Join us March 5: Creative Tactics for Tax Day Organizers

February 28, 2014

+GDAMS-Ad

April 15, 2014

Tax Day: Global Day of Action on Military Spending

Move the Money!

April 15 is Tax Day, a day to reflect on how Congress spends our tax dollars. We are also reminded that not all are paying their fair share. As economic inequality grows, we need a Congress who makes the hard choices on federal spending priorities. It is time to Move the Money from the wasteful Pentagon budget to fund jobs and community services.

April 15 is also the Global Day of Action on Military Spending when community, economic justice, faith, labor, environmental and peace groups will gather in their communities on every continent to call attention to the domestic impact of money poured into military arms and war preparation by governments across the globe while urgent human needs go unmet. Read a roundup of the 2013 US activities here.

The New Priorities Network, one of the supporters of the April 15 Tax Day/GDAMS activities is sponsoring a briefing:

Wednesday March 5 at 8pm EST

Explore  creative tactics for local actions on April 15 Tax Day/GDAMS 

with Beautiful Trouble’s Nadine Bloch. 

Conference call number: 712-775-7000 Code: 637020#

Other webinars are being planned: March 19 at 7pm EST: Webinar on Federal Budget 101 and Taxes with National Priorities Project, Wand/WILL & Peace Action. A webinar on the Overseas Contingency Operating (OCO) account with Stephen Miles from Win Without War. The OCO (separate from the Pentagon budget) continues to grow even as the wars are beginning to wind down. It amounts to a slush fund to blunt the impact of budget cuts. While the wars are winding down, the OCO is bumping up!

More info on US Tax Day/ Global Day of Action on Military Funding at http://demilitarize.org/

If your group is already planning event, please post the details here so others can join. Or email jleblanc@peace-action.org.


Open Fire and Open Markets: The Asia-Pacific Pivot and Trans-Pacific Partnership

January 22, 2014

Excellent, concise analysis of the link between the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S. military’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, published by our colleagues at Foreign Policy in Focus. The author is the always right-on Christine Ahn, who in addition to her attributions listed below is a Peace Action Advisory Board member.

Thomas Friedman once said the hidden hand of the market needs the hidden fist of the military. The TPP and the Obama administration’s Pacific Pivot pack both.

By , January 14, 2014.

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trans-pacific-partnership-tpp-member-states-trade-investment-pacific-pivot-china

By increasing U.S. market access and influence with China’s neighbors, Washington is hoping to deepen its economic engagement with the TPP countries while diminishing their economic integration with China. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The struggle for food sovereignty in the Pacific got a major boost last December when Billy Kenoi, mayor of Hawai’i’s Big Island, signed a law that prevents farmers from growing any new genetically engineered crops (with the exception of papaya). This follows a successful push on Kauai, at the other end of the islands, to force large growers to disclose the pesticides they use and which genetically engineered crops they are growing.

This is a major step in the battle for more ecologically sustainable agriculture in Hawai’i, which has suffered for over a century under the heavy weight of U.S. corporate and military domination.

Yet like other local, state, and national regulations intended to protect the public and the environment, these anti-GMO laws can be swiftly overturned if President Obama signs the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the world’s most ambitious and far reaching free trade agreement yet. On January 9, the U.S. Congress introduced “fast-track” legislation allowing the Obama administration to sign the TPP without undergoing public debate. Fast-track authority would grant the White House the power to speed up negotiations, while giving Congress only 90 days to review the TPP before voting.

The TPP spans 12 countries — including the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam — comprising 40 percent of the world’s economy. Like nearly all trade agreements signed since NAFTA, the TPP is almost to certain to allow multinational corporations from anywhere in the bloc to sue governments in secret courts to overturn national or local regulations, such as Hawai’i’s recent GMO laws, that could limit their profits. So it’s not just Hawai’i’s food sovereignty that’s at risk.

“This is not mainly about trade,” explains Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “It is a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade.” More than 600 corporate lobbyists representing multinationals like Monsanto, Cargill, and Wal-Mart have had unfettered access to shape the secret agreement, while Congress and the public have only seen a few leaked chapters.

But the TPP is even more than a corporate Trojan horse. It’s a core part of the Obama administration’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, which is centrally about containing China.

A New Cold War?

Ahead of the fall 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) meeting in Hawaii, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined a plan to transfer U.S. military, diplomatic, and economic resources from the Middle East to the Pacific, in what she called “America’s New Pacific Century.” Describing the pivot in militaristic terms as “forward-deployed diplomacy,” Clinton hailed the TPP as a “benchmark for future agreements” leading to “a free trade area of the Asia- Pacific.”

