When Will They Ever Learn?

January 9, 2014
Peace Action board member, professor, activist and author Larry Wittner’s article published yesterday on CounterPunch 
JANUARY 08, 2014
When Will They Ever Learn?
The American People and Support for War
by LAWRENCE WITTNER

When it comes to war, the American public is remarkably fickle.

The responses of Americans to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars provide telling examples.  In 2003, according to opinion polls, 72 percent of Americans thought going to war in Iraq was the right decision.  By early 2013, support for that decision had declined to 41 percent.  Similarly, in October 2001, when U.S. military action began in Afghanistan, it was backed by 90 percent of the American public.  By December 2013, public approval of the Afghanistan war had dropped to only 17 percent.

In fact, this collapse of public support for once-popular wars is a long-term phenomenon.  Although World War I preceded public opinion polling, observers reported considerable enthusiasm for U.S. entry into that conflict in April 1917.  But, after the war, the enthusiasm melted away.  In 1937, when pollsters asked Americans whether the United States should participate in another war like the World War, 95 percent of the respondents said “No.”

And so it went.  When President Truman dispatched U.S. troops to Korea in June 1950, 78 percent of Americans polled expressed their approval.  By February 1952, according to polls, 50 percent of Americans believed that U.S. entry into the Korean War had been a mistake.  The same phenomenon occurred in connection with the Vietnam War.  In August 1965, when Americans were asked if the U.S. government had made “a mistake in sending troops to fight in Vietnam,” 61 percent of them said “No.”  But by August 1968, support for the war had fallen to 35 percent, and by May 1971 it had dropped to 28 percent.

Of all America’s wars over the past century, only World War II has retained mass public approval.  And this was a very unusual war – one involving a devastating military attack upon American soil, fiendish foes determined to conquer and enslave the world, and a clear-cut, total victory.

In almost all cases, though, Americans turned against wars they once supported.  How should one explain this pattern of disillusionment?

The major reason appears to be the immense cost of war — in lives and resources.  During the Korean and Vietnam wars, as the body bags and crippled veterans began coming back to the United States in large numbers, public support for the wars dwindled considerably.  Although the Afghanistan and Iraq wars produced fewer American casualties, the economic costs have been immense.  Two recent scholarly studies have estimated that these two wars will ultimately cost American taxpayers from $4 trillion to $6 trillion.  As a result, most of the U.S. government’s spending no longer goes for education, health care, parks, and infrastructure, but to cover the costs of war.  It is hardly surprising that many Americans have turned sour on these conflicts.

But if the heavy burden of wars has disillusioned many Americans, why are they so easily suckered into supporting new ones?

A key reason seems to be that that powerful, opinion-molding institutions – the mass communications media, government, political parties, and even education – are controlled, more or less, by what President Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex.”  And, at the outset of a conflict, these institutions are usually capable of getting flags waving, bands playing, and crowds cheering for war.

But it is also true that much of the American public is very gullible and, at least initially, quite ready to rally ‘round the flag.  Certainly, many Americans are very nationalistic and resonate to super-patriotic appeals.  A mainstay of U.S. political rhetoric is the sacrosanct claim that America is “the greatest nation in the world” – a very useful motivator of U.S. military action against other countries.  And this heady brew is topped off with considerable reverence for guns and U.S. soldiers.  (“Let’s hear the applause for Our Heroes!”)

Of course, there is also an important American peace constituency, which has formed long-term peace organizations, including Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and other antiwar groups.  This peace constituency, often driven by moral and political ideals, provides the key force behind the opposition to U.S. wars in their early stages.  But it is counterbalanced by staunch military enthusiasts, ready to applaud wars to the last surviving American.  The shifting force in U.S. public opinion is the large number of people who rally ‘round the flag at the beginning of a war and, then, gradually, become fed up with the conflict.

And so a cyclical process ensues.  Benjamin Franklin recognized it as early as the eighteenth century, when he penned a short poem for  A Pocket Almanack For the Year 1744:

War begets Poverty,

Poverty Peace;

Peace makes Riches flow,

(Fate ne’er doth cease.)

Riches produce Pride,

Pride is War’s Ground;

War begets Poverty &c.

The World goes round.

