Mitt Romney sounded like Gandhi last night, and Au Revoir to a true man of peace

October 23, 2012

Mitt Romney sure mentioned the word “peace” an awful lot in the last presidential debate Monday night. While my take is that he did so in a pretty cynical way, trying to make folks think he is less of a dangerous guy than he really is, it was interesting, and I think good sign, perhaps counterintutively.

Now I don’t for a moment want Mitt Romney to be president. His proposals to amp up Pentagon spending, his hawkish views regarding Iran, his desire to build up U.S. nuclear forces instead of reducing them, his kowtowing to Bibi Netanyahu and conservative Jews in the U.S., to name just a few policies that are out of whack with the interests of the American people, speak much more loudly than his kumbaya-ing last night.

However, it’s clear that Romney and his campaign handlers want to at least appear to be breaking with some of the policies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (and with some of his own previous bellicose positions), to appear kinder and gentler, more acceptable as a possible commander in chief. And even if it was cynical, the fact that he thought he had to appear to be more of a peacenik is a good sign. “Peace” shouldn’t be a dirty word in presidential campaigns, especially in a country nearly always at war (and where the current Nobel Peace Prize-winning president presides over drone strikes to get folks on a “kill list,” yet who is also talking like he wants his second term to be more peaceful, many contradictions with his current policies notwithstanding).

I guess for me it comes down to being somewhat surprised, but glad, that the two main presidential candidates are talking about peace, even when we know their policies don’t live up to their words. Peace is one of the values that human beings hold dearest, but it shouldn’t be used cynically. And of course our job is to hold them accountable to actually carrying out more peaceful policies after the election.

How did you react to Romney’s peace prose last night? Please share your thoughts and feelings.

Remember the last true peace candidate for president (of the “major” parties that is)? Senator George McGovern passed away at the age of 90 over the weekend. I couldn’t add anything to this moving tribute by William Greider at The Nation, so I won’t try, except to say he was the first candidate I can remember. My mom volunteered for him, and in the straw poll in my 5th grade class (I think it was 5th grade), I may have been the only McGovern “supporter.” Rest in peace, good man, and thanks for all your peace-and-justice-mongering and truth-telling. Would that we had some leaders like you today.


Suggested Actions for the International Day of Peace – Today!

September 21, 2012

Did you know today is celebrated as the International Day of Peace? No? Don’t be embarrassed, it’s not a real big deal in the U.S., maybe because our country is nearly always making war. Anyway September 21 was established as the International Day of Peace by the United Nations in 1981. On September 7, 2001 (four days before 9/11), the UN General Assembly unanimously declared September 21 should also be observed as a global day of cease-fire and nonviolence.

Here are four completely subjective suggestions for actions you can take to honor this day:

1. Contact your Members of Congress and tell them no war on Iran! See our blog post and action alert on this from yesterday.

2. Support the civil society initiative led by young Afghans, 2 Million Friends for Peace in Afghanistan, in their call for a cease-fire and negotiated end to the war there. The 2 million refers to the approximate number of Afghans killed in nearly forty years of war. They aim to deliver a petition to the United Nations on December 10, International Human Rights Day.

3. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the end of U.S. nuclear weapons testing! The U.S. conducted 1,030 nuclear weapons test explosions (will the Earth ever forgive us for this violence against her?), the last was September 23, 1992. But with our continued vigilance and hard work, not only will the U.S. never test again, we’ll abolish nuclear weapons worldwide! Please sign onto a letter to President Obama encouraging further nuclear weapons reductions, and for him to push for Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

4. Give as generous a gift as you can to Peace Action!


25,000 U.S. Troops to Remain in Afghanistan for a Decade After the Supposed “End of the War” in 2014?

September 11, 2012

Well, we still have tens of thousands of troops, and dozens of bases, in Germany, Japan and South Korea, don’t we?

Last spring, when President Obama announced a “Strategic Partnership Agreement” with the government of Afghanistan (which he claimed needed no congressional approval), he also announced the security arrangement (how many U.S. troops would remain) would be negotiated separately. According to Foreign Policy’s Situation Report by Gordon Lubold, those talks are beginning, and the option being floated is for up to 25,000 U.S. troops to stay.

With support personnel, guesstimates are this could cost U.S. taxpayers at least $40 to 50 billion per year, all on us. Unlike Germany, Japan and South Korea, who we strong-arm into helping defray the costs of U.S. forces on their soil, Afghanistan won’t be able to pay any of this.

