Might Doesn’t Make Right (or even get a country what it wants)

May 12, 2014

With his essay “What you need to tell people when they say we should use the military,” Peace Action Board Member Larry Wittner makes a very succinct and persuasive case on History News Network that military might, especially as wielded by the United States, achieves little in international relations.

tags: Military Power

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

SIPRI Fact Sheet:  TRENDS IN WORLD MILITARY EXPENDITURE, 2013

Is overwhelming national military power a reliable source of influence in world affairs?

If so, the United States should certainly have plenty of influence today. For decades, it has been the world’s Number 1 military spender. And it continues in this role. According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spent $640 billion on the military in 2013, thus accounting for 37 percent of world military expenditures. The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively. Thus, last year, the United States spent more than three times as much as China and more than seven times as much as Russia on the military.

In this context, the U.S. government’s inability to get its way in world affairs is striking. In the current Ukraine crisis, the Russian government does not seem at all impressed by the U.S. government’s strong opposition to its behavior. Also, the Chinese government, ignoring Washington’s protests, has laid out ambitious territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. Even much smaller, weaker nations have been snubbing the advice of U.S. officials. Israel has torpedoed U.S. attempts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, the embattled Syrian government has been unwilling to negotiate a transfer of power, and North Korea remains as obdurate as ever when it comes to scuttling its nuclear weapons program.

Of course, hawkish critics of the Obama administration say that it lacks influence in these cases because it is unwilling to use the U.S. government’s vast military power in war.

But is this true? The Obama administration channeled very high levels of military manpower and financial resources into lengthy U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ended up with precious little to show for this investment. Furthermore, in previous decades, the U.S. government used its overwhelming military power in a number of wars without securing its goals. The bloody Korean War, for example, left things much as they were before the conflict began, with the Korean peninsula divided and a ruthless dictatorship in place in the north. The lengthy and costly Vietnam War led to a humiliating defeat for the United States — not because the U.S. government lacked enormous military advantages, but because, ultimately, the determination of the Vietnamese to gain control of their own country proved more powerful than U.S. weaponry.

Even CIA ventures drawing upon U.S. military power have produced a very mixed result. Yes, the CIA, bolstered by U.S. military equipment, managed to overthrow the Guatemalan government in 1954. But, seven years later, the CIA-directed, -funded, and -equipped invasion at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs failed to topple the Castro government when the Cuban public failed to rally behind the U.S.-instigated effort. Although the U.S. government retains an immense military advantage over its Cuban counterpart, with which it retains a hostile relationship, this has not secured the United States any observable influence over Cuban policy.

The Cold War confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet governments is particularly instructive. For decades, the two governments engaged in an arms race, with the United States clearly in the lead. But the U.S. military advantage did not stop the Soviet government from occupying Eastern Europe, crushing uprisings against Soviet domination in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, or dispatching Soviet troops to take control of Afghanistan. Along the way, U.S. hawks sometimes called for war with the Soviet Union. But, in fact, U.S. and Soviet military forces never clashed. What finally produced a love fest between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and ended the Cold War was a strong desire by both sides to replace confrontation with cooperation, as indicated by the signing of substantial nuclear disarmament agreements.

Similarly, the Iranian and U.S. governments, which have been on the worst of terms for decades, appear to be en route to resolving their tense standoff — most notably over the possible development of Iranian nuclear weapons — through diplomacy. It remains unclear if this momentum toward a peaceful settlement results from economic sanctions or from the advent of a reformist leadership in Tehran. But there is no evidence that U.S. military power, which has always been far greater than Iran’s, has played a role in fostering it.

Given this record, perhaps military enthusiasts in the United States and other nations should consider whether military power is a reliable source of influence in world affairs. After all, just because you possess a hammer doesn’t mean that every problem you face is a nail.

- See more at: http://hnn.us/article/155550#sthash.YqVs3dTk.dpuf


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


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


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


Haaretz – Israeli Conference urges a Middle East without Nuclear Weapons

December 7, 2013

Note: Madelyn Hoffman, executive director of New Jersey Peace Action, and Jeff Klein, a Massachusetts Peace Action board member, have been attending this conference in Haifa. We look forward to reports from them soon.

