Get Your Senators to Support Diplomacy with Iran

July 29, 2013

Our action alert is below, and here is a terrific op-ed by Peace Action West’s Rebecca Griffin on the prospects for successful U.S. – Iran diplomacy.

Last month, the Iranian people elected a new president, Dr. Hassan Rouhani.  Dr. Rouhani won on the first ballot as Iranian voters demanded change. They rejected the hardliners competing in the election because they want improved relations with the West, an improved economy and greater freedoms.

With your support, and working with our allies, Peace Action helped Reps. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and David Price (D-NC) recruit signers for their letter to President Obama, calling on him to take advantage of this positive change.

Now we shift our focus to the Senate and I need your help to build support for a similar letter drafted by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA)

Your actions made a difference as 131 Members of the House of Representatives, including 17 Republicans and a majority of the Democrats — sent a letter to President Obama, asking him to “test whether Dr. Rouhani’s election represents a real opportunity for progress toward a verifiable, enforceable agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that ensures the country does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”

When Iran’s new President, Dr. Rouhani, called for a “policy of reconciliation and peace,” Iran’s people voted for positive change. Now it’s time for President Obama to renew diplomatic efforts toward an agreement that will satisfy the West that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon.

Please write your Senators now and make sure that they sign this important letter.

Thanks for taking action now.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

PS: The letter will be sent later this week, so be sure to take action now.  Urge your Senators to co-sign a letter to the President asking him to take advantage of a new moderate President in Iran to reach a diplomatic solution to our disagreements with Iran.

Please forward this message to your family, friends and co-workers!  Thank you.

Begin Senator Feinstein’s letter:

Dear President Obama:

We urge you to seize the opportunity presented by the upcoming inauguration of Iran’s new president, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, by reinvigorating diplomatic efforts to secure a verifiable agreement that ensures that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.

Since 2010 Congress has worked with your Administration to increase U.S. and international sanctions against Iran. The impact on Iran’s economy has been significant: the value of the Iranian rial against the U.S. dollar has declined more than 185 percent since 2011, unofficial estimates of inflation range as high as 70 percent, exports of oil have been halved, Iranian oil production has declined 35 percent to 2.6 million barrels per day, the Iranian economy declined by as much as 8 percent between March 2012 and March 2013 and is set to decline further in the next year, and unemployment estimates range as high as 20 percent.

With economic and political difficulties facing the Iranian people, the election of Dr. Rouhani is a clear demonstration of their desire to step away from the policies of his predecessor. Dr. Rouhani campaigned on the notion of repairing Iran’s relationship with the West, he criticized the Ahmadinejad government’s posture in nuclear negotiations, and he strongly and appropriately condemned Ahmadinejad’s abhorrent comments directed at Israel as hate rhetoric. Rouhani has also publicly warned that developing a nuclear arsenal would not provide Iran security dividends and has indicated Iran’s readiness to increase the transparency of its nuclear program. These events, taken together, provide an opening for negotiation.

As a result, we believe the U.S. should reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to determine whether Dr. Rouhani is truly willing to engage the international community. Doing so is the only way to reach a verifiable agreement, including limits on Iran’s enrichment and other sensitive nuclear activities and greater cooperation with the IAEA, that ensures that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons.

We believe that the United States should make it clear that existing bilateral and multilateral sanctions against Iran can only be lifted through progress at the negotiating table, and only if Iran takes proportionate steps that would sufficiently demonstrate its commitment to forgoing nuclear weapons. While a comprehensive resolution to the nuclear impasse may prove elusive in the near term, presenting Iran with intermediate measures to make progress could be the best approach for determining whether the Iranian government is serious.

Our nation’s security and the stability of the Middle East depend upon the resolution of this long standing dispute. As you examine America’s options on Iran over the next several months, we stand ready to work with your administration toward a peaceful settlement.

