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


Peace and Climate Justice: Inseparable

September 29, 2014

–Judith Le Blanc, Field Director

stop the wars stop the warming

The largest climate justice march in history thronged New York City September 21 and Peace Action helped to make it happen.

Why? We because we believe that the only way we can save Mother Earth is by ending wars and militarism, which are the biggest obstacles to funding initiatives to address global warming. Wars prevent and disrupt the necessary collaboration between countries to address climate crisis. Both wars and climate crisis require a political solution which can only become a reality if the climate justice movement links to ending wars and militarism and the peace movement connects to justice: climate, economic and racial justice.

Peace Action, as a national endorser, jumped into the organizing from the beginning launching the Peoples Climate March Peace and Justice Hub. The Hub brought together peace and faith groups to organize a No War, No Warming contingent and rally. George Martin, Peace Action Education Fund board member, Cole Harrison, executive director of Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA), Jim Anderson, Peace Action of New York State (PANYS) Chair and Natia Bueno, PANYS Student Outreach Coordinator, led the way.

Peace Action affiliates and activist members worked on filling buses, outreach and preparing the logistics for pre-march rally. PAEF board member George Martin said, “It is very significant that Peace Action was engaged from national to affiliate level, volunteering, planning and giving leadership on how war and militarism and climate justice are interconnected.”

Mass banner

MAPA drafted the Appeal to the Peace and Climate Movement outlining the high stakes and why the peace movement must join in the mobilization. It also argues for why we need a peace and justice movement, which must address the root causes of wars and inequality as the basis for strengthening our work.

Peace Action affiliates worked with allies to fill the buses from as far away as Milwaukee. The Coalition for Peace Action organized a conference with local environmental leaders in the lead up to the march.

PANYS mobilized its membership, especially student chapters across the state. Natia Bueno co-chaired the No War, No Warming pre-march rally.  She was excited by the turnout, stating “It was amazing to see so many people, especially from so many different ages, states, and walks of life come together under the idea of saving our planet.” The pre-march rally included peace and justice speakers as well as performers Holly Near and Emma’s Revolution.

Geneseo chapter

We rallied and marched with our banners on Sunday and on Saturday, Peace Action dug into the debates and issues as part of the Climate Convergence.

I spoke on two panels at the convergence. The first panel, Climate Change and Militarism: Following the Money and Understanding the Costs was sponsored by Institute for Policy Studies and the International Peace Bureau. Both groups spoke about their new reports: Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization and Military vs Climate Security: The Budgets Compared.

I presented a case study on the work underway in Wisconsin to organize a local initiative to support labor, local elected officials, peace and community groups to develop a defense industry transition project. The premise of the case study was that facts need to be translated into local movement building that will improve peoples’ lives. Peace Action’s Move the Money Campaign aims to build a movement for local, green, sustainable economic development which is not dependent on military contracts for good paying jobs.

The second panel in which I participated examined how to build the movement to save Mother Earth from climate and nuclear destruction. The panel included the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands , Tony DeBrum, who spoke about the impact of the historic lawsuit brought by the Marshallese government against the U.S. for the nuclear weapons testing which has harmed generations of the Marshallese people.

The panel also included the Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, Franklin Cownie, a leader of Mayors for Peace who discussed the significance of the resolution calling for nuclear disarmament and demilitarizing the federal budget passed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Natia, the PANYS student organizer said, “I knew the numbers were going to be large, but it was another thing seeing it. It was amazing to see so many students there. In my experience, I have seen people especially around my age or younger not caring about the future. It was a nice to be surrounded by that many people that care. I only hope that it sparks others to start caring.”

A ready-made resource for immediate follow-up with our allies is a new film for local events. Longtime Peace Action supporter and documentary filmmaker John Ankele has a new film on climate change, “The Wisdom to Survive: Climate Change, Capitalism and Community,” available for community screenings or individual purchase.


Peace Action Speaks to No Nukes! Women’s Forum in Hiroshima

August 6, 2014

Sally Jones in Hiroshima 2014.We are proud that Sally Jones, Chair of the Peace Action Fund of NYS spoke on August 5 in Hiroshima to the No Nukes! Women’s Forum. Here is her speech:

New York City Prepares for the 2015 NPT

Dear women of the Japanese nuclear abolition – No Nukes! – movement!

Greetings from Peace Action.  From Staten Island, New York City (where I live), from New York State, and from all the 90,000 members of Peace Action all over the U.S.A.

For me it is an honor of a lifetime to be here with you today and especially to be talking to a women’s peace group.

I want to talk to you about my work with Peace Action with particular attention to the 2015 NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) action that will take place in New York City next spring.

Since 2002 I have been a Peace Action volunteer when I helped form a Peace Action chapter where I live on Staten Island.  We are community members from all walks of life who are against war and nuclear weapons.  We do a lot of local actions, educational programs, and partner with other local groups who care about our issues.

