Thanks to you, Congress spoke for diplomacy

February 19, 2014

Last week, because of your continued pressure, 105 Representatives signed a letter to President Obama to support his administration’s efforts to work with the world community and seek a diplomatic solution with Iran over their nuclear program.

While some in Congress seem to want to derail diplomacy by enacting more sanctions even though the U.S. agreed not to as a part of the historic temporary agreement with Iran. This agreement significantly walks back Iran’s nuclear program while providing them with sanction relief while allowing time for the international negotiators to come to long-term agreement with Iran.

And while we have been able to keep the congressional hawks at bay, we need to continue to press for diplomacy. Please take a moment and look at the list of Representatives that signed the “Give Diplomacy a Chance” letter below and thank those that signed and admonish those who didn’t.

You can find and reach your Representative at 202-224-3121 or calling one of their local offices.

For the last eight years we have worked tirelessly for a diplomatic solution with Iran. It is now within reach and we continue to need your help.

Here’s the letter:

Dear Mr. President,

As Members of Congress—and as Americans—we are united in our unequivocal commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East would threaten the security of the United States and our allies in the region, particularly Israel.

The ongoing implementation of the Joint Plan of Action agreed to by Iran and the “P5+1” nations last November increases the possibility of a comprehensive and verifiable international agreement. We understand that there is no assurance of success and that, if talks break down or Iran reneges on pledges it made in the interim agreement, Congress may be compelled to act as it has in the past by enacting additional sanctions legislation. At present, however, we believe that Congress must give diplomacy a chance. A bill or resolution that risks fracturing our international coalition or, worse yet, undermining our credibility in future negotiations and jeopardizing hard-won progress toward a verifiable final agreement, must be avoided.

We remain wary of the Iranian regime. But we believe that robust diplomacy remains our best possible strategic option, and we commend you and your designees for the developments in Geneva. Should negotiations fail or falter, nothing precludes a change in strategy. But we must not imperil the possibility of a diplomatic success before we even have a chance to pursue it.

Sincerely,

Arizona
Grijalva
Pastor

California
Bass
Capps
Eshoo
Farr
Garamendi
Huffman
Lee, Barbara
Lofgren
McNerney, Jerry
Miller, George
Negrete McLeod
Roybal-Allard
Speier
Takano
Thompson, Mike
Waters

Colorado
DeGette
Polis

Connecticut
Courtney
DeLauro
Larson

District of Columbia
Norton

Florida
Brown

Georgia
Bishop, Sanford
Johnson, Hank
Lewis

Guam
Bordallo

Illinois
Davis, Danny
Enyart
Foster
Gutierrez
Kelly, Robin
Rush
Schakowsky

Indiana
Carson
Visclosky

Iowa
Loebsack

Kentucky
Massie
Yarmuth

Maine
Pingree

Maryland
Cummings
Edwards
Ruppersberger
Van Hollen

Massachusetts
Capuano
Keating
Lynch, Stephen
McGovern
Tierney
Tsongas

Michigan
Conyers
Dingell
Kildee

Minnesota
Ellison
McCollum
Nolan
Walz

Mississippi
Thompson, Bennie

Missouri
Clay
Cleaver

New Hampshire
Kuster
Shea-Porter

New Jersey
Holt
Payne
Velazquez

New York
Clarke, Yvette
Hanna
McCarthy
Meeks
Rangel
Slaughter
Tonko

North Carolina
Butterfield, GK
Jones, Walter
Price, David

Ohio
Beatty
Fudge, Marcia
Kaptur
Ryan, Tim

Northern Mariana Islands
Sablan

Oregon
Blumenauer
DeFazio

Pennsylvania
Cartwright

Puerto Rico
Pierluisi

South Carolina
Clyburn

Tennessee
Cohen
Cooper
Duncan Jr

Texas
Doggett
Jackson-Lee
Johnson, EB
O’Rourke

Utah
Matheson

Vermont
Welch

Virginia
Christensen
Connolly
Moran, Jim
Scott, Bobby

Washington
McDermott

West Virginia
Rahall

Wisconsin
Moore
Pocan


Move America off a permanent war footing? Sounds great! Start with nukes!

