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.


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.


America – An Intervention

December 17, 2012

Hi America. Come on in. Have a seat. Get comfy. Well, we’ll just come right out and say it, since we really care about you. You have an addiction. To violence.

I know you’re hurting, but today IS the day to talk about this, and not just about gun control, but that’s where we need to start. Twenty kids massacred at school. Jesus. You can’t go on like this.

You have almost as many guns as you do people. How is that a good idea? Why does no other country think that’s a good idea? How is this making your people safer?

How come it’s easier to get guns than mental health care? Oh right, you don’t have universal health care like other grown-up countries. You could fix that, easily. Take that money you squander on your endless, pointless wars (really, enough of that already!) and give everybody health care, okay? No need for you to keep spending as much on the military as the rest of the world combined.

What was that you said? Second Amendment? You can read, right? What does a well-regulated militia have to do with anything? Really, stop being evasive. Folks can keep all their guns. Just stop making or buying bullets. It ain’t rocket science. Oh yeah, stop with the rocket science too. No more drones and missiles and “missile defense” and space weapons and all that kinda stuff.

Stop yammering about the NRA. Declare them to be what they are – a terrorist organization. Come on, sit up straight now, stiffen your spine. You can do this!

Let’s get to the bottom of something – what’s with all the fear? You have riches most other countries would only dream of – your natural resources, you bounty, and especially the ingenuity of your people. Yet you seem obsessed with fear at every level of society, from the personal to the neighborhood to the national and international levels. Why do people of different races or sexual orientation scare you so much? There’s no such thing as absolute security, for people or for countries. So ease up on all the fear-mongering already. Garrisoning neighborhoods or the country is no way to live.

Okay a lot more we could discuss that’s a lot at one sitting. Now say the following:

“Hi I’m America. I’m addicted to violence.”

Hi, America.


Romney’s China Zinger Offers an Opening for a Serious Debate on U.S. Asia Policy (not his intention I’m sure!)

October 4, 2012

So I have to admit that when I heard it last night during the presidential debate, I thought this was a clever zinger by Mitt Romney (or his speech writers more likely):

“What things will I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don’t pass it: Is the program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it.”

This needs a bit of unpacking (and my few points about this quote are far from comprehensive, I’m sure others have very different takes in it).

First, Romney’s “test” is somewhat appealing, purposely so I’m sure, to folks who are concerned about the U.S. debt, much of which is owned by China. However, one could have made the point in a generic way, leaving out the fact that China is our largest banker (“Is the program worth continuing to borrow money to pay for it?”). That would still be a good test, yes? In addition to judging government programs by that standard, people make that judgement in their personal lives all the time, determining whether to borrow money to buy a car or a house or to go to college is a smart move.

So was Romney’s mention of China just an off-hand remark? I don’t think so. “China” to many Americans can mean very different things, but many of them are, in my observation, unfortunately pejorative. So my guess is this was intentional, meant to raise unhelpful and maybe even racist stereotypes about China, and concerns about the U.S.-China economic relationship.

However, Romney gave us an opening, unwittingly I presume, for deeper analysis and conversation about the U.S.-China relationship, especially in the “security” realm (others could certainly go much deeper than I into the economic interdependency, not always healthy, between the world’s two largest economies).

Josh Rogin, blogging for Foreign Policy, captured this very nicely: “Is Romney saying it’s worth borrowing from China to build more ships to contain China?” This is so brilliant and succinct because this is exactly what the U.S. is doing now, and planning to increase in the future, under the military’s much-ballyhood but little understood “Asia-Pacific pivot.” (For example, and speaking directly to Rogin’s point, the U.S. Navy has announced it plans to station 60% of the overall fleet in the Pacific.)

While Romney won’t publicly say this (and neither will Obama), the U.S. war machine needs an enemy to continue to justify its raison d’etre and its stranglehold on the lion’s share of our federal tax dollars. “International terrorism” just doesn’t cut the mustard. China is the only plausible “enemy” that might fit the bill.

