A Decade Ago, The World Said No to “Pre-emptive” War and Yes to Peace

February 15, 2013


Ten years ago, in the largest demonstration in history, over 15 million people worldwide hit the streets to call for peace instead of George Bush’s “pre-emptive” war of aggression against Iraq. While we didn’t stop the war, that day remains an inspiration for many who marched. The New York Times called us “the other world superpower,” and veteran columnist Jimmy Breslin wrote a moving article calling the demonstrators the nicest people he’d ever met.

I was in New York City, freezing my tuchus off with our Japanese friends and colleagues from our sister peace group Gensuikin, who arranged to come all the way from Japan to stand in solidarity with the U.S. peace movement. The heavy handed, menacing (near snarling, to be truthful) police presence in Manhattan that day was overwhelmed by the power of hundreds of thousands of nonviolent peacemongers!

Were you there in New York, or in another city in the United States or another country? Have any stories, photos or videos to share?

Soon, a documentary film We Are Many about that beautiful day will be released (see the website and a teaser for the film). We’ll keep you posted as to the premiere and ways to promote and distribute the film as we get the details.

Be a Patriot, Uphold the Constitution: Save Obama From His Tortured Justifications For Drone Strikes, Kill Lists and Targeted Assassinations

February 8, 2013
–Kevin Martin, Executive Director
My cousin David has a cool used record and bookstore in downtown Lancaster, PA (my hometown) called BohoZone, check it out if you visit Lancaster. Bought my son Max a paperback copy of Fahrenheit 451 for Xmas, which he of course forgot and left in the car. So I read it, for the first time since high school (and will now give it back to Max for him to read). Really dug it, forgot that Ray Bradbury knew how to write for popular audiences. Want to see the movie again too (directed by one of the all-time greats, Francois Truffaut, starring Oskar Werner and the inimitable Julie Christie). Gotta admit I dig the future dystopia genre, especially the ones where there is some hope or at least fightback by the people (I also like the “we’re screwed and destined to succumb to the fascist police state and there’s no hope” ones too as I hope they’ll serve as a cautionary tale and wake people up.)
I especially like the one where the supposedly liberal or even “socialist” president decides who he can kill with impunity, using robots to deliver bombs, even if he doesn’t even know the person’s name, in countries with whom we are not at war, with no congressional or judicial oversight, justified by lawyers accountable only to him, with hundreds (at least) of civilians being killed.
Oh wait that’s not some future dystopia, that’s called the Obama Administration.
While many peace activists and human rights researchers have been protesting and educating and agitating about drone strikes and the president’s “kill list” for quite some time, this week seems to have brought something of a breakthrough, at least in media coverage and perhaps in Congressional scrutiny of these morally and legally dubious (and that’s being kind, many folks would just say “illegal”) practices by our Nobel Peace Laureate president. CIA Director-designate John Brennan took much of the heat on this in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday (with some justification, as he has been the president’s counterterrorism chief and was in the CIA under Bush/Cheney), but the president is the one accountable for these policies, and the one who could, and should, end them.
Brevity prevents a full listing of all the problematic aspects of drone strikes (our colleague and former Peace Action staffer and board member Duane Shank of Sojourners had a nice rundown on his Drone Watch blog post the other day, with links to many articles), but the civilian death toll and paper-thin legal “justification” for drone strikes being authorized by the Congressional resolution right after 9/11 are enough to call this whole shebang to a halt. (Certainly Constitutional Law Professor Barack Obama would have understood this.)
Those two concerns are the main reasons cited for the announcement late last month that the UN will open an investigation into drone strikes and targeted killings. Unites States’ UN Ambassador Susan Rice said the administration “has not ruled out full cooperation” with the investigation, as if we can pick and choose, as a UN member state. when to cooperate.
Momentum against drones (and I haven’t even gone into the frightening spectre of the proliferation of domestic surveillance drones just on the horizon that even Bradbury couldn’t have imagined) is building fast. Nationally coordinated grassroots actions on drones are planned for April. I had a suggestion the other day that we ought to start a call-in campaign to the White House every Tuesday. Why? That is supposedly the day the president looks at the kill list and approves targets for murder.
I know many liberals and progressives are loathe to criticize the president, and/or feel it’s their job to protect him from the right-wing. But it’s our Constitution that needs protecting, from this or any president who would declare himself judge, jury and executioner. Do him a favor and demand he end this madness.

