Might Doesn’t Make Right (or even get a country what it wants)

May 12, 2014

With his essay “What you need to tell people when they say we should use the military,” Peace Action Board Member Larry Wittner makes a very succinct and persuasive case on History News Network that military might, especially as wielded by the United States, achieves little in international relations.

tags: Military Power

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Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, “What’s Going On at UAardvark?

SIPRI Fact Sheet:  TRENDS IN WORLD MILITARY EXPENDITURE, 2013

Is overwhelming national military power a reliable source of influence in world affairs?

If so, the United States should certainly have plenty of influence today. For decades, it has been the world’s Number 1 military spender. And it continues in this role. According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spent $640 billion on the military in 2013, thus accounting for 37 percent of world military expenditures. The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively. Thus, last year, the United States spent more than three times as much as China and more than seven times as much as Russia on the military.

In this context, the U.S. government’s inability to get its way in world affairs is striking. In the current Ukraine crisis, the Russian government does not seem at all impressed by the U.S. government’s strong opposition to its behavior. Also, the Chinese government, ignoring Washington’s protests, has laid out ambitious territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. Even much smaller, weaker nations have been snubbing the advice of U.S. officials. Israel has torpedoed U.S. attempts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, the embattled Syrian government has been unwilling to negotiate a transfer of power, and North Korea remains as obdurate as ever when it comes to scuttling its nuclear weapons program.

Of course, hawkish critics of the Obama administration say that it lacks influence in these cases because it is unwilling to use the U.S. government’s vast military power in war.

But is this true? The Obama administration channeled very high levels of military manpower and financial resources into lengthy U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ended up with precious little to show for this investment. Furthermore, in previous decades, the U.S. government used its overwhelming military power in a number of wars without securing its goals. The bloody Korean War, for example, left things much as they were before the conflict began, with the Korean peninsula divided and a ruthless dictatorship in place in the north. The lengthy and costly Vietnam War led to a humiliating defeat for the United States — not because the U.S. government lacked enormous military advantages, but because, ultimately, the determination of the Vietnamese to gain control of their own country proved more powerful than U.S. weaponry.

Even CIA ventures drawing upon U.S. military power have produced a very mixed result. Yes, the CIA, bolstered by U.S. military equipment, managed to overthrow the Guatemalan government in 1954. But, seven years later, the CIA-directed, -funded, and -equipped invasion at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs failed to topple the Castro government when the Cuban public failed to rally behind the U.S.-instigated effort. Although the U.S. government retains an immense military advantage over its Cuban counterpart, with which it retains a hostile relationship, this has not secured the United States any observable influence over Cuban policy.

The Cold War confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet governments is particularly instructive. For decades, the two governments engaged in an arms race, with the United States clearly in the lead. But the U.S. military advantage did not stop the Soviet government from occupying Eastern Europe, crushing uprisings against Soviet domination in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, or dispatching Soviet troops to take control of Afghanistan. Along the way, U.S. hawks sometimes called for war with the Soviet Union. But, in fact, U.S. and Soviet military forces never clashed. What finally produced a love fest between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and ended the Cold War was a strong desire by both sides to replace confrontation with cooperation, as indicated by the signing of substantial nuclear disarmament agreements.

Similarly, the Iranian and U.S. governments, which have been on the worst of terms for decades, appear to be en route to resolving their tense standoff — most notably over the possible development of Iranian nuclear weapons — through diplomacy. It remains unclear if this momentum toward a peaceful settlement results from economic sanctions or from the advent of a reformist leadership in Tehran. But there is no evidence that U.S. military power, which has always been far greater than Iran’s, has played a role in fostering it.

Given this record, perhaps military enthusiasts in the United States and other nations should consider whether military power is a reliable source of influence in world affairs. After all, just because you possess a hammer doesn’t mean that every problem you face is a nail.

- See more at: http://hnn.us/article/155550#sthash.YqVs3dTk.dpuf


Move the Money, Crush the Slush Fund

May 3, 2014

Over 70 U.S. events and actions were held to mark Tax Day and the 4th Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS).  As you probably know, Peace Action was the US coordinator of GDAMS events for the 2nd year running.