Except China, which certainly has many economic, environmental, energy, human rights and democracy challenges, has no real interest in an arms race or global competition for military hegemony with the U.S. China certainly has regional interests that are of serious concerns to its neighbors, but it is simply not an expansionist power to anything like the degree the U.S. is. A few factoids on this are instructive:

-The U.S. has somewhere between 800 and 1000 foreign military bases (there is no agreement on the number or even the definition of a “base,” which is why the number is so imprecise). China has one, a relatively new one at that, in Seychelles (which is telling, representing as it does a key Chinese concern, keeping open shipping lanes).

- At $711 billion per year, the U.S. spends about as much on the military as the rest of the world combined (and the full “national security” budget is over $1 trillion per year). China, with the number two military budget, spends about one-fifth of what the U.S. does, at $143 billion (figures from SIPRI, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute).

-The U.S. has a dozen aircraft carrier battle groups, able to project fearsome military might worldwide (to say nothing of our nuclear arsenal). China just recently inaugurated its first aircraft carrier, which experts say is at least several years away from minimal combat readiness, according to a recent Wall St. Journal article. At present it is fit only for training purposes, and China doesn’t have any jets that can land on it. So by U.S. standards, the number of Chinese aircraft carriers would be “none.”

-The U.S. military divides the entire planet into regional “commands,” with forces and power projection plans covering basically the whole planet. Neither China nor any other country has any such structure or capability.

So the wisdom and advisability of “pivoting” in order to economically, militarily and politically isolate your main banker is a head scratcher. Why would China want to underwrite that? Especially when its biggest economic interest will soon probably be to stimulate domestic consumer demand.

And why would this pivot, offering only a pointless, counter-productive military competition with China, be in the interests of the people of this country? It would certainly fail this test – should we spend our tax dollars on an idiotic, open-ended military buildup to “contain” China (when the best policy would be to rely on non-coercive diplomacy to balance the interests of all the peoples of the region), instead of on schools, sustainable energy and jobs, affordable housing, infrastructure and addressing climate change?


President Obama’s Speech – What did you think?

September 7, 2012

Here’s my quick take on the President’s acceptance speech at the Dem Convention last night, but I’d love to know what you thought of it as well. (The New York Times has the transcript and video of the president’s speech with sidebar analysis from Times reporters).

Overall, there was a pretty good “feel” in terms of connecting with Democratic Party and even broader American values (several strong nods to the importance of investing in education, for example, though there are lots of critics of Administration education policies). But often, as when describing environmental and energy policy (more on this later), it sounded like the president struggled to reconcile progressive, pro-people policies with the priorities of the party’s corporate overlords (as he spoke in the Time Warner Cable Arena, moved from Bank of America, oops we mean Panthers, Stadium!). To be sure, this is the reality of the struggle within the party all the time, and I think most neutral observers would posit the corporate interests are overwhelming the progressive elements of the party. Which is why Peace Action and other peace and social justice, environmental, human rights and other progressive forces need to maintain our integrity as independent, nonpartisan advocates for a better world.

Starting with the good on wars/Pentagon spending/re-investing in priorities here at home, the president said, “And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways.  After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.”

Pretty good, let’s hold him to it. And of course the logic of this would lead to efforts to end the war in Afghanistan ASAP, not at the end of 2014. Also very troubling (unmentioned by POTUS in his speech) are plans in the works to keep 10-15,000 U.S. troops there for at least another 10 years after that.

Also not bad was the fact there was relatively little fear-mongering about “threats” the country faces. Yes, China was mentioned twice as a bogeyman, but in economic, not military terms. Al Qaida, the Taliban, generic “terrorists” and Iran were mentioned, but almost as a pro forma “well we have to mention some threats out there” exercise.

Not so good or truthful – the president claimed credit for ending the Iraq war. True, he did oppose the war before it started in 2003 (when he was an Illinois State Senator) and consistently spoke out against it, but as president all he did was accept the agreement to withdraw our troops President Bush had made with the Iraqi government. Well, actually there is controversy even about that, as the president and others in his administration sent up at least trial balloons, and perhaps more serious overtures, about keeping troops there longer if the Iraqi government asked for it (perhaps knowing full well it couldn’t do that).

