Third Time’s the Charm? Letter to President Obama on nuclear disarmament opportunities

April 18, 2014

Readers of the Peace Blog may recall  two similar group sign-on letters to the president on nuclear disarmament matters, last year around the UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament and earlier this year around the Mexico conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In addition to those letters, on the former we did a petition campaign that netted about 25,000 signers, and on the latter an email campaign that generated close to 10,00 emails to the White House. We never received a substantive response from the Administration on either occasion.

Not giving up of course, please see this newest, fairly comprehensive letter in advance of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee (NPT PrepCom), which convenes April 28-May 9 at the UN in New York. It is open for circulation, distribution, etc. and may be published as an Open Letter.

Thanks to our colleague Jackie Cabasso of Western States Legal Foundation for writing and circulating the letter. She is also seeking a group meeting with US officials around the PrepCom, we’ll report on any progress.

April 16, 2014

 

Dear President Obama,

 

During the closing session of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014, you cited a number of concrete measures to secure highly-enriched uranium and plutonium and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime that have been implemented as a result of the three Nuclear Security Summits, concluding: “So what’s been valuable about this summit is that it has not just been talk, it’s been action.”

 

Would that you would apply the same standard to nuclear disarmament! On April 5, 2009 in Prague, you gave millions of people around the world new hope when you declared: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Bolstered by that hope, over the past three years, there has been a new round of nuclear disarmament initiatives by governments not possessing nuclear weapons, both within and outside the United Nations. Yet the United States has been notably “missing in action” at best, and dismissive or obstructive at worst. This conflict may come to a head at the 2015 Review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

 

We write now, on the eve of the third Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting for the 2015 Review Conference of the NPT, which will take place at UN headquarters in New York April 28 – May 9, 2014, to underscore our plea that your administration shed its negative attitude and participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding the creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons free world.  This will require reversal of the dismal U.S. record.

 

  • The 2010 NPT Review Conference unanimously agreed to hold a conference in 2012, to be attended by all states in the region, on a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction. The U.S. was a designated convener, and a date was set for December 2012 in Helsinki. The Finnish ambassador worked feverishly, meeting individually with all of the countries in the region to facilitate the conference. Suddenly, on November 23, 2012, the U.S. State Department announced that the Helsinki conference was postponed indefinitely.

 

  • In March 2013, Norway hosted an intergovernmental conference in Oslo on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, with 127 governments in attendance. Mexico hosted a follow-on conference in Nayarit, Mexico in February 2014, with 146 governments present. The U.S. boycotted Oslo and Nayarit. Austria has announced that it will host a third conference, in Vienna, late this year.

 

  • In November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) established an “Open-Ended” working group open to all member states “to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons,” and scheduled for September 26, 2013, the first-ever High-Level meeting of the UNGA devoted to nuclear disarmament. The U.S. voted against both resolutions and refused to participate in the Open-Ended working group, declaring in advance that it would disregard any outcomes.

 

  • The U.S. did send a representative to the UN “High-Level” meeting, but it was the Deputy Secretary for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, rather than the President, Vice-President or Secretary of State. Worse, the U.S. joined with France and the U.K. in a profoundly negative statement, delivered by a junior British diplomat: “While we are encouraged by the increased energy and enthusiasm around the nuclear disarmament debate, we regret that this energy is being directed toward initiatives such as this High-Level Meeting, the humanitarian consequences campaign, the Open-Ended Working Group and the push for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.”

 

  • In contrast, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, the new President of Iran, used the occasion of the High-Level Meeting to roll out a disarmament “roadmap” on behalf of the 120 member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The roadmap calls for: “early commencement of negotiations, in the Conference on Disarmament, on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons for the prohibition of their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use, and for their destruction; designation of 26 September every year as an international day to renew our resolve to completely eliminate nuclear weapons;” and “convening a High-level International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament in five years to review progress in this regard.” The NAM roadmap was subsequently adopted by the UNGA with 129 votes in favor. The U.S voted no.

 

Meanwhile, your Administration’s FY 2015 budget request seeks a 7% increase for nuclear weapons research and production programs under the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSA’s “Total Weapons Activities” are slated to rise to $8.2 billion in FY 2015 and to $9.7 billion by 2019, 24% above fiscal year 2014. Your Administration is also proposing a $56 billion Opportunity Growth and Security Initiative (OGSI) to be funded through tax changes and spending reforms. OGSI is to be split evenly between defense and non-defense spending, out of which $504 million will go to NNSA nuclear weapons programs “to accelerate modernization and maintenance of nuclear facilities.” With that, your FY 2015 budget request for maintenance and modernization of nuclear bombs and warheads in constant dollars exceeds the amount spent in 1985 for comparable work at the height of President Reagan’s surge in nuclear weapons spending, which was also the highest point of Cold War spending.