Yet the TPP excludes China, which has become the second largest economy in the world and is poised to outpace the U.S. economy in a matter of years — a fact that is none too pleasing to U.S. elites accustomed to unrivaled hegemony.

Like the United States, the future of China’s economic growth lies in the Asia-Pacific region, which by all indicators will be the center of economic activity in the 21st century. By 2015, according to a paper from the conservative Foreign Policy Research Institute, “East Asian countries are expected to surpass NAFTA and the euro zone to become the world’s largest trading bloc. Market opportunities will only increase as the region swells by an additional 175 million people by 2030.”

Enter the TPP. By increasing U.S. market access and influence with China’s neighbors, Washington is hoping to deepen its economic engagement with the TPP countries while diminishing their economic integration with China.

Obama’s “Pacific Pivot” also seeks to contain China militarily. By 2020, 60 percent of U.S. naval capacity will be based in the Asia-Pacific, where 320,000 U.S. troops are already stationed. The realignment will entail rebuilding and refurbishing former U.S. facilities in the Philippines, placing 2,500 marines in Australia, transferring 8,000 marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam and Hawai’i, and building new installations like the one on the tiny Pacific island of Saipan. Meanwhile, the U.S. military regularly stages massive joint military exercises involving tens of thousands of troops and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with its key allies — and China’s neighbors — Japan and South Korea. It has been regularly conducting Cobra Gold exercises with Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and even Myanmar.

Official Washington seems to believe that these are necessary precautions. According to theRAND Corporation, for example, 90 percent of U.S. bases in the region are “under threat” from Chinese ballistic missiles because they are within 1,080 nautical miles of China. But who is threatening whom? The Chinese have precisely zero bases in the Asia-Pacific outside of their own borders.

Some U.S. analysts insist that a more robust U.S. military presence is necessary to curb China’s ambitious territorial claims in the region. Without a doubt, China has recently taken a more aggressive stance in regional territorial disputes over dwindling natural resources, angering many of its neighbors. But by turning to the United States as a check against China, less powerful nations invite a bargain with the devil as Washington will advance its own strategic interests. And by getting itself involved, Washington risksencouraging China’s rivals to behave more provocatively, as well as angering China itself. According to Mel Gurtov, “While accepting that the United States is a Pacific power, Chinese authorities now resist the notion that the United States has some special claim to predominance in Asia and the western Pacific.”

A One-Two Punch

“The hidden hand of the market,” as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman famously wrote in the 1990s, “will never work without a hidden fist.” The Asia-Pacific Pivot, a one-two neoliberal-militaristic punch, packs both.

Of all people in the world, Hawaiians know this especially well. Once a sovereign nation, Hawai’i was the starting point for America’s century of imperialism and conquest in the Pacific. Most people don’t know this critical history, but what fueled the overthrow of Hawai’i’s monarchy was trade. During the 1800s, American merchants were profiting handsomely from exporting sugar from Hawai’i to the United States. When faced with new tariffs that the U.S. government imposed to protect the domestic sugar industry in the American South, the exporters orchestrated a coup with the U.S. marines to overthrow the islands’ queen and annex Hawai’i so that Hawaiian sugar would not be subject to tariffs.

With the world facing the pressing issues of global climate change, biodiversity loss, rising food prices, and declining sources of fossil energy, what is now needed more than ever are policies that promote local, sustainable economies that ensure the well-being of their people and protect the ecosystems upon which all of our lives depend.

Local communities seem to get it — new laws like the GMO restrictions recently passed in Hawai’i are a step in that direction. But with multinational elites and the U.S. government pushing undemocratic monstrosities like the Pacific Pivot and the TPP, prospects for a more genuine security appear more distant than ever.

Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Christine Ahn is a Senior Fellow of the Oakland Institute and Co-chair of Women De-Militarize the Zone (DMZ).


12th Annual Human Rights on the Hill course next week at UDC in our nation’s capital

June 27, 2013

Join us next week at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law for the annual week long Human Rights on the Hill course organized by Peace Action board member and University of Hawai’i professor Joshua Cooper. All sessions are free and open to the public, and yuo can come and go as you like or just attend a session or two. The site (except for a special event with Ralph Nader Monday night at Busboys and Poets and several excursions to museums on July 4 which are noted below) is the UDC Law School at 4200 Connecticut Ave., Building 52, Washington, DC 20008, please see http://www.law.udc.edu/ for info on the campus. The Van Ness/UDC red line Metro stop is right there, perhaps your best bet for transit, and there is parking on campus and on surrounding streets but you’ll need to pay.

