Call the White House – No Military Intervention in Iraq!

June 17, 2014

Last week, we generated thousands of email messages to President Obama, telling him no to U.S. military intervention in Iraq.  My thanks to all of you who took action!

A decision on how the U.S. will respond to the developing crisis in Iraq is now imminent.  Please take action: Call the White House comment line at 202.456.1111 between 9am and 5pm and tell President Obama to invest in diplomacy and international cooperation instead of U.S. military action.

Help me flood the White House comment line with our call for diplomacy, not war.  The people of Iraq and the region need peace, reconciliation and development, not more war and definitely not U.S. bombs or troops.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. Please call the president at 202.456.1111 and tell him more war is not the answer. To learn more about the situation in Iraq, here are a few recent articles you might find interesting.

Our former Executive Director, David Cortright, has a sensible, concise post on this issue you might find illuminating.

New York Times article on the current situation and consideration of U.S. military intervention

The Guardian on the collapse of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Army as ISIS advanced on Mosul

The Guardian again on the spread of ISIS in Iraq and Syria


Tell President Obama “Don’t Try to Put Out the Fire in Iraq With Gasoline!”

June 13, 2014

by Kevin Martin

Tell President Obama “Don’t Try to Put Out the Fire in Iraq With Gasoline!”

Believe it or not, some are responding to the escalating violence in Iraq with calls for U.S. military intervention. Have they learned nothing?

Please take action: Tell President Obama not to try putting out the fire with gasoline – no U.S. military intervention in Iraq, invest in diplomacy and international cooperation instead.

The advance of the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is no doubt alarming, but not a complete surprise in the context of deep social, ethnic, religious and political divisions in Iraq and the wider region. Our former Executive Director, David Cortright, has a sensible, concise post on this issue you might find illuminating.

Contact the president and send this alert to friends, family and colleagues you believe would want to take this action. The people of Iraq and the region need peace, reconciliation and development, not more war and definitely not U.S. bombs or troops.

Please take action to let the president know more war is not the answer.

To learn more about the situation in Iraq, here are a few recent articles you might find illuminating.

New York Times article on the current situation and consideration of U.S. military intervention

The Guardian on the collapse of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Army as ISIS advanced on Mosul

The Guardian again on the spread of ISIS in Iraq and Syria


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.


Does War Have a Future? Peace Action National Board Member Larry Wittner on History News Network

June 3, 2014

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, “What’s Going On at UAardvark?

 

National officials certainly assume that war has a future. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military expenditures totaled nearly $1.75 trillion in 2013. Although, after accounting for inflation, this is a slight decrease over the preceding year, many countries increased their military spending significantly, including China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, 23 countries doubled their military spending between 2004 and 2013. None, of course, came anywhere near to matching the military spending of the United States, which, at $640 billion, accounted for 37 percent of 2013’s global military expenditures. Furthermore, all the nuclear weapons nations are currently “modernizing” their nuclear arsenals.

Meanwhile, countries are not only preparing for wars, but are fighting them―sometimes overtly (as in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan) and sometimes covertly (as in portions of Africa and the Middle East).

Nevertheless, there are some reasons why war might actually be on the way out.

One reason, of course, is its vast destructiveness. Over the past century, conventional wars (including two world wars) have slaughtered over a hundred million people, crippled, blinded, or starved many more, and laid waste to large portions of the globe. And this enormous level of death, misery, and ruin will almost certainly be surpassed by the results of a nuclear war, after which, as Nikita Khrushchev once reportedly commented, the living might envy the dead. After all, Hiroshima was annihilated with one atomic bomb. Today, some 16,400 nuclear weapons are in existence, and most of them are far more powerful than the bomb that obliterated that Japanese city.