This Haaretz article is behind a paywall so no link, but the text is below. Thanks to our colleague Jacqueline Cabasso of Western States Legal Foundation, who is also at the conference, for sending this article.

By Eli Ashkenazi

A conference opened in Haifa Thursday advocating a Middle East without nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction – a controversial issue in Israel.

If Israel won’t go to Helsinki, Helsinki will come to Israel, former MK Issam Makhoul said at the two-day conference, referring to Israel’s decision last year not to take part in a Helsinki conference on the issue. Makhoul said Israel couldn’t escape a discussion on the matter.

According to Makhoul, the Haifa conference was the first step toward opening a debate in Israel on nuclear weapons. He said an Israeli coalition of organizations and a monitoring committee would push the issue forward.

Makhoul said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on talking about the Iranian nuclear threat helped stoke the discussion on Israel’s nuclear program as well. There is now a willingness and sense of urgency in broaching the subject and telling Israelis that a different kind of Middle East is possible, he said.

The conference is the first in a series on the issue, the organizers said. Delegates came from Europe, the United States and Africa. Among the participants was Prof. Tadatoshi Akiba, a former mayor of Hiroshima, who urged a 2020 deadline for world nuclear disarmament.

Akiba said no one needed to suffer as his countrymen had suffered, adding that governments had not met expectations and that civil-society groups must help governments achieve the goal.

Former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, who 14 years ago permitted a rare Knesset debate on the nuclear issue, said that when Israel first crafted its strategy on the issue, the country was still fragile. Israel therefore sought to create a balance of power, but what once was an asset was now becoming harmful.

Calling former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the best friend of Israel’s nuclear program, Burg said Arab countries were now immersed in their own affairs and that Israel was not the excuse for everything.

Burg said the formula now was that if everyone has the bomb no one will have it. He added that a discussion was needed recognizing Israel as a nuclear power and asking what Israel would get in exchange for relinquishing this status. Also, all parties must understand that countries have more to lose by possessing nuclear weapons.

Former MK Naomi Chazan said the fact the conference was being held was a historic moment in Israel, where there is no serious discussion on the nuclear issue.

But Dr. Emily Landau of the Institute for National Security Studies offered a different take, saying the subject was constantly under discussion in academic forums and elsewhere.

Landau said that although speakers at the conference blamed Israel, the reality was more complex, and that focusing on Israel, as Egypt has been doing for decades, was the mistake of the Helsinki conference as well. Landau said Iran’s nuclear ambitions had to be addressed, and that it was impossible to talk about countries’ nuclear capabilities before discussing relations between countries and confidence-building.

Unlike most speakers, who praised the Geneva talks between the six powers and Iran, Landau said the delegates should listen when an Iranian leader compares Israel to a dog or cancer and calls the country illegitimate. Landau said Israel, located in the middle of a dangerous region, needed to create deterrence and was not a nuclear threat.


New Jersey Peace Action’s Executive Director to Attend WMD Conference in Israel

December 2, 2013

New Jersey Peace Action sends representative to Middle East

Executive Director to attend anti-nuclear conference in Israel

 – Haifa and Ramallah

Contact: Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director, New Jersey Peace Action, 973-259-1126 (office) 973-876-1023 (cell)

Judith Arnold, Board President, 973-398-0725

Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action at  301-565-4050 ext. 307

 

Bloomfield – New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) is sending its executive director, Madelyn Hoffman, to Israel to participate in an international conference calling for an elimination of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

The group, which was founded in 1957 in opposition to nuclear arms race and the testing of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, has over the years urged governments to reduce military budgets and spend more money on social programs.

The Israeli conference, titled “For a Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East” will be held on December 5th and 6th in the northern Israeli city, Haifa and on December 7th in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

“We are so happy to have Madelyn represent us in Israel and Palestine,” said Judith Arnold, president of NJPA. “We feel that now, following the agreement between the United States and Iran, is the perfect time to call on all countries in the Middle East to disarm. Our participation in this conference will help to support that diplomatic agreement.”