Here is the schedule for the week, I (Kevin Martin) will speak on Tuesday at 3:30 pm, and there will be many interesting speakers and sessions.

Monday

July 1

 

9 a.m. “The Global Human Rights Machinery: Our Grassroots Human Rights Movement,” Joshua Cooper, Four Freedoms Forum

10:30 a.m. “The Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples & the Alta Declaration: From Contact to the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples,” Joshua Cooper, Hawaii Institute for Human Rights

12:00 p.m  How to Start a Revolution Film

1:30 p.m.  “InterAmerican Human Rights System: Indigenous Rights in the Region,” Leonardo Crippa Indian Law Resource Center

3:00 p.m. The Human Right to Water & Sanitation in the U.S. and Around the World,” Darcey O’ Callaghan, International Policy Director, Food & Water Watch

4:00 p.m

6:30 p.m. “Told you So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns,” Ralph Nader Busboys and Poets 14&V

 

 

 

Tuesday

July 2

 

9 a.m. “Peace is a Human Right,”  Colman McCarthy, Peace Center

10:30 a.m.   “Defend the Amazon – A rights-based approach to saving the rainforest and slowing climate change” Andrew Miller,  Amazon Watch

12:00 p.m  “Human Rights on the Hill,”  Rick Wilson Rayburn House Office Building 2321

2:00 p.m. “Disability Rights as Human Rights in the 21st Century,” Esme Grant US International Council on Disabilities

3:30 p.m.  “Peace Action for Human Rights Realization,” Kevin Martin, Peace Action

 

 

Wednesday

July 3

 

9 a.m.  “A Peoples Perspective on the UPR Mid-Term Review for the United States of America,”  Joshua Cooper, Four Freedoms Forum

10:30 a.m. “Local Lawyering, ” Lauren Bartlett, Local Human Rights Lawyering Project Director Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law American University Washington College of Law

12:00 p.m Testify! Voices for Human Rights in the United States WITNESS & USHRNetwork Film

1:30 p.m.  “The Universal Periodic Review: A State Department Perspective,”  Kelly Landry

3:00 p.m. “Initial Conversation Across the Country for a Citizen-Centered Successful Second Cycle,” Joshua Cooper Four Freedoms Forum

4:00 p.m.   “Human Rights in Asia,”  Alim Seytoff, Uyghur Human Rights Project, World Uyghur Congress

 

 

Thursday

July 4

 

Educational Excursions of Empowerment Human Rights on the Hill

 

10:0 a.m. National Museum of the American Indian

12:00 p.m U.S. National Archives  Declaration of Independence

1:00 p.m. National Museum of American History

2:00 p.m. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

 

 

Friday

July 5

 

9 a.m.  “Business & Human Rights Mechanisms at the United Nations,”  Joshua Cooper, Four Freedoms Forum

10:30 a.m.  “Nature Conservation,”   Gina Cosentino, Director, Indigenous & Communal Conservation

11:30 a.m. Khmer Krom Practicing of Theravada Buddhism in Fear Behind the Bamboo Curtain Film

12:00 p.m Enemies of the People  A Personal Journey into the Heart of the Killing Fields Film

1:30 p.m.  Film Making for Fundamental Freedoms: Case Study in Cambodia, Sambath Thet

3:00 p.m.  Human Rights in China Rally


2013 Tax Day and the Global Day of Action on Military Spending

May 15, 2013
April 15, 2013 Japanese Peace Boat

April 15, 2013 Japanese Peace Boat

We need a movement that is global and grassroots, that will take action, educate and generate an alternative vision for global economic security for all. 

By Judith Le Blanc – Field Director, Peace Action

US Tax Day was different than Tax Days of the past. It was also the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS.) Events were organized around the world to make the release of the annual report on military spending by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. 

In the US and around the world, tens of thousands of leaflets were distributed, street theater, flash mobs, vigils, educational events, visits to parliaments, and marches were organized to draw attention to the impact of militarism on governments’ ability to respond to global problems of equity, justice and a secure future.

In South Korea, a group made an entertaining video using well-known children’s characters, Teletubbies, to make their point.

In the UK, a forum was conducted in the House of Parliament on why military spending should be redirected to meet human needs.

In Chile, actions were organized in nine cities.