January 29, 2014

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama declared, “America must move off a permanent war footing.” Peace Action couldn’t agree more, but that permanent war footing is a many- headed hydra that won’t be transformed into a dove quickly or easily. So let’s get started right now!

The president is to be commended for working to address concerns over Iran’s nuclear program through multi-lateral negotiations. Your actions the last few weeks have been very effective in forestalling congressional attempts to impose new economic sanctions on Iran, which could torpedo diplomacy and make the unthinkable, another Middle East war, more likely. So thank you!

However, the president and his administration have been mostly AWOL in the growing international movement, in multi-lateral forums, for greater progress toward a nuclear weapons-free world. (Remember, the U.S. and eight other countries currently have nuclear weapons. Iran does not.)

The U.S. skipped an important conference in Norway last year on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and has not committed to attending a follow-up conference in Mexico in just a few weeks. Please email the president and let him know you want not just U.S. participation, but leadership, in this international effort for global nuclear disarmament.

Whether or not the U.S. sends an official delegation, Peace Action will be there! The Executive Director of Peace Action of New York State, Alicia Godsberg, will be attending both the governmental conference as an observer, and the international non-governmental organization (NGO) sessions convened by our colleagues at ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Last night the president also said, “If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.” While he spoke of Iran, that notion should apply to any number of foreign policy challenges, and certainly to nuclear arms reduction agreements (which is what Kennedy and Reagan negotiated). So tell the president we need U.S. representation at the Mexico conference.

Peacefully and Diplomatically Yours,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. This alert, and many in the weeks to come, are a part of our advocacy of “A Foreign Policy for All,” offering a new, more peaceful, positive and pro-active direction for U.S. foreign and military policy. Stay tuned for more on this in the weeks ahead.


Peace Action/Peace Action Education Fund 2013 Accomplishments

January 23, 2014

Peace Action/Peace Action Education Fund 2013 Program, Policy,

Political and Organizing Accomplishments

-Stopped a U.S. attack on Syria! Peace Action played a key leadership role in convening an ad hoc coalition to activate groups on Syria starting in June, which was then quickly mobilized in late August/early September, along with our grassroots affiliate/chapter network, to successfully demand alternatives to a U.S. attack on Syria. (national office, affiliate network)

-Helped realize a modest cut in Pentagon budget (everybody!)

-Provided leadership in grassroots efforts at defense transition/economic conversion in Connecticut, Wisconsin, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Hampshire (national office, affiliates and chapters, national and grassroots allies)

-Coordinated/help lead two national days of action on cutting the Pentagon budget – Pull the Pork and Global Day of Action on Military Spending/Tax Day (national office and affiliate network, national, international and local allies)

-Effective advocacy of Diplomacy, Not War with Iran (so far!) (Affiliate network, national office, allies)

-Helped keep up the pressure to end the war in Afghanistan and for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces and bases (everybody)

-Led coalition around pressing the U.S. to participate in multi-lateral nuclear disarmament forums – 24 organizations signed letter to White House, 25,000 signed petition, pulled together a new ad hoc coalition to continue to press for progress in multi-lateral arena (national office, PANYS, allies)

-Peace Voter/PAC – helped elect longtime ally Ed Markey to U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts (Mass PA, national office)

-Launched a new “A Foreign Policy for All” campaign outlining a positive, proactive, more peaceful and sustainable U.S. foreign and military policy (national office)

-Had letters to the editor, news articles and op-eds published in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Common Dreams, Foreign Policy in Focus, CounterPunch, Huffington Post plus many in local media (national and affiliates and chapters – CA, OR, IL, MD, NJ, NC, MA, NY, WI, NY, OH, MO, KS, NE, PA and more!), as well as international outlets and radio and television interviews. Most of these are posted on our website or Peace Blog.


The Endless Arms Race

January 21, 2014

This article was published yesterday by History News Network. The author, Larry Wittner, is a national Peace Action board member and distinguished author, emeritus professor and activist.

 

by Lawrence S. Wittner

 

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

 

Image via Wiki Commons.

It’s heartening to see that an agreement has been reached to ensure that Iran honors its commitment, made when it signed the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to forgo developing nuclear weapons.

