Some good (and even kinda funny!) news on nukes

November 10, 2014

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While you might not have known it from the scant attention they received in the recent midterm elections, there is a lot brewing on Peace Action’s top priority issues these days. We’ll have more for you soon on a possible breakthrough deal on Iran’s nuclear program (the current deadline for a deal is in two weeks, though it could be extended), as well as potentially interesting developments on the Pentagon’s budget. For today, here are some items you might have missed regarding nuclear weapons issues (good news), and I’ll do another post on Iraq and Afghanistan (definitely mostly bad news).

–U.S. to attend Vienna conference next month on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons: Peace Action has helped lead national and international efforts to press the Obama Administration to more faithfully participate in various international fora on nuclear disarmament, with not a lot of success to date. The U.S. skipped the first two conferences in this relatively new push regarding the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, but the State Department announced Friday it would send representatives to the third such conference in Vienna in early December.  We signed onto a letter initiated by our colleagues at the Arms Control Association urging U.S. participation, so this is definitely good news, and we’ll keep you updated on the conference, U.S. participation, and follow-up steps. What the U.S. reps say and do at this confab will have even more resonance as the international community prepares for the every five years Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT RevCon) at the United Nations in New York City next April. Peace Action will once again help lead national and international groups in organizing around the RevCon, we’ll have more information on this in the New Year.

-Updated Don’t Bank on the Bomb report released: This terrific resource, which catalogs the banks, insurance companies, mutual funds and other businesses that help support and finance nuclear weapons contractors worldwide, was released last Friday. It’s a great educational and action tool, as even most peace activists are likely unaware of the web of financial links so many seemingly non-military related companies have to the production of nuclear weapons. Check it out, you’ll want to know if companies you deal with are involved. Some Peace Action supporters have used the report to withdraw investments from firms they had long done business with, over the companies’ financial ties to nukes. You may want to do the same.

-And the funny (sort of): Death Wears Bunny Slippers: Hanging out with the disgruntled guys who babysit our aging nuclear missiles – and hate every second of it, a terrific article in Mother Jones magazine about the decay of the ICBM force and the morale and performance of the Air Force personnel who allegedly safeguard them

 


Letter to Obama Administration on upcoming nukes conference

October 30, 2014
Peace Action Development Director Peter Deccy at the "A-Bomb Dome" in Hiroshima

Peace Action Development Director Peter Deccy at the “A-Bomb Dome” in Hiroshima

The following news release is part of an ongoing effort to press the Obama Administration to participate in multilateral nuclear disarmament fora. Peace Action has helped lead this push for a few years now. The first link is to the letter we signed onto. Scuttlebutt is the Administration may soon decide on whether to attend the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons in December.

Leading Nuclear Policy Experts and Organizations Call on the United States to Participate in International Conference on Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons

For Immediate Release: October 29, 2014

 

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, 202-463-8270 x107

(Washington, D.C.) –A group of more than two dozen leading nuclear policy experts, former U.S. government officials, and peace and security organizations are urging the Barack Obama administration “to authorize U.S. participation in the Dec. 8-9 Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna, Austria.”

In an October 29 letter to the White House, State Department, and Pentagon, the signatories write that U.S. participation in the Vienna conference “would enhance the United States’ credibility and influence at the 2015 NPT Review Conference. U.S. participation would also provide support to key U.S. allies and partners,” many of which are also urging the United States to send an official delegation.

The Vienna humanitarian impacts conference, which is the third such meeting since 2013, “is a useful and important venue for raising awareness about the risks of nuclear weapons,” the letter signers write, and it “contributes to the oft-repeated U.S. government call for ‘extending the nearly 70-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons forever.’”

The United States and the other five original nuclear weapon states–Russia, the U.K., France, and China–have not attended the two previous humanitarian impacts conferences, citing concerns that it could be used as a launching point for negotiations calling for a ban on nuclear weapons or a convention leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

“While some participating states and some nongovernmental organizations support such a ban … this conference is not a negotiating conference and is not intended to launch such an effort. Even if it were, there is no clear consensus among the participants about the direction of any such process,” the signers note in their letter, which was addressed to the president’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

“Nuclear-armed states may have reasons to argue that not all potential uses of nuclear weapons necessarily would lead to humanitarian disaster, and that nuclear weapons may deter other existential threats,” says George Perkovich, Vice-President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and one of the letter’s signatories.

“But given that the whole world would be affected if they are wrong, they should be willing to discuss these issues with others,” Perkovich says. “Unwillingness to do so suggests an arrogance that can only provoke international contempt and resistance.”

A decision on the part of the Obama administration not to attend the Vienna conference, the signatories write, “would be a major lost opportunity and a setback for President Obama’s own call for action toward a nuclear weapons free world.”

