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.


The Impossible Will Take a Little While

June 12, 2014

The second edition of a terrific antidote to political despair is now available — The Impossible Will Take a Little While: perseverance and hope in troubled times, edited by author/activist and former Peace Action of Washington State President Paul Loeb.

“Might possibly be the most important collection of stories and essays you will ever read.” —American Book Association & History Channel

“A much needed salvo against despair.” —Psychology Today

“Hopeful, inspiring and motivating…May well be required reading for us all.” —Sierra Club Magazine

How do you break through America’s pervasive political cynicism and despair? How have the leaders and unsung heroes of world-changing movements persevered in the face of doubt, fear, and seemingly overwhelming odds?  In The Impossible Will Take a Little While, they tell us in their own words. After 22 printings, editor Paul Rogat Loeb has comprehensively updated this classic collection of voices on what it’s like to go up against Goliath, adding visionary new pieces, updating existing ones, and writing new introductory reflections. These stories don’t sugarcoat the obstacles. But they inspire hope by showing what keeps us keeping on.

 

The Impossible creates a conversation among some of the most visionary and eloquent voices of our times–or any time: Contributors include Maya Angelou, Diane Ackerman, Marian Wright Edelman, Wael Ghonim, Václav Havel, Paul Hawken, Seamus Heaney, Jonathan Kozol, Tony Kushner, Audre Lorde, Nelson Mandela, Bill McKibben, Bill Moyers, Pablo Neruda, Mary Pipher, Arundhati Roy, Dan Savage, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Cornel West, Terry Tempest Williams, and Howard Zinn.  See www.theimpossible.org or buy the book here.

 

 

The Impossible brings together the voices of these eloquent writers and activists to talk about how we replenish the wells of commitment, exploring what keeps us going as we work for a more humane world. Loeb explores the historical, political, ecological, and spiritual frameworks that help us to persist—with concrete examples of how people have faced despair and overcome it. Some address our current political time, from memoirs of the Arab Spring to dispatches from the frontlines of the battle to stop global warming. Others examine how people persisted in past struggles that could easily have been deemed unwinnable: what it was like to nonviolently confront South African apartheid, Eastern European dictatorships, Mississippi’s entrenched segregation, the bigotry that kept gays silent and closeted, or the economic greed that America’s populists and progressives challenged a hundred years ago and showed us how to challenge today.

 

Buy the book as a gift of hope for yourself or for friends ($19.95 paperback) in bulk for reading groups and organizations (both The Impossible and Soul of a Citizen are great for motivating staff and volunteers to keep on with their critical work), and forward this email wherever possible. Visit Paul’s website to find excerpts, reviews, reading group questions, information on classroom use, and multiple ways to pass the word.


That’s Where the Money Goes – Larry Wittner, Peace Action board member, on Huffington Post

April 17, 2013

Great piece on Huffington Post, as always, by SUNY-Albany emeritus professor of history and politics and Peace Action board member Larry Wittner, on U.S. and global military spending.

According to a report just released by the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military expenditures in 2012 totaled $1.75 trillion.

The report revealed that, as in recent decades, the world’s biggest military spender by far was the U.S. government, whose expenditures for war and preparations for war amounted to $682 billion — 39 percent of the global total. The United States spent more than four times as much on the military as China (the number two big spender) and more than seven times as much as Russia (which ranked third). Although the military expenditures of the United States dipped a bit in 2012, largely thanks to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, they remained 69 percent higher than in 2001.

U.S. military supremacy is even more evident when the U.S. military alliance system is brought into the picture, for the United States and its allies accounted for the vast bulk of world military spending in 2012. NATO members alone spent a trillion dollars on the military.

Thus, although studies have found that the United States ranks 17th among nations in education, 26th in infant mortality, and 37th in life expectancy and overall health, there is no doubt that it ranks first when it comes to war.

This Number 1 status might not carry much weight among Americans scavenging for food in garbage dumpsters, among Americans unable to afford medical care, or among Americans shivering in poorly heated homes. Even many Americans in the more comfortable middle class might be more concerned with how they are going to afford the skyrocketing costs of a college education, how they can get by with fewer teachers, firefighters, and police in their communities, and how their hospitals, parks, roads, bridges, and other public facilities can be maintained.

Of course, there is a direct connection between the massive level of U.S. military spending and belt-tightening austerity at home: most federal discretionary spending goes for war.

The Lockheed Martin Corporation’s new F-35 joint strike fighter plane provides a good example of the U.S. government’s warped priorities. It is estimated that this military weapons system will cost the U.S. government $1.5 trillion by the time of its completion. Does this Cold War-style warplane, designed for fighting enemies the U.S. government no longer faces, represent a good investment for Americans? After twelve years of production, costing $396 billion, the F-35 has exhibited numerous design and engineering flaws, has been grounded twice, and has never been flown in combat. Given the immense military advantage the United States already has over all other nations in the world, is this most expensive weapons system in world history really necessary? And aren’t there other, better things that Americans could be doing with their money?

Of course, the same is true for other countries. Is there really any justification for the nations of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America to be increasing their level of military spending –as they did in 2012 — while millions of their people live in dire poverty? Projections indicate that, by 2015, about a billion people around the world will be living on an income of about $1.25 per day. When, in desperation, they riot for bread, will the government officials of these nations, echoing Marie Antoinette, suggest that they eat the new warplanes and missiles?