But what about the other key part of the NPT, Article VI, which commits nuclear-armed nations to “cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament,” as well as to “a treaty on general and complete disarmament”? Here we find that, 44 years after the NPT went into force, the United States and other nuclear powers continue to pursue their nuclear weapons buildups, with no end in sight.

On January 8, 2014, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced what Reuters termed “ambitious plans to upgrade [U.S.] nuclear weapons systems by modernizing weapons and building new submarines, missiles and bombers to deliver them.” The Pentagon intends to build a dozen new ballistic missile submarines, a new fleet of long-range nuclear bombers, and new intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in late December that implementing the plans would cost $355 billion over the next decade, while an analysis by the independent Center for Nonproliferation Studies reported that this upgrade of U.S. nuclear forces would cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years. If the higher estimate proves correct, the submarines alone would cost over $29 billion each.

Of course, the United States already has a massive nuclear weapons capability — approximately 7,700 nuclear weapons, with more than enough explosive power to destroy the world. Together with Russia, it possesses about 95 percent of the more than 17,000 nuclear weapons that comprise the global nuclear arsenal.

Nor is the United States the only nation with grand nuclear ambitions. Although China currently has only about 250 nuclear weapons, including 75 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), it recently flight-tested a hypersonic nuclear missile delivery vehicle capable of penetrating any existing defense system. The weapon, dubbed the Wu-14 by U.S. officials, was detected flying at ten times the speed of sound during a test flight over China during early January 2014. According to Chinese scientists, their government had put an “enormous investment” into the project, with more than a hundred teams from leading research institutes and universities working on it. Professor Wang Yuhui, a researcher on hypersonic flight control at Nanjing University, stated that “many more tests will be carried out” to solve the remaining technical problems. “It’s just the beginning.” Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based naval expert, commented approvingly that “missiles will play a dominant role in warfare, and China has a very clear idea of what is important.”

Other nations are engaged in this arms race, as well. Russia, the other dominant nuclear power, seems determined to keep pace with the United States through modernization of its nuclear forces. The development of new, updated Russian ICBMs is proceeding rapidly, while new nuclear submarines are already being produced. Also, the Russian government has started work on a new strategic bomber, known as the PAK DA, which reportedly will become operational in 2025. Both Russia and India are known to be working on their own versions of a hypersonic nuclear missile carrier. But, thus far, these two nuclear nations lag behind the United States and China in its development. Israel is also proceeding with modernization of its nuclear weapons, and apparently played the key role in scuttling the proposed U.N. conference on a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East in 2012.

This nuclear weapons buildup certainly contradicts the official rhetoric. On April 5, 2009, in his first major foreign policy address, President Barack Obama proclaimed “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” That fall, the UN Security Council — including Russia, China, Britain, France, and the United States, all of them nuclear powers — unanimously passed Resolution 1887, which reiterated the point that the NPT required the “disarmament of countries currently possessing nuclear weapons.” But rhetoric, it seems, is one thing and action quite another.

Thus, although the Iranian government’s willingness to forgo the development of nuclear weapons is cause for encouragement, the failure of the nuclear nations to fulfill their own NPT obligations is appalling. Given these nations’ enhanced preparations for nuclear war — a war that would be nothing short of catastrophic — their evasion of responsibility should be condemned by everyone seeking a safer, saner world.

- See more at: http://hnn.us/article/154488#sthash.dJhQuAEk.dpuf


Urgent Action: Tell the House, “No New Iran Sanctions, Support Diplomacy”

January 15, 2014
Last week, we asked you to contact the Senate to oppose new economic sanctions on Iran, which could scuttle the promising nuclear deal and lead to the unthinkable, another Middle East war. The good news is the bill, S. 1881 sponsored by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), is not moving forward to a vote in the Senate, even though it has 59 co-sponsors. Your calls have made a difference; White House and Senate staffers have expressed appreciation for our grassroots pressure (so don’t let anyone tell you your voice doesn’t count anymore in Washington!).

Unfortunately (but as we suspected), the Republican House leadership is considering a vote to pass the Senate sanctions bill’s language. We need to head this off with a nonviolent “pre-emptive strike” on the House!