 

We are particularly alarmed that your FY 2015 budget request includes $634 million (up 20%) for the B61 Life Extension Program, which, in contravention of your 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, as confirmed by former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz, will have improved military capabilities to attack targets with greater accuracy and less radioactive fallout.[1]

 

This enormous commitment to modernizing nuclear bombs and warheads and the laboratories and factories to support those activities does not include even larger amounts of funding for planned replacements of delivery systems – the bombers, missiles and submarines that form the strategic triad, which are funded through the Department of Defense.  In total, according to the General Accounting Office, the U.S. will spend more than $700 billion over the next 30 years to maintain and modernize nuclear weapons systems. The James Martin Center places the number at an astounding one trillion dollars. This money is desperately needed to address basic human needs – housing, food security, education, healthcare, public safety, education and environmental protection – here and abroad.

 

The Good Faith Challenge

 

This our third letter to you calling on the U.S. government to participate constructively and in good faith in all international disarmament forums. On June 6, 2013, we wrote: “The Nuclear Security Summit process you initiated has been a success. However, securing nuclear materials, while significant, falls well short of what civil society expected following your Prague speech.”[2] In that letter, we urged you to you speak at the September 26, 2013 High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament at the United Nations; to endorse UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Five-Point Proposal on Nuclear Disarmament; to announce your convening of a series of Nuclear Disarmament Summits; to support extending the General Assembly’s Open-Ended Working Group to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons; and to announce that the U.S. would participate in the follow-on conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons in Mexico in early 2014.

 

In our second letter, dated January 29, 2014, we urged that you direct the State Department to send a delegation to the Mexico conference and to participate constructively; and that your administration shed its negative attitude and participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding the creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. And we called on the United States to engage in good faith in efforts to make the Conference on Disarmament productive in pursuing the objective for which it was established more than three decades ago: complete nuclear disarmament; and to work hard to convene soon the conference on a zone free of WMD in the Middle East promised by the 2010 NPT Review Conference.[3]

 

Since our last letter, the U.S. – Russian relationship has deteriorated precipitously, with the standoff over the Crimea opening the real possibility of a new era of confrontation between nuclear-armed powers. The current crisis will further complicate prospects for future arms reduction negotiations with Russia, already severely stressed by more than two decades of post-Cold War NATO expansion, deployment of U.S. missile defenses, U.S. nuclear weapons modernization and pursuit of prompt conventional global strike capability.

 

Keeping Our Side of the NPT Bargain

 

Article VI of the NPT, which entered into force in 1970, and is the supreme law of the land pursuant to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, states: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

 

In 1996, the International Court of Justice, the judicial branch of the United Nations and the highest and most authoritative court in the world on questions of international law, unanimously concluded: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”

 

Forty-four years after the NPT entered into force, more than 17,000 nuclear weapons, most held by the U.S. and Russia, pose an intolerable threat to humanity. The International Red Cross has stated that “incalculable human suffering” will result from any use of nuclear weapons, and that there can be no adequate humanitarian response capacity.[4]  Declaringthat “our nation’s deep economic crisis can only be addressed by adopting new priorities to create a sustainable economy for the 21st century,” the bi-partisan U.S. Conference of Mayors has called on the President and Congress to slash nuclear weapons spending and to redirect those funds to meet the urgent needs of cities.[5]

We reiterate the thrust of the demands set forth in our letters of June 13, 2013 and January 29, 2014, and urge you to look to them for guidance in U.S. conduct at the 2014 NPT PrepCom. We stress the urgent need to press the “reset” button with Russia again. Important measures in this regard are an end to NATO expansion and a halt to anti-missile system deployments in Europe.

 

  • We urge you to work hard to fully implement all commitments you made in the Nuclear Disarmament action plan agreed by the 2010 NPT Review Conference and to convene the promised conference on a zone free of WMD in the Middle East at the earliest possible date.

 

  • We urge you again to take this opportunity to endorse UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Five-Point Proposal on Nuclear Disarmament, to announce your convening of a series of Nuclear Disarmament Summits, and to engage in good faith in efforts to make the Conference on Disarmament productive in pursuing the objective for which it was established more than three decades ago: complete nuclear disarmament.

 

  • We call on you to declare that the U.S. will participate constructively and in good faith in the third intergovernmental conference on humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons to be held in Vienna late this year.

 

  • As an immediate signal of good faith, we call on your Administration to halt all programs to modernize nuclear weapons systems, and to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement.

 

Mr. President: It’s time to move from talk to action on nuclear disarmament. There have never been more opportunities, and the need is as urgent as ever.

 

We look forward to your positive response.

