Stop Militarizing the Police

August 15, 2014

The tragic death of Michael Brown at the hands of the Ferguson police is a reminder that the upsurge in violence is not restricted to the Middle East or any one place.  It’s right here in our own communities.

Like the Trayvon Martin killing two years ago, the problems of racism, easy access to firearms, and the assault on our civil rights are all, once again, in the spotlight. I suspect I don’t have to explain why peace activists are taking action, mostly in support of activists of color who are leading the organized response to this latest perversion of justice.  Anti-violence is at the very heart of our struggle.

In this case however there is another element that directly connects to our ongoing work to build a more peaceful and just future – that is – militarism.  It’s time to demilitarize our police.

As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ‘wind down’ (though clearly not all the way down) the Pentagon has been offering surplus weapons to local police forces for free.  Tens of thousands of M-16’s, as well as mine-resistant trucks and other battlefield hardware have already been transferred to jurisdictions around the country – but the Pentagon still has lots and lots of free stuff to give away.

A bipartisan chorus has already begun to speak out in Congress against this practice.  Even Tea Party and right wing extremist Ted Cruz is raising alarm.

Tell your Member of Congress where you stand.

How much military hardware has been transferred to local jurisdictions?  It’s not easy to know as the Pentagon makes the trail difficult to track.  Most of the data available comes from local and state officials – like the State of Missouri which CNN reports has received some $17 million worth in transfers from the Pentagon.

I find, and I’m confident you do as well, the images of police in full military gear aiming assault rifles at unarmed protesters upsetting.  We can expect to see more and more of this in the future too, if we don’t do something about the economic terrorism visited upon the poor in our society at the hands of the 1 percent.

We know, for example, the Pentagon has in place plans for dealing with civil disorder brought about by economic or environmental disaster threatening the stablity of the government.  Arming local jurisdictions is a step in the wrong direction.

Since the 1980’s the US government has enabled the militarization of the police force as part of its so-called War on Drugs.  Post 9/11 politics opened the flood gates with grants from the federal government to prepare for the imminent terrorist threat.  Now, as combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended, the Pentagon is literally giving battlefield hardware away.

The militarism of policing – both in terms of weaponry and tactics – is a threat to our freedom as great as any coming from outside our borders.  It’s time to put it to a stop.

Write you Member of Congress today!

Please forward this message to your friends.


Dr King on Peace, Militarism and Internationalism

January 19, 2013

Dr. Martin Luther King at a press conference.

By Judith Le Blanc – Field Director, Peace Action – A sermon delivered on January 13, 2013 to the Transcontinental Baptist Church and Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts on the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King. Every year, I enjoy the celebration of Dr King’s birthday because it reminds me of being young and militant and inspired.

Back in the day, we were mindful of having been too young to be involved in the Civil Rights movement. We were anxious for a way to continue the struggle. So we joined the struggle to make his birthday a national holiday: marching, petitioning, and pressing Congress and the Reagan administration.

The rhythm and blues artist, Stevie Wonder led the charge along with civil rights leaders He wrote a song about the struggle for a national holiday to honor Dr King.

We knew when we danced to Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday song in the clubs that we were dancing for justice and honoring the legacy of a movement that fundamentally changed the course of US history.

Nothing like it, to be out dancing in a club and reminded of what Dr King called the “beautiful struggle!” For me and many other young people of color, the fight for his birthday national holiday was really a search for way to carry on the struggle for racial justice. Then as now, we are so painfully aware of how far we must go to realize the dream of racial equity, economic justice and a world without wars.

In 1966, Dr King delivered the Ware Lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, not too far from here, in Hollywood, FL.

Every year someone is chosen to deliver this address at the general assembly as a call to witness, a signaling of the most pressing issues of the day.

In Dr King’s Ware lecture, he said, “One of the great misfortunes of history is that all too many individuals and institutions find themselves in a great period of change and yet fail to achieve the new attitudes and outlooks that the new situation demands. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution. “

There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution!

And today we are in such a moment when the militarization of the federal budget is the greatest obstacle to justice at home and global peace. Fifty eight percent of yearly discretionary spending goes to the Pentagon.

We are in a moment when Dr King’s prophetic voice can fortify our resolve to break the cycle of weapons and wars being prioritized over jobs, education and diplomacy.

We, in the peace and justice movement, have come to a moment as Dr King and the Civil Rights movement did. We must break the silence on the impact of US militarism and how it holds back a more just and peaceful world.