There would certainly be less disillusionment, as well as a great savings in lives and resources, if more Americans recognized the terrible costs of war before they rushed to embrace it.  But a clearer understanding of war and its consequences will probably be necessary to convince Americans to break out of the cycle in which they seem trapped.

Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com), syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is “What’s Going On at UAardvark?” (Solidarity Press), a satirical novel about campus life.


Diplomacy advocate lectures congregation

September 26, 2013

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.”


Wouldn’t it just be easier to change our foreign policy? (We could leave our shoes on at the airport!)

July 18, 2013

Published on Thursday, July 18, 2013 by Common Dreams

Wouldn’t It Just Be Easier to Change Our Foreign Policy?

by Kevin Martin

A passenger removes their shoes before passing through the passenger security checkpoint at John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 8 on Oct. 22, 2010 in New York City. (Michael Nagle/Getty)

I hate having to take off my shoes to go through airport security, don’t you? It’s really annoying, time-consuming and embarrassing (if you are like me and have holes in a large percentage of your socks).

Then there’s the National Security Agency (NSA), doing its typical skullduggery, spying on everyone’s phone calls, emails, FaceBook posts and other online activity. Our tax dollars pay them to do this to us, supposedly to make us safer, but I don’t feel safer, I feel violated and disgusted, how about you? And the alleged trade-off between privacy and security was concocted by forces that want us to have less of both.

Wouldn’t it just be easier to change our foreign policy?

Think about it. We take off our shoes at the airport as part of the mostly palliative exercise in making our commercial aviation system safer from individuals and organizations that want to do us harm (you know, the “terrorists”). I mean no slight to the good folks at TSA, who are certainly sincere in trying to do their jobs to make flying safer.

Like you, I’m sure, I don’t think anything justifies trying to blow up an airplane, with a shoe bomb or any other device, nor do I in any way support violent political acts against civilians (“terrorism”).

However, recent U.S. wars and other controversial military and foreign policies have undoubtedly earned us enmity from people all over the world, especially in Middle Eastern and predominantly Muslim countries.

Blank check support for Israel’s illegal, endless occupation of Palestinian land and oppression of its people. Political, diplomatic, military and financial support for despotic governments when it’s perceived to be in U.S. “strategic interests.” Over 1,000 military bases around the globe. Our invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps these and other manifestations of our imperial foreign policy don’t endear us to the rest of the world?

Our tax dollars fund all of this, as well as our massive nuclear weapons arsenal, aircraft carrier battle groups, tank squadrons, countless exorbitant war planes, pilotless drone aircraft that rain death from the skies (often on innocent, unsuspecting civilians), spy and command and control satellites and other weapons systems and methods of unparalleled global power projection, to the tune of well over $1 trillion per year for the entire “national security” budget. (Last year, the Pentagon budget was equal to the total military spending of the next 11 countries combined, down from 15 countries in 2011, so I guess that’s progress!)

Adopting more modest, peaceful and just foreign and military policies, based on a real commitment (not the usual lip service) to widely held values — human rights, democracy, justice, international cooperation and sustainability — would serve the interests of the American people, and would make us safer. It would also save a lot of money, which could be invested in more life-affirming priorities like education, affordable housing and rebuilding the economy (as military spending creates fewer jobs and stimulates less economic activity than investments in any other sector of the economy). Also, we could help fund multi-lateral efforts to address global problems which cannot be addressed by one country alone…the climate crisis, access to clean water and nutritious, sustainably produced food, quality education and universal health care for all.

And it would lessen the supposed need to spy on Americans, which is unacceptable under any circumstances, but can only be sold with endless fear mongering about terrorism. So it’s a win-win-win, except for the corporations that profit from weapons, war and global violence.

Here’s an added benefit – people around the world would hate and fear us less, though it might take awhile for them to love us more.

And we could leave our shoes on at the airport, while making calls and sending texts not being monitored by the NSA. Doesn’t that sound good?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Kevin Martin

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.


Egyptian coup should trigger broad re-examination of U.S. militarization of the Middle East

July 17, 2013

Op-ed published today by The Hill, an influential, widely read Capitol Hill publication

by Kevin Martin and Josh Ruebner

The Obama administration has engaged in astounding linguistic jiu-jitsu to avoid calling the Egyptian military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi what it most obviously is: a coup. The president refuses to dub Morsi’s overthrow a coup because doing so would automatically trigger a suspension of all U.S. foreign aid to Egypt, according to the Foreign Assistance Act. Cutting off weapons transfers to Egypt, which, at $1.3 billion per year is the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid behind Israel, would, in turn, crimp U.S. efforts to further inundate the Middle East with weapons. To underscore the Obama’s administration’s contempt for this law, the Pentagon delivered four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt just days after its military placed Morsi under house arrest. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, President Lyndon Johnson wisely warned that “this last conflict has demonstrated the danger of the Middle Eastern arms race of the last 12 years. Here the responsibility must rest not only on those in the area – but upon the larger states outside the area…We have always opposed this arms race, and our own military shipments to the area have consequently been severely limited.” Yet, both he and his successors threw this caution to the wind, giving Israel and Egypt alone more than $100 billion in military grants and loans since then. While most of this money has been appropriated ostensibly to undergird the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, in fact it has directly impeded democracy in Egypt and especially freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinians.

Not only is the Obama administration clearly ignoring the law by keeping open the spigot of weapons to Egypt in the aftermath of the military’s coup; it also turns a blind eye to the law by providing Israel $3.1 billion in military aid per year, despite the fact that Israel clearly violates the Arms Export Control Act by using U.S. weapons not for “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense,” but to perpetuate its 46-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip and to commit gross and systematic human rights abuses against Palestinians, such as the injuring and killing of civilians, the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the illegal colonization of Palestinian land.

The problems, of course, go beyond U.S. military aid and weapons transfers to Israel and Egypt. The Middle East is one of the most heavily armed parts of the planet, which exacerbates the region’s conflicts. The United States is the top arms peddler to the world, and to the region, and thus is in the best position to exert leadership to reduce, or perhaps even establish a moratorium on, weapons transfers to the Middle East as did President Harry Truman in the 1950 Tripartite Declaration.

Instead, the Obama Administration, advancing what it perceives to be U.S. strategic interests (but in reality are the interests of the weapons corporations which pour tens of millions of dollars into lobbying and campaign contributions each year) has sharply increased U.S. weapons transfers the last two years. In 2011 the United States set a record with over $66 billion in arms deals (over three-quarters of the global total), according to the Congressional Research Service, with huge sales of sophisticated armaments to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman driving a tripling of U.S. weapons transfers from 2010 figures.

There are other urgent reasons and opportunities to work to de-militarize the region. Concerns over possible chemical weapons use in Syria, Israel’s nuclear arsenal estimated at between 75 and 400 warheads, and possible future Iranian development of nuclear weapons underscore the need to establish a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone (first proposed by Iran and Egypt in the late 1960s and reaffirmed by the UN resolution officially ending the first Iraq war in 1991, and by the 2005 and 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conferences).

Finland agreed to host a conference last year on such a zone, but the conference was postponed, hopefully to be convened this year. The United States has a key role to play in the success of such a conference, as one of the official conveners and as Israel’s benefactor, as surely it will have to lean on Israel to get it to participate in good faith. Ridding the region of unconventional weapons won’t be easy, but could hardly be more urgent, as the use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction could devastate not only the peoples of the region, but possibly the global economy and environment.

While the current situation in Egypt justifiably holds the world’s attention, we should not miss the opportunity to ease tensions and act in the broader interests of peace for all the peoples of the region. Stopping the torrential flood of weapons into the Middle East would be a great place to start.

 

Martin is executive director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund. Ruebner is National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/311451-egyptian-coup-should-trigger-broad-re-examination-of-us-militarization-of-middle-east#ixzz2ZKmiwCYp
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Two Local Events in the DC area featuring Jeremy Scahill and Bill Hartung

June 5, 2013

We hope you can attend both these upcoming events

“Dirty Wars” Opens in D.C. Weekend of June 7-9

“Dirty Wars”, the new film featuring Jeremy Scahill, is playing every day at 12 noon, 2:30pm, 5:00pm, 7:30pm, and 9:55pm at Landmark’s E Street Cinema, 555 11th St NW, Washington, DC