Sincerely,


Prestigious International Peace Prize Awarded to Courageous Whistleblower Bradley Manning

July 22, 2013

IPB AWARDS MACBRIDE PEACE PRIZE 2013 TO US WHISTLEBLOWER BRADLEY MANNING

Note: Peace Action is a longtime member of the International Peace Bureau and strongly concurs with this award’s much deserved honoring of Bradley Manning.

manning19 July 2013 Geneva

 

The International Peace Bureau is delighted to announce that this year’s Sean MacBride Peace Prize is to be awarded to Bradley Manning, the US whistleblower whose case has attracted worldwide attention, for his courageous actions in revealing information about US war crimes. His trial is likely to be concluded in the coming days.

 

Read-IPB-Press-Release

Manning was arrested in May 2010 after allegedly leaking more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, 400,000 U.S. Army reports about Iraq and another 90,000 about Afghanistan, as well as the material used in the “Collateral Murder” video produced by WikiLeaks: videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Garani airstrike in Afghanistan. At the time, it constituted the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public. Much of it was published by WikiLeaks or its media partners between April and November 2010.

 

Manning has so far been detained for three years  — first in Kuwait, then in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Va., and finally at a medium-security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. —before being charged with 22 offenses, including communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy. He pleaded guilty in February 2013 to 10 of the 22 charges, which could carry a sentence of up to 20 years. A full life sentence is now also possible.

 

IPB’s Co-President Tomas Magnusson comments: “IPB believes that among the very highest moral duties of a citizen is to make known war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is within the broad meaning of the Nuremberg Principles enunciated at the end of the Second World War. When Manning revealed to the world the crimes being committed by the US military he did so as an act of obedience to this high moral duty”. It is for this reason too that Manning has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In more general terms it is well known that war operations, and especially illegal ones, are frequently conducted under the cover of secrecy. To penetrate this wall of secrecy by revealing information that should be accessible to all is an important contribution to the struggle against war, and acts as a challenge to the military system which dominates both the economy and society in today’s world. IPB believes that whistleblowers are vital in upholding democracies – especially in the area of defense and security. A heavy sentence for Manning would not only be unjust but would also have very negative effects on the right to freedom of expression which the US claims to uphold.

 

About the MacBride Prize

The prize has been awarded each year since 1992 by the International Peace Bureau (IPB), founded in 1892. Previous winners include: Lina Ben Mhenni (Tunisian blogger) and Nawal El-Sadaawi (Egyptian author) – 2012, Jackie Cabasso (USA, 2008), Jayantha Dhanapala (Sri Lanka, 2007) and the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2006).It is named after Sean MacBride, a distinguished Irish statesman who shared the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize, and is given to individuals or organisations for their outstanding work for peace, disarmament and human rights. (details at: http://ipb.org/i/about-ipb/II-F-mac-bride-peace-prize.html)

 

The (non-monetary) Prize consists of a medal made in ‘Peace Bronze’, a material derived from recycled nuclear weapons components*. It will be formally awarded on Sept. 14 in Stockholm, at a special evening on Whistleblowing, which forms part of the triennial gathering of the International Peace Bureau. See brochure at:http://www.ipb.org/uploads/tbl_events_web/172/documents/Stockholm_brochure.pdf

 

 

*IPB is deeply grateful to the manufacturers of the medal:  http://www.fromwartopeace.com/


“Blowback” in Boston, Fort Hood, Iraq, Afghanistan…and Syria?

April 30, 2013

by Eric Swanson

The term “blowback,” the consequences of a covert or military operation that has repercussions for the aggressor or the result of supplying weapons to a conflict only to see those same weapons turned on the supplier, has been used for decades by national security elites. It has been used long enough that the previous definition of “unknown and unintended consequences” has become obsolete. The consequences are well known and openly discussed in national security circles.

In analyzing the tragedy in Boston, the concept of blowback is made clear in a Washington Post article by Scott Wilson, Greg Miller and Sari Horowitz (April 23 “Boston bombing suspects cite US Wars as motivation, officials say.”)  The surviving suspect told interrogators the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated his actions.  The US engages in war internationally, and local tragedy results.

