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.


Update on Senate Panel Vote: Today is a good day to tell the Senate, “No More War!”

December 10, 2014

 

 

 

 

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UPDATE DECEMBER 11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-8 in favor of the AUMF for 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. Peace Action will of course keep you apprised of the situation and how you can make an impact.

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Tomorrow, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The vote is somewhat symbolic, as it’s just a committee vote, and the full Senate and House will not vote on any AUMF before the new Congress convenes in January, meaning they would need to start from scratch on this issue.

 

However, the vote could be an indicator of the depth of support, at least in this important committee, for yet another endless war in the Middle East. The Obama Administration apparently wants at least a three year authorization (stretching beyond the end of the president’s term in office), with no geographic limitations, and no prohibition on deploying U.S. ground troops. Sure looks like a slippery slope to another endless war.

 

I need you to call your senators today, especially those on the Foreign Relations Committee (check the committee roster here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_Committee_on_Foreign_Relations)

 

Regardless of whether you have a senator on the committee, it’s a good day to tell the Senate, “No More War!” Thanks to our colleagues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, you can call toll-free at 877-429-0678.

 

Today is International Human Rights Day, and we at Peace Action certainly believe peace is a fundamental human right. Please call your senators today, toll free at 877-429-0678, on behalf of peace and stopping yet another endless war.

 

Yours in Peace,

 

Kevin Martin

Executive Director

 

P.S. For years Peace Action has advocated the repeal of both war authorizations for Afghanistan and Iraq, passed well over a decade ago. While we opposed both authorizations at the time, many who supported them then now agree that they are outdated and far too broad and should be repealed (we agree).

 

The Obama administration has been leaning on both authorizations for its military intervention in Iraq and Syria, though now it wants Congress to pass a new AUMF. We oppose a new AUMF as Peace Action thinks not enough energy has been spent on a political solution to the Syrian civil war and on starving ISIS of resources (oil, antiquities and sex trade revenue, weapons and foreign fighters).

 

Please call your senators today, toll-free at 877-429-0678, and thank you for all your support as we observe this season of peace.


Alternatives to Endless War

November 13, 2014

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 A Sustainable, Effective Response to ISIS

 

Instead of another endless war, Members of Congress should stand up in support of effective alternatives to combat the threat from ISIS. Below are possible ways for the U.S. government to take action. These are examples of the many alternatives available to move towards a political solution.

 

The United States Congress can:

  • Insist that President Obama seek congressional authorization for continued military intervention, and then vote to oppose our latest war in Iraq and Syria
  • Cosponsor measures like H. Con. Res. 114, offered by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to require Congress to debate, vote, and constrain U.S. military intervention
  • Support measures to prohibit U.S. ground troops and sunset the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs

 

The United States can take immediate unilateral action to:

  • Tighten loopholes in existing sanctions to help cut off ISIS’s funding streams
  • Condition U.S. support for the Iraqi government on success in stopping sectarian violence and promoting inclusive governance. This can undermine the roots of ISIS’s hold in Iraq
  • Cut off U.S. government contracts with anyone doing business with ISIS
  • Increase humanitarian funds for acute needs. The UN’s Syria Regional Refugee Response Plan for 2014 is only half-way funded. As winter approaches, the key World Food Program has “run out of funds”: rations will be cut and some refugees will go without any WFP aid
  • Stop channeling weapons into a volatile situation. The U.S. has armed Iraqi forces and Syrian rebels despite rights violations. U.S. weapons have ended up in the hands of ISIS
  • Support civil society efforts to build peace and reconciliation at the community level

 

The United States can support multilateral efforts to:

  • Build regional stability and security through aid for refugee host nation communities to reinforce stressed health, education, and housing infrastructure and to encourage job creation
  • Keep the conflict from spreading to Jordan, Turkey or Lebanon etc. by encouraging a global effort to share responsibility for resettling refugees from Iraq and Syria
  • Prevent problems when ISIS recruits– originating from the U.S.– return by dissuading recruits from leaving in the first place and by monitoring the most dangerous returnees

The United States can work with the United Nations to:

  • Organize humanitarian evacuations of stranded and trapped civilians
  • Impose comprehensive, enforceable financial sanctions against ISIS
    • ISIS profits from selling petroleum, archaeological artifacts, and wheat
  • Restrict ISIS’s access to the international financial system
  • Support a political solution to Syria’s civil war:
    • With the UN and regional powers, press the regime and rebels to support truces to reduce non-combatant deaths and increase the focus on defending against ISIS
    • Re-energize diplomacy for negotiation on a political transition that would include all parties to the conflict as well as outside parties, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and the U.S. A regional Contact Group could lay the groundwork for peace talks
    • If necessary, the UN General Assembly could assume responsibility under the Uniting for Peace procedure (to circumvent possible Security Council inaction)
    • Begin discussions and planning for a possible international peacekeeping or stabilization mission in Syria (and possibly parts of Iraq)

 

The United States can work with regional states and organizations to:

  • Engage in strategic outreach to Sunni communities in both Iraq and Syria to address political and economic grievances and thus undermine crucial political support for ISIS. The region’s Sunni powers—the Saudis, Emiratis, Jordanians and Turks—can all play a role
  • Work to impose an arms embargo against all armed actors in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait have provided weapons to the opposition, including ISIS, in Syria
  • Work with the states near ISIS territory to close the borders leading into and out of ISIS areas
  • Enforce sanctions against ISIS and stop member nations from purchasing ISIS’s goods
  • Conduct a social media campaign that truthfully exposes the grotesque nature of ISIS ideology in terms that would-be jihadists can understand

The legacy of WMDs in Iraq – the real ones, courtesy of Uncle Sam

October 20, 2014

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Below is a letter to the editor sent to the New York Times (they didn’t publish it, happens to the best of us) prompted by an article last week on the actual weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq — no, not the nukes Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld lied to us about in order to invade Iraq, the chemical weapons supplied by the United States to Saddam Hussein and company in the late 70s and early 80s, sacrebleu! The article by C. J. Chivers is tough reading, but highly recommended.

Apart from the awful possibility that ISIS has gotten or could get its hands on these horrific weapons, this should be a lesson in how short-sighted our government’s weapons proliferating practices are and how they nearly always come back to hurt us — our troops, our allies and the security of the American people.

October 16, 2014

To the editor,

Revelations by the Times of the recent discovery of forgotten – or worse, covered up — chemical weapons stashes in Iraq and negligence in the treatment of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and police exposed to sarin and mustard agents would be shocking, but they are unfortunately all too predictable. Similarly, if ISIS has gotten hold of and perhaps used some of these horrific weapons, no one should be surprised.

The effects of decades of the United State and other western powers pouring conventional and unconventional weapons into the Middle East are wide-ranging and unpredictable, except that they will likely prove disastrous, as they have time and again. From Gaza to Syria to Iraq to Egypt to Libya to Afghanistan, U.S. and western military intervention and/or an always open spigot of weaponry (with American taxpayers usually footing the bill) amount to attempting to put out the region’s near-constant fires with gasoline.

In the near term, working with the new Iraqi government and international agencies to secure and destroy the remaining chemical weapons, as is underway in Syria, and delivering fair and just treatment to those exposed to these weapons need to be urgent priorities.

More broadly, it’s time for a fundamental re-orientation of our policies away from failed militaristic, weapons-based stratagems that make the region and the United States less safe. Instead, we need a more sustainable commitment to diplomacy (such as restarting negotiations to end the Syrian civil war), strict arms control (beginning with establishing a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East and serious curbs on conventional weapons transfers) and international cooperation instead of bombing or invading as the way to address the threats of violent extremism.

Sincerely,

Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Peace Action


Your Opinion Matters – Survey on U.S. War in Syria and Iraq

October 17, 2014

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Please take a minute to complete a simple, four question survey regarding U.S. military action in Iraq and Syria..

It helps to know what you think.  We want our communications, and most especially our calls to action, to align with your interests and concerns.  That means greater participation and greater impact on decision makers.

Asking you to share your views is something we don’t do enough of, so please take a minute – just a minute – to answer four questions.


War – What Is It Good For?