Please call your U.S. Representative now at 855-68-NO-WAR (855-686-6927)* and tell her or him no new Iran sanctions, don’t undermine diplomacy.

You can reference the Menendez (D-NJ) – Kirk (R-IL) Senate bill, that you don’t want that language passed in the House, but it’s not necessary. You can just tell your Representative you want no new sanctions on Iran. The U.S. and its allies agreed not to sanction Iran further while negotiations over its nuclear program are ongoing, so Congress should stay out of this and support diplomacy. It’s that simple.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. I’m sure you are busy, but one phone call to your Representative, toll-free, at 855-68-NO-WAR (855-686-6927)* telling her or him to give diplomacy a chance and oppose any new sanctions on Iran, will make a huge difference, as it already has!

*Toll-free number generously supplied by the Friends Committee on National Legislation


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.


If Israel Won’t Come to Helsinki, Helsinki Will Come to Israel

December 17, 2013

–by Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director, New Jersey Peace Action

On December 5th, 6th and 7th, over 100 delegates from at least 14 countries gathered first in Haifa and then in the Israeli-occupied West Bank town of Ramallah, for an historic international conference on creating a nuclear weapons free, weapons of mass destruction free Middle East. According to the organizers, this was the first such conference ever to be held in Israel.

The conference was held in Israel because an official United Nations (U.N.) sponsored conference on the topic, agreed upon by all delegates at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference of 2010 in New York City and scheduled to be held in Helsinki, Finland in December 2012 never happened. The U.S. and Israel scuttled the conference at the last minute claiming that the timing for this conference was off due to there being “too much tension in the Middle East.”

Undaunted, an alternative conference was organized in Helsinki in December 2012 by representatives of some international NGOs. Issam Makhoul, a former MP in the Israeli Knesset and one of the primary organizers of the Haifa Conference said at that conference of NGOs, If Israel wont come to Helsinki, Helsinki will come to Israel.

The International Conference in Haifa and Ramallah was the result of that pledge.

Delegates to the conference came from Israel, Palestine, Belgium, France, Senegal, the Congo, Germany, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Japan and the United States. There were also 4 current members of the Israeli Knesset and 4 former members of the Israeli Knesset in attendance, joined by elected officials from progressive political parties in Europe. Sharon Dolev, Director of the Israeli Anti-Nuclear Movement, was featured on a couple of panels, including one titled Civil Society and the Anti-Nuclear Movement, moderated by Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation,

Mr. Tadadoshi Akiba, former mayor of Hiroshima and a founding member of Mayors for Peace, now with approximately 6000 members, provided much of the context for why it is so important for the world to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons during the lifetimes of the Hibakusha, Japanese survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The average age of Hibakusha today is 78, so if the world is to help them to achieve their dream of a nuclear weapons free world in their lifetimes, the time is short! The current mayor of Haifa, Mr. Yona Yahav, pledged that he would join Mayors for Peace.

Madelyn Hoffman, New Jersey Peace Action’s (NJPA’s) Executive Director, attended on behalf of both NJPA and Peace Action, the nation’s largest grass roots disarmament organization, founded in 1957. She brought with her Peace Action’s 56 year commitment to reducing and ultimately eliminating all nuclear weapons and a desire to move toward a genuine and lasting peace in the Middle East by supporting the Israeli movement for disarmament. That movement is urging that Israel first abandon its decades-long policy of “nuclear ambiguity” and acknowledge its nuclear arsenal, then join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, both important first steps toward nuclear disarmament.

The conference took place just days after a negotiated agreement was reached with Iran at a conference in Geneva. That agreement exchanged yet another assurance from Iran that it would not develop nuclear weapons and never had any intentions of doing so for a modest easing of sanctions against the country. While there are serious concerns about the way in which the agreement was reached and the inability of more conservative members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to give up their desire for war and increased sanctions on Iran, the fact remains that, if upheld, Iran and the West reached an agreement around nuclear weapons development through diplomacy and thankfully, war was averted, at least temporarily.

The conference also took place a few months after a U.S. military strike against Syria was averted through tremendous public opposition in the U.S. and another successful diplomatic agreement, this one brokered by Russia and requiring Syria to destroy its chemical weapons. Again, whether or not one agrees with negotiating such agreements first by threatening war, the fact remains that war was avoided by high level diplomacy.