On August 10th, my Staten Island friends are organizing a program called “Staten Island and the Bomb.”  Tons of uranium ore from what was then called the Belgian Congo was stored under the Bayonne Bridge near where I live from 1938 to 1942.  The land there is still radioactive.  We want Staten Islanders to learn how and why they are connected to the nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Staten Island’s Peace Action chapter is one of many affiliates all over the U.S.A.  Since I first got involved with Peace Action in 2002, I joined the New York State steering committee and the national Peace Action strategy sessions.  In 2002 and early 2003 we sincerely believed that we could prevent the U.S. from attacking Iraq.  Preventing war is what we must do.  Unfortunately, we didn’t prevent the U.S. attack on Iraq.  But that makes us even more determined to prevent future wars.

 In the U.S.A., Peace Action members work very hard to stop the U.S. government from using its awesome military power and instead we push for moving the money from the military and security apparatus to fund human needs.  That includes constantly pushing back on funding for nuclear weapons.

Peace Action has had a New York City presence since it began in 1957.  We have an office in downtown Manhattan.  Our Peace Action International affiliate is a United Nations NGO, and we work with the International Peace Bureau representative, Cora Weiss.

Our New York City presence situates us to be very helpful in organizing the international NPT actions  In 2010, Judith LeBlanc worked out of our office to coordinate the successful international conference at Riverside Church and the rally and march to the United Nations.  We are part of a team from our national office in Washington DC and affiliates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Connecticut who work in concert to mobilize for No Nukes.

We are preparing to do this again for 2015.  PANYS will be part of the September 19th coordinating committee meeting taking place in NYC where we will work alongside Judith LeBlanc and Joseph Gerson and the other organizers.

Coming off the People’s Climate March in New York City this September 21st , the many anti-war activities being organized around the 100th anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce, the momentum of the ban the bomb movement and the publicity around the lawsuits against the nuclear armed states, excitement is building for the 2015 NPT.

The international conference and actions will bring thousands of activists together who will insist on being heard on the world stage.

Happily, we have a different New York City Mayor and City Council leadership in 2015 than we had in 2010.  My dream is for our new NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio to welcome the Mayors for Peace and give them the public respect and honor that is long overdue.

1526725_273244352878323_8840870145999556430_nWe want the 2015 NPT to mark a new day in the No Nukes! Movement.

One of our most important projects at Peace Action NYS is building up a student chapter network.  We began this project in 2010 with a small grant.

We have 4 official student chapters now, three more starting up in the fall and more on the way.  The idea is catching on and we hope to develop a model that will be picked up all over the U,S.A.  The 2015 NPT conference and actions should be a catalytic event for young people.  The experience of meeting with Hibakusha and hearing first hand about the horrors of nuclear weapons has the power to transform lives.  Our planning will take this into account.

In Peace Action, women are integrated in every aspect of what we do. Last year, you met Judith LeBlanc, the national field director for Peace Action.

She sends her greetings to her friends in Gensuikyo. On a personal level, my identity as a woman is so steeped into who I am and what I do that, I confess, I don’t give it much thought.  But I know it is part of every breath I take. I am a mother and grandmother.  I lost my own 95-year old mother 5 months ago on March 7th.  How lucky I have been to have been loved by her unconditionally and without bounds.  That is the love I carry within and hope to pass on to my children and grandchildren, and which I hope infuses my work.

The role of women in our movements reflects the societies we come from.  We are all determined to work for a nuclear-free world and we should use every tool in our toolkit.  I am very interested to learn how you do that in Japan.  In the U.S., we use our relatively new-found powers – gained thanks to the women’s movement – to take on as much responsibility as we can handle.

We have a phrase – “Go, Girl!” – that we use to signify to each other to just go ahead and do what you need to do.  The phrase implies solidarity and that the rest of us women “are behind you 100%.”

That’s the spirit I carry inside me, too.  Love and power.  The power of love.  We all have a very short time on this planet to help spread a vision of peace and justice with no nukes and no war and we need to use all of our “girl powers” to get it done.

See you in New York City in 2015!


On the Eve of the 69th Anniversary of the Hiroshima Bombing, Please Sign the Petition for Nuclear Weapons Abolition!

August 5, 2014
Hiroshima-travel-guide-Peace-Memorial-Park

Cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Sixty-nine years since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, we need to remind the world of THE UNKEPT PROMISE to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide.

THE STORY: Landmark lawsuits were filed on April 24, 2014 against all nine nuclear weapon states in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and, on the same day, against the United States in U.S. Federal District Court. At the heart of the lawsuits is this: holding these nations accountable for their breach of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), specifically Article VI of the treaty. This is the first time the United States been sued in U.S. court for breach of an international treaty.

A BRIEF HISTORY: The NPT was opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. Article VI obligates signatories to pursue negotiations in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race at an early date and for nuclear disarmament. The NPT nuclear weapon states (U.S., UK, Russia, France and China) are in violation of their treaty obligations by continuing to modernize their nuclear forces and by failing to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament (44 years since entry into force of the treaty does not meet the definition of at an early date). For the same reasons, the four nuclear weapon states not party to the NPT (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) are in violation of customary international law.

THE LAWSUIT: The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has filed these lawsuits in the ICJ and in U.S. court. RMI is a small island nation in the Pacific whose people suffered greatly at the hands of U.S. atmospheric nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s. Their filings are a bold form of peaceful, non-violent action aimed at making substantial changes to the status quo on an issue that threatens the security and future of all generations.