With the 2014 elections just six months away, PAEF’s campaign to Move the Money from the Pentagon to our communities has never been more prominent in the national discourse.

Members of both parties in Congress are exploring military cuts as part of efforts to reduce deficits.  Predictably, vested interests are working overtime to preserve, and even increase where possible, the current, historically high, levels of military spending.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported the costs of major weapons acquisitions, like the F-35, have risen $500 billion above their orignial projected costs.  Congress loudly denounce cost overruns even as they look for ways to increase Pentagon funding.

Peace Action has renewed its fight against one of the ways the Pentagon hopes will permit it to restore funding for items left out – for the moment – to keep the Pentagon under budget control limits.  For example, Congress could allow the Pentagon to use funds from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), meant to fund military operations in Afghanistan, to restore eight F-35′s left out of the President’s budget.  The Pentagon has used the OCO as a slush fund to reduce Pentagon cuts this year to just $3.5 billion dollars while domestic spending was slashed by $15 billion – not exactly the shared pain sequestration was supposed to deliver.

Working with our allies, Peace Action is circulating a sign-on letter to Members of Congress from a host of organizations working in our Move the Money coalitions reminding them that: “According to the Pentagon, from FY 2013 to FY 2014, approximately 39 percent fewer personnel will be deployed to Afghanistan (with none in Iraq). Yet, in the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill, Defense Subcommittee funding in the OCO account will actually increase from FY 2013 to FY 2014.”

Call your Senators and Representative and tell them the Overseas Contingency Operations should not be used as a slush fund for runaway Pentagon spending.  Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.


Diplomacy advocate lectures congregation

September 26, 2013

The Island Now
Thursday, September 26, 2013
By Bill San Antonio

As the executive director of Peace Action, the nation’s largest grassroots disarmament organization, Kevin Martin said Tuesday he has seen firsthand the militarization of the United States’ foreign policy in the last decade.

But in his lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation entitled “Endless War on Peace,” Martin said he was confident that America’s recent history of military strikes and occupations of nations seen as a threat to national security would evolve into a more diplomatic approach to foreign policy – particularly because of the recent diplomatic efforts to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons and the start of talks with Iran.

“At a certain point, we’re just not going to buy that anymore,” Martin said. “We’re just not going to buy that there’s a terrorist at every corner of the globe.”

Martin began the lecture, which was sponsored by the Shelter Rock Forum, the Great Neck SANE/Peace Action and the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, by calling out the names of 11 nations — China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, Brazil and South Korea – whose combined military budgets equals what the United States spends on its own military each year.

But for all its spending, Martin said the United States is ranked No. 99 on the Global Peace Index, tied with Papua New Guinea despite being known as the world’s last superpower.

“We can’t keep doing this, we can’t keep marauding around the world and trying to kill more terrorists than we create, because we will fail,” Martin said.

Martin said the U.S. spends approximately $600 billion each year on its military and $1 trillion on national security, and in the next 10 years will implement a $200 million arms refurbishment program.

“How do we have any credibility going to Iran or anyone else, saying they shouldn’t have weapons of mass destruction, shouldn’t have nuclear weapons, when we not only intend to keep ours, we intend to modernize them?” Martin said.

Martin also cited a University of Massachusetts study that said military spending is the worst way to create jobs and stimulate the economy, adding that the money America puts toward military spending could better serve the job market if it were used on education.

“Military spending does not help our economy in any way other than keep people employed,” Martin said. “If you can separate the nonsense about the economic benefits of military spending from the real security issues we have in this country, we can win that argument.”

Martin said the mainstream media has more recently played a role in more diplomatic measures in America’s foreign policy.

With Syria, Martin said the mainstream media took greater interest in covering the different angles toward President Obama’s recent request to Congress for a military strike on Syria after those who have been known to be pro-war were coming out against the strike.

Within a day or two, Martin said the media began covering what he called “better alternatives” to avoid the strike, such as sending supplies and weapons to those who are fighting off the Syrian army and rebel fighters who may have ties to terrorist organizations.

“That’s when I knew Obama was sunk, because he could try to scare us or try some fandango, but once better alternatives were out there, he lost control of the conversation,” Martin said.