Another reason that war has become exceptionally burdensome is its enormous cost. The United States is a very wealthy nation, but when it spends 55 percent of its annual budget on the military, as it now does, it is almost inevitable that its education, health care, housing, parks and recreational facilities, and infrastructure will suffer. That is what the AFL-CIO executive council―far from the most dovish institution in American life―concluded in 2011, when it declared: “There is no way to fund what we must do as a nation without bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The militarization of our foreign policy has proven to be a costly mistake. It is time to invest at home.” Many Americans seem to agree.

Furthermore, a number of developments on the world scene have facilitated the abolition of war.

One of them is the rise of mass peace movements. Many centuries ago, religious groups and theologians began to criticize war on moral grounds, and non-sectarian peace organizations began to emerge in the early nineteenth century. Even though they never had an easy time of it in a world accustomed to war, these organizations became a very noticeable and, at times, powerful force in the twentieth century and beyond. Drawing upon prominent figures like Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, sparking new thinking about international relations and world peace, and mobilizing millions of people against war, peace groups created a major social movement that government officials could not entirely ignore.

Another new development―one originally proposed by peace organizations―is the establishment of international institutions to prevent war. The vast destruction wrought by World War I provided a powerful incentive for Woodrow Wilson and other officials to organize the League of Nations to prevent further disasters. Although the League proved too weak and nations too unwilling to limit their sovereignty for this goal to be accomplished, the enormous carnage and chaos of World War II led government officials to give world governance another try. The resulting institution, the United Nations, proved somewhat more successful than the League at averting war and resolving conflicts, but, like its predecessor, suffered from the fact that it remained weak while the ambitions of nations (and particularly those of the great powers) remained strong. Even so, the United Nations now provides an important framework that can be strengthened to foster international law and the peaceful resolution of international disputes.

Yet another new factor on the world scene―one also initiated by peace activists―is the development of nonviolent resistance. As staunch humanitarians, peace activists had pacifist concerns and human rights concerns that sometimes pulled them in opposite directions―for example, during the worldwide struggle against fascist aggression. But what if it were possible to battle for human rights without employing violence? This became the basis for nonviolent resistance, which was not only utilized in dramatic campaigns led by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., but in mass movements that, subsequently, have challenged and toppled governments. Indeed, nonviolent resistance has become a new and powerful tool for people to drawn upon in conflicts without slaughtering one another.

In addition, the modern world has produced many other alternatives to mass violence. Why not expand international exchange and peace studies programs in the schools? Why not dispatch teams of psychologists, social workers, conflict resolution specialists, mediators, negotiators, and international law experts to conflict zones to work out settlements among the angry disputants? Why not provide adequate food, meaningful employment, education, and hospitals to poverty-stricken people around the world, thus undermining the desperation and instability that often lead to violence? Wouldn’t the U.S. government be receiving a friendlier reception in many countries today if it had used the trillions of dollars it spent on war preparations and destruction to help build a more equitable, prosperous world?

Of course, this scenario might depend too much on the ability of people to employ reason in world affairs. Perhaps the rulers of nations, learning nothing since the time of Alexander the Great, will continue to mobilize their citizens for war until only small bands of miserable survivors roam a barren, charred, radioactive wasteland.

But it’s also possible that people will finally acquire enough sense to alter their self-destructive behavior.

- See more at: http://hnn.us/article/155841#sthash.SW1zL9g5.dpuf


America is Tired of Afghanistan War – Peace Action Op-Ed published by USA Today

May 30, 2014

Our Policy and Political Director, Paul Kawika Martin, was asked to submit this piece to USA Today, which published it yesterday. Please like, share, forward, comment on the site, write a supportive letter to the editor, etc.

Bring the troops home as soon and as safely as possible.

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President Obama announced on Tuesday that the U.S. would extend the Afghanistan War, the longest in American history, an additional two-and-a-half years. What will that get us?

For most Americans, the answer is unclear. Despite polls saying that a majority of Americans think the Afghanistan War was a mistake and not worth the blood and treasure, the U.S. will leave 9,800 troops and an untold number of contractors in the country after the end of this year.

OUR VIEW: Obama’s risky Afghanistan exit

Economists estimate that the long-term costs of being at war in Afghanistan for nearly 13 years will exceed a few trillion dollars. That’s enough tax dollars to take care of all our woefully needed infrastructure investments through 2020. So why spend more taxpayer dollars on the Afghanistan War?

The president claims that we need the troops to continue training Afghan forces for stability and to continue our fight against terrorists such as al-Qaeda.

Yet, the surge of troops in 2009 and 2010 into the country failed to quell the violence, showing that large troop numbers neglect to lead to stability or lead to a democratic or even a well-governed Afghanistan. Historically, political solutions are the best solutions to produce stability, even if difficult to obtain.

Also, history teaches us that local policing, working with the local populace, is far more likely to reduce terrorists than foreign forces that may increase recruitment by killing innocents and arousing resentments.

In 2009, senior U.S. military intelligence officials claimed that fewer than 100 members of al-Qaeda remained in Afghanistan. In contrast, nearly 15,000 operate in Syria. And remember that Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan, where experts think that al-Qaeda is led in the tribal regions.

While it’s unlikely that the Obama administration will change its mind on wasting two more years with a military presence in Afghanistan, Congress should take its war powers back and force the president to listen to Americans. Bring the troops home as soon and as safely as possible.

Paul Kawika Martin is the policy and political director for Peace Action — the nation’s largest grassroots peace group (www.Peace-Action.org). He traveled to Afghanistan in 2010.


2014 Global Day of Action on Military Spending: Move the Money!

May 28, 2014

Fourth Annual Day of U.S. Actions 

By Judith Le Blanc, Field Director, Peace Action+GDAMS-Ad

Over 80 activities were organized, for the 2014 Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) in the U.S. GDAMS has become an annual day of U. S. action, part of the ongoing national effort to build a movement strong enough to “move the money” from the Pentagon and wars to fund jobs and public services.

U.S. organizers used U.S. Tax Day as a media hook and opportunity to engage the public in a dialogue on how national governmental taxes are spent by pinpointing the Pentagon budget and wars as a drain on the resources urgently needed for economic security in our communities and to address pressing global problems.

This year, the annual activities targeted the U.S. Congress with grassroots political pressure. The popular education methods, the street visibility actions and media work emphasized the connection between a militarized national budget with a militarized U.S. foreign policy. Without an informed public, fundamental shifts in government policy, foreign or domestic, are impossible. GDAMS is also an important tool to connect the ongoing social justice organizing in the U.S. with solidarity with peace and disarmament movements around the world.

From “penny polls” on city streets and at post offices where pedestrians were asked to share their opinions on national governmental spending priorities to public forums and Congressional town hall meetings the message was clear: it’s time to change national governmental spending priorities from wars and weapons to jobs creation and public services.

Read what the “penny poll” participants said in New Hampshire and in Austin, Texas. about national governmental spending priorities.

In Eugene, Oregon, Community Alliance of Lane County, (CALC), Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network-Jobs With Justice (ESSN), Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), Taxes for Peace Not War, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Veterans for Peace asked their community to voice how they would spend their tax dollars. The results were: 42% for Human Services, 31% for Infrastructure/Environmental Services and 1 % for Military: Present & Past.

“If Eugeneans were in charge in Washington, D.C., things would be radically different — our tax dollars would be fighting climate change and not endless war”, said event organizer Michael Carrigan of CALC. An opinion article by the organizers was also published in the local newspaper, The Register-Guard entitled, “Move tax dollars from Pentagon back to people.”

In Boston, Massachusetts, on April 12, the Budget for All Coalition organized a visibility action at the Bank of America followed by a forum with 200 people. Both events touched on the need to close corporate tax loopholes and tax the 1% as well as redirect Pentagon spending to domestic needs.

In northern California, the New Priorities Campaign (NPC) organized for the fourth year in a row, a distribution by 24 organizations of 15,000

Bay Area, CA GDAMS brochure

Bay Area, CA GDAMS brochure

brochures on excessive U.S. military spending at 34 rapid transit light rail stations in both the East Bay and San Francisco. NPC asked organizations to adopt a station.  Each year the number of stations covered and number of brochures distributed has increased.

