The tragic death of Michael Brown at the hands of the Ferguson police is a reminder that the upsurge in violence is not restricted to the Middle East or any one place. It’s right here in our own communities.
Like the Trayvon Martin killing two years ago, the problems of racism, easy access to firearms, and the assault on our civil rights are all, once again, in the spotlight. I suspect I don’t have to explain why peace activists are taking action, mostly in support of activists of color who are leading the organized response to this latest perversion of justice. Anti-violence is at the very heart of our struggle.
In this case however there is another element that directly connects to our ongoing work to build a more peaceful and just future – that is – militarism. It’s time to demilitarize our police.
As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ‘wind down’ (though clearly not all the way down) the Pentagon has been offering surplus weapons to local police forces for free. Tens of thousands of M-16’s, as well as mine-resistant trucks and other battlefield hardware have already been transferred to jurisdictions around the country – but the Pentagon still has lots and lots of free stuff to give away.
A bipartisan chorus has already begun to speak out in Congress against this practice. Even Tea Party and right wing extremist Ted Cruz is raising alarm.
How much military hardware has been transferred to local jurisdictions? It’s not easy to know as the Pentagon makes the trail difficult to track. Most of the data available comes from local and state officials – like the State of Missouri which CNN reports has received some $17 million worth in transfers from the Pentagon.
I find, and I’m confident you do as well, the images of police in full military gear aiming assault rifles at unarmed protesters upsetting. We can expect to see more and more of this in the future too, if we don’t do something about the economic terrorism visited upon the poor in our society at the hands of the 1 percent.
Since the 1980’s the US government has enabled the militarization of the police force as part of its so-called War on Drugs. Post 9/11 politics opened the flood gates with grants from the federal government to prepare for the imminent terrorist threat. Now, as combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended, the Pentagon is literally giving battlefield hardware away.
The militarism of policing – both in terms of weaponry and tactics – is a threat to our freedom as great as any coming from outside our borders. It’s time to put it to a stop.
Today, the House is taking up its version of the National Department of Defense Appropriations Act. This is one of the few chances that Congress votes on issues we care about. Votes may start as early as this afternoon and continue through Friday afternoon.
Please call (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Representative (or give the operator your zip code to be directed) and say:
“My name is _______ and I am a constituent. I am calling to request that Rep. _______ support amendments to Defense Appropriations that cut Pentagon spending and that end the Afghanistan war as soon as possible. Thank you.”
This bill gives nearly half a trillion dollars to the Pentagon. And that doesn’t include monies for the Afghanistan war and funding from an $80 billion slush fund called the Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) account. Nor does it include most of the budget for nuclear weapons. Again, all combined, the U.S. spends almost as much as all other countries in the world combined on military-related programs. Does that represent your values?
Take a moment now to call your Representative.
We expect amendments that will:
*End the Afghanistan War at the end of this year — it’s time to bring all troops and contractors home and not leave any behind after this year.
*Bar sending combat troops into Iraq — we’ve been down that horrible road.
*Cut the F-35 — the most expensive plane and Pentagon project in history.
*Cut the Littoral Combat Ship — experts say it will cost over three times the original estimate.
*Cut fighter jet research — the U.S. has already wasted enough tax payer money on over-priced planes that don’t work.
Again please take time NOW to CALL your Representative to cut the Pentagon budget so we can afford other priorities like job creation, education and infrastructure. Use the phone number and script above.
Humbly for Peace,
P.S. Please call your Representative now at (202) 224-3121 and follow the above script to reduce Pentagon spending and end the Afghanistan War. The sooner your call the better, but you can call up to Friday afternoon.
Over 70 U.S. events and actions were held to mark Tax Day and the 4th Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS). As you probably know, Peace Action was the US coordinator of GDAMS events for the 2nd year running.
With the 2014 elections just six months away, PAEF’s campaign to Move the Money from the Pentagon to our communities has never been more prominent in the national discourse.
