Breaking News and Perspectives on Iraq

June 19, 2014

no good war banner pic

 

President Obama just spoke on Iraq, here are some points from Win Without War, a coalition Peace Action helped found to oppose the Iraq war in 2002:

Moments ago, the President finished a brief press conference in which he discussed the situation in Iraq. He announced that the US would be sending up to 300 special operations forces as advisors to Iraq (they will reportedly be broken into teams of 10-20 and forward deployed with Iraqi units). He also stressed that the US is now ready to make ‘limited, targeted’ air strikes if the situation the ground dictated it. While the President also made several positive statements stressing his opposition to ‘ground troops’ and that this remains an Iraqi problem that will require an Iraqi solution, we are troubled by some of these developments.

Here are our top line message responses.

  • This is a dangerous escalation of US military involvement in a problem the President himself has said has no military solution. It is also a dangerous retreat from the conditions that the President set for US engagement
  • What in needed in Iraq is a political solution, and any US support must only be made after changes to the policies of Prime Minister Maliki that are fueling sectarian tensions and growing this conflict.
  • History has shown that advisors can become ground troops, despite the best intentions.
  • President is still threatening airstrikes which would be counterproductive and firmly make America part of what is a growing Iraqi civil war.
  • President Obama needs to listen to the American people who do not want to restart the Iraq war.

Longtime Peace Action board of directors member Lauri Kallio of Albuquerque wrote this summary yesterday, which prompted a thoughtful reply by Bj, an activist with our Sacramento chapter:

President Barack Obama’s initial statement on the insurgency in Iraq was that all options are open. All options would include boots on the ground and bombing, with nuclear bombs not being ruled out. Later, Obama specifically excluded sending U.S. troops in, but reports were that the White House was mulling over the bombing option. Bombing attacks would would almost certainly produce noncombatant casualties and would likely provoke Sunni anger over the U.S. siding with the increasingly Shiite-dominated government. On June 16, media reports were that 100 Special Forces troops would be sent in to train Iraqi security forces.

 

President Obama also said that U.S. military aid would be premised on Iraqi government assurances to make political accommodations to relieve Sunni and Kurdish grievances about being largely excluded from power sharing. The U.S. troop surge well into the war was primarily designed to achieve some 18 socioeconomic and political goals — some hard to measure. I wrote a piece in my almost daily logbook on the war in Iraq, sometime after the surge took place, in which I demonstrated that there had been little or no progress on the goals, particularly on the two key goals of resolving Kurdish territorial land claims and an equitable sharing of oil revenues. The failure to resolve land claims alienated the Kurds and the failure to craft a plan to share oil revenues disadvantaged the Sunnis the most.

 

Staying with the theme of the futility of relying on the Iraqi government to become more inclusive,shortly before the troop surge took place, the U.S. began paying stipends for Sunni tribal groups to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq  Later, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was to strike a major blow against the Sunnis by cutting off the stipends.

 

When Nuri al-Maliki achieved his latest grip on power, his faction actually received fewer parliamentary seats than a competing faction led by a former foreign minister of Iraq; however, by more adroit political maneuvering, al-Maliki made deals with other small political factions to be elected prime minister.

 

After al-Maliki consolidated political power, he began a campaign to discredit the Sunni vice president, culminating in a murder charge for running a death squad, causing the vice president to flee the country.

 

Reports coming out of Baghdad form a pretty consistent picture of Prime Minister al-Maliki building an increasingly Shiite-dominated regime; thereby making it a naive move on the part of Obama to trust any promise of a more politically inclusive regime in Iraq.

 

If the argument is made that we must come to the aid of a democratically elected government in Iraq, given the extreme weakness of the Iraqi parliament and the ability of al-Maliki to rule largely by decree, the aid-to-a-democracy argument becomes very suspect.

 

If the argument is made that the U.S. should supply more arms to help the Iraqi security forces fight the insurgents. the last major clash should give one pause. Reports are that 30,000 Iraqi troops fled when confronted with 800 armed insurgents. Many of the fleeing Iraqi troops discarded their uniforms in the apparent hope that having no uniforms would save their lives if they fell into the hands of the insurgents. The insurgents found themselves with a yet-to-be-determined cache of U.S.-supplied weapons.

 

The word that the  U.S. may send in 100 Special Forces to train Iraqi security forces hinges on the absurd. Not only have Iraqi security forces failed to stand up to numerically inferior insurgent forces, but they have not been able to stop the ongoing mass violence against Iraqi citizens since the U.S. forces left.

