Senate Committee approves limited authorization for war on ISIS

December 16, 2014

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Last Thursday, The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10 to 8 in favor of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS/ISIL in Syria and Iraq, but with some limitations, read more in this article in Stars and Stripes. The importance of this vote remains to be seen, as neither the full Senate or House plans to take up the AUMF issue before the end of the year, so this committee vote will “expire,” and the new Congress may not take up the AUMF until March or April.

The vote was, somewhat predictably, along party lines, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed. While the vote is largely symbolic, key issues surfaced not just in the vote itself but in the debate leading up to it, including possible prohibition or limitations on the use of U.S. combat forces (the bill would allow the use of ground forces for some special missions), the duration of congressional authorization (three years in the bill that passed in committee, meaning it would last into the next presidency), geographic limitations (Sen. Rand Paul’s attempt to limit military operations to Iraq and Syria failed in committee) and sunsetting the previous AUMFS for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

This committee vote fell far short of Congress doing its Constitutional duty regarding authorizing war, especially for a conflict the U.S. entered last summer. Peace Action will of course keep you apprised of the situation and how you can make an impact, including national lobby days, demonstrations and call-in and email actions early in 2015. On a somewhat related issue, we will also keep you informed on how to continue to support diplomacy rather than war or increased sanctions against Iran. While there may some tough moments ahead, resolving the issue of Iran’s nuclear program in the next several months could lead to broader benefits for Middle East peace.


Urgent Action: Tell Congress to support diplomacy with Iran

November 21, 2014

30927_10150183416065391_4338679_n

You’ll know from the past eight years that we have been writing you about Iran.  First, we were gravely concerned that Vice President Dick Cheney would sway the Bush administration to bomb Iran.  We have come a long way.  We expect this Sunday the international community including the U.S. will announce an agreement or a negotiating extension with Iran to ensure they do not acquire a nuclear weapon even if they wanted one.

Write your Congressional delegation now to support this historic agreement that will make us safer and will be a step in reducing Middle East tensions.

Unfortunately, there are some in Congress who take the Cheney tack that war is always the answer.  Military strategists have said over and over again that a military intervention into Iran would at best slightly delay any nuclear program and at worst force Iran to engage in getting a nuclear weapon even if they had no such program.

Congress needs to hear from you now not to scuttle this extremely important deal.  Use this sample letter to write now.

With bad news coming out of the Middle East nearly everyday, an agreement with Iran is something to lift up, not bring down.  Demand that those who represent you in the Capitol speak up in support of an agreement or continued negotiations until an agreement is reached.

This is a key time to lesson tensions in the Middle East and guarantee another country promises not to seek nuclear weapons.  Your letter right now can make a big difference.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S.  It is urgent that you write Congress now to support an agreement or an extension with Iran on their nuclear program.  After using the sample letter, please forward this to your friends, family and colleagues.


Some good news on the extension of nuclear talks with Iran

July 22, 2014

Amid the mostly awful daily news from the Middle East, one piece of good news came late last week. Iran and the “P5 +1″ (the U.S., Russia, England, France, China and Germany) agreed to continue negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program for another four months. The interim Joint Plan of Action deadline was July 20, but as expected, all parties agreed enough progress and benefits have been seen to continue negotiations.

Our colleagues at Win Without War (a coalition Peace Action has been a part of since 2002) compiled supportive statements from editorial boards and experts and also from Members of Congress.

You can show your support for continued diplomacy with a FaceBook graphic from our friends at Council for a Livable World or by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper (or posting on a blog), and here are some talking points from Rethink Media and National Security Network to help you write your letter or post:

Extending the negotiations is a “win/win” for the US.

 

  • The nuclear inspectors on the ground in Iran have confirmed that Iran has frozen and even rolled back its nuclear activities – living up to its promises under the current deal.

 

  • By continuing the talks, Iran’s nuclear program remains frozen, and we get extra time to work on eliminating the possibility of an Iranian bomb.

 

  • Soundbite: It’s far better to secure a deal in overtime than quit and go home.

 

Continuing diplomacy is better than rushing to war.

 

  • If Congress kills the negotiations by imposing new sanctions or unworkable terms for a final agreement, Iran will unfreeze its nuclear program without restriction…which means either Iran gets a nuclear bomb or we have to fight another war in the Middle East.

 

  • After more than a decade of war, Americans strongly oppose the prospect of another military conflict. As their representatives, we owe it to them to explore every diplomatic opportunity.

 

  • Soundbite: What we’re doing now is exactly what we should have done instead of invading Iraq. 