Excellent Op-Ed on the Military and Climate Change by Tim Rinne of Nebraskans for Peace

January 23, 2012

Not only is the U.S. military the largest consumer of fossil fuels and the largest polluter in the world, it knows the climate crisis is real and can drive future military conflict. Tim Rinne, State Coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace (a Peace Action affiliate) nails the issue in his op-ed in Saturday’s Lincoln Journal Star. For a terrific resource on this issue, see the website for the film Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives: The Environmental Footprint of War, which Peace Action helps promote as an educational and organizing tool linking peace and environmental concerns. You can view the film online and order DVD’s for home or public viewing.

BY TIM RINNE | Posted: Saturday, January 21, 2012 11:57 pm | (5) Comments

Skeptics of human-caused climate change unremittingly contend that the science is inconclusive and the debate still is unsettled. The U.S. military, on the other hand, entertains no such doubts.

As far back as 2003, during the first term of the Bush/Cheney Administration, a specially commissioned Pentagon report titled “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and the Implications for United States Security” warned that rapid climate change could “potentially de-stabilize the geo-political environment, leading to skirmishes, battles and even war” over scarce food, water and energy supplies. The threat of climate change, the report went on to state, needed to “be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a U.S. national security concern.”

By the time the Defense Department’s Center for Naval Analyses released its landmark 2007 report, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” the Bush/Cheney Administration had officially acknowledged the reality of global warming — although it continued to question whether humans were the cause. The 11-member Military Advisory Board of retired three-star and four-star admirals and generals who headed up the Center’s study, however, unanimously accepted the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, concluding that “the evidence is sufficiently compelling and the consequences sufficiently grave” to warrant the military’s urgent attention.

The MAB asserted that climate change acts as a “threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.” In response, the MAB proposed a number of recommendations, including that

· The national security consequences of climate change should be fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies;

· The United States should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability;

· The United States should commit to global partnerships that help less-developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts.

The report also called upon the Pentagon to adopt its own energy efficiency measures.

Every four years, the Department of Defense issues a congressionally mandated “Quadrennial Defense Review” framing the Pentagon’s strategic choices and establishing priorities to determine appropriate resource investments. In February 2010, for the first time, climate change was formally designated in the QDR as a “National Security Threat.”

Climate-related changes, from increases in heavy downpours and rises in temperature and sea levels to rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost and earlier snowmelt “are already being observed in every region of the world, including the United States and its coastal waters,” the QDR notes. It warns that “climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration. While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability and conflict …”

The 2010 QDR also addresses the fact the Defense Department is itself the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels and, correspondingly, the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases. In the review, the Pentagon pledges to dramatically reduce its own carbon footprint through increased energy efficiency and major investments in renewable energy.

The Republican Party for decades has styled itself as the party of national defense and military strength. Yet debunking the international scientific consensus on climate change has become a veritable article of faith among Republican candidates and officeholders. That position puts the GOP squarely at odds with the military establishment, which has unequivocally accepted the scientific conclusions of the 97 percent of the world’s climatologists who actually conduct research on climate and publish in journals reviewed by their peers.

This past November, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board released its own study, “Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security.” The study asserts that “climate impacts are observable, measurable, real, and having near and long-term consequences.” Failure to anticipate and mitigate these changes, the report argues, “increases the threat of more failed states with the instabilities and potential for conflict inherent in such failures.”

Climate change, the Defense Science Board warns bluntly, already is occurring and is destined only to grow as a security concern for the United States. And the longer we (and the GOP’s skeptics and deniers) delay acting, the worse it will be for all of us, everywhere.

Tim Rinne is the State Coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace and a member of 350.org — Nebraska.

From our archives – Peace Action statement from September 12, 2001

September 9, 2011
With Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, many colleagues have written trenchant essays about that awful day and its aftermath, and the era of endless war that has ensued. I had intended to compile some of them, until I read our statement from September 12, 2001. I must say I’m proud of what we said, and did, back then, and all that we’ve done since to try to bring about a more peaceful world.

Peace Action Statement on the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks



September 12, 2001



Peace Action, an organization that promotes peaceful, non-violent solutions to conflict, abhors the horrible attacks committed yesterday, and mourns the tragic loss of so many lives. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families.


