Senate Committee approves limited authorization for war on ISIS

December 16, 2014

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Last Thursday, The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10 to 8 in favor of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS/ISIL in Syria and Iraq, but with some limitations, read more in this article in Stars and Stripes. The importance of this vote remains to be seen, as neither the full Senate or House plans to take up the AUMF issue before the end of the year, so this committee vote will “expire,” and the new Congress may not take up the AUMF until March or April.

The vote was, somewhat predictably, along party lines, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed. While the vote is largely symbolic, key issues surfaced not just in the vote itself but in the debate leading up to it, including possible prohibition or limitations on the use of U.S. combat forces (the bill would allow the use of ground forces for some special missions), the duration of congressional authorization (three years in the bill that passed in committee, meaning it would last into the next presidency), geographic limitations (Sen. Rand Paul’s attempt to limit military operations to Iraq and Syria failed in committee) and sunsetting the previous AUMFS for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

This committee vote fell far short of Congress doing its Constitutional duty regarding authorizing war, especially for a conflict the U.S. entered last summer. Peace Action will of course keep you apprised of the situation and how you can make an impact, including national lobby days, demonstrations and call-in and email actions early in 2015. On a somewhat related issue, we will also keep you informed on how to continue to support diplomacy rather than war or increased sanctions against Iran. While there may some tough moments ahead, resolving the issue of Iran’s nuclear program in the next several months could lead to broader benefits for Middle East peace.


Torture is wrong, illegal and ineffective – do we really need to debate this?

December 16, 2014

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Apparently we do. Last week’s release of the Senate report on CIA torture, er “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” provoked a quite a media storm, including Dick Cheney and other Bush-league torture apologists and enablers defending not just their actions in the past, but the possible use of torture in the future.

While more information will presumably be forthcoming (it was only the executive summary that was released), a key issue for the peace and human rights advocacy community, and presumably for our country, is what steps should be taken now.

There are two main approaches being floated, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on which Peace Action ought to emphasize, or tell us your own ideas using the comments section below this post.

-Legislative clarification/remedy – while torture is already illegal under U.S. and international law (and the U.S. is bound by the United Nations Convention Against Torture), some members of Congress think further clarification or specification on what constitutes torture and what is and isn’t allowable in “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” could be beneficial.

-Call for Accountability/Prosecution – the only official in jail as a consequence of the CIA torture program is whistleblower John Kiriakou. Briefly stated, they got the wrong guy. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Rice, Brennan, Yoo and company are the ones who should have to face the music, or at least prosecution. While I didn’t agree with President Obama’s 2009 decision not to pursue prosecutions, I understood the political calculation he made at the time.

But he certainly could reverse that decision now. While it’s extremely unlikely he will, it would be a righteous act in the final two years of his presidency, and it’s really not optional, under the Convention Against Torture the U.S. has a duty to prosecute torturers, as several UN officials noted last week.

Personally, I favor the option of calling for accountability and prosecution over a legislative approach as I fear opening up the issue of torture to becoming even more of a political football, but I could support legislation if congressional leaders made a strong case for it, and if there is a likelihood it would pass in the new Congress, which is no sure thing. A bill that failed to pass might be worse than not trying at all. On a conference call last Friday of some key Peace Action affiliate and chapter leaders, there was a consensus on the demand for prosecution rather than legislative approach.

I’d love to hear what you think, so again feel free to use the comments box below.


Update on Senate Panel Vote: Today is a good day to tell the Senate, “No More War!”

December 10, 2014

 

 

 

 

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UPDATE DECEMBER 11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-8 in favor of the AUMF for Syria and Iraq, but with some limitations, read more in this article in Stars and Stripes. The importance of this vote remains to be seen, as neither the full Senate or House plans to take up the AUMF issue before the end of the year, so this committee vote will “expire,” and the new Congress may not take up the AUMF until March or April. Peace Action will of course keep you apprised of the situation and how you can make an impact.

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Tomorrow, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The vote is somewhat symbolic, as it’s just a committee vote, and the full Senate and House will not vote on any AUMF before the new Congress convenes in January, meaning they would need to start from scratch on this issue.

 

However, the vote could be an indicator of the depth of support, at least in this important committee, for yet another endless war in the Middle East. The Obama Administration apparently wants at least a three year authorization (stretching beyond the end of the president’s term in office), with no geographic limitations, and no prohibition on deploying U.S. ground troops. Sure looks like a slippery slope to another endless war.