You can buy tickets now at E St Cinema

Following the 12:00, 2:30, and 5:00 showings on June 7th, Amnesty International’s Jiva Manske will lead a discussion of the film and of activism that can address some of what the film covers.
Following the 7:30 showing on June 7th, *Code Pink* will lead a discussion of issues surrounding the film.
Following the 2:30 screening on June 8th, RootsAction’s David Swanson and Yemeni-American activist Rooj Alwazir will lead a discussion of the film and, in particular, of an imprisoned journalist whose story is told.
Following the 5:00 and 7:30 screenings on June 8th, Jeremy Scahill will take questions.
Following the 2:30 and 5:00 showings on June 9th, Afghan War whistleblower Matthew Hoh will lead a discussion of the film and whistleblowing.

For a more in-depth discussion, the following free and public event has been planned:
WHAT: Discussion of Jeremy Scahill’s new film and book Dirty Wars
WHO:
- Jeremy Scahill, author of *Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield* and
star of the film by the same name.
- Rooj Alwazir, Yemeni-American activist and co-founder of SupportYemen media collective.
- A former operative with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command
(name to be revealed at the event).
WHEN: 5-7 p.m., Saturday, June 8, 2013
WHERE: Busboys and Poets restaurant at 5th and K Streets NW, Washington, DC
SPONSORS: Amnesty International, Code Pink, Peace Action, Iraq Veterans Against the War, RootsAction, Veterans for Peace.
Busboys is a restaurant, and you can order dinner during the event.
Books will be sold and signed.
Sign up on Facebook for Busboys event
and for opening weekend in general
To learn more about the film

Please join us in Silver Spring on June 11 to hear a terrific speaker and engage in a dialogue.
William Hartung, noted journalist and military analyst, will discuss his powerful book Prophets of War, a trenchant historical expose of
the world’s largest military contractor, Lockheed Martin, whose world headquarters is located in Bethesda.
We won’t just listen (to a fabulous speaker)–we’ll also talk about how we can move the money, to invest in institutions for social justice in the U.S. and around the world, instead of in new weapons systems.

Bring your family and friends:
Prophets of War
William Hartung
Tues., June 11th, 7 p.m.
Silver Spring Civic Building
One Veterans Plaza


9 bases in Afghanistan, 1 outside Philadelphia

May 13, 2013

According to an Associated Press article from last Thursday, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai says the United States wants to keep nine military bases in the country, which Karzai has said could be agreed, with certain conditions (namely the U.S. continuing to provide military training and economic development aid).

We’ll need to press Congress and the Obama Administration on this issue, as zero is the correct number of U.S. bases that should remain. Significantly, the U.S. Embassy spokesperson in Kabul took pains to say the U.S. doesn’t want permanent bases in Afghanistan. Cost and mission will of course be the focus, with cost likely to be the determining factor. Also, a “strategic partnership agreement” should not be the formal document between the two countries, as this avoids the issue of direct Congressional oversight, unlike a treaty, which needs a 2/3 Senate ratification vote. Oh yeah, and tens of thousands of our troops are still there, not all coming home until the end of next year. They should all come home sooner, with no troops remaining. (Another AP article from Saturday covered the negotiations between the two countries on some of these issues.)

Then there are the drone strikes, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also Yemen and other countries. So far, the drone bases, as far as we know, have been at U.S. Air Force bases, like Creech in Nevada and Hancock near Syracuse, New York. Comes now a plan to use an Air National Guard Station in Horsham, PA, just north of Philadelphia, as a drone warfare command center.

Not surprisingly, peace activists in the Philadelphia area loathe this idea, as they should (as we all should). Our friends at the Brandywine Peace Community, who have long protested war and the biggest war profiteer, Lockheed Martin (which has a major facility near Philly) and the American Friends Service Committee have called a protest at the Horsham base for Saturday, May 25 at Noon, and then the last Saturday of each month leading up to the proposed opening of the drone command center in October. Here is some info from our friends at Brandywine:

 

 “Extra-judicial assassinations,” “targeted killings,” the “global war on terror,” U.S. Drones (UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) — armed with Lockheed Martin Hellfire missiles — are remotely controlled through space-based satellites(also produced by Lockheed Martin) from command centers in the continental United States,
such as the one planned for the Horsham Air Guard Station outside of Philadelphia.