Members of both parties in Congress are exploring military cuts as part of efforts to reduce deficits. Predictably, vested interests are working overtime to preserve, and even increase where possible, the current, historically high, levels of military spending.
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported the costs of major weapons acquisitions, like the F-35, have risen $500 billion above their orignial projected costs. Congress loudly denounce cost overruns even as they look for ways to increase Pentagon funding.
Peace Action has renewed its fight against one of the ways the Pentagon hopes will permit it to restore funding for items left out – for the moment – to keep the Pentagon under budget control limits. For example, Congress could allow the Pentagon to use funds from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), meant to fund military operations in Afghanistan, to restore eight F-35’s left out of the President’s budget. The Pentagon has used the OCO as a slush fund to reduce Pentagon cuts this year to just $3.5 billion dollars while domestic spending was slashed by $15 billion – not exactly the shared pain sequestration was supposed to deliver.
Working with our allies, Peace Action is circulating a sign-on letter to Members of Congress from a host of organizations working in our Move the Money coalitions reminding them that: “According to the Pentagon, from FY 2013 to FY 2014, approximately 39 percent fewer personnel will be deployed to Afghanistan (with none in Iraq). Yet, in the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill, Defense Subcommittee funding in the OCO account will actually increase from FY 2013 to FY 2014.”
Call your Senators and Representative and tell them the Overseas Contingency Operations should not be used as a slush fund for runaway Pentagon spending. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
I was in Boston last weekend for the memorial service of longtime national and Massachusetts Peace Action board leader Steven Brion-Meisels, a wonderful celebration of his life but of course a sad day as well. On Sunday morning. The Boston Globe’s lead article was about a bizarre scheme to use state funds to prop up federal military bases, which are of course already paid for by our federal tax dollars, allegedly to save jobs and stimulate economic activity. Of course, according to a study by the University of Massachusetts, Pentagon spending continues to be the worst way to create jobs, spending the money on anything else, even tax cuts, creates more jobs.
While the article missed that important point, it still shed light on the absurdity of this scheme, and there may be subsequent articles as this is apparently the first in a series. The best part of the article, near the end, were quotes (and great photograph, but it’s not online unfortunately!) from Massachusetts Peace Action executive director Cole Harrison.
WAND/Will, one of Peace Action’s strategic partners in the Move the Money Campaign, has launched a drive to get women state legislators to sign onto a Congressional letter calling for cutting the Pentagon budget to fund human services.
Please, take a minute and send the appeal below to your state representatives. Get a copy of the Congressional sign on letter here.
Why is this important? It opens the door for a conversation with a state level elected who can become an ally in building a strong grassroots movement to change national spending priorities. The only way real cuts in the Pentagon budget will be made, and a just transition for communities who have depended on defense contracts for good paying jobs will happen is if a strong grassroots movement draws all the stake holders together to press Congress to act.
The WAND/WiLL Congressional Letter will be released to the press on Tax Day as part of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS.) Time is short, please join this important initiative!
Sample EMAIL/LETTER to send to your state legislator:
Women state legislators across the nation are urging Congress to adopt a federal budget that reflects the values and best interests of the American people. Please join this national effort today, organized by the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL).
As you know, year after year, more than 50% of our discretionary budget – the budget Congress debates and votes on every year – goes to the Pentagon. We cannot keep America economically strong and competitive if we are squandering money on expensive outdated weapons systems we don’t need. Continued overspending at the Pentagon budget comes at the expense of necessary, vital programs that feed and teach our children, provide healthcare to our elderly, train our unemployed, and support our veterans. State legislators understand the impact of these federal budget priorities on states and communities.
Support what is best for your constituents, our communities, and our states: investing federal dollars in sectors that will create productive jobs and help our economy grow for years to come. The deadline to sign is Monday, April 7 but please ask your legislators to sign on today!
If you read the New York Times, you might have seen this last Sunday:
“National security and most pressing global issues, such as the climate crisis or cyber attacks or civil conflicts, cannot be solved through military action, or through the action of one country alone. Multilateral action and cooperation are crucial. The situation in Ukraine is yet another example of that reality.”
