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 We cannot keep America economically strong and competitive if we are squandering money on expensive outdated weapons systems we don’t need.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.
The Island Now
Thursday, September 26, 2013
By Bill San Antonio
As the executive director of Peace Action, the nation’s largest grassroots disarmament organization, Kevin Martin said Tuesday he has seen firsthand the militarization of the United States’ foreign policy in the last decade.
But in his lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation entitled “Endless War on Peace,” Martin said he was confident that America’s recent history of military strikes and occupations of nations seen as a threat to national security would evolve into a more diplomatic approach to foreign policy – particularly because of the recent diplomatic efforts to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons and the start of talks with Iran.
“At a certain point, we’re just not going to buy that anymore,” Martin said. “We’re just not going to buy that there’s a terrorist at every corner of the globe.”
Martin began the lecture, which was sponsored by the Shelter Rock Forum, the Great Neck SANE/Peace Action and the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, by calling out the names of 11 nations — China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, Brazil and South Korea – whose combined military budgets equals what the United States spends on its own military each year.
But for all its spending, Martin said the United States is ranked No. 99 on the Global Peace Index, tied with Papua New Guinea despite being known as the world’s last superpower.
“We can’t keep doing this, we can’t keep marauding around the world and trying to kill more terrorists than we create, because we will fail,” Martin said.
Martin said the U.S. spends approximately $600 billion each year on its military and $1 trillion on national security, and in the next 10 years will implement a $200 million arms refurbishment program.
“How do we have any credibility going to Iran or anyone else, saying they shouldn’t have weapons of mass destruction, shouldn’t have nuclear weapons, when we not only intend to keep ours, we intend to modernize them?” Martin said.
Martin also cited a University of Massachusetts study that said military spending is the worst way to create jobs and stimulate the economy, adding that the money America puts toward military spending could better serve the job market if it were used on education.
“Military spending does not help our economy in any way other than keep people employed,” Martin said. “If you can separate the nonsense about the economic benefits of military spending from the real security issues we have in this country, we can win that argument.”
Martin said the mainstream media has more recently played a role in more diplomatic measures in America’s foreign policy.
With Syria, Martin said the mainstream media took greater interest in covering the different angles toward President Obama’s recent request to Congress for a military strike on Syria after those who have been known to be pro-war were coming out against the strike.
Within a day or two, Martin said the media began covering what he called “better alternatives” to avoid the strike, such as sending supplies and weapons to those who are fighting off the Syrian army and rebel fighters who may have ties to terrorist organizations.
“That’s when I knew Obama was sunk, because he could try to scare us or try some fandango, but once better alternatives were out there, he lost control of the conversation,” Martin said.
Martin added that there could be a “spillover effect” from the diplomatic solution toward America’s approach to Syria that could impact future negotiations with Iran over the destabilization of its nuclear program.
“Now diplomacy seems like this limb we’ve learned to use again,” Martin said.
Martin said he does not think major arms manufacturers will continue to have a strong influence in lobbying the federal government into increased military spending, if better alternatives continue to present themselves in America’s foreign policy and people continue pushing for peace.
“If peace actually breaks out, you just can’t justify using such a huge percentage of our tax dollars on tanks and missiles and that $200 million over the next 10 years to refurbish our weapons,” Martin said. “You just can’t justify that anymore.”
If the United States opted for diplomacy more frequently, Martin said the short-term effect would be that other countries would fear and hate the United States less, though its history of invasions and military attacks would likely mean it would take longer for the world to “love us more.”
But the process of healing America’s reputation around the world starts with money coming out of the “war machine” and being put toward more “life-affirming functions,” and for people to “stand up for the values this country says its for” and be more vocal about a peaceful and diplomatic foreign policy, Martin said.
“We have hope, we have real solutions, we have better alternatives, we have better policies,” Martin said. “They have a lot of money and guns and weapons, but really all they have is fear.”
The following came out of our mid-year staff retreat, comments or questions are most welcome!