 

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons.


Peace Action Speaks to No Nukes! Women’s Forum in Hiroshima

August 6, 2014

Sally Jones in Hiroshima 2014.We are proud that Sally Jones, Chair of the Peace Action Fund of NYS spoke on August 5 in Hiroshima to the No Nukes! Women’s Forum. Here is her speech:

New York City Prepares for the 2015 NPT

Dear women of the Japanese nuclear abolition – No Nukes! – movement!

Greetings from Peace Action.  From Staten Island, New York City (where I live), from New York State, and from all the 90,000 members of Peace Action all over the U.S.A.

For me it is an honor of a lifetime to be here with you today and especially to be talking to a women’s peace group.

I want to talk to you about my work with Peace Action with particular attention to the 2015 NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) action that will take place in New York City next spring.

Since 2002 I have been a Peace Action volunteer when I helped form a Peace Action chapter where I live on Staten Island.  We are community members from all walks of life who are against war and nuclear weapons.  We do a lot of local actions, educational programs, and partner with other local groups who care about our issues.

On August 10th, my Staten Island friends are organizing a program called “Staten Island and the Bomb.”  Tons of uranium ore from what was then called the Belgian Congo was stored under the Bayonne Bridge near where I live from 1938 to 1942.  The land there is still radioactive.  We want Staten Islanders to learn how and why they are connected to the nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Staten Island’s Peace Action chapter is one of many affiliates all over the U.S.A.  Since I first got involved with Peace Action in 2002, I joined the New York State steering committee and the national Peace Action strategy sessions.  In 2002 and early 2003 we sincerely believed that we could prevent the U.S. from attacking Iraq.  Preventing war is what we must do.  Unfortunately, we didn’t prevent the U.S. attack on Iraq.  But that makes us even more determined to prevent future wars.

 In the U.S.A., Peace Action members work very hard to stop the U.S. government from using its awesome military power and instead we push for moving the money from the military and security apparatus to fund human needs.  That includes constantly pushing back on funding for nuclear weapons.

Peace Action has had a New York City presence since it began in 1957.  We have an office in downtown Manhattan.  Our Peace Action International affiliate is a United Nations NGO, and we work with the International Peace Bureau representative, Cora Weiss.

Our New York City presence situates us to be very helpful in organizing the international NPT actions  In 2010, Judith LeBlanc worked out of our office to coordinate the successful international conference at Riverside Church and the rally and march to the United Nations.  We are part of a team from our national office in Washington DC and affiliates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Connecticut who work in concert to mobilize for No Nukes.

We are preparing to do this again for 2015.  PANYS will be part of the September 19th coordinating committee meeting taking place in NYC where we will work alongside Judith LeBlanc and Joseph Gerson and the other organizers.

Coming off the People’s Climate March in New York City this September 21st , the many anti-war activities being organized around the 100th anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce, the momentum of the ban the bomb movement and the publicity around the lawsuits against the nuclear armed states, excitement is building for the 2015 NPT.

The international conference and actions will bring thousands of activists together who will insist on being heard on the world stage.

Happily, we have a different New York City Mayor and City Council leadership in 2015 than we had in 2010.  My dream is for our new NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio to welcome the Mayors for Peace and give them the public respect and honor that is long overdue.

1526725_273244352878323_8840870145999556430_nWe want the 2015 NPT to mark a new day in the No Nukes! Movement.

One of our most important projects at Peace Action NYS is building up a student chapter network.  We began this project in 2010 with a small grant.

We have 4 official student chapters now, three more starting up in the fall and more on the way.  The idea is catching on and we hope to develop a model that will be picked up all over the U,S.A.  The 2015 NPT conference and actions should be a catalytic event for young people.  The experience of meeting with Hibakusha and hearing first hand about the horrors of nuclear weapons has the power to transform lives.  Our planning will take this into account.

In Peace Action, women are integrated in every aspect of what we do. Last year, you met Judith LeBlanc, the national field director for Peace Action.

She sends her greetings to her friends in Gensuikyo. On a personal level, my identity as a woman is so steeped into who I am and what I do that, I confess, I don’t give it much thought.  But I know it is part of every breath I take. I am a mother and grandmother.  I lost my own 95-year old mother 5 months ago on March 7th.  How lucky I have been to have been loved by her unconditionally and without bounds.  That is the love I carry within and hope to pass on to my children and grandchildren, and which I hope infuses my work.

The role of women in our movements reflects the societies we come from.  We are all determined to work for a nuclear-free world and we should use every tool in our toolkit.  I am very interested to learn how you do that in Japan.  In the U.S., we use our relatively new-found powers – gained thanks to the women’s movement – to take on as much responsibility as we can handle.