 

I need you to call your senators today, especially those on the Foreign Relations Committee (check the committee roster here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_Committee_on_Foreign_Relations)

 

Regardless of whether you have a senator on the committee, it’s a good day to tell the Senate, “No More War!” Thanks to our colleagues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, you can call toll-free at 877-429-0678.

 

Today is International Human Rights Day, and we at Peace Action certainly believe peace is a fundamental human right. Please call your senators today, toll free at 877-429-0678, on behalf of peace and stopping yet another endless war.

 

Yours in Peace,

 

Kevin Martin

Executive Director

 

P.S. For years Peace Action has advocated the repeal of both war authorizations for Afghanistan and Iraq, passed well over a decade ago. While we opposed both authorizations at the time, many who supported them then now agree that they are outdated and far too broad and should be repealed (we agree).

 

The Obama administration has been leaning on both authorizations for its military intervention in Iraq and Syria, though now it wants Congress to pass a new AUMF. We oppose a new AUMF as Peace Action thinks not enough energy has been spent on a political solution to the Syrian civil war and on starving ISIS of resources (oil, antiquities and sex trade revenue, weapons and foreign fighters).

 

Please call your senators today, toll-free at 877-429-0678, and thank you for all your support as we observe this season of peace.


Alternatives to Endless War

November 13, 2014

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 A Sustainable, Effective Response to ISIS

 

Instead of another endless war, Members of Congress should stand up in support of effective alternatives to combat the threat from ISIS. Below are possible ways for the U.S. government to take action. These are examples of the many alternatives available to move towards a political solution.

 

The United States Congress can:

  • Insist that President Obama seek congressional authorization for continued military intervention, and then vote to oppose our latest war in Iraq and Syria
  • Cosponsor measures like H. Con. Res. 114, offered by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to require Congress to debate, vote, and constrain U.S. military intervention
  • Support measures to prohibit U.S. ground troops and sunset the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs

 

The United States can take immediate unilateral action to:

  • Tighten loopholes in existing sanctions to help cut off ISIS’s funding streams
  • Condition U.S. support for the Iraqi government on success in stopping sectarian violence and promoting inclusive governance. This can undermine the roots of ISIS’s hold in Iraq
  • Cut off U.S. government contracts with anyone doing business with ISIS
  • Increase humanitarian funds for acute needs. The UN’s Syria Regional Refugee Response Plan for 2014 is only half-way funded. As winter approaches, the key World Food Program has “run out of funds”: rations will be cut and some refugees will go without any WFP aid
  • Stop channeling weapons into a volatile situation. The U.S. has armed Iraqi forces and Syrian rebels despite rights violations. U.S. weapons have ended up in the hands of ISIS
  • Support civil society efforts to build peace and reconciliation at the community level

 

The United States can support multilateral efforts to:

  • Build regional stability and security through aid for refugee host nation communities to reinforce stressed health, education, and housing infrastructure and to encourage job creation
  • Keep the conflict from spreading to Jordan, Turkey or Lebanon etc. by encouraging a global effort to share responsibility for resettling refugees from Iraq and Syria
  • Prevent problems when ISIS recruits– originating from the U.S.– return by dissuading recruits from leaving in the first place and by monitoring the most dangerous returnees

The United States can work with the United Nations to:

  • Organize humanitarian evacuations of stranded and trapped civilians
  • Impose comprehensive, enforceable financial sanctions against ISIS
    • ISIS profits from selling petroleum, archaeological artifacts, and wheat
  • Restrict ISIS’s access to the international financial system
  • Support a political solution to Syria’s civil war:
    • With the UN and regional powers, press the regime and rebels to support truces to reduce non-combatant deaths and increase the focus on defending against ISIS
    • Re-energize diplomacy for negotiation on a political transition that would include all parties to the conflict as well as outside parties, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and the U.S. A regional Contact Group could lay the groundwork for peace talks
    • If necessary, the UN General Assembly could assume responsibility under the Uniting for Peace procedure (to circumvent possible Security Council inaction)
    • Begin discussions and planning for a possible international peacekeeping or stabilization mission in Syria (and possibly parts of Iraq)

 

The United States can work with regional states and organizations to:

  • Engage in strategic outreach to Sunni communities in both Iraq and Syria to address political and economic grievances and thus undermine crucial political support for ISIS. The region’s Sunni powers—the Saudis, Emiratis, Jordanians and Turks—can all play a role
  • Work to impose an arms embargo against all armed actors in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait have provided weapons to the opposition, including ISIS, in Syria
  • Work with the states near ISIS territory to close the borders leading into and out of ISIS areas
  • Enforce sanctions against ISIS and stop member nations from purchasing ISIS’s goods
  • Conduct a social media campaign that truthfully exposes the grotesque nature of ISIS ideology in terms that would-be jihadists can understand

The legacy of WMDs in Iraq – the real ones, courtesy of Uncle Sam

October 20, 2014

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Below is a letter to the editor sent to the New York Times (they didn’t publish it, happens to the best of us) prompted by an article last week on the actual weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq — no, not the nukes Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld lied to us about in order to invade Iraq, the chemical weapons supplied by the United States to Saddam Hussein and company in the late 70s and early 80s, sacrebleu! The article by C. J. Chivers is tough reading, but highly recommended.

Apart from the awful possibility that ISIS has gotten or could get its hands on these horrific weapons, this should be a lesson in how short-sighted our government’s weapons proliferating practices are and how they nearly always come back to hurt us — our troops, our allies and the security of the American people.

October 16, 2014

To the editor,

Revelations by the Times of the recent discovery of forgotten – or worse, covered up — chemical weapons stashes in Iraq and negligence in the treatment of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and police exposed to sarin and mustard agents would be shocking, but they are unfortunately all too predictable. Similarly, if ISIS has gotten hold of and perhaps used some of these horrific weapons, no one should be surprised.

The effects of decades of the United State and other western powers pouring conventional and unconventional weapons into the Middle East are wide-ranging and unpredictable, except that they will likely prove disastrous, as they have time and again. From Gaza to Syria to Iraq to Egypt to Libya to Afghanistan, U.S. and western military intervention and/or an always open spigot of weaponry (with American taxpayers usually footing the bill) amount to attempting to put out the region’s near-constant fires with gasoline.

In the near term, working with the new Iraqi government and international agencies to secure and destroy the remaining chemical weapons, as is underway in Syria, and delivering fair and just treatment to those exposed to these weapons need to be urgent priorities.

More broadly, it’s time for a fundamental re-orientation of our policies away from failed militaristic, weapons-based stratagems that make the region and the United States less safe. Instead, we need a more sustainable commitment to diplomacy (such as restarting negotiations to end the Syrian civil war), strict arms control (beginning with establishing a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East and serious curbs on conventional weapons transfers) and international cooperation instead of bombing or invading as the way to address the threats of violent extremism.

Sincerely,

Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Peace Action


Your Opinion Matters – Survey on U.S. War in Syria and Iraq

October 17, 2014

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Please take a minute to complete a simple, four question survey regarding U.S. military action in Iraq and Syria..

It helps to know what you think.  We want our communications, and most especially our calls to action, to align with your interests and concerns.  That means greater participation and greater impact on decision makers.

Asking you to share your views is something we don’t do enough of, so please take a minute – just a minute – to answer four questions.


Elections Matter!

September 29, 2014

By Paul Kawika Martin

As you know, midterm elections are only 5 weeks away. And one of the unique aspects about Peace Action is that we use all the tools in the social tool box to create a better world. Our comprehensive electoral work includes registering voters, educating candidates and the electorate and endorsing and financing peace candidates.

Already this year, 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.

You may have heard that control of the Senate is up for grabs. Peace Action is non-partisan. For example, earlier this year we endorsed Walter Jones (R-NC) because of his tireless work to bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan and to cut the Pentagon budget. That said, it is clear that a Republican controlled Senate would not have passed the New START Treaty a few years ago and would not be good for Peace Action issues.

It is for that reason that we are supporting candidates in several close Senate races like Gary Peters in Michigan, Bruce Braley in Iowa and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.

Shortly, Peace Action will be deciding where to send organizers to help candidates in key races and where to focus our financial resources. Your contribution now will help us know what we can afford to do to make a more peaceful Congress.

As a reminder, 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

Besides endorsing and giving money to candidates, we will be bird dogging candidates and distributing voter guides to help voters in their decisions.

In November, we expect a number of hot races in California, New Hampshire, Iowa, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to name a few 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.

Please share this article and link with your friends, family and colleagues.

https://secure.actblue.com/page/peace-action


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