 

Sincerely,

 

Initiating organizations:

 

Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation

 

[contact for this letter: wslf@earthlink.net; (510) 839-5877

655 – 13th Street, Suite 201, Oakland, CA 94612]

 

John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

 

Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action

 

David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

 

Joseph Gerson, Disarmament Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee(for identification only)

 

Alicia Godsberg, Executive Director, Peace Action New York

 

Endorsing organizations (national):

 

Robert Gould, MD, President, Physicians for Social Responsibility

 

Tim Judson, Executive Director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service

 

Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

 

Michael McPhearson, Interim Executive Director, Veterans for Peace

 

David Swanson, WarIsACrime.org

 

Jill Stein, President, Green Shadow Cabinet

 

Terry K. Rockefeller, National Co-Convener, United for Peace and Justice

Hendrik Voss, National Organizer, School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch)

 

Alfred L. Marder, President, US Peace Council

 

Robert Hanson, Treasurer, Democratic World Federalists

 

Alli McCracken, National Coordinator, CODEPINK

 

Margaret Flowers, MD and Kevin Zeese, JD, Popular Resistance

 

Endorsing organizations (by state):

 

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) Livermore, California

 

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, Office of the Americas, California

 

Linda Seeley, Spokesperson, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, California

 

Susan Lamont, Center Coordinator, Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, California

 

Chizu Hamada, No Nukes Action, California

 

Lois Salo, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Peninsula Branch, California

 

Rev. Marilyn Chilcote, Beacon Presbyterian Fellowship, Oakland, California

 

Margli Auclair, Executive Director, Mount Diablo Pleace and Justice Center. California

 

Roger Eaton, Communications Chair, United Nations Association-USA, San Francisco Chapter, California

 

Dr. Susan Zipp, Vice President, Association of World Citizens, San Francisco, California

Michael Nagler, President, Metta Center for Nonviolence, California (for identification only)

 

Rev. Marilyn Chilcote McKenzie, Parish Associate, St. John’s Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California (for identification only)

 

James E. Vann, Oakland Tenants Union, California (for identification only)

 

Vic and Barby Ulmer, Our Developing World, California (for identification only)

 

Judith Mohling, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Colorado

 

Bob Kinsey, Colorado Coalition for the Prevention of Nuclear War

 

Medard Gabel, Executive Director, Pacem in Terris, Delaware

 

Roger Mills, Coordinator, Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition, Henry County Chapter

 

Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, Maine
Lisa Savage, CODEPINK, Maine

 

Natasha Mayers, Whitefield, Maine Union of Maine Visual Artists

 

Shirley “Lee” Davis, GlobalSolutions.org, Maine Chapter

 

Lynn Harwood, the Greens of Anson, Maine

 

Dagmar Fabian, Crabshell Alliance, Maryland

 

Judi Poulson, Chair, Fairmont Peace Group, Minnesota

 

Marcus Page-Collonge, Nevada Desert Experience, Nevada

 

Gregor Gable, Shundahai Network, Nevada

 

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico

 

Joni Arends, Executive Director, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, New Mexico

 

Lucy Law Webster, Executive Director, The CENTER FOR WAR/PEACE STUDIES, New York

 

Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, New York

 

Sheila Croke, Pax Christi Long Island, chapter of the international Catholic peace movement, New York

 

Richard Greve, Co Chair, Staten Island Peace Action, New York

 

Rosemarie Pace, Director, Pax Christi Metro New York

 

Carol De Angelo, Director of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation, Sisters of Charity of New York (for identification only)

 

Gerson Lesser, M.D., Clinical Professor, New York University School of Medicine (for identification only)

 

Ellen Thomas, Proposition One Campaign, North Carolina

 

Vina Colley, Portsmouth/Piketon Residents for Environmental Safety and Security, Ohio

 

Harvey Wasserman, Solartopia, Ohio

 

Ray Jubitz, Jubitz Family Foundation, Oregon

 

Cletus Stein, convenor, The Peace Farm, Texas

 

Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT, INND (Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders), Washington

 

Allen Johnson, Coordinator, Christians For The Mountains, West Virginia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cc:

 

John Kerry, Secretary of State

 

Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

 

Thomas M. Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and

Nonproliferation

 

Susan Rice, National Security Advisor

 

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor

 

Samantha Power, Permanent Representative to the United Nations

 

Christopher Buck, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., Conference on Disarmament

 

Walter S. Reid, Deputy Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament

 

[1] http://blogs.fas.org/security/2014/01/b61capability/

 

[2] http://www.lcnp.org/files/060613_Obama.docx

 

[3] http://www.lcnp.org/pubs/Letter-to-Obama-Mexico-Conference-on-IHL.pdf

 

[4] http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/resolution/council-delegates-resolution-1-2011.htm

 

[5] http://www.usmayors.org/resolutions/81st_Conference/international02.asp

 

 

 


Update: U.S. Skips Mexico conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons

February 13, 2014

Disappointing, as there evidently was consideration within the Administration about going to the Mexico conference, but not all that surprising they are skipping it. We aren’t though, Alicia Godsberg, e.d. of Peace Action of NY State, is there and we look forward to her reports.