President Bush has said that the United States “will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbored them.” However, such indiscriminate attacks by the U.S. military against ill-defined targets will make ordinary Americans less secure, rather than more, by spilling the innocent blood that feeds already existing fanaticism. Such violence will produce the fear and hate in the terrorists’ homelands that they need to prosper – it enables them to bring ever more violence against those they see as their enemies.


We must bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice, but we must do so through international and national legal systems. A great nation does not punish the innocent in order to assuage its anguish.


Further, as a nation, it is in our absolute interest to ensure that no terrorist ever gain a nuclear capability. We must take the lead in building international cooperation for the safeguarding of all nuclear materials, and then for the abolition of nuclear weapons.


Lastly, we must not allow these horrifying acts of violence to curtail the civil liberties which are at the heart of democracy. Of particular concern is the protection of all Americans who are Muslim or are of Arab or Middle Eastern descent from racist attacks.


Now, in the face of this lawless act, we must act to end the cycle of violence. We must use restraint, prudence and the rule of law, as we—as a nation—seek justice for the crimes committed on September 11th.


Peace Action on C-SPAN

August 17, 2011

Thanks to the hard work of national Peace Action board member (and University of Hawai’i Human Rights Law Center founder) Joshua Cooper, Peace Action got some serious airtime (an hour and a quarter) on C-SPAN. Joshua has organized Human Rights on the Hill conferences in DC for law students and the public for a decade now, and he and I were filmed at this year’s event at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke Law School.


June 10, 2011

By Yeabu Conteh

CTBT– The Next Sensible Step Toward Nuclear Abolition

Long part of Peace Action’s strategy for a nuclear-free world, we are renewing our efforts to secure Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).  CTBT is a multi-lateral treaty that outlaws explosive nuclear testing and is a simple, but effective, way to help stop the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.  Currently, 179 nations, including the United States have signed the CTBT and 144 have ratified it.  In order for the CTBT to become recognized internationally as law, the United States and eight other nations must ratify it. 

In May, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Ellen O. Tauscher spoke before the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting on “The Case for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.”  She informed those present that the Obama administration would soon begin talks with Republican and Democratic Senators on the CTBT, including a discussion of key technical issues that was met with some resistance during a congressional debate on the treaty in 1999. The President also plans to soon start an education campaign to help lead to CTBT ratification.

As we near the start of another election campaign season, Peace Action will be working closely with our congressional and organizational allies to make the case for CTBT ratification.  There is a good chance that a vote will happen before the 2012 elections. Given the success we had with passing START (Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty), we are in a good position to ratify CTBT, but only if we keep the pressure on.

From our founding in 1957 as the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy, Peace Action has been a principal advocate of a test ban, working to impose a moratorium on testing during the administration of George H.W. Bush and pressing for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) during the Clinton Administration. 

What’s the Bottom Line?
By ratifying CTBT, the Obama administration will fulfill an important campaign promise taking another step along the path he laid out in Prague in 2009, the path that leads to nuclear abolition.  It will take a lot of work from those of us who care about our planet, the future of our children and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, but in the end our world will be much safer for our efforts.


When the Senate ratified New START in December, it was a satisfying victory for Peace Action and the peace and disarmament community as a whole. The underlying stipulations for its passage however, specifically the bargain struck between President Obama and Senate Republicans to invest approximately $185 billion over the next ten years to “modernize” the nuclear weapons production complex, demonstrates the extent to which the far-right and the military-industrial complex are committed to this ‘nuclear weapons forever’ program.  This move clearly undermines President Obama’s stated commitment to a nuclear-free world and the work of the disarmament community to help the President achieve this goal. 

For fiscal year 2012, the Department of Energy requested $7.63 billion for nuclear weapons programs and activities.  After inflation, this request is 21 percent more than Ronald Reagan’s largest nuclear weapons budget and 19 percent more than George H.W. Bush’s highest spending level.  Instead of spending nearly $8 billion to upgrade nuclear weapons, that money would be more wisely spent on increasing the rate of dismantling the U.S. stockpile.  Less nuclear weapons makes Americans safer and sends the right message to the rest of the world.