 

U.S. training of foreign military forces has been a history of failure over the past half-century. After years of the U.S. training the South Vietnamese military, it quickly crumbled before the invasion of North Vietnamese armed forces. Part of the mission of the U.S. Marines sent into Lebanon by President Ronald Reagan was to train forces deemed favorable to U.S. interests. That training was washed away in the chaotic and very destructive civil war that raged in Lebanon. Central and South American military personnel schooled at the School of the Americas — since renamed — went back home and many committed atrocities against the very citizens they were committed to protect. We haven’t seen the final result of the long period of U.S. training of Afghan recruits; however, what we know of it shouldn’t inspire much confidence. Ann Jones, who taught school in Afghanistan for six years and was still there in 2009 to witness U.S. training methods, said of the 2009 incursion into Helmand Province that it consisted of 4,000 U.S. and allied troops and only 600 Afghan security forces, some of them police forces. Jones said she didn’t know of a single Afghan who had seen a 90,000 man Afghan army, as claimed by the U.S. in 2009. She even suggested tongue-in-cheek that it probably consisted of one man enlisting for training 90,000 times. Ann Jones personally knew of a number of men who went through the training, went home and went through again under another name. She was also convinced that Taliban men would go through the training course to learn of U.S. military tactics and also get a paycheck.

 

Overall, it would seem that all U.S. military options in Iraq are fraught with disaster. Diplomacy and a political settlement have also been suggested; however, I don’t see the U.S. as having the leverage to achieve a settlement. Realistically, we in the United States must come to the realization that there are situations in nation states that the intervention of the mighty U.S. military machine will only worsen the situation, and we shouldn’t set ourselves up for the burning we will get by setting the fires.

 

Unfortunately, the U.S. cannot serve as a role model for the world, given that we have attacked at least one nation that hasn’t attacked us in every decade since World War II. Youngsters just entering their teen years have never known a time when we were not at war and many have lived through two major wars.

 

Although I am generally opposed to dividing the world into smaller political enclaves of people based on religious or ethnic identification, perhaps the best solution would be for the U.S. to propose and work for splitting Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political divisions. The Sunnis and the Shiites are at one another’s throats. The Kurds are largely autonomous in their own territory, even making their own oil concession deals, despite incurring the wrath of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

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The US/Iran situation since the ouster of the Shah in 1979 has been ridiculous and I am very much in favor of a rational and pragmatic relationship between the US and Iran. That said, with regard to Iraq, things may not be so simple.

 

Also with regard to dividing Iraq among the sectors (Shi’a, Sunni and Kurd — who are mostly Sunni by the way) things are also not that simple. Between 1991 and 2003, those divisions were encouraged and promoted by the US through the Northern (Kurdish area) and Southern (Shi’a area) No Fly Zones during the 13 years of intense sanctions. Saddam Hussein was essentially restricted to the central, Sunni-Shi’a mixed, part of the country. And during the 2003-11 invasion and occupation, those divisions were also encouraged and promoted, it seems.

 

Were the Kurdish region of Iraq to get full nation status, a bloody chain reaction would likely follow as the Kurdish military attempted to expand into those parts of Syria, Turkey, and Iran which have significant Kurdish populations — widening and deepening an already very destructive situation in the region. It may happen, but it is not something that we should encourage.

 

I highly recommend watching today’s Democracy Now. The after-headlines-segment is with UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. It is long, but his insights are so valuable to understanding the situation.  Below is an excerpt (my bolds). Bj

 

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ambassador Brahimi, on the question of sectarianism, there have been several reports that suggest that in the initial days of the Iraq invasion in 2003, there were some neoconservative members of the Bush administration that actively fostered sectarianism between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds as a way of—as a policy of kind of divide and rule. Could you comment on that?

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: … President Bush had given full, total responsibility to the Pentagon over Iraq. What was discussed there and what they did there, I don’t know. But as somebody from the region just looking at what was actually taking place, it was extremely hard not to believe that sectarianism was being promoted and that the people that were being put in charge were—I mean, of course the Kurdish region was given to Kurds 100 percent, and no—the rest of the Iraqis had no part in it. But in the rest of Iraq, the impression one had was that the people that were preferred by the occupying powers were the most sectarian Shia and the most pro-Iranian Shia, so, you know, that Iran—that Iraq is now very, very close to Iran. Again, from the point of view of somebody who looks at things from outside, I have absolutely no knowledge of what went on in the high spheres of power in Washington. The impression we had is that these people were put in charge either out of total ignorance—and that is extremely difficult to accept—or intentionally. But the fact is, you know, that the system that was established was very sectarian.

 


Tell President Obama “Don’t Try to Put Out the Fire in Iraq With Gasoline!”

June 13, 2014

by Kevin Martin

Tell President Obama “Don’t Try to Put Out the Fire in Iraq With Gasoline!”

Believe it or not, some are responding to the escalating violence in Iraq with calls for U.S. military intervention. Have they learned nothing?

Please take action: Tell President Obama not to try putting out the fire with gasoline – no U.S. military intervention in Iraq, invest in diplomacy and international cooperation instead.

The advance of the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is no doubt alarming, but not a complete surprise in the context of deep social, ethnic, religious and political divisions in Iraq and the wider region. Our former Executive Director, David Cortright, has a sensible, concise post on this issue you might find illuminating.

Contact the president and send this alert to friends, family and colleagues you believe would want to take this action. The people of Iraq and the region need peace, reconciliation and development, not more war and definitely not U.S. bombs or troops.

Please take action to let the president know more war is not the answer.

To learn more about the situation in Iraq, here are a few recent articles you might find illuminating.

New York Times article on the current situation and consideration of U.S. military intervention

The Guardian on the collapse of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Army as ISIS advanced on Mosul

The Guardian again on the spread of ISIS in Iraq and Syria


Will the U.S. Skip Another International Conference on Nuclear Weapons?

February 11, 2014

-Kevin Martin, Executive Director

When professed nuclear dove Barack Obama was elected president, hopes were high in this country and globally for serious progress toward global nuclear disarmament. However, other than the modest New START  arms reduction treaty with Russia, there is little to show so far for his five years in office.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, signed by President Clinton in 1996, was rejected by the U.S. Senate in 1999. While the Obama Administration would like to get Senate advice and consent, garnering the 2/3 vote in the Senate the Constitution for ratification appears a very tall order given the prevailing hyper-partisan gridlock. (Could the president get 2/3 of the Senate to agree the sky is blue?)

Much worse, the Administration has proposed a Dr. Strangelovian “nuclear weapons modernization” program that could cost over $1 trillion over the next thirty years. This unconscionable boondoggle, if fully funded and implemented, would upgrade the entire U.S. nuclear weapons complex, soup to nuts – new nuclear weapons production facilities capable of designing nuclear warheads with new capabilities, increased warhead production capacity, and new bombers, missiles and submarines. Predictably, other nuclear weapons states have followed suit and are concocting their own “modernization” programs. It’s not hard to see how this undercuts our credibility, and U.S. and global security, when it comes to the urgent problem of nuclear proliferation. And the opportunity cost of that $1 trillion not going to human and environmental needs is scandalous.

The United States is getting it wrong not just on substance, but also on process. The U.S., and the other nuclear weapons states, generally scoff at efforts by non-nuclear states and the international community to get the process of nuclear disarmament unstuck. There is a new emphasis, in both governmental and non-governmental processes, on raising up the (horrific) humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. Recent studies project even a “modest” regional nuclear war could not only kill tens of millions of people, but also threaten a regional or even global “nuclear famine” that could affect hundreds of millions or billions more through severe agricultural impacts.

The Norwegian government hosted a conference on this subject about a year ago. The U.S. and the other members of the “P-5” – the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, all nuclear powers – boycotted the confab.

Last September, the Non-Aligned Movement sponsored the first ever UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament at the General Assembly, and has formed an Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear weapons abolition. The U.S. and other nuclear states participated (they could hardly have boycotted a General Assembly meeting), but unfortunately in the most condescending, arrogant manner. The U.S., United Kingdom and French statements at the meeting were an embarrassing display of nuclear colonialism, as they scolded the Non-Aligned states for wasting their time and not trusting the nuclear states to take care of nuclear disarmament in their own good time in processed dictated by the nuclear haves. (See my bog post No Right Hands for the Wrong Weapons – Arrogance, Denial, Nuclear Colonialism, and the Persistence of Hope by the 98%, Reflections on the UN General Assembly’s first ever High Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament)

This Thursday and Friday, the Mexican government will host the follow-up to the Norway conference, again focusing on the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. An activist NGO conference, organized by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) will convene before and after the governmental conference in Nuevo Vallarta. While informed sources had said the Obama Administration was considering attending the conference, there has been no announcement one way or the other, which doesn’t appear to bode well for those hoping the U.S. would show up.

The United States should be there, if it is serious about nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Ninety-eight percent of the world’s countries eschew nuclear weapons, as does the solid majority of the world’s population.

Nearly 10,000 people have emailed the president on this issue, and it’s not too late to convince him that he, or more likely a high-level representative of his administration, should go to the Mexico conference. In his recent State of the Union Address, President Obama stated,  “America must get off a permanent war footing.” I couldn’t agree more, and nukes are a great place to start. You can make your thoughts known to the president by email, please see this action alert


Letter from 32 peace organizations to the president urging U.S. participation in Mexico conference on nuclear weapons

February 6, 2014

This letter is a follow-up to one we sent the president last year, as well as a petition campaign that garnered over 25,000 signatures, urging U.S. participation in multilateral nuclear disarmament fora. Next week, governmental and non-governmental reps will convene in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico for the second conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons (the U.S. and other nuclear states skipped last year’s meeting in Oslo, Norway). Reliable sources had said the U.S. was considering participating in the Mexico conference, but there has been no announcement on this to date. Last week’s email action alert generated over 2200 Peace Action supporters’ emails to the president (thank you!) and other organizations including Physicians for Social Responsibility and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation have also generated emails to President Obama on the Mexico conference. The letter below is also posted on the website of our colleague organization, the Lawyers Committee for Nuclear Policy.

–Kevin Martin

January 29, 2014
President Barack Obama

The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20500

Mr. President,
The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report rightly declared: “It is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly 65-year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever.” On February 13-14 in Mexico, governments will gather for a second conference on the consequences of nuclear explosions. The point is to develop and disseminate understanding of the consequences, and the inability to respond adequately to them, so as to reinforce the determination, well expressed in the Report, that nuclear weapons must never be used again.
The United States should be there. The aim – and the focus on catastrophic consequences – is completely in accord with your speeches in Prague, Berlin, and elsewhere. In Prague you said: “One nuclear weapon exploded in one city – be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague – could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be – for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival.”
As representatives of organizations working for the global elimination of nuclear weapons, we respectfully urge that you direct the State Department to send a delegation to the Mexico conference and to participate constructively.
We last wrote you by letter dated June 6, 2013 to urge that you speak at the September 26, 2013 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament. While regrettably there was no high-level US representative at the meeting, the United States did make a statement and also joined in a statement made by a UK mission policy advisor (!) on behalf of the United Kingdom, France, and United States.
It would have been better if the joint statement had not been made at all. It conveyed a profoundly negative attitude toward the multiple efforts being made in international forums to stimulate progress on achieving and sustaining a world free of nuclear weapons, stating: “And 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 the remaining three years of your Presidency, we strongly urge that your administration shed that negative attitude and participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding the creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. Opportunities will arise in the Conference on Disarmament, the NPT Review Process, and the UN General Assembly.
Regarding the Conference on Disarmament, in December 2013 the General Assembly adopted a new resolution following up on the High-Level Meeting. The resolution calls for “the urgent commencement of negotiations, in the Conference on Disarmament, for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention” to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Rather than reflexively rejecting that call, the United States should 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.
Finally, your administration should work hard to convene soon the conference on a zone free of WMD in the Middle East promised by the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Prospects for movement on substantive issues are appreciably higher now than they were a year ago, due to the praiseworthy US-Russian initiative on disarmament of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal and the encouraging progress on reaching a permanent settlement of disputes over Iran’s nuclear program.
We would appreciate a reply to this letter, and would be happy to meet to discuss the matters it addresses.
Sincerely,
John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
[contact for this letter: johnburroughs@lcnp.org; (212) 818-1861;
866 UN Plaza, Suite 4050, New York, NY 10017]
Joseph Gerson, Disarmament Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee
Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation
David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Ashish Sinha, Program Director, Alliance for Nuclear Accountability
Henry Lowendorf, Chair, Greater New Haven Peace Council
Alfred L. Marder, Honorary President, International Association of Peace Messenger Cities
Alice Slater, Director, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, New York
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
Tim Judson, Acting Executive Director, Nuclear Information & Resource Service
Baria Ahmar, Canada/Lebanon coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, Office of the Americas
Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
Sheila Croke, Pax Christi Long Island Council
The Rev. David W. Good, Tree of Life Educational Fund
Nydia Leaf, Granny Peace Brigade (New York)
Paul Hodel, Promoting Enduring Peace
Odile Hugonot Haber, Co-Chair, Middle East Committee, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – US
Alan Haber, The Megiddo Peace Project.
David Hartsough, Executive Director, PEACEWORKERS, San Francisco
Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., Director, Shareholder Advocacy, Dominican Sisters of Hope, Mercy Investment Services, Inc. and Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, U.S. Province
Margaret Melkonian, Executive Director, Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives

Sr. Rosemarie Pace, Pax Christi New York
Rob van Riet, Coordinator, Disarmament Program, World Future Council
Ellen Rosser, President, World Peace Now
Rev. Kristin Stoneking, Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Program Director, Hibakusha Stories
David Swanson, cofounder, WarIsACrime.org
Carol Urner, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 2014 Nuclear Weapons Abolition Campaign.
Alyn Ware, Member, World Future Council
Bill Wickersham, Adjunct Professor of Peace Studies, University of Missouri – Columbia
cc:
John Kerry, Secretary of State
Rose Gottemoeller, Acting 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


President Obama: Stealing Time from The Faulty Plan (His Own)

September 10, 2013

President Barack Obama is clearly trying to get out of the corner he has painted himself into regarding Syria. The bottom line of the president’s speech on Syria tonight is he doesn’t have the votes for war, even in the Senate which was thought to be more pro-war, so he is backing off. He’s asked Congress to postpone a vote on authorization to attack Syria. The president is, reluctantly, giving peace a chance, specifically the Russian proposal for Syria to give up its chemical weapons, which the Syrian government has agreed to do. The Devil in the Details to be worked out soon, hopefully.

We, the peace forces, are winning the day. Who woulda thunk that just ten days ago when an bombing attacked looked imminent.

But there’s no time for us to stop our advocacy, agitation and mobilization, especially that aimed at Congress, no time to stop posing better alternatives, not just for dealing with the horrific Syrian anything-but-civil war, but for expanding the U.S. foreign policy toolkit to emphasize tools other than bombs.

While the news tonight is generally very positive – again, postponement of the war authorization vote, more time for diplomacy – the president’s muddle on several points needs to be challenged.

On the point that failure to attack Syria would embolden Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, that is not only a reductionist, simplistic absurdity, it’s the wrong message to send to Iran. We could really use Iran’s help in negotiations with Syria, which need to extend beyond just the response to and disposition of the chemical weapons issue, but to ending the war in Syria.

The president’s contradictory description of an attack — “the U.S. military doesn’t do pinpricks” so it would be a serious strike but wouldn’t fundamentally change the balance in the war, we don’t seek regime change, an attack will send a strong message but we won’t put boots on the ground, we’re not the world’s policeman but we’re the only country with the capacity to act with force, the chemical weapons attack was heinous but the regime supposedly responsible will stay in power — seems to get worse all the time. No wonder he has so little public or congressional support.

The president expressed his “deeply held preference for peaceful solutions.” Really? Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan, twice. And somehow I think the families of the hundreds of civilian victims of his drone strikes would beg to differ that his solutions are peaceful.

“Resolutions and statements of condemnation are not enough” was an absurd “straw man” argument by the “leader of the free world.” That’s not what we advocate. We advocate serious grown-up multilateral diplomacy, massive humanitarian assistance, adherence to and faithful use of international law and institutions. We advocate democracy. Obama didn’t try to counter our real proposed solutions and alternatives to bombing, because he can’t.

On the good news front, the president said he and his administration are talking to Russia, France, the UK and China about a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, specifically eliminating its chemical weapons (however, he didn’t mention that it might seek authorization for the use of force by the U.S. if the Russian proposal for Syria’s chemical disarmament falls apart, likely an intentional omission). Also, of course we need to give UN inspectors time to report their findings regarding alleged chemical attacks of August 21.

The last word for the night comes from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV – “Military might is not what defines a superpower. You have to have super patience. You have to have super negotiating power and diplomatic resources. And you have to have super humanitarian aid where needed. We have the possibility of doing all of that.” Dang, didn’t know they grew Gandhis in West Virginia!

Well here’s the actual last word, the awesome rock jam band Phish playing the song that’s the title of this post:

 

 


No More Hiroshimas! Sign our petition and join our Thunderclap!

August 1, 2013

In June, President Obama said, “so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.”

Yet nuclear disarmament is not at the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. You can take action to make it a priority: call on President Obama to act now.

Unfortunately, the administration has NOT yet agreed to:
• participate in the first ever September 26, 2013 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament.
• participate in the United Nations working group on achieving a world free of nuclear weapons

Or even endorse UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Five-Point Proposal on Nuclear Disarmament. It is way past time to take these simple practical steps.

Every year, on August 6 and 9, the peace movement hosts events to mark the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We remind ourselves of the horrific events set off by a U.S. foreign policy premised on nuclear terror. We recommit to building a movement for nuclear free world.

This year we must do more to reach hundreds of thousands to press the administration to act now for a nuclear free world.
This year we can reach tens of thousands if you sign up for our Nuclear Free World Thunderclap.

If you sign up for our Thunderclap, tens of thousands will automatically get the message below on all of our Facebook pages and Twitter accounts on August 9 at 11:02AM, the time the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki:
Aug 9 1945 US A-bombed Nagasaki. Pres #Obama: Speak out at Sept 26 UN Nuclear Disarmament Summit! #NoMoreNagasakis http://nuclearfreefuture.org

Sixty-eight years after the horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki let’s mobilize maximum pressure on President Obama, the time to act is now!

Power to the peaceful,

Judith Le Blanc, Peace Action Field Director
Peter Deccy, Peace Action Development Director

P.S. Peter and Judith are representing Peace Action at events in Japan to mark the 68th anniversary of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Follow their travels on our Facebook and the Peace Blog.


Zero Option for Afghanistan – Needed ASAP, not the end of 2014

July 15, 2013

The news that the Obama Administration is considering a “zero option” – leaving no troops behind in Afghanistan after the end of 2014 – got some coverage last week but not a lot. I wrote a letter to the editor to the New York Times based on its article on this issue. It didn’t get published (no surprise there, they get a lot of letters), but here it is, feel free to crib from it and send a letter to your local paper. Below my letter is the Times article.

July 10, 2013

To the editor,

I had two thoughts upon reading about the contentious negotiations between Presidents Hamid Karzai and Barack Obama over a possible continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan past the supposed end date of December 31, 2014 (“U.S. Considers Faster Pullout in Afghanistan,” July 8).

 

The first thought, with a bow to Casey Stengel, was “can’t anybody here play this game?,” the game being diplomacy. Yes, it is good news President Obama is considering a “zero option,” not leaving any U.S. troops behind in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, and perhaps even accelerating their withdrawal. However, it appears this is at least as much a threat to force President Karzai back into negotiations as it is a serious policy option. Both presidents need to come together in an earnest way to help figure out Afghanistan’s post-war future, with the strong involvement of Afghan civil society leaders, particularly women’s organizations, as well as other national and regional forces. The stakes are too high for threats and posturing; we need to see some genuine leadership from the two presidents.

 

My second thought was how could either president possibly explain to the families of Afghan or U.S. soldiers who will perish in fighting over the next year and a half what in the world they died for? The “zero option” needs to be implemented as soon as possible, not at the end of next year. U.S. support for Afghan-led reconstruction, development and reconciliation is the key issue for the future, not residual U.S. forces or a long-term military aid agreement.

 

Sincerely,

 

Kevin Martin

Executive Director

Peace Action

July 8, 2013

U.S. Considers Faster Withdrawal from Afghanistan

By MARK MAZZETTI and MATTHEW ROSENBERG

WASHINGTON — Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a “zero option” that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.

Mr. Obama is committed to ending America’s military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and Obama administration officials have been negotiating with Afghan officials about leaving a small “residual force” behind. But his relationship with Mr. Karzai has been slowly unraveling, and reached a new low after an effort last month by the United States to begin peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.

Mr. Karzai promptly repudiated the talks and ended negotiations with the United States over the long-term security deal that is needed to keep American forces in Afghanistan after 2014.

A videoconference between Mr. Obama and Mr. Karzai designed to defuse the tensions ended badly, according to both American and Afghan officials with knowledge of it. Mr. Karzai, according to those sources, accused the United States of trying to negotiate a separate peace with both the Taliban and their backers in Pakistan, leaving Afghanistan’s fragile government exposed to its enemies.

Mr. Karzai had made similar accusations in the past. But those comments were delivered to Afghans — not to Mr. Obama, who responded by pointing out the American lives that have been lost propping up Mr. Karzai’s government, the officials said.

The option of leaving no troops in Afghanistan after 2014 was gaining momentum before the June 27 video conference, according to the officials. But since then, the idea of a complete military exit similar to the American military pullout from Iraq has gone from being considered the worst-case scenario — and a useful negotiating tool with Mr. Karzai — to an alternative under serious consideration in Washington and Kabul.

The officials cautioned that no decisions had been made on the pace of the pullout and exactly how many American troops to leave behind in Afghanistan. The goal remains negotiating a long-term security deal, they said, but the hardening of negotiating stances on both sides could result in a repeat of what happened in Iraq, where a deal failed to materialize despite widespread expectations that a compromise would be reached and American forces would remain.

“There’s always been a zero option, but it was not seen as the main option,” said a senior Western official in Kabul. “It is now becoming one of them, and if you listen to some people in Washington, it is maybe now being seen as a realistic path.”

The official, however, said he hoped some in the Karzai government were beginning to understand that the zero option was now a distinct possibility, and that “they’re learning now, not later, when it’s going to be too late.”

The Obama administration’s internal deliberations about the future of the Afghan war were described by officials in Washington and Kabul who hold a range of views on how quickly the United States should leave Afghanistan and how many troops it should leave behind. Spokesmen for the White House and Pentagon declined to comment.

Within the Obama administration, the way the United States extricates itself from Afghanistan has been a source of tension between civilian and military officials since Mr. Obama took office. American commanders in Afghanistan have generally pushed to keep as many American troops in the country as long as possible, creating friction with White House officials urging a speedier military withdrawal.

But with frustrations mounting over the glacial pace of initiating peace talks with the Taliban, and with American relations with the Karzai government continuing to deteriorate, it is unclear whether the Pentagon and American commanders in Afghanistan would vigorously resist if the White House pushed for a full-scale pullout months ahead of schedule.

As it stands, the number of American troops in Afghanistan — around 63,000 — is scheduled to go down to 34,000 by February 2014. The White House has said the vast majority of troops would be out of Afghanistan by the end of that year, although it now appears that the schedule could accelerate to bring the bulk of the troops — if not all of them — home by next summer, as the annual fighting season winds down.

Talks between the United States and Afghanistan over a long-term security deal have faltered in recent months over the Afghan government’s insistence that the United States guarantee Afghanistan’s security and, in essence, commit to declaring Pakistan the main obstacle in the fight against militancy in the region.

The guarantees sought by Afghanistan, if implemented, could possibly compel the United States to attack Taliban havens in Pakistan long after 2014, when the Obama administration has said it hoped to dial back the C.I.A.’s covert drone war there.

Mr. Karzai also wants the Obama administration to specify the number of troops it would leave in Afghanistan after 2014 and make a multiyear financial commitment to the Afghan Army and the police.

The White House announced last month that long-delayed talks with the Taliban would begin in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban opened what amounts to an embassy-in-exile, complete with their old flag and a plaque with their official name, “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

But the highly choreographed announcement backfired, with Afghan officials saying the talks gave the insurgents undeserved legitimacy and accusing the Obama administration of negotiating behind Mr. Karzai’s back.

To the surprise of American officials, Mr. Karzai then abruptly ended the negotiations over a long-term security deal. He has said the negotiations would not resume until the Taliban met directly with representatives of the Afghan government, essentially linking the security negotiations to a faltering peace process and making the United States responsible for persuading the Taliban to talk to the Afghan government.

The Taliban have refused for years to meet directly with Afghan government negotiators, deriding Mr. Karzai and his ministers as American puppets.

There have been other points of contention as well. Meeting with foreign ambassadors recently, Mr. Karzai openly mused that the West was to blame for the rise of radical Islam. It was not a message that many of the envoys, whose countries have lost thousands of people in Afghanistan and spent billions of dollars fighting the Taliban, welcomed.

The troop decisions are also being made against a backdrop of growing political uncertainty in Afghanistan and rising concerns that the country’s presidential election could either be delayed for months or longer, or be so flawed that many Afghans would not accept its results.

Preparations for the election, scheduled for next April, are already falling behind. United Nations officials have begun to say the elections probably cannot be held until next summer, at the earliest. If the voting does not occur before Afghanistan’s mountain passes are closed by snow in late fall, it will be extremely difficult to hold a vote until 2015.

Of potentially bigger concern are the rumors that Mr. Karzai, in his second term and barred from serving a third, is trying to find a way to stay in power. Mr. Karzai has repeatedly insisted that he plans to step down next year.

The ripple effects of a complete American withdrawal would be significant. Western officials said the Germans and Italians — the two main European allies who have committed to staying on with substantial forces — would leave as well. Any smaller nations that envisioned keeping token forces would most likely have no way of doing so.

And Afghanistan would probably see far less than the roughly $8 billion in annual military and civilian aid it is expecting in the coming years — an amount that covers more than half the government’s annual spending.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Washington, and Matthew Rosenberg from Kabul, Afghanistan. Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.


Take Action Mr. President: No Nukes!

July 3, 2013

Tell President Obama: The time is right and the world is ready to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons! Click here to sign the petition.

First, the good news: In May, a new United Nations working group began meeting in Geneva “to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons.” The first ever UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament will take place onSeptember 26 in New York.  In March, Norway hosted a conference in Oslo on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, with 127 governments in attendance. A follow-on conference is scheduled in Mexico in early 2014. The 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference unanimously agreed to hold a conference on a Middle East Zone free of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2012, to be co-convened by the United States.

Let President Obama know: it is time to engage with the United Nations to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Now for the bad news: The United States boycotted the Oslo conference and is refusing to participate in the UN disarmament working group. The Middle East conference was postponed indefinitely. And the Administration has been silent on the High-Level Disarmament Meeting.

On June 6th, two dozen peace and disarmament groups launched a campaign with a letter to the White House calling for good faith US participation in these multilateral forums. And on June 24, the US Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution calling for US leadership in Global Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and redirection of military spending to domestic needs.

Click here to sign our petition to win U.S. participation in the new multilateral disarmament forums. And please share the petition with your friends.

When people lead, our leaders will follow!

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action


Action Alert: Sign our petition to the president on Syria – Escalate the Talk, Not the War

May 30, 2013

Last week we sent you an action alert urging support for our campaign to Escalate the Talk, Not the War, in Syria. We were grateful to get a strong response, and many other peace organizations are also working on this issue; together, our efforts are sorely needed to counteract calls in the media and by right-wingers in Congress for military escalation, including the nonsensical, dangerous notion about needing to be tough with Syria to “send a message” to Iran (those same folks want a war on Iran, too! Will they ever learn?).
Won’t you join us by signing the petition, and forwarding it to family, friends and colleagues, asking them to join you to help build support for the campaign we launched last week?

Below are some articles from the mainstream media as well as some from sources advocating a diplomatic solution including an important report from a peace delegation recently in Syria led by Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire.

For the national Peace Action staff,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

1. Report from Peace Delegation to Syria – Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire

2. Good articles on de-escalating the crisis through negotiations  and renewed diplomatic efforts from the European Council on Foreign Relations:
De-escalating the Syrian conflict
Arming Syria’s rebels
3. Mainstream media coverage:
NYT Op-Ed

Washington Post Opinion


Take Action: Tell the President, “Escalate the Talk, Not the War, in Syria.”

May 22, 2013

Despite calls to the contrary from unsuccessful presidential candidate John McCain and other “when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” know-nothing war-mongers, who apparently thought the disastrous Iraq and Afghanistan wars were just ducky, the Obama Administration has so far held off on a military escalation in Syria.

Of course, we are very concerned about the horrific humanitarian crisis there, the allegations of chemical weapons use (by the Assad government? the rebels? both? we just don’t know), Israel’s illegal bombing of alleged Syrian weapons sites (perhaps also meant as a warning to Iran?), and possible covert action or arming of rebel factions by the U.S. or its allies.

However, to date, the Obama Administration has wisely not proceeded with establishing a “no fly zone” or other direct U.S. military escalation, and there is at least hope for an international/regional peace conference led by the U.S. and Syria’s main ally, Russia. Such a conference should include other key countries in the region, including Iran (France opposes Iran’s inclusion).

Such a conference should address a wide array of concerns – an immediate cease fire, an agreement to stop arming all sides in the conflict, access for United Nations inspectors to investigate conflicting claims of chemical weapons use, accountability for Israel’s illegal bombing, a possible Syrian national unity government, establishment of a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the region and other national, regional and international concerns.

Our goal here is not, however, to present some sort of ten point peace plan, but to push back on reckless calls for war or military escalation.
Tell the president, “we need to escalate the talk, not the war.” Please sign our petition, and feel free to add your own thoughts, and to forward it to your friends and family.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action


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