See reports on other international actions on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) website.

United States

Foreign Policy In Focus (project of Institute for Policy Studies) staff and interns. April 15, 2013

Foreign Policy In Focus staff and interns at the White House on April 15, 2013.

In 33 states and 86 cities and towns, peace, economic justice, faith based groups used Tax Day and GDAMS to continue grassroots pressure on Congress to change national spending priorities and end the austerity drive to cut jobs and human needs to balance the federal budget. The 86 events were not the total number of Tax Day actions. Other groups like Americans for Tax Fairness held events nationwide as well.

This year, the federal budget struggles gave new impetus to a coalition of groups and networks who traditionally organize Tax Day events to join with economic and racial justice groups to be a part of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS.) Find the full list and contact info at the end of this blog.

In some cities, local affiliates of national groups supporting GDAMS worked together. In other towns or cities, new coalitions came together or individuals took action all with the goal of joingan international day of grassroots education on the distorted priorities reflected in 57% of annual US federal discretionary spending going to the Pentagon along side of tax loop holes for the rich and corporations while community services are cut and jobs lost.

Creative use of social media and online materials

The National Priorities Project, AFSC, Coalition on Human Needs, USAction, War Resisters League & Toolbox for Action and Social Action and Peace Action created background materials and  online interactive educational tools and leaflets. Sample Tweets were shared for use on Twitter and memes were created for Facebook.

A Thunderclap was organized and reached 233,071 people on Facebook and Twitter with the message, “ “Our Tax $ should go to the programs we need, not to Pentagon waste.”

Tax Day: a day of action, education and reflection.  

VA Organizing at teh Richmond, VA post office on April 15, 2013

VA Organizing at the Richmond, VA post office on April 15, 2013

We were present at countless post offices and town squares to engage our neighbors in conversation and reflect on why we must end the militarization of the federal budget. We used creative efforts to stir up awareness and engage our communities in changing national spending priorities from wars and ever-newer weapons to life!

Below are a few of the creative actions organized across the country. Go to the GDAMS Facebook page to see more pictures and reports.

Some groups focused on the most expensive, wasteful Pentagon budget item, the F35 military aircraft. For example, USAction reported “affiliates from coast to coast reminded America that twenty-six cents of every dollar we pay in taxes goes to the Pentagon – including colossal albatrosses like the F-35 fighter jet, nicknamed the “Fiasco-35.”  They mobilized 34,000 calls to Congress to stop the funding in order to provide urgently needed social services.

Others drew attention to what we need for a secure future. The third annual “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” Youth Film Festival sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and The National Priorities Project culminated in Washington, DC on April 13-15. Watch the winning video, “Dear Congress Invest in US.”  It was nominated for  People’s Choice Award, keep your fingers crossed!

At the conclusion of the festival, 65 young people made 24 Congressional visits on Capitol Hill delivering the summary of the GDAMS report and then did an action on the National Mall. A delegation went to meet with the Department of Education. Money for books, not bombs!

American Friends Service Committee youth delegation to the US Department of Education on April 15, 2013.

American Friends Service Committee youth delegation to the US Department of Education on April 15, 2013.

 

In Milwaukee, WI, Tax Day was the first time for lobbying for young people in Peace Action Wisconsin’s Teen Peace Council. They created moving testimonies with photos on the impact of prioritizing the Pentagon over human needs for their families and community. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s staff warmly received them.

In Maryland, just before Tax Day, Montgomery County Peace Action partnered with Progressive Maryland for a Maryland Coalition to Fund Our Communities six-stop “Prosperity Not Austerity” bus tour that began in Baltimore, visited Annapolis, took in the Maryland suburbs and ended up at the US Capitol. Tour stops included a school in Baltimore, a church that helps feed those in need, a community college in Prince George’s County and a public library in Silver Spring. Speakers included the state director of the AFL-CIO, the President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994, a Memorial AME church minister and USAction Executive Director, Jeff Blum.

Peace Action Binghamton University (NY) April 15, 2013 Cup of Peace Song event.

Peace Action Binghamton University (NY) April 15, 2013 Cup of Peace Song event.

In Binghamton, NY, 45 students participated in Peace Action Binghamton University chapter’s Have a Cup of Peace Song competition with cash prizes. After the performance a video created by the students called the Cost of War was shown followed by a discussion.

In Royal Oak, MI, Michigan Citizen Action and Peace Action MI partnered for a “Pull the Pork from the Pentagon” rally.  750 leaflets were handed out calling on US Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, to keep a focus on reining in wasteful Pentagon spending. The Macomb Daily Tribune, Detroit Free Press and Detroit News covered the event.