 

Adding more sanctions will do more harm than good.

 

  • Exploiting the extension as an opportunity to impose new sanctions or terms for a final deal would kill the talks and likely lead to the collapse of international sanctions.

 

  • All of the countries that matter support the negotiations. We should continue to work with our allies rather than taking unilateral action and undermining the talks.

 

  • Soundbite: Sanctions brought Iran to the table, but sanctions didn’t roll back Iran’s nuclear program – negotiations did.

Breaking News and Perspectives on Iraq

June 19, 2014

no good war banner pic

 

President Obama just spoke on Iraq, here are some points from Win Without War, a coalition Peace Action helped found to oppose the Iraq war in 2002:

Moments ago, the President finished a brief press conference in which he discussed the situation in Iraq. He announced that the US would be sending up to 300 special operations forces as advisors to Iraq (they will reportedly be broken into teams of 10-20 and forward deployed with Iraqi units). He also stressed that the US is now ready to make ‘limited, targeted’ air strikes if the situation the ground dictated it. While the President also made several positive statements stressing his opposition to ‘ground troops’ and that this remains an Iraqi problem that will require an Iraqi solution, we are troubled by some of these developments.

Here are our top line message responses.

  • This is a dangerous escalation of US military involvement in a problem the President himself has said has no military solution. It is also a dangerous retreat from the conditions that the President set for US engagement
  • What in needed in Iraq is a political solution, and any US support must only be made after changes to the policies of Prime Minister Maliki that are fueling sectarian tensions and growing this conflict.
  • History has shown that advisors can become ground troops, despite the best intentions.
  • President is still threatening airstrikes which would be counterproductive and firmly make America part of what is a growing Iraqi civil war.
  • President Obama needs to listen to the American people who do not want to restart the Iraq war.

Longtime Peace Action board of directors member Lauri Kallio of Albuquerque wrote this summary yesterday, which prompted a thoughtful reply by Bj, an activist with our Sacramento chapter:

President Barack Obama’s initial statement on the insurgency in Iraq was that all options are open. All options would include boots on the ground and bombing, with nuclear bombs not being ruled out. Later, Obama specifically excluded sending U.S. troops in, but reports were that the White House was mulling over the bombing option. Bombing attacks would would almost certainly produce noncombatant casualties and would likely provoke Sunni anger over the U.S. siding with the increasingly Shiite-dominated government. On June 16, media reports were that 100 Special Forces troops would be sent in to train Iraqi security forces.

 

President Obama also said that U.S. military aid would be premised on Iraqi government assurances to make political accommodations to relieve Sunni and Kurdish grievances about being largely excluded from power sharing. The U.S. troop surge well into the war was primarily designed to achieve some 18 socioeconomic and political goals — some hard to measure. I wrote a piece in my almost daily logbook on the war in Iraq, sometime after the surge took place, in which I demonstrated that there had been little or no progress on the goals, particularly on the two key goals of resolving Kurdish territorial land claims and an equitable sharing of oil revenues. The failure to resolve land claims alienated the Kurds and the failure to craft a plan to share oil revenues disadvantaged the Sunnis the most.

 

Staying with the theme of the futility of relying on the Iraqi government to become more inclusive,shortly before the troop surge took place, the U.S. began paying stipends for Sunni tribal groups to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq  Later, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was to strike a major blow against the Sunnis by cutting off the stipends.

 

When Nuri al-Maliki achieved his latest grip on power, his faction actually received fewer parliamentary seats than a competing faction led by a former foreign minister of Iraq; however, by more adroit political maneuvering, al-Maliki made deals with other small political factions to be elected prime minister.

 

After al-Maliki consolidated political power, he began a campaign to discredit the Sunni vice president, culminating in a murder charge for running a death squad, causing the vice president to flee the country.

 

Reports coming out of Baghdad form a pretty consistent picture of Prime Minister al-Maliki building an increasingly Shiite-dominated regime; thereby making it a naive move on the part of Obama to trust any promise of a more politically inclusive regime in Iraq.

 

If the argument is made that we must come to the aid of a democratically elected government in Iraq, given the extreme weakness of the Iraqi parliament and the ability of al-Maliki to rule largely by decree, the aid-to-a-democracy argument becomes very suspect.

 

If the argument is made that the U.S. should supply more arms to help the Iraqi security forces fight the insurgents. the last major clash should give one pause. Reports are that 30,000 Iraqi troops fled when confronted with 800 armed insurgents. Many of the fleeing Iraqi troops discarded their uniforms in the apparent hope that having no uniforms would save their lives if they fell into the hands of the insurgents. The insurgents found themselves with a yet-to-be-determined cache of U.S.-supplied weapons.