Currently, there are plans underway to “modernize” the following nuclear weapons facilities in the United States:

  • CMRR-Nuclear Facility at Los Alamos, NM
  • Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 in Oak Ridge, TN
  • Kansas City MO Plant

In addition to these rather new facilities, the US currently maintains and operates five other facilities; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Nevada Test Site, Pantex Plant, Savannah River Site and the Sandia National Labs.

How is Peace Action Responding?
Peace Action chapters and activists in communities long forced to live with nuclear bomb making plants in their backyards are mobilizing local opposition to these plans.  Peace Action New Mexico, Peace Action West and Kansas City PeaceWorks have already done some excellent work to educate their communities and build local campaigns to stop plans for ‘modernization.’
Peace Action is lobbying Congress and the Obama administration to overturn this exorbitant and hypocritical proposal, as it directly undermines progress toward nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

In 2008, Peace Action defeated similar plans to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal by then President George W. Bush called the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) and in 2009 we defeated Bush’s plan for Complex Transformation (better known in activist circles as “Bombplex”), the Bush administration’s $150 billion proposal for rebuilding US nuclear weapons production capabilities, enabling the production of as many as 125 new nuclear warheads a year.  Bombplex proponents refused to accept the defeat and waited for a suitable hostage (New START) to leverage support for their nuclear weapons forever program.

In May of this year, Peace Action lobbied Congress to increase funding for nuclear non-proliferation programs designed to dismantle Russia’s nuclear arsenal and secure its bomb grade materials by $190 million over their previous levels. Republicans sought a $600 million cut in funding. So, rather than spend $600 million to help reduce Russia’s nuclear arsenal, congressional Republicans – deficit hawks all – would spend $185 billion in the next 10 years building up our nuclear overkill. 
This is far from over.  We will be ramping up our outreach and education campaigns across the country around our annual Hiroshima/Nagasaki commemorations in August.  Watch for alerts and bulletins from Peace Action on how you can organize and participate in your community.



Bob Gates vs. Larry Wittner, Maintain the Empire or Militarist Madness – You Make the Call!

May 23, 2011

Secretary of War Robert Gates, in his commencement speech at Notre Dame over the weekend, warned against cuts in the US military budget. Not surprising (even though Gates has gotten some praise for his proposals to trim some of the waste and duplication in the Pentagon budget). Gates (how he escaped jail for his role in the Iran-Contra coverup in the ’80s is beyond me) inadvertantly touched on some of the basic tenets of US Empire (protecting shipping lanes and access to cheap energy sources), but basically he offers no sustainable vision for the U.S.’s role in the world, it’s basically “let’s hang on to as much of our military Empire for as long as we can.”

In contrast, Peace Action board member, professor, scholar and author Larry Wittner offers a much more critical view of U.S. and global militarism, including weapons sales and military spending, in his piece on History News Network. And, he offers a better path forward, a much more sustainable policy of coordinated international intelligence and police work rather than an endless “war on terror,” peaceful, diplomatic engagement with the world, and investment in human needs.

Speaking of making the call, be on the lookout tomorrow from an Action Alert from Peace Action and other organizations to call Congress and demand an end to the war in Afghanistan and a rejection of congressional efforts to expand presidential war-making authority.

A Joyous Anniversary – Eight Years Since the Largest Demonstration in History

February 16, 2011

Yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of the massive February 15, 2003 demonstrations against the (at the time) impending US war on Iraq. An estimated 12 million people marched around the world, raising our voices for peace and against pre-emptive war. It was the largest demonstration in human history. Judith Le Blanc, currently Peace Action’s terrific National Field Organizer, was one of the main organizers for United for Peace and Justice, which coordinated the events in the US, and served as a liaison with peace movements abroad.

I’ll never forget it. I was in New York, and it was very, very cold, but the joy of the beautiful peace-mongers clogging the streets of Manhattan was infectious. I had the distinct and unique privilege of being with colleagues from our sister peace group Gensuikin, who had come all the way from Japan to be with us in New York. They were not well-dressed for the cold, but they were so happy to be there.

Were you there? Or in the streets in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, London, Paris or elsewhere? I’d love to here your memories of the day, please share them if you feel so moved.

Though we had been working for months to build opposition to the war, we didn’t really expect such a massive expression of the will of the people of the world to oppose George Bush’s outrageous drive to war. In the weeks and days before February 15, I didn’t think we could stop the war, but that day, I thought just maybe our voices were so strong and clear they could not be ignored. The New York Times gushingly editorialized the next day that we represented the world’s second superpower, world public opinion against the war. (David Cortright titled his history of the anti-war movement of 2002-2003 A Peaceful Superpower.)