When one looks at how the US national security apparatus has discussed previous instances of blowback and how it appears they will analyze this horrific event in Boston, they treat blowback as a law of nature, an inevitable consequence of immutable causes; as inexorable as an earthquake, as inescapable as an avalanche. Blowback is something that can be interdicted with good intelligence and vigilant law enforcement. It can be diverted with deft diplomacy. It can be muted some with the appearance of solid multinational alliances. But, in the collective understanding of the US foreign and military officials, blowback can never be prevented, and in fact may just factored in as an externalized cost of US war-making. So, in this case, it’s the innocent civilians in the Boston area who paid the cost.

We have seen blowback in the 2004 killing of US contractors in Fallujah, Iraq, the shooting deaths of 13 people and the wounding of 30 more at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009, and the proliferation of drone technology with drones now seen in the hands of non-state actors in just the last few days. At this point there is nothing unpredictable about it. Violence committed and weapons technology sold will pay in kind.

Blowback isn’t a law of nature. It is the predictable result of specific policy decisions. It is mutable. Drones flying overhead and raining death on a civilian population creates, understandably, anti-US sentiment. Wholesale aggressive destruction of entire villages, cities, and regions creates fear, anger, and yes, terror. And that creates individuals and populations ready to send that terror back.

These are equations that can be changed. Moving away from a militarized foreign policy moves us away from blowback. Moving away from selling arms to parties in conflict zones moves us away from blowback. Moving away from accepting our current policies as good business and expecting blowback as the cost of doing that business moves us away from that day when tragedy becomes the norm.

In just the last two days we are seeing the next possible incarnation of blowback as the US ramps up hawk-ish talk about the conflict in Syria. Whether the US floods weapons into the country or directly intervenes with military force there will be consequences. Under those conditions there will be blowback. But, as it is predictable, it is also preventable with a sane foreign policy that isn’t based on militarism and short-term profit but on restraint, humility, diplomacy and international cooperation.

 

Eric Swanson has served as Peace Action’s Database Manager since 1998. He served in the US Army from 1987-1990. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with over 200,000 members, donors and online supporters. http://www.peace-action.org/

 


On the 10th Anniversary of the Disastrous War on Iraq, We Must Learn from and Not Repeat Our Mistakes

March 18, 2013

At a recent meeting in Washington to discuss overall peace movement strategy moving forward (more on that soon!), our colleague and friend Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies agreed to write a brief statement on the tenth anniversary of the U.S. war of aggression on Iraq. We signed on as did a number of esteemed colleagues, and The Nation published it a few hours ago. I urge you to read and circulate the whole piece, it’s not long. It begins thusly:

“It didn’t take long for the world to recognize that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq constituted a dumb war, as then Senator Barack Obama put it. But “dumb” wasn’t the half of it.

The US war against Iraq was illegal and illegitimate. It violated the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and a whole host of international laws and treaties. It violated US laws and our Constitution with impunity. And it was all based on lies: about nonexistent links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, about never-were ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, about Iraq’s invisible weapons of mass destruction and about Baghdad’s supposed nuclear program, with derivative lies about uranium yellowcake from Niger and aluminum rods from China. There were lies about US troops being welcomed in the streets with sweets and flowers, and lies about thousands of jubilant Iraqis spontaneously tearing down the statue of a hated dictator.

And then there was the lie that the US could send hundreds of thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars worth of weapons across the world to wage war on the cheap. We didn’t have to raise taxes to pay the almost one trillion dollars the Iraq war has cost so far, we could go shopping instead.

But behind these myths the costs were huge—human, economic and more. More than a million US troops were deployed to Iraq; 4,483 were killed; 33,183 were wounded and more than 200,000 came home with PTSD. The number of Iraqi civilians killed is still unknown; at least 121,754 are known to have been killed directly during the US war, but hundreds of thousands more died from crippling sanctions, diseases caused by dirty water when the US destroyed the water treatment system and the inability to get medical help because of exploding violence.”