September 25, 2014

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–by Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Two weeks ago the House of Representatives voted 273-156 to fund and train “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight the radical terrorist group Islamic State or ISIS. Thank you for your calls against this ill-advised scheme especially since Congress has not authorized the president’s new war in Syria and Iraq. Now, please call your representative via the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and let him or her know what you think of his or her vote.

Congress then adjourned to campaign for re-election, which was an abdication of its responsibility. They certainly could and should have remained in session for a week or more to debate and vote on whether to authorize President Obama’s intervention into the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars. While Congress failed to do its job, we at Peace Action won’t fail to do ours. Our members and activists will bird-dog candidates on the campaign trail and press Members of Congress to explain themselves at community meetings. Peace Action Education Fund Board President Mike Keller wrote this excellent report of such a meeting in Annapolis, Maryland with U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) who was surprised to catch flak from liberal activists for his vote to arm the Syrian rebels.

Last week, President Obama spoke at the UN and chaired the Security Council meeting, where a resolution calling on states to stop the flow of foreign fighters to groups like ISIS passed 15-0. This sounds good, but as expected this was not Security Council approval for military intervention in Iraq and Syria, as required by the UN Charter. So the president is still 0 for 2 in domestic and international law.

Congress is expected to hold votes on authorizing Obama’s new war(s) when it returns after the election for a lame duck session in November or December, we will keep you posted as to developments and how you can take action between now and them. Meanwhile, here is a link to a radio interview on Chicago’s public radio station I did earlier this week prior to the initiation of bombing in Syria and a blog post on the illegality of these new wars.


Call Congress Today to Stop the Escalation of War in Iraq and Syria

September 16, 2014

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Today is a national call in day to question the U.S. government’s ISIS strategy organized by two dozen groups including MoveOn, Veterans for Peace and Friends Committee on National Legislation (which provided the toll free number).  With Members of Congress participating in Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) hearings over the next few days and a vote likely tomorrow on providing arms to Syrian fighters, now is the time to be heard.

Call Now!  Congressionals switchboards are open between 9am and 5pm, eastern time.  (855) 68 NO WAR (66 927 toll free)  First, ask for your Representative, when finished call both of your Senators.  Tell them:

“I am a constituent and I question whether there is a military solution to the ISIS problem. I also want my Congressperson to vote against arming Syrian fighters.”

Perhaps you don’t agree exactly with the above statement.  I’m sure you still have questions or think Congress should at least hold a debate or claim its constitutional war powers.  Please make three calls today and state your concerns.

The United States is rushing headlong into another open-ended war in the Middle East.  We know from the past disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan that war isn’t the answer.  Even President Obama has said that there is no military solution to ISIS.  Among other actions, organizing regional diplomacy, cutting off oil income from sales to ISIS, and getting the UN to restart talks to end the Syrian civil war are more likely to achieve success over bombing and spreading weapons that might end up in the wrong hands.  For more on nonmilitary solutions see our action alert from last week.

Pick up your phone!  (855) 68 NO WAR (66 927 toll free)  First, ask for your Representative, when finished call both of your Senators.  Use the above script.

As I mentioned, it seems Congress will vote tomorrow to send more weapons into Syria.  Already ISIS is using U.S. weapons against us,  and garnered from Syria and Iraq.  Sending more weapons into the Middle East is like pouring gasoline on a fire.  Congress should vote no.

Make Three Calls Now!  (855) 68 NO WAR (66 927 toll free)  First, ask for your Representative, when finished call both of your Senators.  Use the above script.

Your calls today are essential because, as we mentioned, this week the House and Senate are holding hearings with experts like Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and General Martin Dempsey.

And know that your calls are being amplified by supporters of over twenty organizations that are calling Congress as you read this.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Today is a national call in day organized by a few dozen groups to question the U.S. strategy on ISIS.  Call now!  (855) 68 NO WAR (66 927 toll free)  First, ask for your Representative, when finished call both of your Senators.  Tell them:

“I am a constituent and I question whether there is a military solution to the ISIS problem. I also want my Congressperson to vote against arming Syrian fighters.”

After calling, please forward this important email.


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