Peace Action is a national leader in the movement to build support for Moving the Money – our tax dollars — from war and weapons to investing in human and environmental needs and diplomacy.
From participating in the national debate via the mainstream media, to building national coalitions, to taking our demands to Congress, to our unique grassroots “Move the Money” training program (devised by Judith, and being conducted this year in several states around the country!), Peace Action’s work is crucial to building an unstoppable movement for peaceful priorities.
The Pentagon is ready to use a “slush fund” to do an end run on budget cuts. They will take some of the money for wars called the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. And it is not the first time.
This year Congress agreed to the use of the OCO to save the Pentagon base budget from sequestration or the across- the- board budget cuts that are ransacking domestic programs. They plan to do the same thing next year.
There is no such “slush fund” to protect food stamps, transportation or public education.
The wars are coming to an end, yet the OCO is being ramped up.
We need Congress to put an end to these budget shenanigans. No more behind the scenes, back room deals to protect the Pentagon budget!.
57% of the annual federal discretionary budget goes to the Pentagon, and the U.S. spends almost as much on the military as the rest of the world. Time to have a transparent debate on national spending priorities. We need to Move the Money from wars and weapons to fund invest in jobs, human needs and diplomacy!
Readers discuss what kind of armed forces we need to face the threats of the 21st century.
To the Editor:
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s plan to reduce the size of the Army is a step in the right direction. It underscores the fact that waging a large-scale ground war in Iraq and a major counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan were tragic mistakes that should not be repeated.
Critics of the proposal will argue that it will hobble our ability to wage two ground wars at once, without acknowledging that it was not in our interest to do so in the early 2000s and will not be in our interest to do so in the foreseeable future, if ever. This is particularly true with respect to the current situation in Ukraine, where it makes no sense for the United States to take military action regardless of the size of our armed forces.
I hope that Mr. Hagel’s move will set off a larger debate: What kind of armed forces do we need to face the most likely threats of the 21st century?
Given that the most urgent threats we face, from climate change to cyberattacks, cannot be solved with military force, we should substantially downsize our armed forces across the board and invest some of the resulting savings in diplomacy, targeted economic assistance and other nonmilitary foreign policy tools.
WILLIAM D. HARTUNG
New York, March 4, 2014
The writer is director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.
Mr. Hartung poses an important question — what sort of armed forces do we need to deal with 21st-century threats to the United States? — and leaps to unwarranted conclusions in trying to provide an answer.
His assertion that it will not be in our interest to wage simultaneous large ground wars “in the foreseeable future, if ever” is particularly brazen. Can he state with confidence that the complex and evolving geopolitics of this century will not produce a situation in which the United States must take on two large adversaries at once? I might on the contrary suggest that the relative decline of America, along with the rise of China and other assertive new powers, makes such a situation increasingly plausible.
Mr. Hartung claims that the most significant threats of the present and future, “from climate change to cyberattacks, cannot be solved with military force.” It is true that larger numbers of soldiers will not solve these problems. But dealing with cyberattacks, for example, requires not a diminution of military forces but a repurposing of those forces to take on new foes in new ways.
Climate change is not in itself a military problem, but science tells us that it will likely lead to a world of overstretched resources, increased natural disasters and displaced populations — a world, that is, in which wars and conflicts are ever more likely to break out. This is not a convincing argument for a reduction in the armed forces.
It is common sense to think about the future security challenges we face, and how best to adapt to them; but it is nonsense to assume that, in the 21st century, we no longer have to worry about land wars and threats of a more traditional nature.
DAVID A. McM. WILSON
Brookline, Mass., March 5, 2014
The true issue that should be addressed is not whether we can fight one small war or two but rather, under our nation’s current financial constraints, whether we can continue to afford our existing military establishment. If we opt for the quick solution of fewer “boots on the ground,” it will simply further reduce our capability to respond militarily in settings varying from local weather disasters to major geopolitical conflicts.