The Hill, February 13, 2014, 02:08 pm

http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/un-treaties/198353-obama-knocked-for-skipping-nuke-conference
Obama knocked for skipping nuke conference

By Julian Pecquet

The Obama administration is skipping a nuclear arms conference for the second time in a row, irritating arms-control advocates.
The U.S. and the four other original nuclear states – Russia, China, France and Britain – are all boycotting this week’s meeting in Mexico because of concerns that it could be used as a forum to push for the elimination of their stockpiles. All five also declined to send a delegation to the inaugural Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, held last year in Oslo.

“The absence of the five original nuclear weapons states in Mexico will only deepen the frustration of the nonnuclear-weapon states about the slow pace of progress toward the fulfillment of the nuclear-weapon states disarmament commitments,” said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. “Rather than dismiss or boycott conferences on the topic, the United States should actively participate and join other nations in a statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the need to prevent any exchange of nuclear weapons.”

Kimball said the goal of the conference was never to launch negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban, since it would never go anywhere without the participation of nuclear-armed states anyway. Rather, the purpose is to highlight the devastating humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the need to prevent any exchange of nuclear weapons.
The decision to skip the conference comes as the Obama administration prepares to commemorate the fifth anniversary of his historic speech calling for a world free of nuclear weapons – rhetoric that helped get him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. The administration strongly denied Thursday that the president was backsliding on those goals.

“After careful consideration, the United States has decided not to attend Mexico’s February 13-14 conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Our decision does not indicate any lessening support for nuclear disarmament,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told The Hill in an email.

“We continue to take very seriously the consequences of nuclear weapons use,” Harf said. “It is in our interest, as well as the interest of all nations, to extend the nearly 70-year record of nuclear weapons non-use forever. We remain committed to practical step-by-step disarmament and will continue to take steps toward securing a world without nuclear weapons.”

Harf pointed to the elimination of 85 percent of the U.S. nuclear stockpile since its Cold War peak and and the recent New START Treaty with Russia as signs of progress. She added that Obama has “reaffirmed his desire to take additional steps along the path to achieving a world without nuclear weapons” and that this would be a topic of discussion during next month’s Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.

While the Obama administration’s decision to skip the conference has been discrete, in Britain by contrast it has set off a firestorm of criticism against Prime Minister David Cameron from lawmakers on all sides.

“We should be there. I cannot understand why we are not [going]“, The Guardian quoted former Defense minister and  chairman of the defense committee James Arbuthnot as saying.

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/un-treaties/198353-obama-knocked-for-skipping-nuke-conference#ixzz2tERFK6Zg
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Get Your Senators to Support Diplomacy with Iran

July 29, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for taking action now.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

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

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

Begin Senator Feinstein’s letter:

Dear President Obama:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,


Take Action: Get Congress to Support Diplomacy with Iran

July 12, 2013

Let me first thank you for the phone calls to cut the budget for the B-61 nuclear warhead.  We lost the amendment vote by a surprisingly small margin 196-227.  Click here to see how your Rep. voted and please contact them to “thank or spank.”

Now to nuclear issues in Iran.  A month ago, the world was surprised by the election of a moderate President in Iran:  Dr. Hassan Rouhani.  He will be inaugurated in September and will be choosing a new government then.  This provides a new opportunity for the world to work with Iran on an agreement that would keep the country from building a nuclear weapon — which they say they are not and don’t intend to — while allowing them their right to peaceful nuclear technology.

Write your Representative now and either thank them or urge them to sign the Dent/Price letter to the President asking the administration to take every advantage of the diplomacy opportunity with Iran.  The letter will be sent next week, so be sure to take action now.

Representatives Charles Dent (R) and David Price (D) have penned a letter to President Obama pushing for diplomacy and another 40 members have co-signed.  The full text of the letter is below my P.S.

There are some in Congress and elsewhere who seem eager for another war in the Middle East.  When Iran’s new President, Dr. Rouhani, has professed a “policy of reconciliation and peace,” it’s time to put the extra effort into diplomacy.  Please write your Representative now and make sure that they have signed this important letter.

Thanks for taking action now.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Take a moment to urge your Rep. to co-sign a letter to the President asking him to take advantage of a new moderate President in Iran to reach a diplomatic solution to our disagreements with Iran.

Then, forward this email to your friends, family and coworkers.

Dear President Obama:

As Members of Congress who share your unequivocal commitment to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, we  urge you to pursue the potential opportunity presented by Iran’s recent presidential election by reinvigorating U.S. efforts to secure a negotiated nuclear agreement.