Of course we did not stop the war. George Bush ignorantly and arrogantly dismissed us as a “focus group” (really? 12 million people, a focus group?).

The US war and occupation was, as we predicted, a calamity. Eight years later, Iraq is still a wreck, and it’s not clear the US will completely remove all troops, bases and contractors by the end of the year, as we are obliged to under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) Bush signed with the Iraqi government. While most peace activists are focused more on Afghanistan and other issues, we must remain vigilant and hold President Obama accountable to this withdrawal deadline, and we must repay the huge debt owed the Iraqi people for the immense destruction of their country. I haven’t seen any definitive estimate of what a just amount for reconstruction and reparations would be, but it must surely in the tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars.

Some decry the current reality that the peace movement can no longer rally millions of people in the streets to demand an end to the war in Afghanistan. However, we have turned the tide of public opinion against that war, and we are building powerful alliances to demand serious cuts in military spending in order to reinvest in human needs.

I am privileged to work for peace with brilliant, indefatigable activists all over the country and around the world. I am sustained in this work every day by what I know people can do when we come together, as the recent remarkable revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East have shown the world. And I’ll cherish the memory of February 15, 2003 as long as I live.

Teach-in on Iraq in DC this Sunday

August 23, 2010

Along with our colleagues Code Pink, the Institute for Policy Studies and other stalwart peace and justice groups, Peace Action is sponsoring a teach-in on Iraq this Sunday, August 29. Here is the “411” as they say, and a good article from Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin on Op-Ed News:

Iraq: The Legacy of the 7-Year U.S. Occupation

When: Sunday, August 29th 2010

Time: 5pm-9pm


Busboys and Poets

5th and K NW, Washington, DC


Is the U.S. military really leaving Iraq or just rebranding? What is the toll of seven years of occupation on Iraqis, U.S. soldiers and our economies? What is the status of Iraqi refugees around the world?  Is it still possible to hold accountable those who dragged us into the war or committed crimes such as torture? What role did Congress and the media play in facilitating the invasion/occupation? We’ll also look at the role of the peace movement–its strengths and weaknesses–and draw key lessons to make our work for peace, including in Afghanistan, more effective.

Speakers/fperformances include:

Kymone Tecumseh Freeman, playwright, performer, reading Letters from Iraq

Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies

Raed Jarrar, Peace Action

BIll Fletcher, labor leader, scholar

Josh Stieber, Iraq Veterans Against the War

Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK and Global Exchange

Andy Shallal, Iraqi artist, owner Busboys and Poets

David Swanson, author

Cynthia Benjamin, Military Families Speak Out

Sponsored by: CODEPINK, Peace Action, Institute for Policy Studies, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Global Exchange, Just Foreign Policy, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, ANSWER, World Can’t Wait, Voices for Creative Nonviolence and War is a Crime.

Your Contributions Needed for NPR (No, Not National Public Radio)

December 21, 2009

Published on Thursday, December 17, 2009 by CommonDreams.org by Lisa Putkey and Kevin Martin

NPR (also) stands for Nuclear Posture Review. The Obama administration is required by Congress to draw up a Nuclear Posture Review to outline U.S. nuclear weapons policy for the next five years. For months the Department of Defense has been leading efforts in the administration to finish the NPR by mid January. The contents of the NPR should reflect President Obama’s Nobel Prize-wining vision for a nuclear weapons-free future, and will show whether the Administration is ready to take concrete steps towards disarmament, turning impressive anti-nuke rhetoric into reality.

The NPR will specifically lay out the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. foreign policy, determine the size of our nuclear arsenal, and shape the role and size of the nuclear complex (research, production, and waste sites across the U.S.). The Bush Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review was a disturbance internationally as it revealed U.S. plans to advance nuclear technology with the creation of smaller, more “usable” nuclear weapons to be potentially used against seven named foreign countries. The current NPR is expected to break with its predecessor, yet the Pentagon and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have been pushing for increased resources to the nuclear weapons complex for “modernization,” which would enhance nuclear warhead production capabilities and further entrench the primacy of nuclear weapons in U.S. foreign policy.

Read more at http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/12/17-7


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