What is really required is an attack by the Defense Department on the gross overlapping of military responsibilities, and the concomitant bureaucratic conflicts, delays and simple waste of scarce financial and human resources.
Numerous obvious opportunities exist. Does the Army treat wounds differently from the Navy? Does a chaplain say Mass differently in the Air Force? Are the rules for procurement different? If not, why are these functions not consolidated?
Indeed, does there remain any logic, other than simple hubris, for separate services?
FRANKLIN L. GREENE
Loudon, Tenn., March 5, 2014
The writer is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.
I agree that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s plan to draw down the Army is a step in the right direction. As Mr. Hartung says, the simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were catastrophic mistakes that should not be repeated, so there is no reason to keep the Army at its current size.
But even if we did repeat those mistakes in the future — sadly, not a wholly implausible prospect, given that less than 30 years separated the fall of Saigon from our invasion of Afghanistan — that possibility would still not be an argument for keeping the Army at its present size. Historically, we’ve drawn down our forces after wars, without thinking that we weren’t going to have similar wars in the future. When we decided to go to war again, we increased the size of the Army again.
Policy Director, Just Foreign Policy
Urbana, Ill., March 5, 2014
The proposed reduction in troop levels could be the beginning of a new direction of American foreign policy by reducing our capacity for ground wars and occupations. If the reductions were enacted, it would restrict future presidents from pursuing land wars, which would be welcomed by a war-weary public.
Unfortunately, the debate over reducing troop levels is usually derailed by fear mongering on national security. Never has the argument supporting troop reductions been stronger.
The Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon’s strategy document, issued this month, outlines an approach that relies on multilateral military actions, with allies as partners in addressing security issues or natural disasters.
National security and most pressing global issues, such as the climate crisis or cyberattacks or civil conflicts, cannot be solved through military action, or through the action of one country alone. Multilateral action and cooperation are crucial. The situation in Ukraine is yet another example of that reality.
JUDITH LE BLANC
New York, March 5, 2014
The writer is the field director for Peace Action.
Mr. Hartung asks, “What kind of armed forces do we need to face the most likely threats of the 21st century?”
If this had been asked a hundred years ago, in March 1914, what would the answer have been? No one knew that World War I would soon break out, nor could anyone have anticipated World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan or any other military actions that we have been involved in.
Besides, unanticipated world events that changed our military needs have arisen without warning, or our ability to control them — the Communist revolutions in Russia and China, the violent tensions in the Middle East. Is there any reason to think that war game policy planners can find the answer to Mr. Hartung’s question today?
Do we still wish to be a world power, and, if so, what defines that role today and tomorrow? This is what we need to ask before we determine the new size of our armed forces.
Easton, Pa., March 5, 2014
The writer is a professor of sociology at Lafayette College.
The Writer Responds
The responses strike a good balance in asking not just how large our armed forces should be, but also how we should prepare for an uncertain future and what role the United States should play in the world.
Mr. Wilson asserts that it is “increasingly plausible” that the United States might have to fight two large adversaries at once. But he does not say who those adversaries might be. No American leader would be reckless enough to engage in a land war against Russia or China, and there are no other large adversaries on the horizon.
Mr. Schneiderman points out that it is extremely hard to predict the next war. But the most damaging and costly American wars of the past half century — Vietnam and Iraq — should have never been fought. Opponents of these conflicts rightly predicted that they would have disastrous consequences. And as Mr. Naiman indicates, the United States has increased the size of our forces at times of war rather than keeping the Army on a permanent war footing between conflicts. Uncertainty is not a valid reason for giving the Pentagon nearly half a trillion dollars a year.
American foreign policy needs to move beyond a narrow focus on military solutions and invest more in civilian institutions and programs that can help address pressing problems like extreme poverty, climate change and the spread of nuclear weapons. The United States can’t be the world’s policeman, but it can be a leader in addressing the most urgent threats to America and the world.