In his Beyond Vietnam speech delivered at Riverside Church in 1967, Dr King outlined a rationale for why our country must end the war in Vietnam in order to change the US relationship to the rest of the world and address the urgent needs of our communities.

He spoke about those who had asked, “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, aren’t you hurting the cause of your people?”

He believed those questions revealed a ”tragic misunderstanding”. He had led a movement dedicated to ending legalized segregation and won, yet he and the movement were confronted with continuing obstacles to realizing “The Dream”.

He began to confront the main obstacle to true equality: the economic system. President Johnson began to turn back the war on poverty and build up of the war in Vietnam.

Dr King knew that as long as resources were being sucked into the conflict in Vietnam that there would be no investment in our communities. He said, “I am compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”

He began to speak out in the face of, what he called “such cruel manipulation of the poor, the cruel irony of watching Black and white young people on TV as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.”

He said, “ I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

In his Beyond Vietnam speech, he spoke at length about the need to see human kind, other countries, not as enemies but as people with needs that mirror our own. He argued that demonizing the Communists could not rationalize our country’s war and occupation of Vietnam.

He began to develop a deeper analysis of the role of militarism in shaping US foreign policy. He called upon all those who believed in justice to question the fairness of our past and present foreign policies.

He said, “ Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady. If we don’t understand that reality, we will be attending rallies and marching without end.”

Why did his organizing and speaking out against the connection between poverty and war stir such controversy? Because he was pinpointing the root causes of injustice at home and abroad, he connected foreign policy and its impact at home.

He said,” When the bombs are dropped in Vietnam, they explode in our communities.” Dr King said the triple evils of militarism, poverty and inequality; cause our people and the peoples around the world to suffer needlessly. His prophetic teachings resonate today because it continues to be even truer now, than ever.

The bombs dropped in Afghanistan and Pakistan do explode in our communities.

US history has been consistently marked by wars and occupations. Constant wars or threats of wars.

Across the political spectrum a new awareness is growing that wars cannot solve the world’s most complicated problems. In fact wars and occupations worsen the crisis problems: climate change, hunger or democracy as examples.

Our country spends more on the military than any other country on the world, yet honestly and objectively: the US can no longer control the global economy nor politics with war. And can no longer afford to do so. It is the beginning of the end of US world domination.

Many of the realists on the Right are beginning to take note and are searching for ways to promote US interests through other means.

Realists among former generals and even neoconservatives and libertarians are calling for closing US bases, negotiating reductions in nuclear arsenals and ending the war in Afghanistan sooner than 2014. They are realists, not believers in Dr King’s vision, realists.

The Rand Corporation released a report in 2006 on the study of 648 terrorist groups and armed conflicts between the years 1968-2006. They found a majority ended the armed struggles by entering into the political process, and only 7% of those conflicts ended through military action. A majority of armed conflicts were ended through negotiations and a political process not military action.

Military action, as the leading edge of US foreign must, should and could come to an end. Democracy, economic development and protection of civilians cannot be achieved at the end of the barrel of a gun or with drones.

2013 is the moment for a national debate that starts club by club, church, synagogue and mosque, classroom by classroom, editorial page by editorial pages and talk radio shows. A national debate on the need for a fundamental change in US foreign policy.

The bombs are exploding in our neighborhoods, because the crisis problems faced globally cannot be solved through militarism, only worsened. War as Dr King said is the enemy of the poor of all countries.

In the next 2 months we have a call to action to carry forward the legacy of Dr King. We cannot afford to sleep through a moment where great changes, revolutionary changes are necessary and possible.

The stage has been set in Washington for a tough battle over the federal budget. Every dollar given to the Pentagon will be taken from food stamps, student loans and healthcare.

Some say that we should make the cuts 50% from domestic spending and 50% from the Pentagon.  But what they do not say is that over 1 trillion has been cut in the last 4 years from domestic programs while the Pentagon has grown.

The truth is that military corporations are making mega profits. They are in the mass media and on Capitol Hill driving the budget debate with fear mongering.

While they push for weapons systems such as the F35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, which even the Pentagon, doesn’t want. There is waste, fraud, and abuse, which is where the cutting can and should start.

A consensus is building on sensible cuts to the waste in the Pentagon budget. It is a start. We must move the money from wars and weapons to fund jobs, human services and diplomacy.

When economic and racial inequality is growing dramatically isn’t that a very serious national security problem? When we hear from some the call for militarizing our communities, our public schools. Armed guards in our public schools?

