Peace Action Statement on House Vote to Support Syrian Militias

September 17, 2014

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For Immediate Release:  September 17, 2014

 

Contacts:               Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action, 951-217-7285 cell, pmartin@peace-action.org

Kevin Martin, Peace Action, 301-537-8244 cell, kmartin@peace-action.org

 

Congress Shows Concern in Vote for Funding Syria Militias

 

Washington, DC — September 17, 2014 — In response to today’s House vote to arm and train Syria militias, Peace Action, the largest peace group in the U.S. released the following statement by its executive director, Kevin Martin:

 

The House of Representatives’ vote today to arm and train “moderate” elements of the Syrian opposition in the hopes they will fight ISIS seems a preposterous leap of faith and misappropriation of our tax dollars for a war Congress has not yet authorized, as the Constitution expressly stipulates it must. The U.S. military trained the 100,000+ Iraqi Army, and they failed miserably in their first encounters with ISIS fighters, so how will training 5,000 Syrian fighters do the job? As to providing weapons, it’s far easier to see how that goes disastrously than successfully, as U.S. weapons have already ended up in the hands of ISIS forces. Even the CIA, which has been running a covert program supporting the Free Syrian Army from a base in Jordan, is reportedly skeptical of this new plan.

 

This is also a poor way to run a democracy, with only one house of Congress voting on one aspect of President Obama’s strategy to defeat ISIS, as indications are the Senate will not vote on an amendment to arm Syrian rebels, but rather accept the House’s action and vote only on the Continuing Resolution to keep the government running into December, which includes the House vote. Neither the House nor Senate have voted to authorize the president to attack Syria or Iraq, and plan not to do so until December. Is this “cross our fingers and hope for the best while we campaign for re-election” strategy worthy of Congress’s Constitutional authority over issues of war and peace? The House would have done well to heed the concerns expressed by U.S.. Rep. Austin Scott, R-GA, who before the vote stated, “Every time the United States has gotten into a war, it has started with something like this.”

 

For our part, we are heartened that over two dozen organizations mobilized on short notice to oppose this dangerous plan, generating tens of thousands of calls to Congress in just two days. Peace Action members will continue to raise concerns about this new quagmire-to-be at the Peoples Climate March in New York City this Sunday, on the campaign trail by bird-dogging candidates to state clearly their positions on this new war, and when Congress gets around to voting on a war authorization in its December lame duck session.

 

Opposition to the vote by 156 Representatives (85 Democrats, 71 Republicans) shows congressional concern that weapons and training can come back to bite the U.S., that more arms in the Middle East will only fuel the fire and this can be the Camel’s nose under another war tent. We will continue to advocate diplomatic, political and humanitarian alternatives that will be more effective in combating ISIS, rather than continued military escalation.


Call Congress Today to Stop the Escalation of War in Iraq and Syria

September 16, 2014

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Today is a national call in day to question the U.S. government’s ISIS strategy organized by two dozen groups including MoveOn, Veterans for Peace and Friends Committee on National Legislation (which provided the toll free number).  With Members of Congress participating in Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) hearings over the next few days and a vote likely tomorrow on providing arms to Syrian fighters, now is the time to be heard.

Call Now!  Congressionals switchboards are open between 9am and 5pm, eastern time.  (855) 68 NO WAR (66 927 toll free)  First, ask for your Representative, when finished call both of your Senators.  Tell them:

“I am a constituent and I question whether there is a military solution to the ISIS problem. I also want my Congressperson to vote against arming Syrian fighters.”

Perhaps you don’t agree exactly with the above statement.  I’m sure you still have questions or think Congress should at least hold a debate or claim its constitutional war powers.  Please make three calls today and state your concerns.

The United States is rushing headlong into another open-ended war in the Middle East.  We know from the past disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan that war isn’t the answer.  Even President Obama has said that there is no military solution to ISIS.  Among other actions, organizing regional diplomacy, cutting off oil income from sales to ISIS, and getting the UN to restart talks to end the Syrian civil war are more likely to achieve success over bombing and spreading weapons that might end up in the wrong hands.  For more on nonmilitary solutions see our action alert from last week.