As you know, on June 14 the Iranian people elected Hassan Rouhani president with over 50 percent of the vote in the first round, overcoming repression and intimidation by the Iranian government to cast their ballots in favor of reform.  Dr. Rouhani campaigned on the promise to “pursue a policy of reconciliation and peace” and has since promised “constructive interaction with the outside world.”  As Iran’s former lead nuclear negotiator, he has also publicly expressed the view that obtaining a nuclear weapon would run counter to Iran’s strategic interests and has been critical of the nuclear “extremism” of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

We are mindful of the limitations of the Iranian presidency within the country’s political system, of the fact that previous Iranian presidents elected on platforms of moderation have failed to deliver on promised reforms, and of the mixed signals that Dr. Rouhani himself has sent regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  It remains to be seen whether his election will indeed bring significant change with regard to Iran’s relations with the outside world.  His government’s actions will certainly speak louder than his words.

Even so, we believe it would be a mistake not to test whether Dr. Rouhani’s election represents a real opportunity for progress toward a verifiable, enforceable agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that ensures the country does not acquire a nuclear weapon.  In order to test this proposition, it will be prudent for the United States to utilize all diplomatic tools to reinvigorate ongoing nuclear talks.  In addition, bilateral and multilateral sanctions must be calibrated in such a way that they induce significant and verifiable concessions from Iran at the negotiating table in exchange for their potential relaxation.

We must also be careful not to preempt this potential opportunity by engaging in actions that delegitimize the newly elected president and weaken his standing relative to hardliners within the regime who oppose his professed “policy of reconciliation and peace.”  Likewise, it will be critical for the United States to continue its efforts to foster unprecedented international cooperation on this issue so that the international community remains united in its opposition to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.

We look forward to working with your administration on this important issue in the months ahead.

Sincerely,
Current Cosigners: Dent, Price, Petri,Cohen, Bass, Blumenauer, Bordallo,Campbell, Capps, Coble, Connolly, Conyers, DeFazio, DelBene, Dingell, Doggett, John Duncan, Edwards, Ellison, Farr, Fitzpatrick,Garamendi, Grijalva, Hanna, Holt, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Jones, Kaptur, Lee, Lewis, McCollum, McDermott, McGovern, Meeks,Nugent, Pastor, Roybal-Allard, Runyan, Rush,Glenn Thompson, Welch, Yarmuth


Still Preparing for Nuclear War

July 8, 2013

by national Peace Action board member Larry Wittner on History News Network

http://hnn.us/articles/still-preparing-nuclear-war

Lawrence S. Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university life, “What’s Going On at UAardvark?” (Solidarity Press).]


B-29 and B-36 bombers in 1948. Credit: Wiki Commons.

Nearly a quarter century after the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government is still getting ready for nuclear war.

This fact was underscored on June 19, 2013, when the Pentagon, on behalf of President Barack Obama, released a report to Congress outlining what it called the U.S. government’s “Nuclear Employment Strategy.” Although the report indicated some minor alterations in U.S. policy, it exhibited far more continuity than change.

In 2010, the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review declared that it would work toward making deterrence of nuclear attack the “sole purpose” of U.S. nuclear weapons. The 2013 report, however, without any explanation, reported that “we cannot adopt such a policy today.” Thus, as in the past, the U.S. government considers itself free to initiate a nuclear attack on other nations.

In addition, the 2013 “Nuclear Employment Strategy” continued U.S. government reliance on a “nuclear triad” of ground-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, and bomber-launched nuclear weapons. Although the need for one or more legs of this “triad” has been debated since the early 1990s, the 2013 report concluded that “retaining all three triad legs will best maintain strategic stability.”

The 2013 “Nuclear Employment Strategy” also retained another controversial aspect of U.S. nuclear policy: counterforce strategy. Designed to employ U.S. nuclear weapons to destroy an enemy nation’s nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and associated installations, counterforce is potentially very destabilizing, for it provides an incentive to nations caught up in a crisis to knock out the opponent’s nuclear weapons before they can be used. And this, in turn, means that nations are more likely to initiate nuclear war and to desire large numbers of nuclear weapons to avoid having their weapons totally destroyed by a preemptive attack. Consequently, as Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists has noted, the report’s emphasis on counterforce “undercuts efforts to reduce the role and numbers of nuclear weapons.”

Furthermore, despite a growing desire among Western nations to have the U.S. government remove an estimated 200 nuclear-armed B61 gravity bombs — weapons dating back to the 1960s — deployed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, the Pentagon report made no proposal along these lines. These Cold War relics, too, remain untouchable.

One shift in emphasis indicated in the “Nuclear Employment Strategy” is a presidential directive to Pentagon officials to “reduce the role of `launch under attack.’” Currently, it is U.S. policy to fire nuclear weapons at an opponent on short notice if there are signs that a nuclear strike is under way against the United States or its allies. But this reduction in the likelihood of sliding into a full-scale nuclear war would be more reassuring if the President’s directive did not also command the Pentagon to retain a launch-under-attack capability, in case the President decided to use it.