Like the Afghanistan war itself, this issue is unlikely to garner much attention in the upcoming presidential or congressional elections. But it should. Congresspeople, and candidates, should demand now that this security agreement be in the form of a treaty, subject to U.S. Senate ratification, and they should ask hard questions and demand transparency in the negotiations. Seems not a lot to ask when they hold the purse-strings (to our tax dollars), yes?

An easy place to start would be to support U.S. Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in their quest to assert congressional oversight with their bill H.R. 5787, co-sponsored by Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Jim McGovern (D-MA). (Thanks to Stephen Miles of Win Without War for the reminder on this bill.) As Rep. Jones noted in his press release when he introduced the bill last May, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton supported an identical bill regarding Iraq in 2007 when they were senators. So they should have no problem with this bill now, should they?

Of course this won’t be easy. And the president’s own logic behind his plan to “responsibly wind down the war” means it should happen ASAP, not at the end of 2014. So how about we support the youth-led Afghan Peace Volunteers’ 2 Million Friends Campaign for a cease-fire and end to the war instead?

 

 


Honor Nuclear Weapons Treaty

August 13, 2012

Salt Lake City Tribune

By Christine Meecham And Deb Sawyer

Published August 9, 2012 1:01 am

 

For much of this year, the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear weapons state has been a major international concern. As members of the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, we have a perspective we’d like to share concerning the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons.

We both grew up in Utah during the Cold War, when the threat of mass annihilation was very real. As young adults we were hopeful when the Non-Proliferation Treaty was put into force in 1970. The grand bargain of the NPT was simple: Nations that did not have nuclear weapons agreed never to acquire them, while the five nuclear states, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, agreed to share the peaceful benefits of nuclear technology as they pursued the elimination of their nuclear arsenal. Making sure that both ends of this agreement are honored is essential to the long-term viability of the NPT.

Now the countries with nuclear weapons also include Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Unlike the Cold War, today our greatest national security threats come from the breakdown of the non-proliferation regime and nuclear terrorism. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, there are at least 40 other nations with the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, which brings us back to the current conflict with Iran.

Despite the censures, sanctions and embargoes, Iran continues its nuclear program claiming that it is within its rights to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and threatening to withdraw, as did North Korea, from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If Iran withdraws from the NPT, efforts to ensure that its enriched uranium not be diverted to develop nuclear weapons would no longer be subject to oversight by the UN nuclear agency. In addition, it would bring us one step closer to another war in the Middle East.

We believe it is time to take another tack. Many of the NPT non-nuclear states believe that the nuclear-weapon states have not complied with their side of the bargain. In an attempt to reassure the non-proliferation regime, President Obama, in his Prague speech in April 2009, outlined a series of initiatives that would honor our disarmament commitment and lead to a nuclear-weapons free world. One of the first steps toward this end is putting a permanent ban on nuclear weapons testing.

Twenty years ago in 1992, President George H. W. Bush signed a moratorium on nuclear testing and other states followed. In 1996, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed, but the Senate failed to ratify it in 1999.

What if the United States surprised the world and ratified the test ban treaty? Since our experts maintain that we don’t need to test nuclear weapons to keep them viable, doesn’t it make sense to make this moratorium permanent? Wouldn’t it go a long way in affirming our commitment to nuclear disarmament?

One thing is certain, if we continue to bolster our nuclear capabilities, no amount of persuasion or sanctions will keep non-nuclear states, particularly our political foes, from eventually acquiring these weapons of mass destruction. In contrast, if we honor our commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, we will be leading the global community towards a greater security for all.

Christine Meecham and Deb Sawyer are members of the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Both live in Salt Lake City.

(Note – the Utah Campaign is an organizational member of Peace Action.)


Diplomacy, Not War, With Iran

June 21, 2012

So here’s the paradox. There’s a growing consensus that a military strike on Iran would be disastrous while at the same time the likelihood of such a disaster is also increasing.

Please take a moment to sign Peace Action’s petition calling on the President to use all means at his disposal to prevent a military strike on Iran – by either the US or Israel.  Then, please send it to your friends.

The third round of talks between Iran and the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, or P5+1 ended without a major breakthrough.  Given the level of mutual distrust that’s not surprising.  Anyone who thought the talks could succeed simply by dropping a take-it-or-leave-it-demand on the table doesn’t understand diplomacy.

Last week, 44 U.S. Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to consider abandoning further negotiations with Iran “and instead focus on significantly increasing the pressure on the Iranian government through sanctions and making clear that a credible military option exists.”

You would hope our ‘leaders’ had learned their lesson.  The unintended consequences that plagued the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan are surely at play with regard to Iran.  An attack on Iran would send energy prices through the ceiling and reverberate throughout the vulnerable global economy.