In Bethesda, Maryland, Representatives of the Fund Our Communities Maryland coalition co-lead by Montgomery County Peace Action and Progressive MD, “flew” an F-35 aircraft to celebrate Tax Day. The plane fell apart—exhibiting the absurdity of using our taxes on a plane that doesn’t work and will end up costing $1.5 trillion. The action was part of the ongoing local campaign to hold Lockheed Martin accountable on local and state tax issues and to advance “ defense industry transition” state legislation.

In Saint Louis and Clayton, Missouri, Missouri Pro-vote hosted events with the Peace Economy Project, Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom and Veterans for Peace conducting a “chalk-talk” using sidewalks as a blackboard with concise messages about national governmental budget trade-offs.

Virginia Organizing & Richmond Peace Education Center, Richmond, VA GDAMS action

Events were held in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio; Charleston, West Virginia; Superior, Wisconsin; Duluth, Minnesota; Buffalo, New York; Los Angeles, California; Bay Ridge and Staten Island, New York; Dallas, Texas; San Jose, California; Kansas City, Missouri, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Indianapolis, Indiana; Royal Oak, Michigan; Des Moines, Iowa; Greensboro, North Carolina; Bath, Maine and many other small towns and big cities reflecting the commitment of local economic justice and peace groups to build a national consensus that we must “move the money from the Pentagon to fund our communities!”

U.S. Congress heard GDAMS!

In some areas, vigils and informational leafleting were done outside of Congressional offices, while in other areas Congressional representatives or their staff participated. In Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Congressional Representative Barney Frank sent video greetings to the GDAMS Budget for All forum.

On April 15, Women’s Action for New Directions/WiLL released a letter sent to U.S. Congress signed by 290 women state legislators calling on the Congress to cut the Pentagon budget to fund human needs.

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AFSC youth delegation visits U.S. Congressional representatives.

On April 12, in Washington, D.C sixty five youth from across the country came to D.C. for a film festival and leadership training on national budget priorities. This annual event has become the Capitol Hill visibility event for the U.S. GDAMS actions.  The “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” youth film festival had its world premiere screening at Busboys and Poets on April 13.  On April14, the youth had meetings at the Congressional offices of U.S. Senators Portman (OH), Blunt (MO), Kirk (IL), Durbin (IL), Gillibrand (NY), Casey (PA), Toomey (PA) and U.S. Representatives Becerra (CA) and Coble (NC).

U.S. GDAMS goes cyber!

Social media was used creatively to engage, mobilize and educate.Network, the Catholic social justice group, collaborated with GDAMS with a social media campaign to show how local activists want their tax dollars spent. Hundreds of people including 2 Congressional representatives sent photos in. 

Win Without War Meme

Win Without War Memesocial media campaign to show how local activists want their tax dollars spent. Hundreds of people including 2 Congressional representatives sent photos in. 

Groups contributed social media memes and organized a Thunderclap, which had a social media reach of 272, 955 people. Twitter was used to mobilize and even report on the days activities in real time.

Here is a sample Tweet from April 14: “Students from SFSU took #GDAMSbayarea brochure, happy to share info. #GDAMS #movethemoneyhttp://twitpic.com/e15jsa

GDAMS in the news

The National Priorities Project was the “go to” resource for research, materials and media efforts. As a nationally recognized institution their commentaries and comments on Tax Day appeared in a cross section of traditional and online media from Boise, Idaho to Tucson, Arizona to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to the Wall Street Journal Market Watch to Al Jeerzera-America. We were able to track 43 articles, radio, blog and TV appearances.

Times News April 16 2014 (2)Some local actions got front page in their town newspaper like Burlington, North Carolina’s The Times-News and many areas had letters to the editor, opinion pieces and radio.