But what about Obama’s lofty rhetoric of April 2009, in Prague, where he stated that the U.S. government was committed to building a nuclear-weapons-free world? Also, didn’t he renew that approach in his Berlin speech of June 19, 2013, only hours before the issuance of the Pentagon’s “Nuclear Employment Strategy,” when he called for nuclear disarmament negotiations with the Russians?

Yes, the rhetoric of 2009 was very inspiring, landing Obama a Nobel Peace Prize and raising hopes around the world that the nuclear menace was on the verge of extinction. But fairly little came of it, with the modest exception of the New START Treaty with Russia.

The Berlin speech, too, was substantially over-rated. Although many media reports implied that Obama had proposed decreasing the Russian and American nuclear arsenals by a third, the reality was that the President suggested his readiness to support a reduction of “up to” a third ofdeployed Russian and American strategic nuclear weapons. Under the New START Treaty, the limit to the number of these kinds of weapons in each nation is 1,550. Thus, in reality, Obama announced that he favored an agreement for each nation to eliminate 1 to 517 of them. From the standpoint of nuclear disarmers, that reduction would certainly be welcome — if, in the face of Republican resistance, it is ever consummated. But, it should be noted that, at present, the U.S. government possesses approximately 7,700 nuclear weapons.

Another indication that the Obama administration is in no hurry to fulfill its promises about building a nuclear weapons-free world is found in its fiscal 2014 budget proposal to Congress. Here, amid sharp cuts for a broad variety of programs, there is a proposed 9 percent increase in federal funding for the Energy Department’s U.S. nuclear weapons activities, including upgrading nuclear warheads (like the B61 gravity bomb, slated for a $10 billion makeover) and modernizing nuclear weapons production facilities.

This administration unwillingness to discard the immensely dangerous, outdated nuclear policies of the past flies in the face of public support for abolishing nuclear weapons, whether expressed in public opinion polls or in the resolutions of mainstream bodies like the National Council of Churches and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. But, unless there is a substantial public mobilization to end the American government’s reliance on nuclear war, it seems likely that U.S. officials will continue to prepare for it.


Pres Obama: A Bad Idea!

April 10, 2013

MOVE circlePresident Obama released his budget on Wednesday. Poverty is at its highest level in fifty years. The wealthiest 2% and corporations are still not paying their fair share of taxes. Military corporations, like Lockheed Martin1 are even finding ways to dodge state taxes as they make maximum profits with our federal tax dollars.

As “sequestration” or across the board cuts of $85 billion mandated by Congress begin, the President’s budget adds another layer of crisis.

The President’s budget proposes cuts for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities through the use of a discredited method of calculating annual cost of living increases, called  “chained” CPI that in fact, bites into the benefits. All in hopes of striking a deal with those in Congress who are bent on gutting social safety net to protect the rich and corporate profits.

Tell Congress: Cutting Social Security is a bad idea, it’s the Pentagon’s turn.

No one, least of all senior citizens, the disabled or veterans should foot the bill for the budget crisis or the Pentagon. As Social Security benefits and community services are cut, where is the substantial, game changing cut to the biggest gobbler of annual discretionary spending: the Pentagon?

By the way, Social Security adds absolutely nothing to the budget deficit! The Pentagon does!

The President’s budget is expected to include 2 rounds of domestic base closings, reduce the cost of living increase in military salaries and raise healthcare fees.

Sorry Mr. President, but those aren’t game changers

Again, the burden is being put on those who can least afford, the enlisted service people. Why not the mega profitable military corporations, which produce arms, we do not need?

Project on Government Oversight says,  “In other words, the Pentagon has, on average, been spending nearly $1 billion a day on contractors. Even if we just looked at what the Pentagon spends on service contracts, that alone is more than what it spends on troops and civilian employees combined.”2

Tell Congress and the President: No Cuts to Social Security, disability or veterans benefits, its the Pentagon’s turn.

While the CEOs of military corporation live the high life on our tax dollars3, our communities are faced with no choice, but to organize a push back.

Call the Congress: We will fight to stop any bill in Congress that includes cuts to these benefits.

On Tax Day, April 15, join Peace Action and our allies in over 28 states, and around the world and take action to move the money from the Pentagon to fund jobs and human services on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending. Click here to see if there’s an event near you.  You can also use the materials we compiled to write letters to the editor or create leaflets for events in your community.

Join the Thunderclap. Spread the April 15 message across Facebook and Twitter.

Power to the Peaceful,

Judith Le Blanc

Peace Action Field Director Peace Action

1 Baltimore Sun Op-ed by Lawrence Wittnerhttp://bsun.md/156S8wq

2 Project on Government Oversight, “The 360 Billion Gorilla in the Sequestration Debate” http://bit.ly/XztVAY

3 Project on Government Oversight, Groups Urge Congress to Lower the Cap on Maximum Allowable Compensation Paid to All Pentagon Contractor Employees http://bit.ly/10HPj3z


On Wisconsin! Another Op-Ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, This One on Drones

March 28, 2013

Peace Action Wisconsin has been doing some slammin’ media work lately, here’s another op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this one on drones, by PA WI board member Conor McMullen.

After years of slumber, Congress is finally starting to wake up to its responsibilities to question the legality, the wisdom and the morality of the administration’s officially and absurdly “secret war” using drone strikes to try to kill alleged members of terrorist groups in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, far from any legally recognizable battlefield.

When President Barack Obama nominated John Brennan to head the CIA, which has been carrying out the officially “secret” drone strike policy, a bipartisan group of 11 senators wrote to the administration and said: You need to hand over to Congress the secret memos written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that purport to justify the legality of the drone strike policy, which we have been seeking for more than a year. If you don’t hand over the memos, they said, Brennan’s nomination could be in trouble.

As a result of the threat, the administration finally shared some of the memos with the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, which are supposed to oversee the CIA. The administration still has not shared the memos with the Judiciary Committees, which are supposed to oversee the Justice Department, which produced the memos, even though Attorney General Eric Holder admitted in Senate testimony that access to the memos was necessary to understand the policy.

Some members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees have threatened to issue subpoenas for the drone strike memos if the administration doesn’t hand them over, but they have not yet followed through. Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner is a member of the House Judiciary Committee; he could be doing more to press the administration to release the memos to the committee.

When the Senate Intelligence Committee asked Brennan if the administration was claiming that it had the legal authority to conduct drone strikes in the United States, Brennan answered: “This administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so.” That was clearly a dodge of the question.

The question wasn’t about what the administration intended to do. The question was about what legal authority the administration was claiming. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has claimed that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed days after the Sept. 11 attacks, legalized a global war without borders in every corner of Earth. This claim logically begs the question: If the war is legal everywhere on Earth, does that include the U.S.? If not, why not? If it does not include the U.S., what exactly does it include?

Brennan’s subsequent confirmation shouldn’t mean the end of congressional scrutiny of this policy, and it won’t. On April 16, the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding its first ever public hearing on the drone strike policy. This subcommittee is chaired by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, and the hearing is expected to include witnesses who can testify to the reality of who is being targeted by drone strikes and who is being killed.

Until now, the administration has publicly claimed that only top terrorist leaders are being targeted and that civilian casualties have been extremely rare. But the record of independent reporting suggests that the standards for targeting have been extremely loose – something along the lines of “military age male in an area controlled by insurgents who looks like a terrorist” – and that civilian casualties have been quite common, with around 20% of the killings from CIA drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004 being civilians.

Progressive Students of Milwaukee and Peace Action Wisconsin are sponsoring a public forum Thursday on the drone strike policy. We’ll be discussing what is known about the policy from independent reporting and what the public can do to help bring this policy into transparent compliance with U.S. and international law.

Conor McMullen is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a member of Progressive Students of Milwaukee.


Be a Patriot, Uphold the Constitution: Save Obama From His Tortured Justifications For Drone Strikes, Kill Lists and Targeted Assassinations

February 8, 2013
–Kevin Martin, Executive Director
My cousin David has a cool used record and bookstore in downtown Lancaster, PA (my hometown) called BohoZone, check it out if you visit Lancaster. Bought my son Max a paperback copy of Fahrenheit 451 for Xmas, which he of course forgot and left in the car. So I read it, for the first time since high school (and will now give it back to Max for him to read). Really dug it, forgot that Ray Bradbury knew how to write for popular audiences. Want to see the movie again too (directed by one of the all-time greats, Francois Truffaut, starring Oskar Werner and the inimitable Julie Christie). Gotta admit I dig the future dystopia genre, especially the ones where there is some hope or at least fightback by the people (I also like the “we’re screwed and destined to succumb to the fascist police state and there’s no hope” ones too as I hope they’ll serve as a cautionary tale and wake people up.)
I especially like the one where the supposedly liberal or even “socialist” president decides who he can kill with impunity, using robots to deliver bombs, even if he doesn’t even know the person’s name, in countries with whom we are not at war, with no congressional or judicial oversight, justified by lawyers accountable only to him, with hundreds (at least) of civilians being killed.
Oh wait that’s not some future dystopia, that’s called the Obama Administration.
While many peace activists and human rights researchers have been protesting and educating and agitating about drone strikes and the president’s “kill list” for quite some time, this week seems to have brought something of a breakthrough, at least in media coverage and perhaps in Congressional scrutiny of these morally and legally dubious (and that’s being kind, many folks would just say “illegal”) practices by our Nobel Peace Laureate president. CIA Director-designate John Brennan took much of the heat on this in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday (with some justification, as he has been the president’s counterterrorism chief and was in the CIA under Bush/Cheney), but the president is the one accountable for these policies, and the one who could, and should, end them.
Brevity prevents a full listing of all the problematic aspects of drone strikes (our colleague and former Peace Action staffer and board member Duane Shank of Sojourners had a nice rundown on his Drone Watch blog post the other day, with links to many articles), but the civilian death toll and paper-thin legal “justification” for drone strikes being authorized by the Congressional resolution right after 9/11 are enough to call this whole shebang to a halt. (Certainly Constitutional Law Professor Barack Obama would have understood this.)
Those two concerns are the main reasons cited for the announcement late last month that the UN will open an investigation into drone strikes and targeted killings. Unites States’ UN Ambassador Susan Rice said the administration “has not ruled out full cooperation” with the investigation, as if we can pick and choose, as a UN member state. when to cooperate.
Momentum against drones (and I haven’t even gone into the frightening spectre of the proliferation of domestic surveillance drones just on the horizon that even Bradbury couldn’t have imagined) is building fast. Nationally coordinated grassroots actions on drones are planned for April. I had a suggestion the other day that we ought to start a call-in campaign to the White House every Tuesday. Why? That is supposedly the day the president looks at the kill list and approves targets for murder.
I know many liberals and progressives are loathe to criticize the president, and/or feel it’s their job to protect him from the right-wing. But it’s our Constitution that needs protecting, from this or any president who would declare himself judge, jury and executioner. Do him a favor and demand he end this madness.

Action Alert: Sign and Circulate the Jobs Not Wars Petition!

January 17, 2013

One of the best ways to reduce the deficit is to put people back to work.  It’s time to invest in our people, and our communities. Let’s create stable jobs at living wages, rehabilitate our nation’s infrastructure and invest in programs that serve the needs of people and communities, and develop a sustainable economy that protects the planet.

That’s why I’m asking you to sign the Jobs not Wars Petition.

The extreme right has used the fiscal crisis over the last four years to force deep cuts in discretionary spending on programs that make up the social safety net.  Now, they have their sights set on Social Security and Medicare.

I need your help to make a clear statement to those in Congress, and the administration, to Move the Money from wars and weapons to fund jobs and human services.

Peace Action’s Move the Money Campaign has been all about building common cause with unions, environmental advocates and anti-poverty and civil rights activists.

When I told you about our petition campaign last month there were just over 80 groups gathering signatures.  There are now 135 endorsing organizations working to remind Congress and the Obama administration we need to fundamentally change federal budget priorities from wars and ever more deadly weapons to jobs and meeting the needs of our communities.

So please sign the Jobs not Wars Petition.  Once you have, please forward this email. Ask your friends and family to join you in signing the Jobs Not Wars Petition.  Post this link http://bit.ly/jobs-not-wars-PA on your Facebook page and tweet it to your social network.  There is strength in numbers.

In November, we voted to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and end the wars in order to reinvest in our communities.

The pressure we are building is having a real impact on the debate on federal spending priorities.  With decisions on the debt ceiling and sequestration and votes ahead on both the 2013 and 2014 budgets, it’s critical we keep pressing.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action


Take Action: Tell President Obama and Congress – Jobs Not Wars!

December 11, 2012

                      Send President Obama and Congress a Message

On Election Day, we sent a message.  Protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. End the wars and reinvest in our communities.

The wars and tax breaks for the rich and corporations got us into this mess. Move the money from wars and weapons to fund jobs and human services and make the rich pay their fair share of taxes.

Sign the Jobs not Wars Petition. http://bit.ly/jobs-not-wars-PA

 

One of the best ways to reduce the deficit is to put people back to work.  It’s time to invest in our people and our communities to create stable jobs at living wages, rehabilitate our nation’s infrastructure and programs that serve the needs of people and communities, and develop a sustainable economy that protects the planet for future generations.

We want the war in Afghanistan to endand for substantial cuts to be made to runaway Pentagon spending.

Sign the Jobs not Wars Petition. http://bit.ly/jobs-not-wars-PA

 

Over 80 organizations are gathering signatures to remind Congress and the Obama administration we need to fundamentally change Federal budget priorities from wars and ever more deadly weapons to jobs and meeting the needs of our communities.

We will present the Jobs Not Wars Petition to Congress & President Obama around the time of the Inauguration.

Forward this email. Ask your friends and family to join you in signing the Jobs Not Wars Petition.  Post this link http://bit.ly/jobs-not-wars-PA on your Facebook page and Tweet it to your social network.  There is strength in numbers.

Don’t let our elected officials forget what we voted for. Time to change federal spending priorities from the “military industrial complex” to reinvest in our communities.

Humbly for peace,

 

Kevin Martin


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