Earlier this year, Peace Action,and our allies at Credo, turned in over 70,000 signatures to President Obama and I’m convinced it helped steel him and his administration against the war cries from AIPAC and war hawks in the U.S.  Now, the pressure is mounting again.

Sign our petition to prevent a war with Iran that would surely have unintended consequences no one can either predict or prevent once they begin.

Diplomacy takes time and patience. The cost of war is measured in blood and treasure.

A Tuesday article in the Christian Science Monitor by Howard LaFranchi summed up the situation well:

“The P5-plus-1 world powers…had three basic demands, which they summarized as “stop, shut, and ship:” To address international concerns that it is amassing the elements of a nuclear bomb, Iran should stop enriching uranium to 20-percent purity, a level not far from weapons-grade; shut its underground nuclear facility at Fardow; and ship its stockpile of 20-percent-enriched uranium out of the country.

On its side, Iran had two key demands: that the international community recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and that world powers (specifically the US and the EU) agree to soften economic sanctions on Iran as an inducement for Iran to accept certain limits on its nuclear program.”

The problem in a nutshell is the U.S. is insisting Iran fold on all three demands as a condition for further negotiations giving Iran nothing in return.  For its part, Iran is also taking a hard line, insisting the P5+1 acknowledge its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes without providing for the verification required to satisfy the West’s concerns about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.

Given time, these matters can be resolved and the world can be made a much safer place.  But first, we need to get between the President and those who won’t be satisfied unless Iran knuckles under completely.

Help me generate thousands of signatures over the next two weeks to counter the renewed sabre-rattling.

Please take a moment to sign Peace Action’s petition calling on the President to use all means at his disposal to prevent a military strike on Iran – by either the US or Israel.

 

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

PS: Please act today.  A strong response will have a powerful impact at a critical moment.  After you sign a ‘tell a friend’ page will appear.  Please forward this petition to people who know war isn’t working.  Thank you.


Musings on the President’s “Twelve More Years!” Speech from Afghanistan

May 1, 2012

–Executive Director Kevin Martin

(Field Director Judith Le Blanc will also post her observations)

The president spoke of the strength of the Afghan security forces. Yet he had to make this surprise trip to Kabul under cover of darkness because of security fears. Doesn’t this speak volumes as to how little we’ve accomplished after eleven years (our country’s longest war).

Three hundred seventy eight U.S. troops have died since Obama’s killing. For what? And the UN reported 2011 as the worst year for Afghan civilian deaths with 3,021 people killed. Again, this is the level of “security” we’ve attained after eleven years of war?

The best way this “stay until 2024 plan” can be described is “Quagmire Light.” Surely the president and the military establishment recognize the U.S. public won’t stand for another 12 years of full-scale war, so this seems to be there stab at calibrating the most they can get away with in terms of an enduring presence in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is ranked the third most corrupt nation on the planet after North Korea and Somalia by Transparency International. That would have been very inconvenient for the president to acknowledge, but does that sorry fact justify staying another dozen years?

What agreement? It has not been made public. This is the allegedly (or at least the self-proclaimed) most transparent administration in U.S. history. What are they afraid of? And why does President Karzai think he needs to get approval from his Parliament but President Obama evidently does not? Is this not in reality a treaty, requiring the advice and consent (usually called “ratification”) of the U.S. Senate (the very body the president and vice president served in until very recently)?

The president tried to paint this as the end, or at least the beginning of the end, of the war, but there’s no peace treaty, which is the way wars usually end, yes?

Instead of this agreement, and follow-up plans to be hashed out at the NATO Summit in Chicago in three weeks, the president should be announcing the withdrawal of all U.S. military forces as soon as possible, and a massive reinvestment of our tax dollars now wasted on war and militarism repurposed to job creation and human and environmental needs spending. This would be a political winner for him, as his base and swing voters solidly support a swift end to the war, and even Romney voters, by a slim majority, favor this as well.

John King on CNN noted 2024 is six presidential terms since the 9-11-01 attack. Think about that for a minute – six presidential terms. Anderson Cooper noted that the Taliban doesn’t need any training, why does it cost us so much to train Afghan forces? Journalism!


Tomorrow, we will honor the other 1%: our service members and veterans.

November 10, 2011

Less than 1% of the nation serves in our Armed Forces, and like many of you mentioned in your comments on the Iraq War, we are deeply gratified that many of them are returning home this winter. However, it has not escaped our attention that for many, this is not a homecoming, but rather a redeployment to Kuwait, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

At Peace Action, we will continue to work hard until each and every service member comes home.

Amidst unemployment, a 12-18 month backlog at the VA, and a rising suicide epidemic, returning veterans are marching with the 99%. Source: Veterans News Now.