 In Charleston, WVA, West Virginia Citizen Action Group joined West Virginia Patriots for Peace in distributing 500 leaflets at the downtown post office, with the message, ‘Call US Senator Manchin to cut Pentagon Pork.” The event was covered in the state’s largest newspaper, the Charleston Gazette.

In Des Moines, Iowa, a rally was held in front of the Iowa Economic Development Authority organized by American Friends Service Committee and the Catholic Peace Ministry. Speakers included an AFSCME Retiree, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, American Friends Service Committee, Iowa Citizen Action Network, Alliance for Retired Americans, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, Progress Iowa and small business owners.

In Kansas City, MO, a Tax Day demonstration with the theme,” The U.S. Deficit Debate is a Crime” was organized by the American Friends Service Committee and cosponsored by Jobs Now!, Kansas City Federation of Teachers, Occupy KC, PeaceWorks/KC, and Physicians for Social Responsibility/KC. Representatives from endorsing groups testified before the Jackson County Legislature’s Finance and Audit Committee on the Move the Money Campaign that is focused on changing the federal budget priorities.

Demonstration and leafleting in downtown Cleveland, OH on April 15, 2013.

Demonstration and leafleting in downtown Cleveland, OH on April 15, 2013.

In MA, due to the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the Tax Day/GDAMS actions were postponed in Boston, Northampton and Fall River. In Boston, American Friends Service Committee and Mass Peace Action working with the Budget for All Coalition are organizing a May 16 the march and rally endorsed by a cross section of labor and community groups: Mass. AFL-CIO, Mass. Jobs with Justice, Mass. Alliance of HUD Tenants, Disability Policy Consortium, Sierra Club/Boston, Boston Workers Alliance, ACTUP/Boston, Human Rights City Boston & Beyond, Survivors Inc, SEIU Local 509 Lavender Caucus, American Federation of Government Employees Local 3258 and  Local 1164 and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Rallies in Northampton and Fall River will also be held on May 16 & 17. For more information: http://masspeaceaction.org/

For more US reports go to the GDAMS website.

We need a movement that is global and grassroots, that will take action, educate and generate an alternative vision for global economic security for all. 

Acting together with our sisters and brothers around the world to highlight the impact of military spending on meeting global human needs is an important step towards a national dialogue on US foreign policy.

To succeed in reordering government priorities and compelling changes for an economy that guarantees decent, union, good paying jobs, requires that we move towards multi-lateral action and stronger, more equitable , diplomatic relationships with countries around the world to solve the urgent political, economic and security issues.

Peace Action was proud to be the Global Day of Action on Military Spending US convener this year. Peace Action affiliates worked with our allies  on events in 15 states.

On a national level, it was yet another wonderful opportunity to work closely with organizers who went the extra mile for a successful US GDAMS events: American Friends Service Committee, Coalition for Human Needs, Fellowship of Reconciliation National Priorities Project, New Priorities Network and USAction! Big thanks to Mary Zerkel (AFSC), Angela Evans (CHN) and Barabara Helmick (UASAction) for helping to collect local reports and photos…and OSPG (On the Spot Political Guidance!)

And a hearty thank you to the GDAMS staff: Colin Archer, Secretary General of the International Peace Bureau and Mylene Soto, Program Coordinator, International Peace Bureau and GDAMS 2013.

The US groups supporting  Tax Day and the Global Day of Action on MIlitary Spending events: 

Alliance for Global Justice 

American Friends Service Committee 

Coalition on Human Needs 

Fellowship Of Reconciliation 

Foreign Policy in Focus, project of Institute for Policy Studies 

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance 

Jobs Not War Campaign

National Priorities Project 

National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee 

New Priorities Network 

Peace Action 

Pentagon Budget Campaign 

Progressive Democrats of America 

School of the Americas Watch 

United for Peace and Justice 

USAction 

US Labor Against the War 

Veterans for Peace 

War Resisters League 

Women’s International League for Peace And Freedom 


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

February 15, 2013

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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.

Nuclear Nonsense (and Some Good News as Well)

December 10, 2012

So I admit that headline could cover a lot of ground, but I’ll just touch on a few ludicrous developments of the nuclear weapons enterprise in this post, and a few good news antidotes to the insanity.