 

The word that the  U.S. may send in 100 Special Forces to train Iraqi security forces hinges on the absurd. Not only have Iraqi security forces failed to stand up to numerically inferior insurgent forces, but they have not been able to stop the ongoing mass violence against Iraqi citizens since the U.S. forces left.

 

U.S. training of foreign military forces has been a history of failure over the past half-century. After years of the U.S. training the South Vietnamese military, it quickly crumbled before the invasion of North Vietnamese armed forces. Part of the mission of the U.S. Marines sent into Lebanon by President Ronald Reagan was to train forces deemed favorable to U.S. interests. That training was washed away in the chaotic and very destructive civil war that raged in Lebanon. Central and South American military personnel schooled at the School of the Americas — since renamed — went back home and many committed atrocities against the very citizens they were committed to protect. We haven’t seen the final result of the long period of U.S. training of Afghan recruits; however, what we know of it shouldn’t inspire much confidence. Ann Jones, who taught school in Afghanistan for six years and was still there in 2009 to witness U.S. training methods, said of the 2009 incursion into Helmand Province that it consisted of 4,000 U.S. and allied troops and only 600 Afghan security forces, some of them police forces. Jones said she didn’t know of a single Afghan who had seen a 90,000 man Afghan army, as claimed by the U.S. in 2009. She even suggested tongue-in-cheek that it probably consisted of one man enlisting for training 90,000 times. Ann Jones personally knew of a number of men who went through the training, went home and went through again under another name. She was also convinced that Taliban men would go through the training course to learn of U.S. military tactics and also get a paycheck.

 

Overall, it would seem that all U.S. military options in Iraq are fraught with disaster. Diplomacy and a political settlement have also been suggested; however, I don’t see the U.S. as having the leverage to achieve a settlement. Realistically, we in the United States must come to the realization that there are situations in nation states that the intervention of the mighty U.S. military machine will only worsen the situation, and we shouldn’t set ourselves up for the burning we will get by setting the fires.

 

Unfortunately, the U.S. cannot serve as a role model for the world, given that we have attacked at least one nation that hasn’t attacked us in every decade since World War II. Youngsters just entering their teen years have never known a time when we were not at war and many have lived through two major wars.

 

Although I am generally opposed to dividing the world into smaller political enclaves of people based on religious or ethnic identification, perhaps the best solution would be for the U.S. to propose and work for splitting Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political divisions. The Sunnis and the Shiites are at one another’s throats. The Kurds are largely autonomous in their own territory, even making their own oil concession deals, despite incurring the wrath of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

###

The US/Iran situation since the ouster of the Shah in 1979 has been ridiculous and I am very much in favor of a rational and pragmatic relationship between the US and Iran. That said, with regard to Iraq, things may not be so simple.

 

Also with regard to dividing Iraq among the sectors (Shi’a, Sunni and Kurd — who are mostly Sunni by the way) things are also not that simple. Between 1991 and 2003, those divisions were encouraged and promoted by the US through the Northern (Kurdish area) and Southern (Shi’a area) No Fly Zones during the 13 years of intense sanctions. Saddam Hussein was essentially restricted to the central, Sunni-Shi’a mixed, part of the country. And during the 2003-11 invasion and occupation, those divisions were also encouraged and promoted, it seems.

 

Were the Kurdish region of Iraq to get full nation status, a bloody chain reaction would likely follow as the Kurdish military attempted to expand into those parts of Syria, Turkey, and Iran which have significant Kurdish populations — widening and deepening an already very destructive situation in the region. It may happen, but it is not something that we should encourage.

 

I highly recommend watching today’s Democracy Now. The after-headlines-segment is with UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. It is long, but his insights are so valuable to understanding the situation.  Below is an excerpt (my bolds). Bj

 

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ambassador Brahimi, on the question of sectarianism, there have been several reports that suggest that in the initial days of the Iraq invasion in 2003, there were some neoconservative members of the Bush administration that actively fostered sectarianism between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds as a way of—as a policy of kind of divide and rule. Could you comment on that?