Given both of these important agreements, conference participants believe that any remaining ability for Israel to rightly claim an existential threat seems to have been eliminated. Participants in the conference also stressed that a turning point seems to have been reached – one in which an important choice needs to be made about what’s next for the Middle East. Now the dilemma exists: should all states in the Middle East have nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction or should no state? Conference participants opted for the latter. Anything else, they argued, would simply allow the sole nuclear power in the region to use the threat of nuclear war to increase its dominance in the region, rather than to work toward achievement of genuine peace with its neighbors.

Israeli participants in the conference used the conference to launch plans for the creation of an Israel-based coalition to address issues of nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Some of their demands in regard to the state of Israel are for determined and persistent activity to achieve a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and all WMD; constructive, good faith participation in the Helsinki Conference whenever it is rescheduled; accession to and ratification of all treaties and instruments related to nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction; cessation and prohibition of acquisition, production, stockpiling, threatening or using nuclear weapons; and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as part of a just and peaceful solution to the conflict.

Of course, the Middle East isn’t the only region in the world that needs to disarm, but a nuclear weapons free/weapons of mass destruction free Middle East would be a good start and a good model, for countries like India/Pakistan, Russia, Great Britain, China, France and the United States. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty requires that nuclear disarmament be the ultimate goal of the nuclear states and that no nuclear weapons possessing nation adopt or follow policies that will lead to a new nuclear arms race.

The conference program in Ramallah focused at length on Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, located in the Negev, about 13 kilometers south of Dimona. At age 50, the nuclear reactor has not been inspected by the international community for a very long time. After hearing lengthy and detailed presentations of anecdotal evidence from Palestinian doctors about the potential health impacts of the operations of the Dimona reactor on nearby residents and the surrounding environment, conference attendees asked that Israel subject all nuclear facilities to International Energy Agency safeguards, monitoring and verification, similar to what Iran must do; move toward closure, decommissioning, containment and remediation of the Dimona nuclear facility; and achieve full public disclosure of radioactive and toxic contamination by the Dimona facilities of the air, soil and ground water.

If participants in the three-day conference pledge to do whatever they can to adopt and promote the preliminary goals reflected above, much progress will have been achieved. For some of us from the United States, it was important to be introduced to the grass roots movement for nuclear disarmament in Israel. It is also useful to remember that there will be a PrepCom in May 2014 for the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Our disarmament friends from Israel and from around the world will be in New York at that time. It will be good to make the most of that opportunity to let people here in the U.S. know just how widespread is the movement for nuclear disarmament and how peaceful negotiations can lead us closer to that goal.

Photos below by Madelyn Hoffman – Top photo, the first panel at the conference, from left to right: Former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Avraham Burg; Dr. Emily Landau, Senior Research Associate,Institute for National Security Studies; Professor Tadatoshi Akiba, former Mayor of Hiroshima and President of “Mayors for Peace”; Issam Makhoul, Former M.K. (member of the Knesset) and Chairman of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies. Bottom photo, Sharon Dolev, the director of the Israel Disarmament Organization and Madelyn Hoffman.

firstpanelhaifa sharonandmh


Excellent Op-Ed on Iran Sanctions and Congress

December 11, 2013
Viewpoints: Rep. Bera should show support for first step on Iran nuclear deal
By Harry Wang and Rebecca Griffin
Special to The Bee
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 – 12:00 am

We all know that Congress has a lower approval rating than cockroaches and the much-maligned rock band Nickelback. Now we can add another thing to the more-popular-than-Congress list: the recently negotiated deal to constrain Iran’s nuclear program. This historic diplomatic achievement has widespread support from the American public. The question now is whether Congress will ruin a popular plan that Americans understand is the right one.

Sacramento-area Rep. Ami Bera can have a powerful voice on this issue as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He should use it to support the negotiations and ensure his colleagues don’t scuttle a long-term diplomatic deal.