More guns will not address the crisis needs of the poor, communities of color, immigrants and the middle class or the despair and mental illness that grows when opportunities or public services are denied.

Just as war will not solve the world’s most pressing problems neither will more guns in our communities.

The 21st century struggle for racial justice is for more equity, inclusion and dignity, a more loving society and world. Don’t we all need a little more love? 

It is time to change national spending priorities and move the money from wars and weapons to fund jobs, education and diplomacy.

We can deal with the debt by expanding the economy, helping the people in our communities to get on their feet and fund the diplomacy that can change the US relationship with countries around the world.

It will be no easy path in the next two months. Military corporations have nearly two lobbyists for every Congressional representative.

Some in Congress have pledged to cut essential human needs programs, put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block and protect the Pentagon from cuts.

We should do now as Dr King did and raise up the necessity that our government must, “Go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism as the path to a better world.”

Given the situation in our world: real danger of acts of terror or nuclear war, climate crisis, scarce resources. The truth is national security is no longer possible. Only collective global security is. Collective global security is achievable through international cooperation, respect for international laws and national sovereignty.

Our world needs more diplomacy, negotiations, and engagement, not threats of war. 

As Dr. King said ”Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to humankind as a whole, in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”

Let’s mark Dr King’s birthday this year with some promises.

First, I hope you will do as I do. And every time you hear Stevie Wonder’s Birthday Song on the radio, you will get up and shake your tail feathers. And celebrate what Dr King called the long and beautiful struggle.

And I hope you will remember Dr King’s keen insight into social change when he said: “Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.”

In the next two months, we must meet the challenge of engaging in the fierce struggle to change national spending priorities and move the money from wars and weapons to fund jobs, education and diplomacy.

Because there is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution! 


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.”


11th Annual Human Rights on the Hill! Schedule of events and speakers 8/15-17

August 14, 2012

I’m speaking Thursday at 1:30 but look at the whole terrific lineup of speakers on peace, justice, human rights and environmental issues below!

The Eleventh Annual University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law International Human & Peoples’ Rights Law Program – Human Rights on the Hill – in collaboration with the Hawaii Institute for Human Rights and the Four Freedoms Forum, will take place from August 13 – 18, 2012 at the UDC Law School Building, 4340 Connecticut Ave., NW Washington DC 20008 (Van Ness/UDC Metro)

August 15  Wednesday

*9:00 a.m.

Building Movements for the Just Transition to an Ecologically Sane Economy

Janet Redman

Co-Director Sustainable Energy & Economy Network

Institute for Policy Studies

*10:30 a.m.

Human Rights in Asia:

The Case of Uyghurs Campaign for Dignity & Self-Determination

Rebiya Kadeer

World Uyghur Congress

Uyghur Human Rights Project

*12:00 p.m.

8th Annual Human Rights Film Festival

Rio+20 Global Perspectives on Sustainable Development

Conversations with the Earth Indigenous Voices on Climate Change

WITNESS Testify! & Youth on Climate Change

*1:30 p.m.

The Universal Periodic Review in the United States of America

Kelly C. Landry

Foreign Affairs Officer

U.S. Department of State

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

*3:00 p.m.

Climate Change & Human Rights

Siobhan McInerney-Lankford

Senior Policy Officer, Institutions, Law and Partnerships for Human Rights

The World Bank

*4:00 p.m.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child:

Potential for Ratification & Realization for Children’s Rights in America

Mark Engman

UNICEF USA

August 16  Thursday

*9:00 a.m.

The Right to Water at Rio+20 &

The Rights of Nature Movement in International Law

Darcey O’Callaghan

International Policy Director

Food and Water Watch

*10:30 a.m.

Local Human Rights Lawyering:

Bringing the Global Human Rights Movement

Home to Our Grassroots Community

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.

8th Annual Human Rights Film Festival

Rio+20 Global Perspectives on Sustainable Development

Miss South Pacific Beauty and the Sea

*1:30 p.m.

America’s Foreign Policy Rooted in Peace, Human Rights & Rule of Law:

A New Direction from End of Empire to Era of Multilateral Engagement for Democracy

Kevin Martin

Executive Director, Peace Action

*3:00 p.m.

Connecting with Disenfranchised Communities in the United States of America &

Around the World to Promote Human Rights:

The Role of a Peacemaker

Global Citizenship:

Roles & Responsibilities

Michael Beer

Executive Director, Nonviolence International

4:30 p.m.