The conference is advocating for the immediate implementation of the United Nations general assembly resolution from May 2010 which called for an international meeting in Helsinki, Finland under the auspices of the UN to promote the creation of a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. That meeting never took place due to the decision of Israel and the United States not to participate.

Israeli organizers of the conference say that the coming together of peace and human rights organizations from abroad, and the widening support among peace and progressive forces within Israel and Palestine, could turn the conference into a landmark in the struggle for nuclear disarmament in the Middle East. They also see the conference as a real and viable alternative to plans for a war against Iran.

Howard D. Lipoff, a member of the NJPA Board of Directors, said that the organization feels it is important for activists in New Jersey to support the efforts of peace groups in Israel and Palestine. “Madelyn Hoffman’s visit will show Israelis and Palestinians that there are many Americans who support them in their efforts to bring peace to their region and to lead their country on a different path than the one advocated by Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Lipoff said.

Said Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director of NJPA, “I am honored to attend this historic conference about the creation of a nuclear weapons free/weapons of mass destruction free Middle East.  Lost in the talk about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is the fact that Israel already has them. NJPA’s ultimate goal is the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide, but the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free Middle East would be a significant first step.”


Peace Action Statement on first step nuclear agreement with Iran

November 25, 2013

For Immediate Release:  November 23, 2013

 

Contacts:       Kevin Martin, Peace Action, 301-537-8244 cell

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

 

Peace Action Praises Iran Deal

 

Washington, DC — November 23, 2013 — On the eve of a historic deal with Iran on its nuclear program, Peace Action praised the use of diplomacy and called on continued efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

 

“Just like Syria, diplomacy is solving our disagreements with Iran.  We want to see Iran step back from the possibility of obtaining nuclear weapons, while the U.S. and others ease sanctions that unfairly affect average Iranians,” observed Kevin Martin, the executive director of Peace Action — a group founded in 1957, the largest grassroots peace organization in the U.S that has been working on the Iran issue since 2005.

 

Iran will freeze and provide more transparency to its nuclear program for six months while a more comprehensive agreement is reached.  This deal is supported by the world community, is in the best interest of the U.S. and shows that all sides compromised for the betterment of all.

 

The group pointed out that there is huge power in diplomacy solving disputes yet it only gets a fraction of the budget the U.S. spends on the Pentagon.  Several Peace Action staff got the rare opportunity to travel throughout Iran finding average Iranians open and wanting peace.

 

Unlike Iran, Israel has an undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal that groups like Peace Action would like to see more transparency and work towards a treaty to free the Middle East from weapons of mass destruction.

 

“As diplomacy is working with Iran, we need to double our efforts of ridding the world of nuclear weapons.  Experts agree the U.S. does not need, nor can it afford its current stockpile of thousands of deployed and reserved warheads,” concluded Martin.

 

###

 

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


No Right Hands for the Wrong Weapons

October 9, 2013

Arrogance, Denial, Nuclear Colonialism, and the Persistence of Hope by the 98%

Reflections on the UN General Assembly’s first ever High Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Two Thursdays ago, September 26, at the United Nations in New York, the General Assembly convened its first ever High Level Meeting (HLM) on nuclear disarmament. You didn’t hear about it? Not surprising, as the headlines at the UN mostly revolved around Security Council action to rid Syria of its chemical weapons arsenal and the so-called “charm offensive” by new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani.

In the wake of those relatively high profile news items, and the subsequent telephone call between Rouhani and U.S. President Barack Obama (and the meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, which occurred on the same day as the HLM), the daylong talkfest on nuclear weapons got lost in the shuffle.