 

STOP-IT BEFORE IT-STARTS

Drone War Command Center at Horsham Air Guard Station

Sat., May 25, 12Noon  – Protest Demonstrations begin at Horsham Air Guard Station, Easton & County Line Roads, in Horsham, PA , continuing on the last Saturday of each month through September.

For more information: Events at  www.brandywinepeace.com 

 


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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KC Peace Measure Wins Nearly One-Quarter of the Vote, Succeeds in Public Education

April 5, 2013

By Jane Stoever, PeaceWorks Kansas City

Kansas City, Mo., voters received a barrage of negative publicity from the “vote no” camp before the April 2 election, but 23 percent of the voters still said yes to stopping future KC financing for producing parts for nuclear weapons. The vote tally was 25,006 against and 7,559 for the measure.

“It’s a win!” said Rachel MacNair, campaign coordinator for “vote yes” proponents, after the polls closed April 2. “We’ve always said our strategy was to educate the public about the nuclear weapons parts plant, and our goal of making the plant and the nuclear weapons upgrade program more controversial has been achieved.” She said it was amazing to gain 23 percent of the vote in the face of the negative publicity from the opposition.

That publicity, focusing on jobs and national security, included three pricey mailers, robo calls from Mayor Sly James, handouts from paid workers at polls, and ads in local papers. For example, a promotional insert from Freedom Inc. in The Pitch in late March said of the ballot measure, “This is a rogue issue that was placed on the ballot by initiative petition, motivated by anti-nuclear extremists who want the United States to dispose of its nuclear weapons while other nations keep theirs.”

When, earlier, the second mailer from the “vote no” camp made the same charge, MacNair countered that peace groups are calling for multilateral, not unilateral, disarmament, and the third mailer carried revised language. However, that third mailing featured North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s threat to turn Washington, D.C., into a sea of fire—a way to call for strengthening the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Despite the fear-based mailers, many voters talked with peace activists outside the polls, and some voters said they’d vote yes because of those contacts. One voter who, on leaving the poll, said she had voted yes, was asked why. In a quiet voice, she replied, “It’s just terrible to make those weapons.”

Before election day, PeaceWorks members informed the community about the peace measure through multiple activities. KKFI community radio interviewed various proponents on four programs and played a public service announcement. KCUR, an affiliate of National Public Radio, played and replayed a segment quoting MacNair and City Councilman Scott Taylor, who opposed the measure. Local TV programs such as “Week in Review” discussed all the election issues. Although The Kansas City Star editors recommended a no vote on the measure, news reporter Lynn Horsley quoted heavily from MacNair in her story originally titled “David vs. Goliath in Measure on Weapons Manufacturing.” PeaceWorks members circulated flyers at churches, offered informational cards to “Disney on Ice” attendees and to community groups, and leafleted on sidewalks. Perhaps the most flamboyant stint was the dropping of three banners above highways 71 and 670. The banners flew a few days.

PeaceWorks committed $4,000 to the campaign as its major contributor. The opposition amassed more than $123,000, with donors including Honeywell, which manages the current and new KC plants for the National Nuclear Security Administration; J.E. Dunn Construction Co., which heads up construction for the new plant; and the Chicago law firm Richmond Breslin, home base to Kevin Breslin, lawyer for CenterPoint, the development company that worked with KC on the plan for public/private ownership of the new plant.

Ann Suellentrop of PeaceWorks shared election results with national peace leaders on behalf of the KC peace community. The American Friends Service Committee disarmament coordinator, Joseph Gerson, replied, “Thank you for all that you’ve done. Born Jewish in 1946, in many ways my frames of reference are from the Second World War and the Holocaust. It would seem that … the majority of voters in KC seem to care in the short term about their well-being but, in what Hannah Arendt once termed the ‘banality of evil,’ put jobs and comfort ahead of nuclear genocide or omnicide.”


Kansas City MO anti-nuke ballot initiative – vote is tomorrow!