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: … President Bush had given full, total responsibility to the Pentagon over Iraq. What was discussed there and what they did there, I don’t know. But as somebody from the region just looking at what was actually taking place, it was extremely hard not to believe that sectarianism was being promoted and that the people that were being put in charge were—I mean, of course the Kurdish region was given to Kurds 100 percent, and no—the rest of the Iraqis had no part in it. But in the rest of Iraq, the impression one had was that the people that were preferred by the occupying powers were the most sectarian Shia and the most pro-Iranian Shia, so, you know, that Iran—that Iraq is now very, very close to Iran. Again, from the point of view of somebody who looks at things from outside, I have absolutely no knowledge of what went on in the high spheres of power in Washington. The impression we had is that these people were put in charge either out of total ignorance—and that is extremely difficult to accept—or intentionally. But the fact is, you know, that the system that was established was very sectarian.

 


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

 2  1  14 

 

 

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


When Good News Goes Unreported

May 3, 2014

Have you heard?  The deal with Iran appears to be working.  We’re almost at the half-way point of the Joint Plan of Action and Iran appears to be living up to it commitments.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reports indicate that Iran is ahead of schedule in eliminating its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.  There are also reports that Iran may agree to alter the design of the Arak heavy water reactor to reduce its potential plutonium output which would be a major concession.

Not surprising, the media has devoted more coverage to the flap over the Obama administration’s rejection of Iran’s nominee for UN ambassador than the fact that negotiations free of threats have produced tangible success while a decade of sanctions and intimidation did not.

Further, as IAEA inspections and limitations on its nuclear program have reduced the chances of Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a final settlement would only make a nuclear breakout less likely.

The deadline for the Joint Plan of Action is July 20.  That gives opponents of diplomacy just under three months to torpedo a final settlement.

Of course, Peace Action won’t be waiting to see how this turns out.  We are organizing lobby days, Monday to Wednesday June 23-25 to put the full force of our grassroots network behind the successful resolution of the decade old crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.

Peace Action activists and our allies are making travel plans and setting up meetings with their Congressional delegations.  Citizen lobby days are a powerful tactic timed to strengthen the Obama administration’s resolve in the final weeks before the deadline.

A final deal carries with it a commitment to lift all nuclear related sanctions.  That will require approval by Congress which has demonstrated infinitely greater aptitude at levying sanctions and little appetite for lifting them.  Peace Action’s plans for a citizen lobby day will provide added political pressure on key Members of Congress to bring this crisis to a peaceful close.

Diplomacy has lessened the threat of a military strike against Iran but has not eliminated it.  Opponents to a diplomatic settlement are opposed to any accommodation with Iran.  For them, Iran should be offered two choices, knuckle under or face war with the US.  The problem is there are many in Congress who share this dangerous sentiment.  Their numbers insure the lifting of sanctions required once a deal is in place will likely come down to a close vote.  Peace Action is mobilizing its network to make sure it’s a vote we win.

Watch for information on how you can get involved in Peace Action’s Diplomacy Not War with Iran lobby days in coming weeks or call Peter Deccy at 301.565.4050 extension 326 for more information.


Move America off a permanent war footing? Sounds great! Start with nukes!

January 29, 2014

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama declared, “America must move off a permanent war footing.” Peace Action couldn’t agree more, but that permanent war footing is a many- headed hydra that won’t be transformed into a dove quickly or easily. So let’s get started right now!

The president is to be commended for working to address concerns over Iran’s nuclear program through multi-lateral negotiations. Your actions the last few weeks have been very effective in forestalling congressional attempts to impose new economic sanctions on Iran, which could torpedo diplomacy and make the unthinkable, another Middle East war, more likely. So thank you!

However, the president and his administration have been mostly AWOL in the growing international movement, in multi-lateral forums, for greater progress toward a nuclear weapons-free world. (Remember, the U.S. and eight other countries currently have nuclear weapons. Iran does not.)

The U.S. skipped an important conference in Norway last year on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and has not committed to attending a follow-up conference in Mexico in just a few weeks. Please email the president and let him know you want not just U.S. participation, but leadership, in this international effort for global nuclear disarmament.

Whether or not the U.S. sends an official delegation, Peace Action will be there! The Executive Director of Peace Action of New York State, Alicia Godsberg, will be attending both the governmental conference as an observer, and the international non-governmental organization (NGO) sessions convened by our colleagues at ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Last night the president also said, “If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.” While he spoke of Iran, that notion should apply to any number of foreign policy challenges, and certainly to nuclear arms reduction agreements (which is what Kennedy and Reagan negotiated). So tell the president we need U.S. representation at the Mexico conference.

Peacefully and Diplomatically Yours,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. This alert, and many in the weeks to come, are a part of our advocacy of “A Foreign Policy for All,” offering a new, more peaceful, positive and pro-active direction for U.S. foreign and military policy. Stay tuned for more on this in the weeks ahead.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 14,647 other followers

%d bloggers like this: