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


Tax Day and The Pentagon. Op-Ed on Common Dreams

April 15, 2013

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/14-1

Published on Sunday, April 14, 2013 by Common Dreams

Tax Day and the Pentagon

by Kevin Martin

This month, as budget and policy issues in Washington muddle along inconclusively as usual, grassroots peace activists are busy organizing, educating, protesting and lobbying.

Last weekend, Historians Against the War hosted an ambitious, illuminating conference at Towson University north of Baltimore on “The New Faces of War” with speakers and participants examining rapidly-changing foreign and domestic policies.

Anti-Nuclear activists will converge on Washington next week for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s D.C. Days, for strategizing, training and lobbying on nuclear weapons, power, waste and cleanup issues.

Around the country, peace and social justice organizers will convene local actions on Tax Day, April 15, to educate taxpayers on the country’s skewed budget priorities that favor the Pentagon over human and environmental needs. This year, April 15 is also the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, with activities around the world and in over 30 U.S. states drawing attention to the world’s addiction to militarism and exorbitant “defense” budgets. If you can’t organize or attend a Tax Day event, you can still join our Thunderclap “It’s Our Tax Day, Not Theirs” online social media action.

The prestigious, independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) will release its annual report on world military expenditures on Monday, which will show the United States continues to spend over 40% of the world’s $1.7 trillion annually allocated to weapons and war. Randy Schutt of Cleveland Peace Action put together an impressive article titled Our Tax Dollars are off the War – 2013 edition on Daily Kos with charts, graphs and citations comparing U.S. military spending to the rest of the world, and to domestic spending, which serves as a nice complement to the upcoming SIPRI report.

Lastly, an impressive national coalition has come together to organize days of action throughout the month to stop U.S. drone warfare.

All these actions focus on crucial issues, and they come at a time when there is hope not just to impact those specific policies, but when a confluence of events give us an opportunity not seen in at least a decade to fundamentally question the mission and role of the U.S. military in both domestic and foreign policy.

In short, it’s time for the Pentagon to stop weaving all over the road, to get back in its lane, and to stay there.

On domestic policy, the most obvious issue is the metastasis of the Pentagon budget, which has doubled since 9/11. The total “national security budget,” which includes not just the Pentagon but also intelligence agencies, Department of Homeland Security and nuclear weapons spending under the Department of Energy is over $1 trillion per year. Globally, the U.S. accounts for about 43% of total military spending, and more than the next 13 countries (most of which are U.S. allies) combined. The opportunity cost of this Pentagon pig-out is investment in the things we really need to make our country more secure – improved education, health care, jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure and addressing climate change.

While not necessarily the fault of the Pentagon, a creeping militarization of social policy, as seen in policing, prisons, the “war on drugs” and immigration, among other areas, is cause for grave concern and corrective action.

Constitutionally, the arrogation of power by the Obama Administration to assassinate anyone, anywhere on the planet, anytime it wants to by drones or other weapons with little or no congressional or judicial oversight can hardly be what the president ran on as “change you can believe in.”

(The president’s home state senator and former colleague, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, plans a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing later this month to address this issue, including the Administration’s assertion of the Authorization of the Use of Military Force after 9/11 as the legal justification for drone strikes in countries with which we are not at war.)

Militarization of U.S. foreign policy has been a bipartisan project since at least the end of World War II. And perhaps that’s not surprising for a country founded on and consolidated by the extreme violence of the genocide of the First Americans and imposition of slavery on Africans brought here in chains.

Quick, name the last real diplomatic success by the United States. Anything really significant since Carter’s Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel? That was in 1978 (and of course Palestine is still waiting for justice while Israel gets over $3 billion in U.S. military aid annually).

Look at U.S. foreign policy under our current Nobel Peace Prize laureate president. It’s less obviously and ham-handedly belligerent than Bush’s, okay. But in addition to ongoing drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, he says “all options are on the table” with regard to Iran’s nuclear program, when even military leaders themselves say there is no military solution, only a diplomatic one. The U.S. and South Korea evidently think putting out the fire with gasoline is the right approach to North Korea’s nuclear test and recent threats, evidenced by ongoing war games, simulated nuclear attacks on the North using B-2 and B-52 bombers, and rushing F-22 fighter jets to South Korea to beef up the already robust U.S. military presence in the region as part of the “Asia-Pacific Pivot” aimed at isolating our main banker, China. And last but not least, despite voting for the Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations this week, the U.S. remains the world’s number one exporter of conventional weapons.

Certainly the tens of millions of dollars annually spent on lobbying and campaign contributions by the largest war profiteers — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon and others — have a toxic effect on our national priorities. It’s doubly galling, in that their profits come almost entirely from military contracts paid for by our tax dollars, which they then use to impact legislation and elections to benefit their interests, to the detriment of those of the taxpaying public.

It is not necessary to pinpoint cause and effect on this state of affairs, where Pentagon interests and macho militarist approaches seemingly run roughshod over everything else, to declare that it is wrong, and needs to be changed. And there is no blame, only respect, for those serving in the military, who need the very best care we can provide as they return home from our misguided wars and far-flung military bases abroad (over 800 of them!).

So what is the mission of the U.S. military supposed to be? According to United States law, it is “Preserving the peace and security and providing for the defense of the United States, the Commonwealths and possessions and any areas occupied by the United States; Supporting the national policies; Implementing the national objectives; Overcoming any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States.”

I see nothing there about “full-spectrum dominance” of the rest of the world, as the Pentagon’s joint Vision 20/20 doctrine released in 2000 advocates, and which has seemingly become the military’s de facto mission.

Regardless of what anyone in the military says its mission is, they work for us, the taxpayers that provide their salaries and buy their weapons. So we can overrule them and force the Pentagon to reduce its role and get back in its lane.

It shouldn’t be hard to see how we can get the Pentagon back in its lane, and let more peaceful, just and sustainable priorities prevail in our domestic and foreign policies. Slash the Pentagon budget by at least 25%, and invest those savings in human and environmental needs in order to jump start our economy. Let diplomacy take precedence in foreign policy over military threats and false solutions. I suspect many people, even in the military hierarchy, might welcome such a reduced role in U.S. policy, and in the world. It must be tiring driving all over the road. Staying in one’s own lane can have its advantages.

Kevin Martin is Executive Director of Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 100,000 members and over 70,000 on-line supporters.

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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


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