Martin added that there could be a “spillover effect” from the diplomatic solution toward America’s approach to Syria that could impact future negotiations with Iran over the destabilization of its nuclear program.

“Now diplomacy seems like this limb we’ve learned to use again,” Martin said.

Martin said he does not think major arms manufacturers will continue to have a strong influence in lobbying the federal government into increased military spending, if better alternatives continue to present themselves in America’s foreign policy and people continue pushing for peace.

“If peace actually breaks out, you just can’t justify using such a huge percentage of our tax dollars on tanks and missiles and that $200 million over the next 10 years to refurbish our weapons,” Martin said. “You just can’t justify that anymore.”

If the United States opted for diplomacy more frequently, Martin said the short-term effect would be that other countries would fear and hate the United States less, though its history of invasions and military attacks would likely mean it would take longer for the world to “love us more.”

But the process of healing America’s reputation around the world starts with money coming out of the “war machine” and being put toward more “life-affirming functions,” and for people to “stand up for the values this country says its for” and be more vocal about a peaceful and diplomatic foreign policy, Martin said.

“We have hope, we have real solutions, we have better alternatives, we have better policies,” Martin said. “They have a lot of money and guns and weapons, but really all they have is fear.”


Results of House National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Amendments

June 13, 2013

Please click here for results of NDAA.

Amendments should be debated in the order listed below, though some will not be debated and voted “en bloc” (a bunch of amendments voted in one vote together that will pass).  Also, because of some members schedules they might debate out of order.  The only other votes scheduled which should include amendments should start around 3:00 end around 6:00 PM and debate will continue late into the evening.  They will reconvene at 9:00 AM on Friday with some likely votes and try to end by 3:00 PM.

Call your Representative at 877-429-0678 (Thanks to FCNL for number) and say:

I would like Rep. XXX to vote against the National Defense Authorization Act and support amendment #10 to end the Afghanistan war, amendment #32 to cut Pentagon budget by $60 Billion and any other amendment that reduces Pentagon spending.

You may be interested in the letter we sent to Congress.  Feel free to forward to your Member of Congress.

Dear Congressional Staffer,

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 is $54 billion above what current law (Budget Control Act) allows.  It continues funding the war in Afghanistan ,which we think should end as soon as possible.  During tough budgetary times, this bloated bill takes from important domestic programs.  Hence, on behalf of our over 100,000 paid members, Peace Action is opposing the bill as a whole and urges a no vote.

Notwithstanding our opposition to the bill, we have vote recommendations on various amendments listed below.  These votes may be used for our yearly voting record and as considerations for endorsements.

We look forward to hearing on how your boss plans on voting.

Sincerely,

Paul Kawika Martin

Political Director

Peace Action

pmartin@peace-action.org

Peace Action Position on Selected Amendments to NDAA 2014

Floor #, Orig #, Sponsors, Summary, Peace Action Position

2 #222 Blumenauer (OR) , Mulvaney (SC), Bentivolio, (MI)   Reduces from 11 to 10 the statutory requirement for the number of operational carriers that the U.S. Navy must have.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

3 #115 Lummis (WY), Daines (MT), Cramer, Kevin (ND)   Requires DOD to preserve currently active ICBM silos in warm status.  PEACE ACTION OPPOSES

10 #118 McGovern (MA) , Jones (NC), Smith, Adam (WA), Lee, Barbara (CA), Garamendi (CA) Revised  Requires the President to complete the accelerated transition of combat operations from U.S. Armed Forces to the Government of Afghanistan no later than by the end of 2013; the accelerated transition of military and security operations by the end of 2014, including the redeployment of U.S. troops; and to pursue robust negotiations to address Afghanistan’s and the region’s security and stability. Establishes the sense of Congress that should the President determine the necessity for post-2014 deployment of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Congress should vote to authorize such a presence and mission by no later than June 2014.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

11 #196 Goodlatte (VA) Requires the government, in habeas proceedings for United States citizens apprehended in the United States pursuant to the AUMF, to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the citizen is an unprivileged enemy combatant and there is not presumption that the government’s evidence is accurate and authentic.  PEACE ACTION OPPOSES

12 #71 Radel, Trey (FL) , Amash (MI), Massie (KY), Salmon, (AZ) Requires the Department of Defense to submit to the Congress a report every year containing: (1) the names of any U.S. citizens subject to military detention, (2) the legal justification for their continued detention, and (3) the steps the Executive Branch is taking to either provide them some judicial process, or release them. Requires that an unclassified version of the report be made available, and in addition, that the report must be made available to all members of Congress.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

13 #73 Smith, Adam (WA) , Gibson (NY) Amends Section 1021 of the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act to eliminate   indefinite military detention of any person detained under AUMF authority in the United States, territories or possessions by providing immediate transfer to trial and proceedings by a court established under Article III of the Constitution or by an appropriate state court. Strikes section 1022 of the same Act (which provided for mandatory military custody of covered parties).  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

18 #43 Radel, Trey (FL) , Amash (MI), Massie (KY), Salmon, (AZ) Prohibits the use of lethal military force, including the use of unmanned aircrafts, against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, absent narrow exceptions for imminent and significant national security threats.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

19 #23 Walorski, Jackie (IN) Prohibits the Secretary of Defense from using any funds authorized to the department for the transfer or release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen.  PEACE ACTION OPPOSES

20 #74 Smith, Adam (WA) , Moran, James (VA), Nadler (NY) Provides framework to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by December 1, 2014 PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

21 #19 Turner (OH) Requires the President of the United States to convey to Congress the details of any proposed deals with the Russian Federation concerning the missile defense or nuclear arms of the United States.  PEACE ACTION OPPOSES

22 #40 Holt (NJ) Strikes all of subtitle C of title II except section 237 (Iron Dome program).  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

23 #217 Polis (CO) Revised  Limits funding for advanced procurement of inefficient ground-based interceptor rocket motor sets, and the costly refurbishment of Missile Field 1 at Fort Greely, Alaska, until the Secretary of Defense makes certain certifications to Congress, including that the Commander of the United States Northern Command has full confidence in the homeland missile defense system.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

25 #21 McCollum (MN) Prohibits any funds authorized in the bill from being used to sponsor Army National Guard professional wrestling sports sponsorships or motor sports sponsorships. The amendment does not prohibit recruiters from making direct, personal contact with secondary school students and other prospective recruits.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

32 #91 Nolan (MN) Reduces total funds authorized in this Act by $60 Billion.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

33 #136 Cooper (TN) Reinstates the New START funding.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

36 #132 Gibson (NY) , Garamendi (CA) Strikes section 1251, Sense of Congress on the Conflict in Syria.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

37 #210 Coffman (CO) , Griffith (VA), Polis (CO), Blumenauer (OR) Directs the President of the United States to end the permanent basing of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (2CR) in Vilseck, Germany and return the Brigade Combat Team currently stationed in Europe to the United States, without permanent replacement, leaving one Brigade Combat Team and one Combat Aviation Brigade–nothing in this amendment should be construed as directing the removal of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, nor certain quick-reaction forces.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

39 #247 Van Hollen, Chris (MD) , Moran, James (VA), Mulvaney (SC), Woodall (GA) Revised  Matches the President’s budget request for Overseas Contingency Operations.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

104 #198 Conyers (MI) Clarifies that the assessment mandated in Section 1036(3) includes associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners for purposes of interpreting the scope of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

106 #101 Braley (IA) , Jones (NC) Directs the President to submit to Congress a report on the long-term costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

116 #17 Lewis, John (GA) Require the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and the Director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, to post to cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to each American taxpayer on the Department of Defense’s website.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

122 #273 Lynch (MA) Requires an assessment of the Afghan National Security Force’s (ANSF) ability to provide proper Operations & Maintenance for U.S.-funded ANSF infrastructure projects after January 1, 2015.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

124 #274 Johnson, Hank (GA) , Lee, Barbara (CA) Prohibits funding to construct permanent military bases in Afghanistan.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

134 #63 Rigell (VA) Reaffirms Congress’ constitutional war powers by clearly stating that nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize any use of military force.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

129 #120 Ros-Lehtinen   (FL) Authorizes the Secretary of Defense to deploy assets, personnel and resources to the   Joint Interagency Task Force South, in coordination with SOUTHCOM, to combat transnational criminal organization, drug trafficking, bulk shipments of narcotics or currency, narco-terrorism, human trafficking and the Iranian presence in SOUTHCOM’s AOR.  PEACE ACTION OPPOSES

135 #114 Ellison (MN) Prohibits the authorization of Defense Department funds for tear gas and other riot control items to Middle East and North African countries undergoing democratic transition unless the Secretary of Defense certifies to the appropriate Congressional committees that the security forces of such countries are not using excessive force to repress peaceful, lawful and organized dissent.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

136 #261 Broun (GA) Prohibits the Department of Defense from using a drone to kill a citizen of the United States unless they are actively engaged in combat against the United States.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

137 #168 DeLauro (CT) , Granger (TX), Moran, James (VA), Kingston (GA), Ellison (MN), Wolf (VA), Connolly (VA)

Bi-Partisan

Prohibits the Defense Department from continuing to purchase equipment from the Russian arms dealer Rosoboronexport unless the Secretary of Defense certifies that the firm is cooperating with a Defense Contract Audit Agency audit, not delivering S-300 missile defense batteries to Syria, and that no new contracts have been signed by the firm with Syria since January 1, 2013. Provides a national security waiver with a requirement that the Secretary justify the waiver in a report to Congress 30 days prior to the purchase of any equipment from Rosoboronexport.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

138 #185 Connolly (VA) , Granger (TX), Diaz-Balart, Mario (FL), Gingrey (GA), Sires (NJ), Carter (TX)   Directs the President to sell 66 F-16 C/D aircraft to Taiwan.  PEACE ACTION OPPOSES

139 #249 Roskam (IL) Requires the President to submit to the appropriate committees every 90 days a report that identifies that the United States has taken all necessary steps to ensure that Israel possesses and maintains an independent capability to remove existential threats to its security and defend its vital national interests.  PEACE ACTION OPPOSES

144 #55 Gosar (AZ) States that Congress fully supports Israel’s lawful exercise of self-defense, including actions to halt regional aggression.  PEACE ACTION OPPOSES

146 #197 Conyers (MI) , Jones (NC), Johnson, Hank (GA), Ellison (MN) Clarifies that nothing in the bill shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

147 #30 Walorski, Jackie (IN) , Lamborn (CO) Expresses the sense of Congress in support of fully implementing U.S. and international sanctions on Iran. Reiterates that it is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon capability, and declares that the U.S. has a vital national interest in the survival and security of the State of Israel.  PEACE ACTION OPPOSES

148 #228 Fortenberry (NE) Directs the Secretary of Defense to establish a strategy to modernize the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in order to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related materials in the Middle East and North Africa region.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS

168 #96 Franks (AZ) Establishes the sense of Congress that the paramount security concern of the United States is the ongoing and illegal nuclear weapons programs of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  PEACE ACTION OPPOSES

170 #239 Garamendi (CA) Withholds the $2.6 billion dollars in additional funding that have been added to the Afghan National Security Forces Fund this year for acquisition of aircraft, vehicles and other equipment until the Secretary of Defense submits a report to Congress confirming when these systems would be delivered, the ANSF’s capabilities of operating and maintaining these systems, and the impact of such acquisitions on the future US costs of funding the ANSF.  PEACE ACTION SUPPORTS


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

May 15, 2013
April 15, 2013 Japanese Peace Boat

April 15, 2013 Japanese Peace Boat

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

By Judith Le Blanc – Field Director, Peace Action

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

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

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

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

In Chile, actions were organized in nine cities.

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

United States

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

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

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

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

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

Creative use of social media and online materials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more US reports go to the GDAMS website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alliance for Global Justice 

American Friends Service Committee 

Coalition on Human Needs 

Fellowship Of Reconciliation 

Foreign Policy in Focus, project of Institute for Policy Studies 

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance 

Jobs Not War Campaign

National Priorities Project 

National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee 

New Priorities Network 

Peace Action 

Pentagon Budget Campaign 

Progressive Democrats of America 

School of the Americas Watch 

United for Peace and Justice 

USAction 

US Labor Against the War 

Veterans for Peace 

War Resisters League 

Women’s International League for Peace And Freedom 


Field Director Judith Le Blanc’s Letter on Pentagon Spending in the Washington Post

May 3, 2013

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/pentagon-cuts-can-work-to-our-advantage/2013/05/02/3b75f022-b11a-11e2-9fb1-62de9581c946_story.html

Letter to the editor

Pentagon cuts can work to our advantage

It’s neither a quandary nor a conundrum. It is an addiction.