Also writing on this anniversary for Time magazine, former Sane/Freeze Executive Director and Peace Action Education Fund board member David Cortright, now with the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for Peace, warns against the possibility of another disastrous military attack, this time on Iran, as many misguided warmongers currently advocate. Unfortunately, 63 U.S. senators already are co-sponsors of a resolution pledging U.S. support for Israel should it attack Iran. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York has gone so far as to send letters to constituents with the erroneous information that Iran has a nuclear weapons capability. Apparently he thinks he knows something the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is carrying out ongoing inspections in Iran, and the U.S. intelligence community, which not only says Iran lacks such capacity but also has not made a decision to pursue nuclear weapons capability, don’t know.

The facts are this – Iran has no nuclear weapons, while Israel has at least a few hundred.

Negotiations with Iran are currently somewhat promising, so President Obama would do well to ignore this unsolicited “advice” from the Senate.

Lastly, David’s colleague at Notre Dame, Mary Ellen O’Connell, succinctly outlines the case that an Israeli attack on Iran over concerns about its nuclear program would be illegal, published on the Syracuse University Law School’s website. 

On this sad anniversary we must acknowledge the huge debt we owe the people of Iraq, while foreswearing making the same mistake again.


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

February 15, 2013

emptywarheadny

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.


On Inauguration/MLK Holiday, thoughts on our society’s “Triple Evils”

January 21, 2013

Lead article today on Foreign Policy in Focus. Would love your comments regarding our nation’s progress on Dr. King’s triple evils of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.

–Kevin

What Would King Say of the Obama Era?

By Kevin Martin, January 21, 2013

martin-luther-king-barack-obamaThe coincidence that the presidential inauguration should fall on Martin Luther King Day provides much food for thought. Certainly, Barack Obama’s decision to use King’s Bible for his swearing-in ceremony invites progressives to make an unflattering comparison between the two—Norman Solomon did it quite well with his piece “King: I Have a Dream. Obama: I Have a Drone.”

But beyond simply castigating the years behind us or prognosticating about the years to come, there is a broader, riper opportunity in this coincidence. Let’s challenge our society to look at how well we are addressing what King called the “giant triplets,” or the “triple evils,” of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism, which he enunciated most notably in his April 4, 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech, exactly one year before his murder. “When machines and computers, profit motives, and property rights are considered more important than people,” he thundered, “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Were King alive today, he would be astonished to see how much more exploitative our capitalist system has become. Witness the demise of American labor unions, the offshoring of middle-class jobs to low-wage countries to maximize corporate profits, the worst income inequality since the rober baron heyday of the 1920s, and our ongoing addiction to planet-destroying, unsustainable, and finite energy sources. Not coincidentally, the corporate takeover of our government—accelerated by the Supreme Court’s disastrous “Citizens United” ruling—would likely outrage King, as it ought to all Americans.

And while there certainly are some positive, glass-half-full indicators of racial harmony that we can be proud of—much higher rates of interracial marriage being a significant one, to say nothing of the reelection of America’s first black president—there are many more devastating facts that can’t be ignored. There are more black men in prison than in college, surely one of our country’s greatest shames. Wealth inequality, a more comprehensive measurement of economic health for an individual or family, is even worse for people of color than income inequality, which itself remains sky-high. Our failed policies on immigration, the war on drugs, persistent racial profiling—one could go on and on about the challenges of our deeply rooted sickness of racism.

Even President Obama’s two election victories and the visceral reaction to them are instructive. In 2012 Obama got less than 40 percent of the white vote, and in 2008 just a little more—meaning John McCain and Mitt Romney, two of the worst major party nominees in recent memory (and that’s saying something!) got a lot of votes just for being white. And the hysterical right-wing “We want our country back…” often means “…from that black guy in the White House.”