That’s why we created a petition to The United States Senate and President Barack Obama, which says:

“Nuclear weapons threaten everything we love and treasure in this world. To protect humanity’s future, we support the Marshall Islands, a small island nation courageously seeking to enforce the Nuclear Zero promise – a world free of nuclear weapons. “

Will you sign our petition? Click here to add your name: 

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/support-the-marshall?source=c.fwd&r_by=404397

Thanks for all you do.

Power to the peaceful,

Judith LeBlanc
Field Director
Peace Action

PS:  Help me collect more signatures.  Please forward this email to your friends.

For more information, click here.


Some good news on the extension of nuclear talks with Iran

July 22, 2014

Amid the mostly awful daily news from the Middle East, one piece of good news came late last week. Iran and the “P5 +1″ (the U.S., Russia, England, France, China and Germany) agreed to continue negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program for another four months. The interim Joint Plan of Action deadline was July 20, but as expected, all parties agreed enough progress and benefits have been seen to continue negotiations.

Our colleagues at Win Without War (a coalition Peace Action has been a part of since 2002) compiled supportive statements from editorial boards and experts and also from Members of Congress.

You can show your support for continued diplomacy with a FaceBook graphic from our friends at Council for a Livable World or by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper (or posting on a blog), and here are some talking points from Rethink Media and National Security Network to help you write your letter or post:

Extending the negotiations is a “win/win” for the US.

 

  • The nuclear inspectors on the ground in Iran have confirmed that Iran has frozen and even rolled back its nuclear activities – living up to its promises under the current deal.

 

  • By continuing the talks, Iran’s nuclear program remains frozen, and we get extra time to work on eliminating the possibility of an Iranian bomb.

 

  • Soundbite: It’s far better to secure a deal in overtime than quit and go home.

 

Continuing diplomacy is better than rushing to war.

 

  • If Congress kills the negotiations by imposing new sanctions or unworkable terms for a final agreement, Iran will unfreeze its nuclear program without restriction…which means either Iran gets a nuclear bomb or we have to fight another war in the Middle East.

 

  • After more than a decade of war, Americans strongly oppose the prospect of another military conflict. As their representatives, we owe it to them to explore every diplomatic opportunity.

 

  • Soundbite: What we’re doing now is exactly what we should have done instead of invading Iraq. 

 

Adding more sanctions will do more harm than good.

 

  • Exploiting the extension as an opportunity to impose new sanctions or terms for a final deal would kill the talks and likely lead to the collapse of international sanctions.

 

  • All of the countries that matter support the negotiations. We should continue to work with our allies rather than taking unilateral action and undermining the talks.

 

  • Soundbite: Sanctions brought Iran to the table, but sanctions didn’t roll back Iran’s nuclear program – negotiations did.

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


David vs. Goliath? The Mouse That Roared? The Republic of the Marshall Islands Sues for Nuclear Disarmament

May 2, 2014

I don’t think either analogy is perfect, but some are using these references to describe lawsuits the Republic of the Marshall Islands has filed in the World Court against the United States and the eight other nuclear weapons states (France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India) for failing to live up their obligation to pursue nuclear disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The lawsuits, supported by our colleagues at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, have been in the works for over a year, but were filed just over a week ago in advance of the NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting at the United Nations in New York.

I, along with many other Peace Action activists, were in New York for various meetings around the NPT PrepCom, including official government statements, a briefing on the lawsuits featuring the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, Tony de Brum, and a public event in Manhattan featuring Hibakusha (Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bomb survivors) telling their poignant stories of perseverance in the cause of nuclear weapons abolition.

The Marshall Islands, which suffered horrible human and environmental consequences from U.S. nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 60s (dramatically chronicled in the film Nuclear Savage), are in a unique position to hold the U.S. and other nuclear states accountable for not only their lack of commitment to abolishing nukes, but that all are now engaged in working to “modernize” their nuclear weapons. A terrific website about the lawsuit is at nuclearzero.org

The United States offered this very weak list of bullet points allegedly demonstrating its commitment to nuclear disarmament:

1. Reduced U.S. nuclear stockpile by 85 percent since 1967.

2. Open to further reductions with Russia of up to one-third of deployed strategic weapons and of tactical weapons.

3. Participated in P5 conferences (editor’s note: P5 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, also all nuclear weapons states).

4. Would like to ratify the CTBT.

5. May sign the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty and the Southeast Asian NWFZT. Support a conference on a Middle East NWFZT.

The full U.S. official statement to the PrepCom is at http://papersmart.unmeetings.org/media2/2927499/us.pdf

Plans for next year’s NPT Review Conference, which happen every five years, will soon be underway. Peace Action, along with national and international allies, will work to improve on our impressive organizing around the 2010 Review Conference, which included a conference at Riverside Church of over 1000 people (half from outside the U.S.) addressed by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon and a rally and march with thousands of people demonstrating for peace and disarmament in midtown Manhattan.

-Kevin Martin, Executive Director


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