A National Infrastructure for Local Action

Local organizers sparked community actions supported by a national infrastructure of organizations that are committed to supporting the growing of a national grassroots infrastructure for the long-term.

In 2014, national sponsoring groups agreed to host a series of webinars and training opportunities to build local organizing capacity in 2014 and continue to build the “move the money” movement.

Starting in early March, four webinars/conference calls were organized which engaged from 20-100 local and national organizers in trainings on creative tactics with a contributor to Beautiful Trouble, a national budget review with National Priorities Project, a special review of the Overseas Contingency Operation budget line item or what has been called , the Pentagon’s “Slush Fund” and a briefing on how to use social and traditional media for local actions conducted by the Pentagon Budget Campaign.

Templates for leaflets, fact sheets, organizing tool box, state tax receipts and even more were made available on the global GDAMS website. Montgomery County, Maryland Peace Action that has been locked in battle with the greedy Lockheed Martin defense contractor for years, created a “Mockery Newspaper” to bring a smile or a howl.

Looking ahead, GDAMS offers the best and most exciting opportunity every year to link foreign and domestic policy with global solidarity actions around the world.

U.S. groups sponsoring Tax Day/GDAMS events: Alliance for Global Justice, American Friends Service Committee, CODEPINK, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Foreign Policy in Focus, Friends Committee on National Legislation, National Priorities Project, National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, Peace Action, Progressive Democrats of America, United for Peace and Justice, USAction, US Labor Against the War, War Resisters League, Women’s Action for New Directions & Women’s Legislators

The author, Judith Le Blanc, Peace Action’s Field Director  was the U.S. coordinator for GDAMS. 2014 GDAMS was a grand success due to the special efforts of  American Friends Service Committee’s Mary Zerkel, National Priorities Project’s Jo Comerford, Foreign Policy In Focus intern Ved Singh and the incredible leadership and staff of the International Peace Bureau, Colin Archer and Mylene Soto.


Americans Want to End Afghanistan War

May 27, 2014

Washington, DC — May 27, 2014 — Despite polling that Americans think that the Afghanistan War was a mistake and is definitely not worth fighting, the Obama administration is poised to announce its plans to leave 9,800 troops and an unknown amount of contractors in the country after the end of this year.

 

“Americans are tired of war.  It’s time for the longest U.S. war in history to be over.  Instead, the Obama Administration wants to leave nearly 10,000 troops and untold contractors in Afghanistan after the end of year costing billions of dollars,” observed Paul Kawika Martin, the political director of Peace Action — a group founded in 1957 and the largest grassroots peace organization in the U.S.  His comments came after news reports of an immanent announcement by President Obama.

 

Experts agree that the long-term cost of the Afghanistan War may reach trillions of dollars and it’s unclear that troops in the country will really help with stability.  

 

It is known that the administration will only finalize the decision about troop presence when a bilateral agreement is reached with the Afghanistan government.  Presently, President Karzai refuses to sign but the two candidates embroiled in a runoff election say they will sign when the take office sometime late in the summer.

 

Republican House leadership block a recent amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would of required congressional approval to leave troops beyond 2014.  Congress may still weigh in on this issue with several other bills they have on their docket.  It’s possible that Congress would not approve the President’s troop levels if it came to a vote. 

 

“No strong evidence suggests that the cost of blood and treasure of leaving troops and contractors in Afghanistan after this year will make Americans safer or the region more stable,” concluded Martin who traveled to the country in 2010.

 

###

 

Founded in 1957, Peace Action (formerly SANE/Freeze), the United States’ largest peace and disarmament organization, with over 100,000 paid members and nearly 100 chapters in 36 states, works to abolish nuclear weapons, promote government spending priorities that support human needs, encourage real security through international cooperation and human rights and support nonmilitary solutions to the conflicts with Afghanistan and Iran. The public may learn more and take action at http://www.Peace-Action.org. For more up-to-date peace insider information, follow Peace Action’s political director on Twitter. http://twitter.com/PaulKawika


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