Meanwhile, most Americans remain in deep denial about the evil of militarism. By any measure, the United States is still, as King termed it in 1967, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” and to further quote and appropriate King’s terrific phrase, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan must doubtless see U.S. troops as “strange liberators,” just as the Vietnamese did.

The United States is military colossus unmatched in history, spending almost as much on war and weapons as the rest of the world’s countries combined. We’re far and away the globe’s number-one arms dealer, and maintain somewhere close to 1,000 foreign military bases (even the Pentagon can’t give a precise number). For comparison’s sake, China just recently opened its first foreign base in the Indian Ocean island of Seychelles.

War has become normalized; ask anyone under the age of 20 if they can remember a time we weren’t at war.

Then there is our domestic culture of violence, which has too many manifestations to name. Our out-of-control gun violence, violence against women and LGBT persons and children, our startlingly violent movies and video games, and our incessant use of war and battle metaphors is just a start.

An extreme example of our country’s delusion about guns and violence was provided recently by Larry Ward, chairman of the “Gun Rights Appreciation Day” planned for inaugural weekend. When challenged about the irony of holding such an event on the MLK holiday weekend, Ward said he thought the event would “honor the legacy of Dr. King,” adding that if African-Americans had had guns, slavery might not have existed in this country. Brevity prevents a full deconstruction of these absurdities, but Ward evidently forgot that King was murdered with a gun.

Clearly the triple evils run deep in our society and don’t just stand alone. They are interlocking and mutually reinforcing.  U.S. military and foreign policy is manifestly racist (dating at least to the genocide of First Nations peoples), and mostly driven by corporate interests bound up in economic exploitation. Economic exploitation obviously has a strong racial component as well.

But the point of all this is not to concede defeat to King’s giant triplets—the point is to stimulate analysis, reflection, and ideas for action to address and overcome them. Racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all human constructs, after all. We are not powerless before any of them.

For example, the Pentagon budget, while gargantuan, will soon begin to decline due to budgetary pressures and the end of the disastrous Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We can begin to rebuild by pushing for deeper cuts to Pentagon pork and putting the savings to work by investing in our communities. Moreover, creating a U.S. foreign and military policy based on widely held values of democracy, diplomacy, human rights, justice, sustainability, peace, and international cooperation—in short, a foreign policy for the global 99 percent—is not only possible; it’s the only antidote to our disease of militarism.

So as we celebrate Dr. King’s 84th birthday, let’s rededicate ourselves to building the Beloved Community he so clearly envisioned. Dismantling the triple evils and replacing them with positive structures and policies would be a great start.

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Kevin Martin has served as Executive Director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund since September 4, 2001, and has worked with the organization in various capacities since 1985. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 90,000 members nationwide.


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

November 9, 2012

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Howard Zinn, WW II

 

Kurt Vonnegut, WW II

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


An hour into the debate…

October 3, 2012

Very little new ground has been broken. A few observations:

Moderator Jim Lehrer – voting is already underway in 34 states already

Obama – winding down two wars – not exactly! Wants to keep up to 25,000 US troops in Afghanistan for a decade after supposed end of war at the end of 2012

Economic patriotism – new phrase by Obama? no follow up on that

Obama – nod to bipartisanship re ideas for education reform

Obama  – wind/solar/biofuels energy investment

Obama  - Romney proposes 2 trillion in additional military spending Pentagon hasn’t asked for – Obama mentioned three times

Romney – middle income families being crushed – effective blows by Romney

Romney – not trying to reduce federal revenue? Really?

Middle class love a thon

Every program — test — is it worth borrowing money from China to pay for — good one! Romney

Romney – can’t have banks in garages – why not?

Romney – the cost of health care is too high – why we need single payer national health insurance like every other industrialized country!

Romney scoring points on obama’s focus on health care instead of jobs.

Hard to say how any of this is changing any likely voters’ minds.


25,000 U.S. Troops to Remain in Afghanistan for a Decade After the Supposed “End of the War” in 2014?

September 11, 2012

Well, we still have tens of thousands of troops, and dozens of bases, in Germany, Japan and South Korea, don’t we?