Priorities and Opportunities for Peace Action/Peace Action Education Fund program, organizing, advocacy and political work for the second half of 2013
-Move the Money/ Cut Pentagon Spending Campaign: Planning is underway to do the next round of Move the Money Trainings , a joint project with the National Priorities Project. A new feature of the trainings will be two sessions for “training of trainers” to conduct the trainings in their areas.
National staff are participating in the planning for an 18 month coalition campaign (mostly in the U.S. but with some coordination with international allies as well) to cut funding for the F-35 fighter, the most expensive weapons system ever.
On the legislative front, House Defense Appropriations, Senate Defense Authorization and Appropriations, possible continuing resolutions and omnibus bills may provide congressional and media opportunities.
-Afghanistan: A possible week of action to pressure the administration for zero troops after 2014 is in discussion. The 12th Anniversary of the invasion on Oct 7th may provide media opportunities. Additionally, Senate Defense Authorization may provide opportunities to strengthen the win in the House, the Jones-Lee-Garamendi amendment calling for a faster end to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
-Syria – a new campaign, initiated by Peace Action and the Institute for Policy Studies, to get peace groups working together on a public education, political action, grassroots advocacy and media work aimed at opposing arming the militias, building public support for a negotiated end to the conflict in Syria and promote humanitarian assistance. A petition campaign should be ready to launch in the next few weeks (PA already gathered nearly 5,000 signatures on our Syria petition to the president). We will be building support for Senate and House bi-partisan bills. We will also be attempting to use the Senate confirmation hearings of Samantha Powers as possible LTE/oped opportunities. More details to follow soon.
-Iran: A P5 + 1 meeting is not expected until after the new President is inaugurated and has a chance to form his government — sometime in late September. Israel has been relatively silent after Iran’s election and seems to be focusing its concern on Iran’s progressing heavy-water reactor in Arak. Remember they bombed similar reactors in Iraq and Syria. Media opportunities are expected during inauguration and possibly at the UN General Assembly. Meanwhile, continued pressure on Congress to stop punitive sanctions and other bad bills while messaging that this is a big opportunity for diplomacy with Iran is needed.
-Nuclear disarmament – a new opportunity to advocate for U.S. participation and leadership in multilateral forums for nuclear weapons abolition is underway. See the sign-on letter PA helped initiate http://bit.ly/15rKhg9, as well as the petition http://bit.ly/1aTvQWb . The campaign can be combined with Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorations, and will culminate (at least this phase of the campaign) with a United Nations meeting on nuclear disarmament September 26.
Also, we will launch at least a limited Don’t Bank on the Bomb boycott/divestment campaign targeting TIAA-CREF, a supposedly socially screened investment fund, before the end of the year.
-New Jersey special election for U.S. Senate (replacing the deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg) – October
-Mid-Atlantic/Upper South organizational development retreat for affiliates, chapters and associate member groups, in October in either Philadelphia or Virginia, date and location to be announced soon.
Today the House of Representatives is considering the Energy and Water Appropriations bill where, surprisingly, much of the United States nuclear weapons programs are funded. We expect a vote tonight or tomorrow for an amendment to cut millions of dollars to unnecessarily “modernize” the B61 nuclear warhead — the oldest nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal.
Call your Representative at (202) 224-3121 (they will connect you to your Rep. with your ZIP code) right now and say:
Please tell Rep. [your rep’s name] to vote for the Quigley amendment to the Energy & Water Appropriations bill to cut funding for the B61 nuclear bomb.
At a time when we should be reducing our nuclear weapon stockpile, the federal government wants to upgrade the B61 nuclear bomb at a cost of over $10 billion. Fortunately, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) will offer an amendment to cut funds for the B61 nuclear bomb.
With the vote on the amendment likely to occur within 24 hours, please call the Capitol switchboard now at (202) 224-3121 and ask your Representative to cut funding for the B61 nuclear bomb.
Votes to cut wasteful spending on unneeded nuclear weapons are a rarity. Please call now and forward this email to your friends, family and colleagues.
Humbly for Peace,
PS: Thanks for taking a brief moment to call your Representative now at (202) 224-3121 and saying, “please vote for the Quigley amendment to the Energy & Water Appropriations bill to cut funding for the B61 nuclear bomb.” Now, forward this email along to everyone you can.