We have a phrase – “Go, Girl!” – that we use to signify to each other to just go ahead and do what you need to do.  The phrase implies solidarity and that the rest of us women “are behind you 100%.”

That’s the spirit I carry inside me, too.  Love and power.  The power of love.  We all have a very short time on this planet to help spread a vision of peace and justice with no nukes and no war and we need to use all of our “girl powers” to get it done.

See you in New York City in 2015!


On the Eve of the 69th Anniversary of the Hiroshima Bombing, Please Sign the Petition for Nuclear Weapons Abolition!

August 5, 2014
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Cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Sixty-nine years since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, we need to remind the world of THE UNKEPT PROMISE to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide.

THE STORY: Landmark lawsuits were filed on April 24, 2014 against all nine nuclear weapon states in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and, on the same day, against the United States in U.S. Federal District Court. At the heart of the lawsuits is this: holding these nations accountable for their breach of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), specifically Article VI of the treaty. This is the first time the United States been sued in U.S. court for breach of an international treaty.

A BRIEF HISTORY: The NPT was opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. Article VI obligates signatories to pursue negotiations in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race at an early date and for nuclear disarmament. The NPT nuclear weapon states (U.S., UK, Russia, France and China) are in violation of their treaty obligations by continuing to modernize their nuclear forces and by failing to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament (44 years since entry into force of the treaty does not meet the definition of at an early date). For the same reasons, the four nuclear weapon states not party to the NPT (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) are in violation of customary international law.

THE LAWSUIT: The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has filed these lawsuits in the ICJ and in U.S. court. RMI is a small island nation in the Pacific whose people suffered greatly at the hands of U.S. atmospheric nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s. Their filings are a bold form of peaceful, non-violent action aimed at making substantial changes to the status quo on an issue that threatens the security and future of all generations.

That’s why we created a petition to The United States Senate and President Barack Obama, which says:

“Nuclear weapons threaten everything we love and treasure in this world. To protect humanity’s future, we support the Marshall Islands, a small island nation courageously seeking to enforce the Nuclear Zero promise – a world free of nuclear weapons. “

Will you sign our petition? Click here to add your name: 

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/support-the-marshall?source=c.fwd&r_by=404397

Thanks for all you do.

Power to the peaceful,

Judith LeBlanc
Field Director
Peace Action

PS:  Help me collect more signatures.  Please forward this email to your friends.

For more information, click here.


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


When Good News Goes Unreported

May 3, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


David vs. Goliath? The Mouse That Roared? The Republic of the Marshall Islands Sues for Nuclear Disarmament

May 2, 2014

I don’t think either analogy is perfect, but some are using these references to describe lawsuits the Republic of the Marshall Islands has filed in the World Court against the United States and the eight other nuclear weapons states (France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India) for failing to live up their obligation to pursue nuclear disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The lawsuits, supported by our colleagues at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, have been in the works for over a year, but were filed just over a week ago in advance of the NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting at the United Nations in New York.

I, along with many other Peace Action activists, were in New York for various meetings around the NPT PrepCom, including official government statements, a briefing on the lawsuits featuring the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, Tony de Brum, and a public event in Manhattan featuring Hibakusha (Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bomb survivors) telling their poignant stories of perseverance in the cause of nuclear weapons abolition.

The Marshall Islands, which suffered horrible human and environmental consequences from U.S. nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 60s (dramatically chronicled in the film Nuclear Savage), are in a unique position to hold the U.S. and other nuclear states accountable for not only their lack of commitment to abolishing nukes, but that all are now engaged in working to “modernize” their nuclear weapons. A terrific website about the lawsuit is at nuclearzero.org

The United States offered this very weak list of bullet points allegedly demonstrating its commitment to nuclear disarmament:

1. Reduced U.S. nuclear stockpile by 85 percent since 1967.

2. Open to further reductions with Russia of up to one-third of deployed strategic weapons and of tactical weapons.

3. Participated in P5 conferences (editor’s note: P5 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, also all nuclear weapons states).

4. Would like to ratify the CTBT.

5. May sign the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty and the Southeast Asian NWFZT. Support a conference on a Middle East NWFZT.

The full U.S. official statement to the PrepCom is at http://papersmart.unmeetings.org/media2/2927499/us.pdf

Plans for next year’s NPT Review Conference, which happen every five years, will soon be underway. Peace Action, along with national and international allies, will work to improve on our impressive organizing around the 2010 Review Conference, which included a conference at Riverside Church of over 1000 people (half from outside the U.S.) addressed by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon and a rally and march with thousands of people demonstrating for peace and disarmament in midtown Manhattan.

-Kevin Martin, Executive Director


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