Peace and Climate Justice: Inseparable

September 29, 2014

–Judith Le Blanc, Field Director

stop the wars stop the warming

The largest climate justice march in history thronged New York City September 21 and Peace Action helped to make it happen.

Why? We because we believe that the only way we can save Mother Earth is by ending wars and militarism, which are the biggest obstacles to funding initiatives to address global warming. Wars prevent and disrupt the necessary collaboration between countries to address climate crisis. Both wars and climate crisis require a political solution which can only become a reality if the climate justice movement links to ending wars and militarism and the peace movement connects to justice: climate, economic and racial justice.

Peace Action, as a national endorser, jumped into the organizing from the beginning launching the Peoples Climate March Peace and Justice Hub. The Hub brought together peace and faith groups to organize a No War, No Warming contingent and rally. George Martin, Peace Action Education Fund board member, Cole Harrison, executive director of Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA), Jim Anderson, Peace Action of New York State (PANYS) Chair and Natia Bueno, PANYS Student Outreach Coordinator, led the way.

Peace Action affiliates and activist members worked on filling buses, outreach and preparing the logistics for pre-march rally. PAEF board member George Martin said, “It is very significant that Peace Action was engaged from national to affiliate level, volunteering, planning and giving leadership on how war and militarism and climate justice are interconnected.”

Mass banner

MAPA drafted the Appeal to the Peace and Climate Movement outlining the high stakes and why the peace movement must join in the mobilization. It also argues for why we need a peace and justice movement, which must address the root causes of wars and inequality as the basis for strengthening our work.

Peace Action affiliates worked with allies to fill the buses from as far away as Milwaukee. The Coalition for Peace Action organized a conference with local environmental leaders in the lead up to the march.

PANYS mobilized its membership, especially student chapters across the state. Natia Bueno co-chaired the No War, No Warming pre-march rally.  She was excited by the turnout, stating “It was amazing to see so many people, especially from so many different ages, states, and walks of life come together under the idea of saving our planet.” The pre-march rally included peace and justice speakers as well as performers Holly Near and Emma’s Revolution.

Geneseo chapter

We rallied and marched with our banners on Sunday and on Saturday, Peace Action dug into the debates and issues as part of the Climate Convergence.

I spoke on two panels at the convergence. The first panel, Climate Change and Militarism: Following the Money and Understanding the Costs was sponsored by Institute for Policy Studies and the International Peace Bureau. Both groups spoke about their new reports: Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization and Military vs Climate Security: The Budgets Compared.

I presented a case study on the work underway in Wisconsin to organize a local initiative to support labor, local elected officials, peace and community groups to develop a defense industry transition project. The premise of the case study was that facts need to be translated into local movement building that will improve peoples’ lives. Peace Action’s Move the Money Campaign aims to build a movement for local, green, sustainable economic development which is not dependent on military contracts for good paying jobs.

The second panel in which I participated examined how to build the movement to save Mother Earth from climate and nuclear destruction. The panel included the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands , Tony DeBrum, who spoke about the impact of the historic lawsuit brought by the Marshallese government against the U.S. for the nuclear weapons testing which has harmed generations of the Marshallese people.

The panel also included the Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, Franklin Cownie, a leader of Mayors for Peace who discussed the significance of the resolution calling for nuclear disarmament and demilitarizing the federal budget passed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Natia, the PANYS student organizer said, “I knew the numbers were going to be large, but it was another thing seeing it. It was amazing to see so many students there. In my experience, I have seen people especially around my age or younger not caring about the future. It was a nice to be surrounded by that many people that care. I only hope that it sparks others to start caring.”

A ready-made resource for immediate follow-up with our allies is a new film for local events. Longtime Peace Action supporter and documentary filmmaker John Ankele has a new film on climate change, “The Wisdom to Survive: Climate Change, Capitalism and Community,” available for community screenings or individual purchase.


Stop Militarizing the Police

August 15, 2014

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.

Tell your Member of Congress where you stand.

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.

We know, for example, the Pentagon has in place plans for dealing with civil disorder brought about by economic or environmental disaster threatening the stablity of the government.  Arming local jurisdictions is a step in the wrong direction.

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.

Write you Member of Congress today!

Please forward this message to your friends.


Urgent – Tell Congress: Cut Pentagon Pork, End War, Don’t Start a New One!

June 18, 2014

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,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

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.


Move the Money, Crush the Slush Fund

May 3, 2014

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.


Massachusetts Peace Action in the Boston Globe questioning state aid for federal military bases

May 1, 2014

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.

Please check out the article,  and write a letter to the editor if you feel so moved.


Calling All Women State Legislators: You can help Move the Money!

April 1, 2014

By Judith Le Blanc, Peace Action Field Director MOVE Square

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:

Dear XXX,

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!

Women state legislators can sign on to the letter to Congress by emailing Adzi Vokhiwa at avokhiwa@wand.org or calling 202-544-5055, ext. 2603.

Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL) is a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).

Thank you,

XXXX


Peace Action in the NY Times

March 17, 2014

By Kevin Martin, Executive Director Peace Action

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.”

Judith Le Blanc, our Field Director,  was part of theSunday Dialogue exchange on Pentagon spendingon the Times op-ed page.

It is no mystery why the Times turned to Judith and Peace Action to weigh in on this pressing issue which has been in the headlines of late. Your support can help amplify Peace Action’s voice and continue our important and urgent work.

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.

We need to move some money too, to support our vital organizing. Please give $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $250 or whatever fits your budget via our secure online portal.

 


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