Pick up your phone!  (855) 68 NO WAR (66 927 toll free)  First, ask for your Representative, when finished call both of your Senators.  Use the above script.

As I mentioned, it seems Congress will vote tomorrow to send more weapons into Syria.  Already ISIS is using U.S. weapons against us,  and garnered from Syria and Iraq.  Sending more weapons into the Middle East is like pouring gasoline on a fire.  Congress should vote no.

Make Three Calls Now!  (855) 68 NO WAR (66 927 toll free)  First, ask for your Representative, when finished call both of your Senators.  Use the above script.

Your calls today are essential because, as we mentioned, this week the House and Senate are holding hearings with experts like Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and General Martin Dempsey.

And know that your calls are being amplified by supporters of over twenty organizations that are calling Congress as you read this.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Today is a national call in day organized by a few dozen groups to question the U.S. strategy on ISIS.  Call now!  (855) 68 NO WAR (66 927 toll free)  First, ask for your Representative, when finished call both of your Senators.  Tell them:

“I am a constituent and I question whether there is a military solution to the ISIS problem. I also want my Congressperson to vote against arming Syrian fighters.”

After calling, please forward this important email.


Constitution Schmonstitution! Let’s go ahead and have a (we won’t call it a war) on ISIS/ISIL

September 11, 2014

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Quick trivia question – on what subject was Barack Obama a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School?

Birthers might say “Islam” but it was in fact Constitutional Law. So he knows full well, and at times has shown he understands, that the U.S. Constitution clearly assigns the power to declare war to Congress, not the president. The best example of this was just over a year ago when he surprisingly but wisely concluded he needed to come to Congress for authorization to bomb Syria, then even more wisely never even went to Congress when he realized he had scant public and Congressional support (and his pal Vladimir Putin also helped save his hash by convincing Syria to divest itself of chemical weapons).

So now the president wants to continue to bomb the radical forces of ISIS (or ISIL as the Administration calls them) in Iraq (and likely, ironically, Syria again) and says he’d “welcome” Congressional support but he does not need it. (When I heard that line in his speech last night I reacted the same as U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, who said it was “almost condescending” though I’d omit the “almost.”)

Earlier this week it appeared very unlikely Congress, eager to duck accountability for okaying what is a surefire quagmire-to-be, impatient to campaign for re-election in November’s midterm elections or wrapped up in other dysfunctional and/or partisan squabbles (take your pick, and for some Members of Congress it is “all of the above”) would schedule a vote on any type of war authorization bill before adjourning later this month.

However, now there are rising calls for Congress to do its job and vote on authorizing a new war from the Progressive Caucus, some Libertarians and others in the House and a growing gaggle of Senators from across the political spectrum. Anyone who would hazard a guess as to how such a vote would turn out would be someone not worth listening to at this point (especially since a war authorization might be subject to all manner of currently unknowable limitations or conditions that would affect the support it would draw). We may well learn more next week about a possible Congressional vote.

There’s no question such a vote is required. The president is just plain wrong on this point, and not just about Congress, but also he is ignoring international law requiring United Nations Security Council approval. Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic Policy and Research and Just Foreign Policy laid it out clearly in an article for The Hill.

Take the UN requirement first:

“Just as the U.S. Constitution provides a check on the president’s authority to wage war, at the international level there is the law of the United Nations, which is supposed to govern the use of force in international relations.  Article 2 of the U.N. charter, to which the U.S. is a signatory, prohibits the use of military force against other nations unless authorized by the Security Council.  There are exceptions, for threats of imminent attack, but the U.S. is not under imminent threat of attack and no one has claimed that it is.”

Then the Congressional one:

“…the United States is still a constitutional democracy, or is intended to be one; and under our Constitution (and the War Powers Resolution) it is still the Congress that has to decide if the country is going to war.”