Yet it was important in that it was part of a persistent, if relatively low profile, campaign by many non-nuclear states that are fed up with the lack of progress by the U.S, Russia and other nuclear states toward abolishing nuclear weapons worldwide. NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) registered with the UN were allowed to attend as observers (with two NGO speakers making presentations, our friend Joseph Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee being one of them). I attended along with our national Field Director, Judith Le Blanc, International Committee Chair Judy Lerner and Peace Action of New York State Executive Director Alicia Godsberg.

The meeting was initiated by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and it is part of an Open Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament, so this won’t be the last such meeting. By coincidence, Iran is the current chair of the NAM, so Iranian President Rouhani made the first presentation by a UN member state, after opening remarks by UNGA President John William Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The SecGen (love those UN abbreviations!) was very good, as always, on the topic of nuclear disarmament, noting that the issue is intricately linked to economic development, the environment, and thwarting terrorism, decrying the “layer of fear that clouds all human existence” created by nuclear weapons. Mr. Ban’s excellent five point plan for nuclear disarmament is now five years old and was referenced by several speakers. Somewhat unusually, the SecGen called out Iran and North Korea for nuclear misbehavior, the only countries he mentioned by name.

Then came Iranian President Rouhani, who gave a very detailed address, and he spoke mostly as the chair of the Non-Aligned Movement. He did criticize Israel for remaining outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and called for the convening, as soon as possible, of a conference to establish a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East, as the 2010 NPT Review Conference (RevCon) decided should be held in 2012 (it wasn’t, as the U.S. and Israel predictably balked, fearing Israel’s unacknowledged nuclear arsenal would be spotlighted, as it undoubtedly would and should be). Finland is prepared to host such a conference and has diligently worked to make it happen.

As for the NAM proposal, Rouhani called for early negotiations on nuclear disarmament at the Conference on Disarmament (which operates by consensus and hasn’t even agreed on a negotiating agenda since 1998, so prospects for that appear dim), establishing September 26 as an international day to eliminate nuclear weapons, and holding a conference in five years to review progress. All this will soon be embodied in a General Assembly resolution to be introduced by the NAM. The details are less important than the overall message, a “vote of no confidence” in the nuclear weapons states which are obliged to negotiate the elimination of their nukes under the terms of the NPT, which came into force in 1970.

Rouhani quoted an early speech by the SecGen who said “there are no right hands for these wrong weapons,” as did many other speakers.

Other highlights included the following:

-Austria’s President Heinz Fischer called nuclear deterrence “just as fallible as any other human activity.”

-Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who many fear aims to “reinterpret” Japan’s “peace constitution” to pave the way for a more robust Japanese military (already number five in global military spending) touted a meeting next April in Hiroshima of the Non-Proliferation/Disarmament Initiative (one of many unofficial sub-groups of countries concerning nuclear weapons issues, this one initiated by Japan and Australia) and the fact that the 2020 Olympics in Japan will occur during the time of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bomb observances, thus drawing more international attention to the issue of nuclear weapons (assuming no further problems at the Fukushima nuclear plant force a postponement or moving the venue for the Olympics, crossing our fingers on that one!).

-Kazakhstan announced it would soon introduce a General Assembly resolution on a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

-The early leader for the unmitigated gall trophy was the speaker from India, who quoted Mahatma Gandhi not just generally on peace and nonviolence, but on the evil of nuclear weapons, and then went on to justify India’s nuclear arsenal. (Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was only slightly less hypocritical, recalling that in his prior stint as PM he had made the decision to go nuclear in response to India while decrying nukes generally.)

-But of course the unmitigated gall (or in this case, Gaul) award went to the “P-3″ (permanent Security Council members) the United States, United Kingdom and France. In a speech that could only be called embarrassing, scolding, insulting, patronizing nuclear colonialism, a speaker from the British foreign ministry blamed the NAM for wasting everyone’s time in convening this meeting and an earlier conference in Oslo on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons (a follow-up meeting will be held in Mexico next February, details forthcoming soon). The three countries doubled down on their disrespect by later each delivering their own condemnations of the non-nuclear states for daring to assert leadership for nuclear weapons abolition, instead of trusting the nuclear states to, eventually, some century perhaps, give up their nukes. The U.S. rep touted a “nuclear glossary” being led by China, as if this is a big development, almost 70 years after the dawn of the nuclear age. The only thing surprising about al this was how extremely arrogant and self-serving it was. I was embarrassed to be a U.S. citizen listening to this drivel, truth be told.