First up, while this gets scant attention, the United States still “tests” nuclear weapons. Not with full scale explosions as in the past (we haven’t done that since 1992, thanks to the peace movement’s vigilance!), but with “subcritical” (better called “hypocritical”) experiments where nuclear weapons components, including plutonium from the warhead, are “tested” but they don’t “go critical” (there is no nuclear chain reaction and thus no full-scale explosion). Here’s a concise letter to President Obama from our colleagues Gensuikyo, a leading Japanese disarmament organization. This was sent on December 7 to protest the subcritical nuclear test conducted on December 5 at the Nevada test site.

Mr. Barack Obama
President
United States of America

December 7, 2012

Dear Mr. President,

We protest against your administration for the subcritical nuclear test conducted on December 5 at the Nevada test site.  Whether it involves an explosion or not, nuclear testing runs counter to the spirit of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the agreement of achieving the “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” reached by the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Your administration seeks non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.  But your position of urging most others to renounce nuclear weapons, while continuing your own nuclear tests, does not stand by reason nor is it supported by the world public.

In the name of the A-bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and on behalf of the people of Japan, the only A-bombed country, we call on you to cancel all plans of nuclear testing and make a sincere effort to achieve a total ban on nuclear weapons and a world without nuclear weapons.

Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo)

The government of Iran also protested the “subcritical” test. Just sayin’.

On the good news front, in another part of our government’s nuclear weapons forever plans, as of now no ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) flight tests from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California are scheduled through next June, though that could certainly change.

Speaking of ICBMs, Reuters reported last week on a report prepared for Congress that Iran is nowhere close to having ICBMs capable of reaching the U.S. by 2015, as had been previously projected.

Talk about nonsense, or maybe insanity, the government is considering very harsh sentences, amounting to death sentences, for the nonviolent protesters, including an 82 year old nun, Megan Rice, who breeched security at the Y-12 nuclear weapons site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Learn more, and take action by signing this petition to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Last but not least, check out Cadmus Journal for some interesting perspectives on various issues relating to nuclear disarmament.

 

 


Very Scary – the U.S. Military’s Asia-Pacific Pivot – Let’s Build Up China (Our Banker) as the new Enemy and thus Justify the Permanent War Machine (Funded by our Tax Dollars!)

October 31, 2012

Lots to be scared of this Halloween – Frankenstorm and its aftermath, a possible Romey-Ryan Administration, running out of candy at 7:30 while trick or treaters still roam your neighborhood – but here’s a long-term concern, the U.S. military’s “Asia-Pacific Pivot.”

Has anyone asked the American people whether getting into a long-term economic, political, geostrategic and especially military confrontation is a good idea? Especially as the lion’s share of our tax dollars would continue to go to the Pentagon to fund this, instead of urgent domestic priorities? The arrogance of the military and governmental elites is staggering, I’m sure they don’t pause for a second to consider the will of the people, only their interests in perpetuating the endless war machine. In their eyes China is the only plausible enemy that can justify their reason for being, and for continuing to suck our blood and tax dollars dry (the war profiteers and banksters are the real vampires, yes?).

A short International Herald Tribune article and 22 minute video on the Pivot can give you the gist of what is planned, though this is far too sanguine and accepting of elite and U.S. government positions.

Please read below much more uplifting initiative that Peace Action is helping lead:

We are writing to announce the creation of the Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific.

With the movement focusing on the election, preventing war against Iran, and the struggle over military spending – not to mention media silence– you may have missed that China and Japan recently came to the brink of war over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, and the U.S. reaffirmed that if it came to war, the U.S. would join the battle on Japan’s side. You may have missed that this conflict caused anti-Japanese violence to break out in cities around China, resulting in the destruction of millions of dollars in property, and attacks against Japanese living in China.

You likely missed the massive Japanese protest over yet another G.I. rape of an Okinawan woman and the basing of crash-prone Osprey aircraft at the Futenma airbase which neighbors an elementary school. You may yet to have acted in solidarity with the extraordinary nonviolent resistance of Jeju islanders to the construction of a major offensive naval base which is also destroying World Heritage site. And, you may have yet to have learned that the struggle for control over the oil and mineral rich and strategically vital South China/East/West Philippine Sea could be the most dangerous 21st century tinderbox.

The Obama Administration has repeated announced the U.S. military “pivot” from Iraq and Afghanistan to Asia and the Pacific. And, the military buildup to reinforce U.S. Asia-Pacific hegemony as China rises is the driving force behind increased Pentagon spending.

The Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific has been created to provide vision, resources and initiatives to the building of a U.S. peace movement capable of challenging U.S./Asia-Pacific militarization in their comprehensive contexts, and encouraging more constructive U.S. engagement in this region. Its members include leading U.S. peace and Asian-American activists, engaged scholars and national religious leaders. We are privileged to work in partnership with many movements in Asia and the Pacific.

                We have just launched the Working Group’s information-rich website, http://www.asiapacificinitiative.org, which we hope will be well used by colleagues and friends as an important resource for analysis, information about events and actions, links and daily news updates.

                With partners across Asia and the Pacific, we will be marking 2013, the 60th anniversary of the Korean War’s armistice – not peace – agreement, with the framework of 2013 as The Year of Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific. We hope you will join us in this and other initiatives, that you’ll  draw on our action alerts and make contributions to allied struggles. As we develop our speakers bureau, we will be happy to provide or suggest speakers and resources for related events.

To join our e-list, please write to swolman@afsc.org.

                This past week’s statement of outrage, remorse and solidarity with the people of Okinawa follows below.  Please consider the possibility of your organization developing a similar statement. We’ll be glad to help you get it to Okinawan partners.

                Join us in working for peace and demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific,

                For the Working Group,

                Joseph Gerson

                American Friends Service Committee

Statement of Outrage, Remorse and Solidarity

Dear Okinawan friends,

                It is not enough to say that we are outraged by the most recent G.I. rape of an Okinawan woman or by the deployment of crash-prone Osprey aircraft to Futenma Air Base. It is not enough to write that we apologize for what the government that speaks in our name has inflicted on your communities. And, it is anything but sufficient for the U.S. military to set a curfew for U.S. forces based in Japan in response to G.I. sexual crimes or for the U.S. and Japanese governments to certify that the Ospreys are safe.

                The only way to bring an end to sixty-seven years of G.I. sexual abuse, rape and crimes or the deadly accidents, property destruction and environmental degradation that have plagued the people of Okinawa is the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from your communities and prefecture, and from Japan as a whole.

                We stand in solidarity with your protests and calls for withdrawal of U.S. military forces. As we work for peace and demilitarization of Asia and the Pacific, focusing primarily on U.S. policies and actions, please keep us informed of ways that we can support your nonviolent resistance and campaigns to with the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan.

                With outrage, remorse and solidarity,

                Working Group for Asia-Pacific Peace and Demilitarization.

 

(For more information about the Working Group see: http://www.asiapacificinitiative.org)

 


More on Drones, Pakistan and Afghanistan

October 3, 2012

Last week, we shared (on the Peace Action FaceBook page, not here on the Peace Blog) the devastating Living Under Drones report on U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, written by researchers from Stanford and New York University. If you didn’t read it or watch the accompanying video by Brave New Foundation (available at the same link as above and also on our FB page), you ought to. It is a clear indictment of a policy that is earning our government (deserved, I believe) enmity in Pakistan and around the world for the wanton use of armed drones to kill from afar.

CIVIC and the Columbia Law School also have a report posing hard questions for Congress and the Obama Administration titled The Civilian Impact of Drones: Unexamined Costs, Unanswered Questions. The recommendations to policymakers are worth a read.

Colleagues from many U.S. peace groups are in Pakistan right now on a nonviolent solidarity mission to call attention to and demand an end to U.S. drone strikes, which are killing many civilians in the Waziristan region. Follow the delegation at http://droneswatch.org/

Bob Naiman of Just Foreign Policy is on the delegation, and he explains why, as well as analyzes U.S. drone policy, with an article on Huffington Post.

Last but far from least, our good friend Phyllis Bennis was on Democracy Now! yesterday talking about Afghanistan, our country’s longest war (October 7th will mark eleven years since the start of our war there).

I’m guessing this new aspect of U.S. war-making (drone strikes) will not come up in the Presidential debate tonight, especially as the focus will be on domestic issues, but we will need to raise our concerns about U.S. drone policy in every conceivable way going forward.

 


Afghanistan – A Great New Civil Society Campaign (Initiated by Afghans), Dem Platform on Ending the War “Responsibly,” A “Tough Transition” and Straight Talk on “Security” from a Veteran (Who’s Now a Peace Activist!)

September 6, 2012

Johnny Barber of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who is currently in Kabul, writes inspiringly of a new initiative by the youth group Afghan Peace Volunteers called 2 Million Friends, an international call to end the war and help heal Afghanistan.