Ah the War Powers Resolution, dating to 1973, an attempt by Congress during the Vietnam War to curtail presidential war making run amok. The Obama Administration has been until now complying with the WPR’s requirement to notify Congress of ongoing military action, even though the WPR does not grant the president authority to bomb in Iraq.

Says who? Former eleven term U.S. Representative from Illinois Paul Findlay (the federal building in Illinois’s state capital, Springfield, is named for the man), one of the main authors of the War Powers Resolution. Testify Brother Findlay (from a news release by our colleagues at the Institute for Public Accuracy):

“Our elected leaders are acting like jelly fish. Members of Congress must decide whether to bomb Iraq or Syria, or both. The president has no authority to bomb either country. He violates the Constitution with every bomb he sends to Iraq. Ordering acts of war is too serious a decision to leave to one man. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

“We just marked the 50th Anniversary of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which I voted for and which President Johnson used to dramatically escalate the Vietnam War. I never intended that Resolution to be a blank check for war against Vietnam. Yet that is exactly what Johnson used it for.

“As a consequence, in 1973, I helped draft the The War Powers Resolution and my vote helped override President Nixon’s veto.

“Enforcement of limits on presidential employment of war powers deserves the vigilance of each member of Congress. Each member should consider enforcement a grave personal responsibility. War measures that today seem inconsequential can lead to larger involvements tomorrow. Their ultimate size and duration are unpredictable, as we found in our costly war experiences in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Just recently, Congress stood by as the President ordered bombings in Iraq. Then two U.S. citizens were killed. Rather than using their deaths as a rallying cry for more war, they should be a warning of the negative consequences of war. It’s no accident that the framers deemed the decision of war-making too important to be made by one person.

“If the president orders acts of war in the absence of congressional approval, he risks impeachment by the House of Representatives for usurping a power the Constitution reserves exclusively to the Congress. If Obama wishes lawfully to order airstrikes in the territory of Iraq or Syria, he must first secure a resolution of approval from Congress.”

Would love to see this man debate his fellow Illinoisan/commander in chief, yes?

Returning to the matter at hand, exactly what does the president cite for his purportedly existing “I don’t need no stinkin’ Congressional vote” legal authority to bomb Iraq and soon Syria?

Until yesterday the Administration had not said, exactly, but I had a hunch it was the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force Congress granted President George W. Bush just after 9/11, which only U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee voted against. Sure enough, last night an unnamed “senior Administration official” confirmed this in response to a reporter’s question on a conference call. After stating Congress could specifically authorize military action against ISIS/ISIL, said official stated the following:

“But, to be clear, we do not believe the President needs that new authorization in order to take sustained action against ISIL.  We believe that he can rely on the 2001 AUMF as statutory authority for the military airstrike operations he is directing against ISIL, for instance.  And we believe that he has the authority to continue these operations beyond 60 days, consistent with the War Powers Resolution, because the operations are authorized by a statute.  So we welcome congressional support.”

This is, to be polite, garbage, especially from an administration which has previously advocated repeal of that law (and said it would not rely on that nor on the 2003 AUMF for the Iraq war for its legal authority). Here is what the 2001 AUMF authorized a different president to do:

“…the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized,committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

How a reasonable person would conclude this applies to the current situation in Iraq and Syria is anyone’s guess, especially since ISIS/ISIL and al Qaeda have split and are at each others’ throats, though many peace activists and Constitutional scholars have long feared broad presidential war-making powers would be claimed under this AUMF. At best, it is a highly dubious proposition that this AUMF applies because ISIS/ISIL is an offshoot of al Qaeda, which carried out the 9/11 attacks.

The salient point is the Obama Administration should be forced to make that case, if that’s what it believes to be its war-making authority now, to the public and Congress. Oh yeah and not just the legal authority question, it also needs to convince the Congress and the country that we absolutely need to get involved in another Middle East war. That’s what democracy looks like.


Just Two Months Until Crucial Midterm Elections

September 3, 2014

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As you know midterm elections are only two months away.  Already Peace Action and our PAC has made a difference by endorsing candidates, contributing to primary elections, briefing candidates and collecting candidate questionnaires.

Please give a contribution to Peace Action PAC now.  Even $5 can make a difference.  By law, $5,000 is the maximum you can give.  You may consider a recurring gift so that our PAC is always prepared even for surprise special elections.

In the coming weeks, Peace Action will provide you the opportunity to give directly to our hand-picked peace candidates.  Meanwhile, we need to raise funds for our PAC that will give us the flexibility to give directly to peace candidates or to hire organizers to work on specific races.

Peace Action PAC has helped elect such peace leaders as:

  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) — A leader in bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and ending the Iraq War
    •    Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) — Another leader in stopping endless wars and cutting the Pentagon budget
    •    Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) — Co-chair of the Progressive Caucus
    •    Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) — A rare Republican ally on ending the wars and reducing Pentagon waste

In November, we expect a number of hot races in California, New Hampshire, Massachusettes, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and a few other states.  Your support can make a difference. 

It’s not just electing Members of Congress that will vote the right way.  That certainly helps.  But the key is electing leaders on peace issues who will lead a number of lawmakers to vote the right way.  Leaders who will do the hard, behind the scenes, work on issues you and I care about that will make a lasting difference.

Please take a moment now to make a gift so that we can make a difference in key elections. 

For a more peaceful Congress,

Paul Kawika Martin
Policy and PAC Director
Peace Action

P.S. – With the midterm elections nine weeks away, it’s time to make a commitment to peace candidates.


Action Alert – Tell the Senate, “War Isn’t Working!”

August 21, 2014

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The United States has been bombing Iraq off and on (mostly on) for about twenty-three, yes 23, years.

Has it worked? Is Iraq peaceful, stable, secure? Have we eliminated potential threats to the U.S. and our allies, or have we exacerbated them?

Has U.S. military engagement in the region, whether by bombing, invasion, occupation or providing weapons transfers and military aid, been effective?

I think “abject failure” is the only way to describe U.S. policy.

Can we afford to keep doing this, at an exorbitant cost, when it’s been so spectacularly unsuccessful, and we have such pressing needs in our communities that need our attention and our tax dollars?

President Obama has spoken wisely about the limits of U.S. military might to solve the problems in Iraq and the Middle East, and rules out a large troop presence on the ground, yet U.S. military actions in Iraq are escalating, and the mad momentum of war often defies presidential good intentions.

Last month the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H. Con. Res. 105 stating clearly there is no legal authority for U.S. military involvement in Iraq without express Congressional approval. The Senate needs to do the same.

Write your senators today and tell them enough is enough – stop bombing Iraq, stop flooding the region with weapons, emphasize humanitarian aid and diplomacy as the primary tools of U.S. foreign policy to bring peace and security to the region.

Please act now, before another catastrophic war escalates out of control.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. -The Constitution grants Congress, not the president, authority over decisions to engage in war. Write your senators today and tell them to end the bombing of Iraq. Enough is enough.


July 24 National Day of Action for an Immediate Ceasefire & Ending Assault on Gaza

July 22, 2014

By Judith Le Blanc, Field Director, Peace Action

On Thursday, July 24, Join Peace Action and other in a national day of Congressional action for an immediate ceasefire and for an end to the Israeli military attack on Gaza. History proves that even after decades of violence on all sides, ceasefire and negotiations are the only way out of a devastating humanitarian crisis.

Two ways to join the July 24 national day of action:

Call the Senate: (202) 224-3121  Urge an immediate ceasefire. The U.S. can and should join the international call, including the United Nations Security Council, for an immediate ceasefire. Instead last week, the Senate voted to send an additional $621 million to Israel, on top of the $3.1 billion already being sent to Israel every year which is largely military aid. Our government’s one-sided support to Israel is causing misery for the people of Gaza and Israel.

Join or organize an event at the offices of your Congressional representative on Thursday, July 24.  Actions have taken place around the country and that will continue, but doing something together at Congressional offices will focus on the need for action by our government now!  Add your Thursday local action to the list here: 

Search for an event in your area on this international website.  On this website you will also see the activities being organized around the world.

For those in the Washington, DC metro area, join the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Code Pink, and others for Capitol Hill visits. ADC will conduct a  briefing in the Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2456 at 9am before going to y Congressional offices.

Background:

• “This isn’t the first time a massive and lethal Israeli air campaign was launched against Gaza, and not the first time rockets were fired from Gaza.  But  when ceasefires have been in place, they protect lives – Israeli lives even more than Palestinian lives (because even during ceasefires Palestinians are killed with disturbing regularity). During 2013 and 2014 – during the ceasefire that ended Israel’s eight-day attack on Gaza in November 2012 – no Israelis were killed by rocket fire.  If Israel were seriously trying to protect its population, it would have called for an immediate ceasefire long before now.” For the full analysis for the need for Congressional action for an immediate ceasefireread Phyllis Bennis in The Hill

• July 17, 2014, Thursday,the Senate voted to send an additional $621 million to Israel. This is on top of the $3.1 billion we already give to Israel every year. According to a Congressional Research Service Report from April, 2014: “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $121 billion in bilateral assistance. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance.” Congress claims that this strong bilateral relationship is based on “a mutual commitment to democratic values,” yet Israel is clearly not committed to democratic values; Israel has been bombing civilians and children in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. From American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)

• Organizations also supporting the July 24 National Day of Action: Adalah-NY, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, CODEPINK, Friends of Sabeel–North America, Global Exchange, International Socialist Organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, Just Foreign Policy, Peace Action, Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (List in formation.)


July 15, 2014

Your opposition to the Iraq War forced the Bush administration to lie and dupe the American public to allow the invasion.  Our opposition ended that war earlier than the Bush administration wanted though at the cost of many American and Iraqi lives as well as trillions of tax payer dollars.  Don’t let the Obama Administration make the same mistake.

Tell your Member of Congress:  No New Iraq War!

The current situation in Iraq has grabbed the nation’s attention, and President Obama has already deployed around 750 American troops to Iraq in response to the crisis. While some of these troops were understandably sent to protect our embassy, hundreds were sent as ‘advisers’ to the Iraqi security forces. The American public has been clear: the Iraq War was a mistake and we don’t want to send our troops back into the middle of a civil war. As more and more Americans are sent into harm’s way in Iraq, Congress needs to hear from you.

Help stop the march to war: email your Representative today!

Thankfully, Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) have introduced legislation to force a debate and vote on this buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq. Last week, these champions for peace introduced H Con Res 105, which would invoke the War Powers Resolution, and, if passed, would bring home the American advisers and prevent any further military intervention in Iraq. While the resolution would allow for the U.S. to continue protecting its embassy and diplomatic personnel, it would be a crucial step in preventing America from sliding back to a war in Iraq.

Please take two minutes to ask your Representative to cosponsor the bipartisan resolution!

Washington is once again full of hawks calling for war. Dick Cheney penned an op-ed defending the Iraq War and calling for new airstrikes and boots on the ground. You would think that after costing nearly 4,500 Americans their lives, wasting trillions of taxpayer dollars, and having been exposed for selling the Iraq War on lies, no one would bother listening to Cheney anymore. But sadly, many Members of Congress are ready to do just that. That is why your voice is so important. We weren’t quite able to stop Cheney in 2003, but, if we speak up now, we can stop him before we repeat the same mistakes again!

Make your voice heard: Urge your Representative to cosponsor the Iraq War Powers Resolution!

The situation in Iraq is difficult as the nation continues to be roiled in a complex sectarian crisis. But the solution is not American bombs or troops. Help make clear that America will not go back to war in Iraq by asking your Representative to cosponsor this important resolution.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. – We helped end the Iraq War and we don’t want the U.S. embroiled in another war there again.  Write your Member of Congress now! 


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