-The Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands spoke with the most legitimacy and poignancy on how nuclear weapons testing had devastated their previously pristine areas of the Pacific Ocean. Their calls to abolish nukes were among the most moving of the speeches, as was a strong statement by the Philippines (which, like many of the NAM, associated itself strongly with the remarks by President Rouhani on behalf of the NAM). The speaker called nuclear deterrence “archaic” and called for the “criminalization” of nuclear weapons by treaty or legal action. Yeah!

-Chile’s speaker was the “Minister for Human Security and Disarmament.” Every country needs one of those!

The main takeaway for me, and I’m sorry not to recall the speaker, was the reality that 98% of the world’s countries eschew nuclear weapons, and those countries are not going to be silent about the negligence and recklessness of the nuclear states, all of whom plan not only to maintain but to “modernize” their nuclear arsenals. While we don’t yet have a strong international grassroots movement for nuclear weapons abolition, these states are planting seeds that will bear fruit. They have to, because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

We here in the U.S., along with our peace movement allies in other nuclear states, need to continue to pressure our governments domestically, but also to participate in good faith in multilateral forums called by the non-nuclear states, who have much more moral authority on the subject than the nuclear haves.


September 26, 2013

Tuesday, Oct. 8th
National Teach-In on Syria & US Policy in the Region
6:30 to 7:30 pm EST

Live Streaming at http://www.busboysandpoets.com/videos/live-streaming

With developments unfolding rapidly, it is still uncertain how things will play out in Syria.

A few weeks ago our nation was on the brink of yet another deadly military mistake. At the last moment, a threat of a U.S. missile attack against Syria was averted as the justifiable concern about chemical weapons moved away from a military incursion into a diplomatic process. The raging civil war has not yet stopped, but the massive outpouring of anti-war sentiment from people in every corner of the country and around the world prevented this new attack, and is helping to slow the flow of arms into Syria.

Our victory was clear, but our work is far from over.
Will there be a negotiated resolution to the armed conflict inside Syria, or will the fighting escalate into an even broader regional war?
How did the peace movement in the U.S. and world-wide stop Washington from proceeding with military action in Syria, and how can we build on our success to change U.S. policy in the region?
What’s happening now, on the ground in Syria and on the diplomatic front? What is the U.S. interest in Syria and how does this connect to U.S. policy in the Middle East more generally?
These are some of the important issues that a dynamic panel of people will address in the National Teach-In on Syria. You are invited to watch the teach-in on line as we dig deeper into the issues and learn the lessons.

We are happy to join with other national groups to sponsor this live streamed panel on Tuesday, October 8th:


Phyllis Bennis – Director, New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
Stephen Miles – Coordinator, Win Without War
Nick Berning – Communications Director, MoveOn.org
Rep. Barbara Lee (invited) – 13th Cong. District, CA
moderated by Judith LeBlanc – Field Director, Peace Action

Watch this important discussion with others! This is a moment to bring people together, to take our organizing to a new level.
- Invite people to your home to watch the teach-in together.
- If you are at a school or college get a room and organize a screening.
- Ask your local library or religious institution to set up a public viewing.
- Ask you local community cable station to run the program live or taped.
- Use this teach-in as an opportunity to talk with others about how to strengthen the work of the anti-war movement.

We realize the time of this event might make it hard for some folks on the West Coast to see the broadcast, but we’ll be sending out information about how you can access this event after October 8th.

This teach-in is organized and sponsored by the following groups that have been working together on Syria:
Peace Action
Win Without War
Institute for Policy Studies
CodePink
Just Foreign Policy
Progressive Democrats of America
American Friends Service Committee
Peace and Justice Resource Center
U.S. Labor Against the War
United for Peace and Justice
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Women’s Action for New Directions


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.


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