The post-9/11 increase in defense contracting created an economy dependent on the Pentagon budget. Congress created the addiction. Now it’s time for it to wean the Pentagon by using the money cut from the defense budget to fund a transition to production for civilian use. It’s not a new idea. This has been done in the past.

We need the political will from liberals and conservatives alike to reduce the waste in the Pentagon budget in order to fund jobs in sectors that contribute to the economy for the long term.

The real conundrum: Will Congress move the money from weapons we no longer need to manufacturing that produces what we do need? Our military contractors, our communities and the federal budget need this transition from an addiction to military contracts to manufacturing to meet human needs.

Judith Le Blanc, New York

The writer is field director for Peace Action.


“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/

 


Our latest, published by The Hill, on the absurd nuclear weapons budget: Days of blank checks are over for the nuclear weapons establishment

April 26, 2013

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/296397-days-of-blank-checks-are-over-for-nuclear-weapons-establishment

By Kevin Martin, Peace Action and Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico - 04/26/13 11:20 AM ET

Many of America’s Cold War weapons are in the hands of one of its most obscure government agencies. It’s called the National Nuclear Security Administration, and it was the subject of a senate budget hearing this week. The agency’s obscurity to most taxpayers is exceeded only by its astonishing failure to acknowledge political and fiscal reality.

Two decades after the Cold War, the U.S. is reducing the number and the role of its nuclear weapons, and is committed to providing international leadership on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Meanwhile, the federal budget is extremely tight; cuts are being proposed in all manner of government programs, including, unwisely, Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ benefits.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, apparently indifferent to federal belt-tightening, thinks it needs a big raise. Stuck in the Cold War, the hey-day of nuclear spending, the agency in charge of the nation’s nuclear weapons is calling for more spending in almost every category.

The nuclear weapons budget request is $7.87 billion, in real terms a 16.7 percent increase above last year’s levels, virtually unheard of in all other federal agencies given our nation’s fiscal constraints. That large increase is especially ironic given the agency’s chronic cost overruns and mismanagement in both construction projects and nuclear weapons programs. The agency also plans to increase its nuclear weapons budget to $9.29 billion by 2018, an 18 percent increase.

In a time when the U.S. nuclear arsenal is shrinking and the Obama administration seeks further mutual arms reductions with Russia, this overreach by the National Nuclear Security Administration is hard to understand. The nuclear weapons laboratories and production facilities have long enjoyed a privileged existence, thanks to powerful supporters in Congress, presidential administrations, and weapons corporations. Any large, powerful bureaucracy will naturally resist, vigorously, attempts to reduce its budget or weaken its clout.

But there seems to be something more here in nuclear overseers’ chutzpah in proposing lavish budget increases when the rest of the government, and many Americans, face harsh austerity.

The nuclear weapons establishment has, for decades, woven a cloak of secrecy around nuclear weapons technology. Nuclear insiders enjoyed a serious lack of accountability on how funds are spent and programs are run. “The nuclear priesthood” is a good shorthand for this dynamic, and one need not conjure visions of a bunch of Dr. Strangeloves running around our nuclear weapons laboratories to understand they fear their time is past, as it should be if we are to move toward a nuclear-weapons free world.

Nuclear administrators serve the country’s national security interests, not their own. This budget request is just a wish list; Congress, acting on behalf of we taxpayers, doesn’t have to fund any of it.

Congress needs to very carefully scrutinize the budget requests for exorbitant, controversial, and failing programs. The National Ignition Facility, Uranium Processing Facility and MOX (mixed oxide) fuel program are just a few examples of nuclear programs that are both mismanaged and unnecessary. Most Americans have never heard of these programs, yet American taxpayers will spend more than half a trillion dollars over the next decade on these and other nuclear capabilities that irrelevant in the 21st century.