A Conversation Across the Country of a Midterm Analysis

of the Universal Periodic Review of the United States of America

Joshua Cooper

Director, Four Freedoms Forum

August 17 Friday

*9:00 a.m.

The Organization of American States: Human Rights in the Americas

Luis Toro

Senior Legal Officer

Department of International Law

*10:30 a.m.

Nonviolence in a Time of War

Colman McCarthy

Director, Center for Teaching Peace

Columnist, The Washington Post

12:00 p.m.

8th Annual Human Rights Film Festival

Rio+20 Global Perspectives on Sustainable Development

Taking Root The Vision of Wangari Maathai

*1:30 p.m.

Oceans & Human Rights at Rio+20

Phil Kline

Greenpeace USA

*3:00 p.m.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities:

The Steps Toward Ratification of a UN Convention in Summer 2012

*4:30 p.m.

8th Annual Human Rights Film Festival

Rio+20 Global Perspectives on Sustainable Development

Special Feature on Local Visions of Self-Determination

August 18

Excursion of Empowerment

Around Washington D.C.

Roundezvous at National Museum of the American Indian


Kev’s Summer Reading List

July 9, 2012

Here are four books on Peace Action related issues I’ve read recently, all written by colleagues (okay maybe I need to balance these now with some non-political books!). What are you reading this summer? Please share your favorites, whether political or peace-related or not.

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink: Women for Peace and Global Exchange

Medea Benjamin, an indefatigable drum major for peace and justice, provides a real eye opener to how U.S. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) or “drones” are not only killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries (most of whom the U.S. is not at war against), but how drones are lowering the bar for warmaking and spying on Americans. Clear, concise, well-argued and passionate, featuring interviews with drone victims and activists working to limit the proliferation of drones and other robotic warfare technology, this book is a must-read for peace activists wanting to learn more about this pernicious threat to peace and our civil liberties and how to stop it.

Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual by Lawrence Wittner, Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Albany and a member of the Peace Action national board of directors

Perhaps because I admire and like Larry Wittner so much,  I really enjoyed this coming of age story of a shy, intellectual boy from Brooklyn who went on to become a civil rights, labor and peace activist, and the authoritative scholar of the global nuclear disarmament movement. While I enjoyed that “political” part of the book, Larry’s personal journey is very compelling too, as he overcame numerous serious personal and professional obstacles to become a much-respected and well-liked stalwart in the fields of academia and activism.

Here is the blurb I wrote for the book:

Larry Wittner’s life and work are inspiring on their own, but he recounts them in such a frank, open manner that he has crafted a real page-turner. Working for Peace and Justice takes you along on a joyful ride of discovery through the life of a model citizen/scholar/activist.”

The Peacekeeping Economy:  Using Economic Relationships to Build a More Peaceful, Prosperous, and Secure World by Lloyd “Jeff” Dumas, Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas

If you are looking for a Marxist screed about war and capitalism, Jeff Dumas’s latest work is not the one for you. But if you like practical ideas on how a more just U.S. and global economy could work better for everyone, and how a more peaceful world is possible with more equitable economic policies, then you will dig into this book, part of “an unintended trilogy” by Dumas. For good measure, he throws in a fascinating chapter on nonviolence. It’s a bit of a serious, somewhat academic read, but very rewarding, even to someone who was not very strong on Economics in my academic career! Dumas’s aim is true, and he aims to make a difference, not wow you with economics wizardry.

 Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial Complex by William Hartung

Okay I only got to read part of this book, but it was great, as everything Bill Hartung writes always is. It’s a fascinating history of how Lockheed began as a small airplane company and then metastasized into the largest merchant of death on the planet. As anti-corporate organizing grows, we need to sharpen the focus on some of the worst corporations, those who profit from and lobby for endless wars, bottomless weapons contracts and gargantuan military budgets. This book is an invaluable resource for doing just that!


Move the Money! From Endless Wars to a More Sustainable, Flowering Republic!

November 4, 2011

The following is excerpted from recent speeches I gave at the Nebraskans for Peace annual conference in Lincoln, NE and the Chicago Area Peace Action annual dinner in Wilmette, IL.

Move the Money! From Endless War to a More Sustainable, Flowering Republic!

-by Kevin Martin

Peace Action’s Move the Money campaign is our most exciting work at this time.  In my opinion, we have the best chance in a generation for serious cuts in the  military budget. Our Move the Money campaign, at the national and local level, is a serious coalition and alliance building project, creating strong relationships with  unions, human needs and economic and racial justice advocates,environmental and consumer groups, and local elected officials, who deal with the harm our out of control war spending has done to the national economy and to state and local budgets, among other constituencies.