April 1, 2013

Peace activists and groups in Kansas City, Missouri, including our Peace Action affiliate PeaceWorks KC, have been waging an impressive local struggle around the oddball government-corporate (Honeywell – don’t buy their products!) partnership that was concocted to build a new plant in KC that will manufacture the non-nuclear components of U.S. nuclear bombs (why such a thing is needed as we downsize our nuclear arsenal is quite a head-scratcher). They succeeded in getting an initiative on tomorrow’s municipal ballot to prevent such shenanigans from being repeated or expanded in the future. The local NPR affiliate ran a story on the issue this morning, give it a listen and if you have friends or relatives in KC, make sure they vote yes on Question 3!

Here’s the text of the story on KCUR radio:

The National Nuclear Security Agency contracted that work to a company called Bendix (after a merger, it’s now called Honeywell).  At the height of the Cold War, in the 1980s, the factory employed some 8000 workers.

That was when psychologist Rachel MacNair first got involved in the movement against nuclear weapons.

“Back in the 1970s and 80s, people were really afraid the world was going to end in a nuclear holocaust,” MacNair says.

She joined a group in Kansas City that advocated converting the Bannister facility to a factory that made some other product.

“At the time it was a pie-in-the-sky, starry-eyed idealist,  easily-dismissed kind of idea,” MacNair says. “And then the Cold War ended. And the Cold War has been over for a couple of decades.  And nowadays we have retired military people, we have military experts, we have the same people who set up mutually assured destruction saying that it’s time to get rid of nuclear weapons.

According to The Kansas City Star, the Honeywell plant currently employs about 2000 workers, who “maintain the W76 missile warhead, a submarine-based weapon which is seven times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb.”

The factory is getting old, though, and Kansas City officials were afraid of losing the plant, and the jobs, to New Mexico. So, they offered tax incentives to a private developer. And in 2010, ground was broken on a $1 billion new facility.

MacNair thought the project made no sense, since the Obama administration is talking about reducing nuclear arsenals.

“I just could not stand the idea of building a whole new plant as if we were going to be making new parts for decades.”

Anti-nuclear weapon activists in Kansas City tried to stop the incentives with previous petitions. And two years ago, some 50 people were arrested in a protest at the construction site.

The building’s complete now. The NNSA and Honeywell have been transferring operations already. It’s supposed to go online in August of 2014.

The question on the ballot isn’t about shutting down the new plant down, but rather, it prohibits the city from offering any futures incentives to “facilities that produce or procure components for, assemble, or refurbish nuclear weapons.”  This would apply to companies that work exclusively with Honeywell or any future nuclear weapons plant.

According to city councilman Scott Taylor, this makes Kansas City look like an unappealing place to do business.

“A company, regardless of the size, is looking to locate a new facility.  They will usually have a site selection process, that has multiple sites,” Taylor says. “And if one of those sites happens to have something that’s different from all the others, that’s a little strange and  really might require some additional legal work, or research to see if they have some legal issues, they’ll just take us off the list and move to the other options because it will be a lot easier for them.”

Taylor is the at-large councilman in District 6, where the new plant is located.  He says the new building has already helped bolster Kansas City’s construction industry through the recession. And he’s hoping it will anchor development in a struggling part of town.

‘Specifically in South Kansas City, we’ve really been fighting hard for the Three Trails re-development, the old Bannister Mall,” Taylor says. “We’ve had an incentive package on all that property; it’s already in place, we’ve already done that. If a company has any ties to this facility there’s a question as to whether they can even locate there if they wanted to. If they can’t locate there, it’s just as easy for a lot of these companies looking to locate near this plant to locate in Overland Park, Leawood, Grandview and other areas.  I’d rather have them in South Kansas City.”

Taylor says the old Bannister facility is on federal land, so it doesn’t generate taxes for the city and the school district.  The new plant is on private land, so despite the incentives, it will bring in property taxes for Kansas City, Missouri, as well as the Grandview school district, which dips into KC at that spot.

Taylor says he understands the intent behind the ballot question.

‘We all agree that it would be nice if all countries would disarm nuclear weapons,’ Taylor says. “But that’s not the world we live in and quite frankly the language of this doesn’t address disarmament or doing anything with the federal government specifically.  My concern is that the unintended consequences of this would be very dramatic for our local economy.”

Other opponents say that the ballot question would not stop the production of nuclear weapons, anyway, that it would just shift the jobs elsewhere.

But proponents say they want to raise awareness that the nuclear weapons plant is here, and that it’s controversial.

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents podcast.


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