NNSA and its managers won’t like congressional oversight or fiscal responsibility. They should remember that they work for us, and Americans would rather invest our tax dollars in education, health care, job creation, and local law enforcement – the people who protect us everyday, not the people who watch over Cold War relics. The nuclear priesthood’s blank check days are over.

Martin serves as executive director of Peace Action. 

Coghlan serves as executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/296397-days-of-blank-checks-are-over-for-nuclear-weapons-establishment#ixzz2RaSALJZe
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook


What We Learned in Congressional Hearings Last Week (“We Could Tell You, But Then We’d Have to Kill You”)

April 19, 2013

Well, the good folks at truthout changed the header on my op-ed to a less colorful “North Korea and U.S. Special Ops Forces” but still glad they published it. Copyright Truthout.org, reprinted with permission.

North Korea and US Special Ops Forces

Friday, 19 April 2013 10:56By Kevin MartinSpeakOut | ONormally I prefer it when Congress is not in session in Washington, reasoning our legislators can do us no harm, or less harm anyway, when they are back home in their districts meeting with constituents and/or pandering to and raising money from corporate special interests.

However this week, two congressional hearings shed light on some very interesting, previously unknown (or at least not widely known) facts related to our “national security.”

The first, earlier this week, came at a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on emerging threats. As reported by Walter Pincus for the Washington Post, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM in military shorthand), Admiral William McRaven, stated, “On any day of the year you will find special operations forces [in] somewhere between 70 and 90 countries around the world.”

Now this number surprised me very much. Had I been asked to guess, I might have said we have special ops forces in maybe half that number of countries. On the other hand, given that the U.S. has somewhere between 800 and over 1,000 foreign military bases around the world (there is no consensus on how to even count them), as well as an overall unprecedented global military footprint, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at the 70 to 90 number. It may in fact be low.

Pincus’s article hinted at not only the increased role of Special Ops (which, along with drone strikes, are preferred means of projecting U.S. military might as the military seeks to reduce boots on the ground in some regions of the world), but also its growing budget (“Special Operations wins in 2014 budget”). Of course the budget, along with the number of countries, not to mention what the special ops forces are doing, all fall into the “we could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you” category.

Which is ludicrous, since we taxpayers foot the bill for all of this special opping. Shouldn’t we know what the tab is, and be able to judge if it’s worth it? Is this making us safer, or earning us more enemies around the world? Is this a good priority for our tax dollars, or would we feel more secure investing instead in our improving our schools, re-building our aging infrastructure, creating jobs and affordable housing and investing in green energy sources?

The Obama White House, which is failing miserably in its pledge to be the most transparent administration ever, should heed the adage that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and release the budget, list of countries we’re on the ground in, and various missions of the Special Operations Command.

The second illuminating hearing, of the House Armed Services Committee, was held Thursday. As was widely reported, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) revealed a Defense Intelligence (oxymoron alert!) Agency report that, counter to widely held belief, North Korea has the capability to hit the United States with a nuclear-armed missile, though the weapon’s reliability would be low. The Obama Administration and other government spokespeople were quick to either disavow the DIA finding or point out this is not a consensus position of the U.S. intelligence community.

On this one, I’m inclined to the skeptical view. Miniaturizing a nuclear warhead, fitting it atop a missile that has to fly across the North Pole or the world’s largest ocean, come close to its target and explode at the right time, well this is called “rocket science.” North Korea’s ain’t anywhere close to ours.

Do you know what’s not rocket science? Understanding North Korea’s government isn’t crazy, paranoid or irrational. Their recent nuclear and missile tests, as well as other provocative actions and threats, while regrettable, are the moves of an isolated, impoverished country targeted as part of the “Axis of Evil” by our previous president. It keenly observed what happened to the other two, sanctioned-to- death, invaded, regime-changed and occupied Iraq, and sanctioned-to-death and threatened with “all options on the table” Iran. Both lacked nuclear weapons of their own to deter U.S. (and Israeli, in the case of Iran) aggression, so North Korea learned the obvious lesson about nuclear weapons – “we better get us some.” Moreover, North Korea has long faced the overwhelming economic, political and especially military power of the U.S. and South Korea.