Last spring, when President Obama announced a “Strategic Partnership Agreement” with the government of Afghanistan (which he claimed needed no congressional approval), he also announced the security arrangement (how many U.S. troops would remain) would be negotiated separately. According to Foreign Policy’s Situation Report by Gordon Lubold, those talks are beginning, and the option being floated is for up to 25,000 U.S. troops to stay.

With support personnel, guesstimates are this could cost U.S. taxpayers at least $40 to 50 billion per year, all on us. Unlike Germany, Japan and South Korea, who we strong-arm into helping defray the costs of U.S. forces on their soil, Afghanistan won’t be able to pay any of this.

Like the Afghanistan war itself, this issue is unlikely to garner much attention in the upcoming presidential or congressional elections. But it should. Congresspeople, and candidates, should demand now that this security agreement be in the form of a treaty, subject to U.S. Senate ratification, and they should ask hard questions and demand transparency in the negotiations. Seems not a lot to ask when they hold the purse-strings (to our tax dollars), yes?

An easy place to start would be to support U.S. Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in their quest to assert congressional oversight with their bill H.R. 5787, co-sponsored by Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Jim McGovern (D-MA). (Thanks to Stephen Miles of Win Without War for the reminder on this bill.) As Rep. Jones noted in his press release when he introduced the bill last May, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton supported an identical bill regarding Iraq in 2007 when they were senators. So they should have no problem with this bill now, should they?

Of course this won’t be easy. And the president’s own logic behind his plan to “responsibly wind down the war” means it should happen ASAP, not at the end of 2014. So how about we support the youth-led Afghan Peace Volunteers’ 2 Million Friends Campaign for a cease-fire and end to the war instead?

 

 


President Obama’s Speech – What did you think?

September 7, 2012

Here’s my quick take on the President’s acceptance speech at the Dem Convention last night, but I’d love to know what you thought of it as well. (The New York Times has the transcript and video of the president’s speech with sidebar analysis from Times reporters).

Overall, there was a pretty good “feel” in terms of connecting with Democratic Party and even broader American values (several strong nods to the importance of investing in education, for example, though there are lots of critics of Administration education policies). But often, as when describing environmental and energy policy (more on this later), it sounded like the president struggled to reconcile progressive, pro-people policies with the priorities of the party’s corporate overlords (as he spoke in the Time Warner Cable Arena, moved from Bank of America, oops we mean Panthers, Stadium!). To be sure, this is the reality of the struggle within the party all the time, and I think most neutral observers would posit the corporate interests are overwhelming the progressive elements of the party. Which is why Peace Action and other peace and social justice, environmental, human rights and other progressive forces need to maintain our integrity as independent, nonpartisan advocates for a better world.

Starting with the good on wars/Pentagon spending/re-investing in priorities here at home, the president said, “And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways.  After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.”

Pretty good, let’s hold him to it. And of course the logic of this would lead to efforts to end the war in Afghanistan ASAP, not at the end of 2014. Also very troubling (unmentioned by POTUS in his speech) are plans in the works to keep 10-15,000 U.S. troops there for at least another 10 years after that.

Also not bad was the fact there was relatively little fear-mongering about “threats” the country faces. Yes, China was mentioned twice as a bogeyman, but in economic, not military terms. Al Qaida, the Taliban, generic “terrorists” and Iran were mentioned, but almost as a pro forma “well we have to mention some threats out there” exercise.

Not so good or truthful – the president claimed credit for ending the Iraq war. True, he did oppose the war before it started in 2003 (when he was an Illinois State Senator) and consistently spoke out against it, but as president all he did was accept the agreement to withdraw our troops President Bush had made with the Iraqi government. Well, actually there is controversy even about that, as the president and others in his administration sent up at least trial balloons, and perhaps more serious overtures, about keeping troops there longer if the Iraqi government asked for it (perhaps knowing full well it couldn’t do that).