Peace Action/Peace Action Education Fund 2013 Program, Policy,
Political and Organizing Accomplishments
-Stopped a U.S. attack on Syria! Peace Action played a key leadership role in convening an ad hoc coalition to activate groups on Syria starting in June, which was then quickly mobilized in late August/early September, along with our grassroots affiliate/chapter network, to successfully demand alternatives to a U.S. attack on Syria. (national office, affiliate network)
-Helped realize a modest cut in Pentagon budget (everybody!)
-Provided leadership in grassroots efforts at defense transition/economic conversion in Connecticut, Wisconsin, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Hampshire (national office, affiliates and chapters, national and grassroots allies)
-Coordinated/help lead two national days of action on cutting the Pentagon budget – Pull the Pork and Global Day of Action on Military Spending/Tax Day (national office and affiliate network, national, international and local allies)
-Effective advocacy of Diplomacy, Not War with Iran (so far!) (Affiliate network, national office, allies)
-Helped keep up the pressure to end the war in Afghanistan and for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces and bases (everybody)
-Led coalition around pressing the U.S. to participate in multi-lateral nuclear disarmament forums – 24 organizations signed letter to White House, 25,000 signed petition, pulled together a new ad hoc coalition to continue to press for progress in multi-lateral arena (national office, PANYS, allies)
-Peace Voter/PAC – helped elect longtime ally Ed Markey to U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts (Mass PA, national office)
-Launched a new “A Foreign Policy for All” campaign outlining a positive, proactive, more peaceful and sustainable U.S. foreign and military policy (national office)
-Had letters to the editor, news articles and op-eds published in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Common Dreams, Foreign Policy in Focus, CounterPunch, Huffington Post plus many in local media (national and affiliates and chapters – CA, OR, IL, MD, NJ, NC, MA, NY, WI, NY, OH, MO, KS, NE, PA and more!), as well as international outlets and radio and television interviews. Most of these are posted on our website or Peace Blog.
A great way to end the year is to toast yet another step forward in the Move the Money Campaign.
Peace Action, national and WI are working with WAND/WILL state legislators, National Priorities Project and the WI Network for Peace and Justice to introduce a CT style state bill to create a commission to explore ways for the local economy to move from dependence on defense contracts for good paying manufacturing jobs to producing for civilian needs.
The South Central Federation of Labor in WI passed a resolution in support of such a bill, following in the steps of the CT State Federation of AFL-CIO and the MD-DC Federation in support of the bill being worked on in MD.
The introduction of bills in other states are being explored by WAND/WILL state legislators with the support of Peace Action and National Priorities Project.
Time is now to move the money from weapons and wars to fund jobs and human services.
Regional labor council takes stand against military spending. Calls for WI Futures Commission to help transition to sustainable economy
The South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL), AFL-CIO passed a resolution this week, calling on Wisconsin to shift away from military spending towards a more sustainable economy. SCFL includes 100 affiliated unions representing working families in south-central Wisconsin.
The resolution notes that “Wisconsin’s economy is highly dependent on military spending,” and that “Oshkosh Truck, which develops military trucks for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan … has laid off 1,200 workers in the past year due to a decrease in federal contracts.”
It supports the formation of a Futures Commission, similar to one established by Connecticut, to “help the state convert from defense spending to more sustainable job creation, such as construction, clean energy, rebuilding national infrastructure and transportation.”
SCFL President Kevin Gundlach said, “Upon my arrival in Madison over 20 years ago, one of my first jobs was working with the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. The issues were clear. It was time to cut the wasteful military spending and start producing domestic products and create jobs. The campaign started locally and succeeded nationally.”
He added, “Today, we face yet again an economic system dependent on military spending that is unsustainable and has outlived its stated purpose. It’s time we start putting in place the steps for a fair and just transition to an economy that works for all working families, for our veterans, the elderly, differently abled and our children alike.”
SCFL’s resolution is the sixth to be passed in Wisconsin. Dane County and the city of Milwaukee previously passed Move the Money / War Dollars Home resolutions, along with the American Federation of Teachers – WI union, Madison Friends Meeting and Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay. Nationally, more than 150 such resolutions have been passed by city councils, county boards and labor unions.