If you want to avert war and stop the spread of nuclear weapons, it’s hard not to like this first-step deal negotiated between the United States and its partners and Iran. In exchange for modest sanctions relief, Iran reins in its nuclear activity, making it much more difficult to get anywhere near a nuclear weapon. Its facilities will be open to daily inspections, the most intensive inspections program ever. This deal offers an opportunity to build confidence on both sides as they work toward a more permanent arrangement that will make the world safer.

Smart people around the world are lining up behind this reasonable, realistic approach to addressing nuclear proliferation concerns. The deal was negotiated with major allies such as Britain and France who have been part of the administration’s ongoing pressure campaign on Iran. Experts from Brent Scowcroft to Madeleine Albright to a group of former U.S. ambassadors to Israel have lined up in support.

Still, there are people who resemble those stalwart Nickelback fans, raising their lighters to the old song about bombing Iran. Some can be dismissed as delusional, like Ben Shapiro at Breitbart.com, who described a deal that largely skews toward U.S. interests as “worse than Munich.” But there are people with actual power in Congress who are tenaciously working to undermine this deal.

Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., are trying to push through another round of sanctions despite opposition from the Obama administration. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., described the deal as dangerous and may bring a bill to the floor this week to put unwieldy restrictions on the agreement and undermine the diplomatic process. We’re still waiting for any of these opponents to offer a viable alternative.

It might be tolerable to let these members of Congress spout their hawkish rhetoric if the situation weren’t so delicate. The United States and Iran are working through decades of tension. The countries have talked more in the past three months than in the last three decades. Congressional belligerence will empower hard-liners in Iran who want to scuttle negotiations and could shatter the fragile trust that is being built.

If that trust is shattered, sanctions alone won’t stop Iran’s enrichment program and pressure will increase for U.S. military action. Every member of Congress who acts to undermine the current diplomatic process is tacitly supporting either allowing Iran to continue to enrich uranium unobserved or launching a costly military attack that experts believe would at best only delay Iran’s nuclear program.

As White House spokesman Jay Carney pointed out, “The American people justifiably and understandably prefer a peaceful solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and this agreement, if it’s achieved, has the potential to do that. The alternative is military action.”

After the diplomatic Hail Mary to secure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and this historic agreement with Iran, the American people are finally getting a chance to see diplomacy work. It turns out they like it, as polls show the public supporting the deal by a 2-to-1 ratio and wanting Congress to hold off on new sanctions. The lack of appetite for another war after more than a decade of fighting is abundantly clear.

If this deal is going to turn into a stable long-term solution, there are tough months of negotiating ahead. Congressional leaders must step up and do everything they can to make that process a success. California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have expressed their support for a deal. Feinstein said she is baffled that Congress would think of ratcheting up sanctions at this time.

In an embarrassingly misinformed hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Bera exceeded the low bar set by his colleagues by acknowledging that we have to at least try negotiating with Iran. But the political moment calls for more forceful leadership in favor of smart diplomacy.


Dr. Harry Wang is the president of Physicians for Social Responsibility/Sacramento. Rebecca Griffin is the political director of Peace Action West.

 


Tell Us About Your Calls to Congress in Favor of Diplomacy, Not More Sanctions, on Iran

December 9, 2013

Some in Congress, starting with House Majority “Leader” Eric Cantor (R-VA), who seemingly can’t take peace for an answer, are pushing new economic sanctions against Iran. A vote in the House of Representatives could come as soon as tomorrow. There is also possible movement in the Senate for new sanctions, though the timing is unclear.

New sanctions could well kill the first step deal the Obama Administration and allies negotiated with Iran to freeze its nuclear program in return for modest relief of crippling sanctions. Should that deal fall apart, the historic opportunity for a peaceful resolution to concerns over Iran’s nuclear development could be gone, making the unthinkable (a military attack on Iran) all too possible.

Please call your House member and tell her or him to vote “no” on Rep. Cantor’s diplomacy killing legislation. You can use the toll free number from our colleagues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (1-855-68 NO WAR / 1-855-686-6927) which will connect you with the Capitol Switchboard.

Please tell your representative “Congress needs to support diplomacy, not new sanctions on Iran. Vote against Rep. Cantor’s bill.”

Thank you for making this important call, and please take a minute to report on your call in the comments section below.