Lastly, I was struck by huge contradictions on energy and environmental policy, but allow me to turn to folks who know these issues much better than I do (thanks to the Institute for Public Accuracy for these quotes):

DAPHNE WYSHAM, via Lacy MacAuley, lacy@ips-dc.org, daphne@ips-dc.org, http://www.ips-dc.org

Wysham is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and is the founder and co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network. She said today: “While it is heartening to hear President Obama affirm that climate change is not a hoax, he — like his Republican opponent — seems to place a higher value on achieving ‘energy independence’ via expanded oil and gas drilling than on action on climate change. The Obama administration has promoted policies that will result in enormous greenhouse gas emissions being released from the expanded mining and burning of coal — regardless of whether it is burned via unproven ‘clean coal’ technology — and via the poisonous and dangerous practice of fracking for gas, as well as via expanded offshore oil drilling. He has also signaled that, after the election, it will be full steam ahead for a pipeline for the dirtiest of all fossil fuels — tar sands from Canada. This is what happens when moneyed fossil fuel interests, like the Koch brothers, maintain their grip on our nation’s politics.”

TYSON SLOCUM, bholzer@citizen.org, http://www.citizen.org

Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, Slocum said today: “It was important that President Obama made clear his belief that climate change remains a major threat — a contrast to Governor Romney’s use of climate change as a punchline to a joke in his speech. But more important will be what policy solutions President Obama proposes to tackle climate change — and how his ‘all of the above’ strategy may undermine that commitment. This election, fossil fuel corporations will spend millions to not only shape voters’ opinions of the candidates, but their attitudes on energy policy –- namely that producing and using more fossil fuels will liberate our economy. The fact is that the longer we remain with the fossil fuel status quo, the farther we fall behind on the sustainable era of renewable energy. There is no such thing as benign fossil fuel production and consumption, and the future of fossil fuels will only become more expensive.”

RICHARD STEINER, richard.g.steiner@gmail.com, http://ricksteineralaska.com

A retired professor at the University of Alaska, Steiner was deeply involved in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He said today: “Neither the Republican Party, nor the Obama administration seem to grasp the severity of the energy/climate crisis we are in. While the Republicans are further from an energy plan that addresses the situation, both are playing games with something that is truly a life and death situation.

“That Romney belittled sea level rise and the global ecological crisis in his convention speech one night, and the very next day toured southern Louisiana, flooded with sea water from Hurricane Isaac, was one of the most spectacular ironies in the history of American politics. I suppose we expect this sort of delusion from the Republicans.

“But the Obama administration has had several years to make serious inroads into our carbon-intensive economy, and their performance has been an utter disaster. With only a few small achievements to tout, such as the recent auto fuel efficiency standards a decade or so in the future, this administration has failed miserably to live up to what those of us who voted for them expected.

“In energy efficiency and alternative fuels, we are now at a place we should have been at 40 years ago. Here in Alaska, and across the Arctic, we are presently experiencing the lowest sea ice extent since records have been kept. Walrus and polar bears are struggling on thin ice, and in open water. At this rate, the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in summer within a few years.

“But instead of a crash emergency program to do everything possible to save the Arctic Ocean ecosystem from this unfolding disaster, the administration just approved Shell’s oil drilling in offshore waters. In addition to the chronic degradation from increased industrialization in the Arctic, and the very real risk of a catastrophic oil spill, every carbon atom produced from the Arctic Ocean seabed will simply wind up in the global atmosphere and oceans, further exacerbating the death spiral from climate warming. It’s a lose-lose proposition, and everyone who knows this issue knows that.

“In fact, the administration’s offshore drilling program for the coming five years is worse than that of the former Bush administration. It harkens back to the 1980s days of James Watt and Ronald Reagan.

“We cannot continue dancing around the edges of this beast, and if we care about our common future, we need immediate, emergency action on the part of the U.S. government, and world governments to reduce carbon emissions some 80 percent. Nothing short of this will do. The continuing denial of the severity of this crisis by both main political parties could be our collective undoing.”


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