Lastly, I was struck by huge contradictions on energy and environmental policy, but allow me to turn to folks who know these issues much better than I do (thanks to the Institute for Public Accuracy for these quotes):

DAPHNE WYSHAM, via Lacy MacAuley, lacy@ips-dc.org, daphne@ips-dc.org, http://www.ips-dc.org

Wysham is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and is the founder and co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network. She said today: “While it is heartening to hear President Obama affirm that climate change is not a hoax, he — like his Republican opponent — seems to place a higher value on achieving ‘energy independence’ via expanded oil and gas drilling than on action on climate change. The Obama administration has promoted policies that will result in enormous greenhouse gas emissions being released from the expanded mining and burning of coal — regardless of whether it is burned via unproven ‘clean coal’ technology — and via the poisonous and dangerous practice of fracking for gas, as well as via expanded offshore oil drilling. He has also signaled that, after the election, it will be full steam ahead for a pipeline for the dirtiest of all fossil fuels — tar sands from Canada. This is what happens when moneyed fossil fuel interests, like the Koch brothers, maintain their grip on our nation’s politics.”

TYSON SLOCUM, bholzer@citizen.org, http://www.citizen.org

Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, Slocum said today: “It was important that President Obama made clear his belief that climate change remains a major threat — a contrast to Governor Romney’s use of climate change as a punchline to a joke in his speech. But more important will be what policy solutions President Obama proposes to tackle climate change — and how his ‘all of the above’ strategy may undermine that commitment. This election, fossil fuel corporations will spend millions to not only shape voters’ opinions of the candidates, but their attitudes on energy policy –- namely that producing and using more fossil fuels will liberate our economy. The fact is that the longer we remain with the fossil fuel status quo, the farther we fall behind on the sustainable era of renewable energy. There is no such thing as benign fossil fuel production and consumption, and the future of fossil fuels will only become more expensive.”

RICHARD STEINER, richard.g.steiner@gmail.com, http://ricksteineralaska.com

A retired professor at the University of Alaska, Steiner was deeply involved in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He said today: “Neither the Republican Party, nor the Obama administration seem to grasp the severity of the energy/climate crisis we are in. While the Republicans are further from an energy plan that addresses the situation, both are playing games with something that is truly a life and death situation.

“That Romney belittled sea level rise and the global ecological crisis in his convention speech one night, and the very next day toured southern Louisiana, flooded with sea water from Hurricane Isaac, was one of the most spectacular ironies in the history of American politics. I suppose we expect this sort of delusion from the Republicans.

“But the Obama administration has had several years to make serious inroads into our carbon-intensive economy, and their performance has been an utter disaster. With only a few small achievements to tout, such as the recent auto fuel efficiency standards a decade or so in the future, this administration has failed miserably to live up to what those of us who voted for them expected.

“In energy efficiency and alternative fuels, we are now at a place we should have been at 40 years ago. Here in Alaska, and across the Arctic, we are presently experiencing the lowest sea ice extent since records have been kept. Walrus and polar bears are struggling on thin ice, and in open water. At this rate, the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in summer within a few years.

“But instead of a crash emergency program to do everything possible to save the Arctic Ocean ecosystem from this unfolding disaster, the administration just approved Shell’s oil drilling in offshore waters. In addition to the chronic degradation from increased industrialization in the Arctic, and the very real risk of a catastrophic oil spill, every carbon atom produced from the Arctic Ocean seabed will simply wind up in the global atmosphere and oceans, further exacerbating the death spiral from climate warming. It’s a lose-lose proposition, and everyone who knows this issue knows that.

“In fact, the administration’s offshore drilling program for the coming five years is worse than that of the former Bush administration. It harkens back to the 1980s days of James Watt and Ronald Reagan.