Barber’s article begins, “Four decades of war.  Two million people dead. Trillions of dollars spent. Money disappearing into the pockets of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, policemen and the armed forces. No accountability. No transparency. No infrastructure. The misery and poverty of the majority of the people continues unabated, decade after decade.

Children freeze to death in the winter. They starve to death all year round. The question remains, “Who benefits from this misery?” The human cost of war doesn’t enter into any politician’s calculations.

In October 2011 Secretary of State Clinton emphasized a new three-track strategy of “Fight, talk, and build,” claiming to “pursue all three tracks at once, as they are mutually reinforcing.” One year later, it is clear that the 3rd Afghan strategy of the Obama administration can be added to the scrap heap of failed strategies along with the “Af-Pak” strategy and the “Surge”. No one is talking, nothing is being built, fighting is the only track that continues unabated. Security, even in Kabul, is tenuous. Peace seems a distant and illusory concept.”

Barber continues with a more hopeful approach, the 2 Million Friends campaign:

“On December 10, 2012, International Human Rights Day, “2 Million Friends” will present a petition to the UN calling for an immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan, leading to direct, substantial talks to end the war, end the government corruption and begin to advocate for the welfare of the majority of the Afghan people who have suffered for too long.”

Peace Action plans to support this initiative, and I hope you will too. Please visit the 2 Million Friends website, get involved, and help spread the word!

Meanwhile here in the U.S., the Democratic Party Platform, which its convention in Charlotte will ratify today, has a short section (deliberately short I’m sure, as they’d prefer not to remind Americans of our longest war) titled “Ending the War in Afghanistan Responsibly,” which has the political virtue of putting anyone who doesn’t agree with this approach as being irresponsible. Read it for yourself and decide whether it, or the plan advocated in 2 Million Friends, is the better way to “responsibly” end the war.

As to the reality on the ground of how the “responsible end” to the war is going, Foreign Policy has these snippets today in its AfPak Daily (thanks to Michael Eisenscher of U.S. Labor Against the War for this):

Tough transition

Though a March 9 agreement with Afghanistan stipulated that the United States
transfer control of the Parwan detention facility at Bagram Air Base to the
Afghans by September 9, the U.S. military appears set to retain control
indefinitely over about 50 foreign detainees, as well as all Afghans who are
newly detained (
NYT
). The U.S. military’s continued role shows the complexity of trying to
put detention and interrogation activities in Afghan hands while American
troops are still conducting combat operations in the country.

Afghanistan’s top military commander, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, admitted
Wednesday that the rising incidence of insider attacks by Afghan security
forces on their NATO counterparts is not fully attributable to infiltration by
foreign spy agencies as Afghan officials had previously claimed (
Post
). Karimi said senior military officers don’t give their subordinates
enough guidance, so “they don’t know why we are fighting.”

A new report
by Human Rights Watch claims that a suspected Libyan terrorist was waterboarded
by the CIA in Afghanistan, contradicting the official U.S. narrative that just
three high-level al-Qaeda suspects were ever subjected to waterboarding, none
of them Libyan (
NYT
).

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasool and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar
Salehi signed a deal on Wednesday giving land-locked Afghanistan access to the
Iranian port of Chabahar on the Indian Ocean (
AP
). And a senior Pakistani official confirmed Thursday that Pakistan
signed a barter deal with Iran last month to trade wheat for fertilizer,
despite U.S. pressure to continue isolating Iran over its nuclear program (
ET
).

And last but far from least, our colleague Matt Southworth of Friends Committee on National Legislation posted a very thoughtful, heartfelt, analytical and yet personal piece Is A War Less Noticed Making You Safe? on the FCNL blog. Matt’s conclusion (though you should read the whole article) exhibits a clarity missing from what passes for debate these days over our longest war:

“To me, security doesn’t start overseas; it starts here at home. Security is knowing that if you work hard, you will have a job to go to everyday. It means knowing your children can get a good education and go to college without facing mountains of debt. Security is being able to walk around your neighborhood at night without fear of being mugged—something that can’t be done in every Washington, DC neighborhood. Security means knowing that you don’t have to compromise your health because medical expenses are simply too daunting. To me, security means knowing we, the United States, play a positive role around the world, rather than a sinister, means to ends one that we seem to have adopted.

My deployment to Iraq in 2004 did none of these things. When this next anniversary of 9/11 comes to pass, think about how you’d define security. What makes you feel secure? I bet the bloated Pentagon budget and wars overseas won’t be as large a part of your security as some would have us all believe.”

 

 

 


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