President Dwight Eisenhower put it well in an address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors 60 years ago:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed … This world in arms is not spending money alone; it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children … This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

 

That sentiment persists. On April 15, 2013, people in 43 countries participated in a Global Day of Action on Military Spending, designed to call attention to the squandering of the world’s resources on war. Among these countries was the United States, where polls show that 58 percent of Americans favor major reductions in U.S. military spending.

How long will it take the governments of the United States and of other nations to catch up with them?

Lawrence Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual (University of Tennessee Press).


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

April 15, 2013

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

Published on Sunday, April 14, 2013 by Common Dreams

Tax Day and the Pentagon

by Kevin Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“On the Morning, April 4, Shots Ring Out in the Memphis Sky…” MLK Jr. on this date in 1967 and 1968

April 4, 2013

martinlutherkingpublicdomain1

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A sad anniversary for sure, but also an occasion to recall and be inspired anew by one of the most ardent champions of nonviolence, social justice and peace this profoundly violent, warmongering, unjust country has ever known.

Exactly one year before his death, at Riverside Church in New York City, King delivered one of his greatest speeches, “Beyond Vietnam: A time to Break the Silence,” which remains for me one of the strongest clarion calls against war I’ve ever encountered. You can read the speech or listen to the audio here.

There are so many highlights of the speech for me, but two always stick in my mind, King’s accurate depiction of the U.S. government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” (still true) and his assertion that the Vietnamese must view Americans as “strange liberators.” Were he alive today he would surely say the same of the Iraqi and Afghan people, no?

And perhaps the most enduring message for me is King’s denunciation of the “giant triplets” – racism, extreme materialism and militarism – which continue, 46 years hence, to plague on our society.

King’s impact is immeasurable, and touches so many people in so many fields, including not just politics or organizing but culture and especially music, which has a unique ability to stir peoples’ emotions (as King himself knew as a preacher!) Here are some moving musical tributes to King:

Nina Simone’s “Why (The King of Love is Dead)” (from a King tribute concert)

Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Motel in Memphis”

Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain”

U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)”

If you want to stoke your anger or righteous indignation at King’s murder, here are two articles in the independent media today on the subject of the conspiracy to kill King:

How the Government Killed Martin Luther King, Jr. by Carl Gibson

The Conspiracy to Kill to Kill MLK: Not a Theory but a Fact by Ira Chernus


Peace Action Wisconsin & Allies Expose Paul “1%” Ryan & GOP’s Budgetary Priorities

March 25, 2013
Becky Cooper, Peace ACtion WI at March 25, 2013 press conference.

Becky Cooper, Peace Action Wisconsin at March 25, 2013 press conference.


 

 

 

 

 

Peace Action Wisconsin gathered with allies from Citizen Action WI, Progressive Democrats of America, and concerned citizens and veterans to share the real-life consequences of Paul Ryan’s proposed budget (the Budget of the 1%, the Budget of Pentagon Bloat, the Budget of – well, you get the idea…).

“To understand Paul Ryan’s budget plan, you only need to know two numbers: A $35 Billion dollar increase in handouts to military contractors and a 47% cut to education and job training. Ryan’s budget is staggeringly short-sighted and ensures our economy will falter for generations to come,” said Becky Cooper of Peace Action Wisconsin. “These are Paul Ryan’s priorities: the 1%, oil tycoons, and military contractors.”

Speakers and attendees at this press conference included health care workers, educators, Paul Ryan’s congressional challenger Rob Zerban, and those who are already struggling in programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and VA care, and fear even further hardship should the GOP’s priorities prevail in our nation’s budgetary debates.  Although Ryan’s budget has been rejected in the Senate, a surplus of handouts to military contractors and draconian cuts to our vital programs are still on the table.  We must continue to organize to demand federal spending priorities that are sensible and beneficial to the majority of Americans.

“We have to stop paying for the things we can’t afford so that we can afford the things our families need,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, Economic Justice Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “This includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and the Affordable Care Act. And it includes discretionary domestic programs such as Head Start, nutrition aid, job training, education and cancer screening, just to name a few.”

Congress, listen up – invest in people, not the Pentagon!


Action Alert: Sign and Circulate the Jobs Not Wars Petition!

January 17, 2013

One of the best ways to reduce the deficit is to put people back to work.  It’s time to invest in our people, and our communities. Let’s create stable jobs at living wages, rehabilitate our nation’s infrastructure and invest in programs that serve the needs of people and communities, and develop a sustainable economy that protects the planet.

That’s why I’m asking you to sign the Jobs not Wars Petition.

The extreme right has used the fiscal crisis over the last four years to force deep cuts in discretionary spending on programs that make up the social safety net.  Now, they have their sights set on Social Security and Medicare.

I need your help to make a clear statement to those in Congress, and the administration, to Move the Money from wars and weapons to fund jobs and human services.

Peace Action’s Move the Money Campaign has been all about building common cause with unions, environmental advocates and anti-poverty and civil rights activists.

When I told you about our petition campaign last month there were just over 80 groups gathering signatures.  There are now 135 endorsing organizations working to remind Congress and the Obama administration we need to fundamentally change federal budget priorities from wars and ever more deadly weapons to jobs and meeting the needs of our communities.

So please sign the Jobs not Wars Petition.  Once you have, please forward this email. Ask your friends and family to join you in signing the Jobs Not Wars Petition.  Post this link http://bit.ly/jobs-not-wars-PA on your Facebook page and tweet it to your social network.  There is strength in numbers.

In November, we voted to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and end the wars in order to reinvest in our communities.

The pressure we are building is having a real impact on the debate on federal spending priorities.  With decisions on the debt ceiling and sequestration and votes ahead on both the 2013 and 2014 budgets, it’s critical we keep pressing.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action


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