Veteran peace activist Tom Hayden has a very good analytical tool he calls the Pillars of War, looking at constituencies or sectors of society that have perpetuated U.S. wars in the last decade. The news media, general public opinion, Republicans, Democrats (which need to be further divided into the party elite, those in Congress, and the party’s base) and corporate interests are key pillars to examine, especially in terms of leverage the peace movement may have in moving or, better yet, removing some of these pillars.

I would argue we have made significant headway pushing on some of these pillars (certainly public opinion and the Democratic base are now solidly anti-war, and we’ve made progress with Congressional Democrats and even the media to lesser degrees), but that perhaps the biggest impediment to ending the wars is corporate power, or the good old military-industrial-congrressional complex.

A recent example is the reaction of Lockheed Martin, the planet’s largest weapons contractor, to a proposed non-binding resolution in the Montgomery County, Maryland Council (just outside Washington, D.C., where both Lockheed and Peace Action’s national office are located). The resolution, pushed by our local Peace Action chapter, is simple, calling for an end to the wars and cutting military spending in order to fund jobs and human, community and environmental needs – a position supported by an overwhelming majority of the U.S. public.

Lockheed felt so threatened (evidently) by this non-binding county resolution that it called the governor, congressman (Chris van Hollen, to whom it had contributed $10,000 in the last campaign cycle) and county council president to scuttle the resolution. They succeeded in getting the resolution withdrawn, temporarily, but got a black-eye in the local media, including the usually reliably war-mongering Washington Post.

Frankly, Lockheed did us a favor in exposing the lengths to which it will go to stifle democracy (if the resolution had passed, we would have celebrated, but it would not have gotten an iota of the media coverage LM’s strong-arm tactics generated).

In this exciting year of the Arab Spring, Wisconsin and other state budget showdowns and Occupy Wall Street (and Omaha and Lincoln and Kansas City and Chicago and everywhere!) opportunities abound for peace activists to make common cause with allies demanding a more peaceful, just, democratic society.

In addition to the ongoing (such staying power!) Occupy movement, there is still time to demand the congressional “Super Committee” protect Social Security, Medicare and human needs programs and find their budget savings in the gargantuan ($1.2 trillion per year!) national security budget (there’s a link to the Super Committee on our home page at http://www.peace-action.org/).

Two important opportunities next year will be the NATO/G-8 Summit in Chicago, where they are linking the wars and the economy for us! Peace Action, along with local, national and international allies, will organize an educational conference and street actions demanding an end to NATO and U.S. war-making and a more just, equitable U.S. and global economy.

Finally, next year’s elections will present us an opportunity to press candidates for all levels of government to Move the Money from war and militarism to jobs, human and environmental needs. Our Peace Voter campaign will help give activists the tools to do that, from candidate briefings and endorsments, bird-dogging, voter guides, voter registration, education and Get out the Vote (GOTV) efforts.  President Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s vulnerability (over 80% of registered Democrats want to end the wars) matches up very well with our strength in the peace movement’s grassroots base (not that we are all Democrats, we certainly are not, but we have many connections with grassroots Democratic activists and structures).

Ending the wars, cutting military spending, abolishing nuclear weapons and creating a more just society are all central to Peace Action’s mission, but so is recognizing and framing a larger vision of the historic moment we inhabit, and the opportunities it provides. I like the framework Norwegian peace studies expert Johann Galtung uses – the Decline of the U.S. Empire, and the Flowering of the U.S. Republic.

All empires have ended, all of them. It’s our job to help end the U.S. Empire as quickly and nonviolently as possible, and to use the resources freed up (a “peace dividend” if you will) to help empower people to create the flowering Republic – peaceful, equitable, sustainable and just — that comes following the Empire’s demise.

A few years ago a dinner table conversation with my children, now aged 17 and 13, revealed that they thought the United States is always at war. And why wouldn’t they think that, as it has certainly been the case for nearly all their lives (and frankly for the majority of our country’s history)? It’s unacceptable to me that children in this country, or in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Congo, Somalia or anywhere should have to live with that expectation, or even worse, that daily reality. For their futures, we cannot continue on the unsustainable path we are currently on. As the great pacifist A.J. Muste taught us, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

Kevin Martin is executive director of Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 100,000 members and nearly 100 affiliates and chapters around the U.S.


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

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

Peace Action Statement on the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks

 

 

September 12, 2001

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


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