“We cannot continue dancing around the edges of this beast, and if we care about our common future, we need immediate, emergency action on the part of the U.S. government, and world governments to reduce carbon emissions some 80 percent. Nothing short of this will do. The continuing denial of the severity of this crisis by both main political parties could be our collective undoing.”


Scenes from an Empire in Decline, from Afghanistan, Yemen and the U.S.

June 1, 2012

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Norwegian philosopher and peace studies pioneer Johan Galtung has a very useful analytic framework for peace and justice activists in our current times, “the Decline of the U.S. Empire and the flowering of the U.S. Republic.” While Professor Galtung writes very convincingly about the nature of U.S. empire and how it can be transformed into a republic truly worthy of our national mythology and wonderful people, it’s a fairly self-explanatory concept, namely that as the U.S. Empire inexorably declines, as all empires have, there should be space and resources freed up to help the U.S. Republic really blossom. (And Peace Action’s “Move the Money” campaign to slash military spending in order to invest in human needs and environmental restoration embodies this concept in a concrete way.)

I’ll return to this theme often in the future, but for now I won’t attempt a comprehensive description of the U.S. Empire, nor the signs of its decline (which won’t necessarily be quick, or pretty). Instead, here are a few snapshots.

Reuters has an article today by Peter Apps that lays out the complexities of the political and military situation in Yemen, and what appears to be an inevitable slide into further entanglement by the U.S. and its allies, which raises serious war powers concerns. Peace movement veteran Tom Hayden’s article in The Nation puts the conflict in Yemen, including U.S. drone strikes, into the context of “The Long War” that many military analysts say could be measured in decades.

Turning to Afghanistan, the country in which the U.S. is waging its longest war (eleven years and counting, and President Obama’s agreement with President Hamid Karzai might keep U.S. troops there for another dozen years), Ian Pounds, a volunteer teacher of orphans in Afghanistan, has one of the most comprehensive, damning condemnations of the failure of U.S. policy in that country I have ever read, published by CounterPunch. It’s long-ish, but worth a read. Here’s an excerpt from near the end of the piece:

“The U.S. government pays no attention to law anymore. It murders American citizens without trial (yes, the President signed into his powers the ability to have an American citizen assassinated if he or any future president deems that person a threat to security). America tortures, still. It invades privacy without a warrant. It invades countries illegally and under false pretenses. And America doggedly refuses to take responsibility for any of its multiple failures in this war, or any war.”

So where is the “Flowering of the U.S. Republic” in this blog post, you may well ask?

People in this country and around the world working for peace and justice  are contributing to the turn from Empire to Republic, but many U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are doing more than their share in this regard. Read Iraq War vet Zach LaPorte’s moving account of returning his war medals at the terrific NATO protest in Chicago two weeks ago, published on Michael Moore’s website, and view the terrific slideshow and video of the protest on the Iraq Veterans Against the War website.

We all have a role to play in determining how the Empire ends and what comes after, and I hope we build a country worthy of the example of these vets who have sacrificed so much, and who now testify so eloquently that war is not the answer.


U.S. Army on Domestic Missions

October 14, 2008

I feel strange putting out an alert like this in the United States, but here it is:

On October 1st, Bush deployed a brigade (3-4 thousand soldiers) for domestic missions of crowd control and keeping the peace.  This is the first time in America, since 1807, that the military has been on the ground domestically.  Bush then, almost immediately, threatened members of congress with marshal law if they did not pass the $700 billion bailout bill.  Rep. Brad Sherman talked about this last week.

For more info:

For more background:

This situation represents a great threat to all of our movements and, as activists and organizers, our personal safety.  Please view these links and spread the word to as many friends and groups as possible.  We are all very, very short on time and we are going to need everyone in order to push this attempted coup back.  We need to organize as many groups and individuals together to stand up against this and try to coordinate them on a national level.

In addition, my understanding is that Bush is legally arrestable at this point by any local District Attorney and that arrest and trial would be the most direct method of pushing this back, and our DAs can be directly contacted and pressured.  Please watch the above for more details.


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