favored by U.S. military commanders, unsurprisingly)
B.      A somewhat smaller number, unspecified
C.      3,000
D.      Zero

Tell the president you want all our troops home, with none left behind in Afghanistan.

It’s long past time to end America’s longest war. In the words of the late, great Pete Seeger (a longtime Peace Action member):

“If you love this land of the free,
Bring ‘em home, bring ‘em home,
Bring ‘em back from overseas,
Bring ‘em home, bring ‘em home!”

Peacefully Yours,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. After you email the president, please click here and tell your friends to do the same.


Peace Action/Peace Action Education Fund 2013 Accomplishments

January 23, 2014

Peace Action/Peace Action Education Fund 2013 Program, Policy,

Political and Organizing Accomplishments

-Stopped a U.S. attack on Syria! Peace Action played a key leadership role in convening an ad hoc coalition to activate groups on Syria starting in June, which was then quickly mobilized in late August/early September, along with our grassroots affiliate/chapter network, to successfully demand alternatives to a U.S. attack on Syria. (national office, affiliate network)

-Helped realize a modest cut in Pentagon budget (everybody!)

-Provided leadership in grassroots efforts at defense transition/economic conversion in Connecticut, Wisconsin, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Hampshire (national office, affiliates and chapters, national and grassroots allies)

-Coordinated/help lead two national days of action on cutting the Pentagon budget – Pull the Pork and Global Day of Action on Military Spending/Tax Day (national office and affiliate network, national, international and local allies)

-Effective advocacy of Diplomacy, Not War with Iran (so far!) (Affiliate network, national office, allies)

-Helped keep up the pressure to end the war in Afghanistan and for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces and bases (everybody)

-Led coalition around pressing the U.S. to participate in multi-lateral nuclear disarmament forums – 24 organizations signed letter to White House, 25,000 signed petition, pulled together a new ad hoc coalition to continue to press for progress in multi-lateral arena (national office, PANYS, allies)

-Peace Voter/PAC – helped elect longtime ally Ed Markey to U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts (Mass PA, national office)

-Launched a new “A Foreign Policy for All” campaign outlining a positive, proactive, more peaceful and sustainable U.S. foreign and military policy (national office)

-Had letters to the editor, news articles and op-eds published in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Common Dreams, Foreign Policy in Focus, CounterPunch, Huffington Post plus many in local media (national and affiliates and chapters – CA, OR, IL, MD, NJ, NC, MA, NY, WI, NY, OH, MO, KS, NE, PA and more!), as well as international outlets and radio and television interviews. Most of these are posted on our website or Peace Blog.


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