Letter from the Haifa Conference

December 9, 2013


Posted on December 7, 2013 by  in CommentaryMAPA NewsOur People // 0 Comments

jjk130hI arrived in Ben-Gurion Airport via Rome on Wednesday night and had the most routine entry to Israel ever.  Not a single question, even after I asked not to have my passport stamped and told the agent I was there to attend a conference until Sunday.  The Haifa International Conference for a Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction (http://wmdfz.org/) began on Thursday morning at the Dan Panorama Hotel overlooking Haifa Harbor from the top of Mount Carmel.  I’m estimating around 150 registered delegates, with perhaps 100 or so in the room at any one time. Although the Conference was officially non-partisan it was clearly under the auspices of the Israeli far left, principally the electoral Front for Peace and Democracy (Hadash in Hebrew, Jabha in Arabic, “The Front”), which includes the Israeli Communist Party.In my experience, the Israeli Left is the only social space in Israel where Arabs and Jews mingle in cordial equality.  Here the Palestinians tended to speak Arabic among themselves, but they addressed the Conference in Hebrew.The crowd was a little on the “gray” side, but not so much as similar gatherings tend to be in the US.  And although the Israeli Left is regarded as a small radical fringe by most of the Jewish population, Hadash/Jabha has 4 Knesset members (out of 120) and a strong base principally in the Arab Palestinian communities; Meretz, also represented at the Conference (think DSA), has 5 Knesset members.  The mayor of Haifa welcomed the Conference.I’m staying at the apartment of two elderly Communists in their 80’s.  Colman Altman, who met me at the train station, was born in South Africa to Lithuanian parents and emigrated to Israel in he 1950’s. He’s a retired academic physicist.  His wife Janina, is a chemist from Lvov, now in Ukraine, but known as the Eastern Polish city of Lviv before the Second World War. (Earlier it was Lemberg in Austrian Galicia, the home of the novelist Joseph Roth.) Janina lost her entire family to the Nazis and came to Israel in 1950—where, ironically, she traded her parents’ Zionist ideal for revolutionary politics.  She said the inequality she experienced in Israel and especially the treatment of Arabs was her inspiration.There were delegates from a number of Foreign countries – perhaps a half-dozen  or more from the US, including three from the US Peace Council, two (including myself along with Madeline Hoffman from New Jersey) and a woman representing WILPF; others were from France, Francophone Africa (Senegal?) Germany, Belgium and perhaps other countries I may have missed.The morning program opened with a very moving address by Prof. Tadatoshi Akiba, the mayor of Hiroshima until 2011.  He was introduced by Naomi Chazan, an Israeli academic with a  long record of fighting for human rights. (When I spoke with Akiba later, he called Boston his “second home”, having studied for years at MIT.)Akiba pointed out that if “Official” Israel refused to participate in the movement toward the abolition of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, then is was up to political/progressive people to press the issue.  He said he spoke on behalf of the many thousands of “Hibakusha” or nuclear bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who are demanding the complete abolition of nuclear weapons “in their lifetime. (Their average age is in the 70’s.)  Their slogan resonates tellingly here in Israel:  “Never Again should any people suffer as we did.”Akiba spoke about some hopeful signs in the struggle to eliminate nuclear weapons:In October 2013 there was a conference of 56 countries like Sweden, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, “Able But Unwilling” to develop nuclear weapons.  That is, they possessed the technical ability and nuclear programs necessary to produce nuclear weapons but chose not to do so. They cited the influence of anti-war domestic politics as the key element opposing weapons development.In November of this year the signatory nations of The Red Cross/Red Crescent met in Sydney, Australia to reaffirm the same goal of moving the nuclear abolition goal of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.Finally, the international “Mayors for Peace” now has almost 6000 members and provides hope that urban and civil society will be able to push their governments. Akiba pointed out that cities, unlike nations, do not have armies.The goal of the 60,000 surviving Hibakusha is the elimination of nuclear weapons by 2020 – “While we are alive”.  Akiba said a goal is “A dream with a deadline” and that for the Hibakusha it meant success “within our lifetime.”Former Knesset speaker Avrum Burg spoke next about the politics of a Middle East WMDFZ.  I’ll report on that in a subsequent p


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