While recently the U.S. has correctly backed off plans to escalate military pressure on the North, in the last few weeks it conducted massive war games with South Korea, with the stated objective of preparing for regime change or collapse in the North. U.S. B-2s and B-52s ran simulated nuclear attacks on North Korea, and F-22 fighter jets were moved to the South. If you were in the North Korean government, wouldn’t you be pretty jumpy right about now?

Putting out the fire with gasoline is not what we need. Let’s hope Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to the region succeeds in calming the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Calm, reasoned diplomacy is what we need, not military escalation and threats. Let’s also look longer term, to put in place steps leading to a peace treaty with North Korea (we have only a supposedly temporary armistice signed 60 years ago at the end of the Korean War) and denuclearization of the region, and the world.

Nuclear deterrence clearly isn’t working; if it were, wouldn’t the U.S.’s massive nuclear arsenal of over 5,000 warheads, most of which are tens or hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb which killed over 130,000 people, be dissuading North Korea from threatening to attack us, whether the threat is credible or not? Nuclear disarmament would make the region and the world much safer, and cost a lot less to boot.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.


That’s Where the Money Goes – Larry Wittner, Peace Action board member, on Huffington Post

April 17, 2013

Great piece on Huffington Post, as always, by SUNY-Albany emeritus professor of history and politics and Peace Action board member Larry Wittner, on U.S. and global military spending.

According to a report just released by the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military expenditures in 2012 totaled $1.75 trillion.

The report revealed that, as in recent decades, the world’s biggest military spender by far was the U.S. government, whose expenditures for war and preparations for war amounted to $682 billion — 39 percent of the global total. The United States spent more than four times as much on the military as China (the number two big spender) and more than seven times as much as Russia (which ranked third). Although the military expenditures of the United States dipped a bit in 2012, largely thanks to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, they remained 69 percent higher than in 2001.

U.S. military supremacy is even more evident when the U.S. military alliance system is brought into the picture, for the United States and its allies accounted for the vast bulk of world military spending in 2012. NATO members alone spent a trillion dollars on the military.

Thus, although studies have found that the United States ranks 17th among nations in education, 26th in infant mortality, and 37th in life expectancy and overall health, there is no doubt that it ranks first when it comes to war.

This Number 1 status might not carry much weight among Americans scavenging for food in garbage dumpsters, among Americans unable to afford medical care, or among Americans shivering in poorly heated homes. Even many Americans in the more comfortable middle class might be more concerned with how they are going to afford the skyrocketing costs of a college education, how they can get by with fewer teachers, firefighters, and police in their communities, and how their hospitals, parks, roads, bridges, and other public facilities can be maintained.

Of course, there is a direct connection between the massive level of U.S. military spending and belt-tightening austerity at home: most federal discretionary spending goes for war.

The Lockheed Martin Corporation’s new F-35 joint strike fighter plane provides a good example of the U.S. government’s warped priorities. It is estimated that this military weapons system will cost the U.S. government $1.5 trillion by the time of its completion. Does this Cold War-style warplane, designed for fighting enemies the U.S. government no longer faces, represent a good investment for Americans? After twelve years of production, costing $396 billion, the F-35 has exhibited numerous design and engineering flaws, has been grounded twice, and has never been flown in combat. Given the immense military advantage the United States already has over all other nations in the world, is this most expensive weapons system in world history really necessary? And aren’t there other, better things that Americans could be doing with their money?

Of course, the same is true for other countries. Is there really any justification for the nations of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America to be increasing their level of military spending –as they did in 2012 – while millions of their people live in dire poverty? Projections indicate that, by 2015, about a billion people around the world will be living on an income of about $1.25 per day. When, in desperation, they riot for bread, will the government officials of these nations, echoing Marie Antoinette, suggest that they eat the new warplanes and missiles?

President Dwight Eisenhower put it well in an address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors 60 years ago:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed … This world in arms is not spending money alone; it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children … This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

 

That sentiment persists. On April 15, 2013, people in 43 countries participated in a Global Day of Action on Military Spending, designed to call attention to the squandering of the world’s resources on war. Among these countries was the United States, where polls show that 58 percent of Americans favor major reductions in U.S. military spending.

How long will it take the governments of the United States and of other nations to catch up with them?

Lawrence Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual (University of Tennessee Press).


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