But what are they coming home to?

Crisis of employment: With a record high average number of deployments under their belts, our veterans are returning home to face a higher rate of unemployment than their civilian counterparts.

Crisis of care: An alarming suicide epidemic is pervading the military, with active-duty memberstaking their own lives at the rate of one every 36 hours. After a decade of continuous war, PTSD rates are as high as 50% among deployed troops. Despite this alarming epidemic, the average new claim processing time at the VA appears to be an astounding 12 to 18 months!

Meanwhile, both the House and Senate Veterans Committees are willing to cut funding to Veterans Affairs.

Peace Action says: Move the Money!

By cutting wasteful Pentagon spending, we could save billions of dollars from our federal budget. Billions of dollars that could be used for critical human needs, such as care for our returning veterans.

Your generous contribution to Peace Action will help build the movement to Move the Money from wars and weapons to human needs. Honor our troops this Veterans Day by helping build a more peaceful and just world.


Peace Action on C-SPAN

August 17, 2011

Thanks to the hard work of national Peace Action board member (and University of Hawai’i Human Rights Law Center founder) Joshua Cooper, Peace Action got some serious airtime (an hour and a quarter) on C-SPAN. Joshua has organized Human Rights on the Hill conferences in DC for law students and the public for a decade now, and he and I were filmed at this year’s event at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke Law School.


Four More Years of War? Not On Our Watch!

June 24, 2011

I made notes on President Obama’s “war lite” speech the other night, intending to rebut many of his points, but it’s too easy, and also not really what I want to convey. However, here are a few points:

-The mainstream media frame that Obama is withdrawing more troops than the military wanted, so this will help his anti-war base, if way, well, off-base. While the 10,000 troops coming home this year and additional 23,000 by next September is too small, it’s larger than it would have been without our tireless grassroots and congressional organizing. So we recognize our power, and will re-double our efforts; we are not in the least appeased by the president’s half-measures, and neither is Congress. A bi-partisan letter to Obama is already in circulation calling for a bigger, faster troop withdrawal.

-The president said violence is declining, but that’s not at all true. This year has been the deadliest both for Afghan civilians and for our troops (and violence is on the rise in Baghdad, too, now one of our “other wars”).

-The president talked about devoting resources to rebuilding our country, but he has just committed us to another $300-400 billion of war over the next four years in Afghanistan.  The U.S. Conference of Mayors didn’t buy it; last weekend in Baltimore, they passed a strong anti-war resolution (their first since 1971 during the Vietnam War). 

-Nobody in the Administration will admit this, but these (too small) withdrawals do indeed change the strategy, at least looking past a year. As my colleague Bill Goodfellow from the Center for International Policy points out, 68,000 troops is too small a force to continue a counterinsurgency strategy, so our pressure has forced a strategic shift.

Peace Action got some good media hits after the president’s speech, here are a few of them:

John Nichols on The Nation, NPR and CBS websites (quotes our tireless Organizing and Policy Director Paul Kawika Martin)

Augusta Free Press

 

Long Island Newsday

 

Peace Action also got a “tip of the hat” in Tom Hayden’s article in The Nation

For some terrific analysis of the president’s speech and the way forward, try these:

Rebecca Griffin of Peace Action West

Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies on AlterNet

Former Peace Action Executive Director (back in the day when we were Sane and Sane/Freeze) David Cortight on CNN.com

And finally, my article which draws a bit of a broader frame, and will be in our next Action Report newsletter:

When I first heard a report of President Obama’s decision to remove only 5,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year (which turned out to be only half what he announced June 22, with another 23,000 troops to leave by September, 2012), my first thought was “did he forget a zero?” The decision was disappointing but not surprising. Remember, candidate Obama promised to escalate the Afghanistan war (which he did, twice), and as president, he has committed himself to “winning” it (whatever that means, I’m reminded of the pacifist Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin’s quote, “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake”).
Moreover, the military has consistently and effectively influenced the president’s decisions on the war, with former Secretary of War Robert Gates, Generals David Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal and others constantly speaking in public and to the media “setting policy,” which the president has enabled (Truman or Eisenhower would doubtless have fired them for that).
The President’s decision to prolong the war despite escalating public and congressional pressure surely reflects the malign influence of the Military-Industrial Complex (though I don’t mean to give the president a pass here, he is accountable for his decisions). The MIC won’t be taken down quickly or easily, perhaps not in our lifetimes.
But it will be taken down. The U.S. Empire is on the decline. Let’s replace it with a flowering U.S. Republic (in the phrase of the philosopher Johan Galtung). Protesting the wars and scourges of the Empire is only half our job. Empowering people to envision and decide what comes after, or along with, that decline is even more important. Even some in the military realize the U.S. needs a new foreign policy, one based less on belligerence and military might and more on peaceful diplomacy and international cooperation, as the recent “Mr. Y” article showed.
At reception near the United Nations at which I was humbled to be honored by non-governmental organizations that work at the UN, I asked attendees to close their eyes and envision that more peaceful, just world we will help build as the Empire declines. I asked folks to shout out what they envisioned. “A peaceful future for our children,” “meaningful jobs for all,” “an environment restored, with green energy technology and good public transit,” “health care for everyone” and “the end of nuclear power” were just some of the inspiring visions shared that night. It was beautiful!
So this is not a time to despair. Yes, we at Peace Action are sick of all wars, whether a Republican or Democrat is in the White House. But signs of our successes at shaping that new world abound:
-Public opinion is now solidly against the Afghanistan war – that’s our doing!
-The House and Senate finally sent strong messages to Obama of their opposition to the war, mostly because of our hard work.
-Congress is pushing the administration on the illegality of the Libya war.
-(Now former) Secretary of War Gates on the defensive in his last Senate hearing, reduced to declaring about Afghanistan “it’s not a war without end.”
-The recent U.S. Conference of Mayors resolutions calling for redirecting war spending to human needs and advocating the global elimination of nuclear weapons.
- The military budget is still gargantuan, but the organizing and political climate for working on this issue is the best we’ve seen decades – our Move the Money campaign is growing every day!
-Next year’s Peace Voter 2012 campaign could be one of our most important yet, as citizen-activists take control of the debate over wars, military spending and nuclear weapons and force House, Senate and Presidential candidates to address our issues on our terms!
-The Peace Action affiliate and chapter network is growing, very impressively, into new states and regions (please see the “Affiliates in Action” article and photo of Nebraskans for Peace, our new affiliate, in this issue!)
Peace and justice work is hard, there’s no question about it. That’s why we call it “the struggle,” not “the picnic.” But we have momentum, and the power of the people, on our side, let’s never forget that, and most importantly, let’s organize that power!

Let’s Give Congress Something to Talk About

June 9, 2011

By Judith Le Blanc

The Congress is debating the federal budget It is time to tell Congress what we want. The Senate is writing next year’s budget now. To cast your vote take the Peace Action New Priorities Budget Preference Poll.

The media makes it sound like there are only 2 ways to deal with the economic crisis: The President’s budget or the GOP’s, when polling shows that people want a budget that moves the money from military spending, tax cuts for the rich and subsidies to Big Business to fund human needs. The Congressional Progressive Caucus proposed a budget to do just that: the People’s Budget.

“Not a single hard news story on the proposal (the People’s Budget) ran in the New York Times, Washington Post or USA Today.” according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). Unfortunately, the mainstream media is not informing the grassroots that there is an alternative to slashing human services.

That’s why we are launching a campaign to bring our voices into the debate.

Take the Peace Action New Priorities Budget Preference Poll. Cast your vote for the President’s, Ryan’s or the People’s Budget. We want to know what you think, and we will share it with your Congressional representative.

Please join Peace Action in a campaign that will
*bring tens of thousands of people into the public debate on the budget
*pressure Congress to cut military spending by hundreds of billions of dollars a year
*call for shifting funds to our communities and people in need
*put military spending on the map for the media and the 2012 elections
*Strengthen working relationships between the economic justice and peace movements

Cast your vote: take the Peace Action New Priorities Budget Preference Poll.

If you’re an individual, you can publicize the online poll by email, Facebook, and Twitter; help organize a Town Hall Meeting in your city; and pull in organizations you know. Just put this link in your emails and on Facebook: https://PeaceActionFederalBudgetPoll.questionpro.com

The campaign offers two ways to bring the debate into our communities:

1. An online poll where people can choose between the GOP budget, President Obama’s budget, and the “People’s Budget”.

The online poll https://PeaceActionFederalBudgetPoll.questionpro.com is available and it can be installed on the website of any organization that agrees to promote it. If you would like to put it on a website, contact Judith Le Blanc at (917) 806-8775. Poll results by state and congressional district will go to Members of Congress, Senators, and the media. It comes with a toolkit, an email message you can send to your list, a press advisory, fact sheet, and sample op-ed. There is also a toolkit for Town Hall Meetings.

2. Town Hall Meetings on jobs, taxes, democracy – and the People’s Budget. Get groups together to sponsor a town hall meeting and invite local elected officials to hear the testimony.

If you need more information about participating, contact Peace Action at jleblanc@peace-action.org.


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