Third Time’s the Charm? Letter to President Obama on nuclear disarmament opportunities

April 18, 2014

Readers of the Peace Blog may recall  two similar group sign-on letters to the president on nuclear disarmament matters, last year around the UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament and earlier this year around the Mexico conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In addition to those letters, on the former we did a petition campaign that netted about 25,000 signers, and on the latter an email campaign that generated close to 10,00 emails to the White House. We never received a substantive response from the Administration on either occasion.

Not giving up of course, please see this newest, fairly comprehensive letter in advance of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee (NPT PrepCom), which convenes April 28-May 9 at the UN in New York. It is open for circulation, distribution, etc. and may be published as an Open Letter.

Thanks to our colleague Jackie Cabasso of Western States Legal Foundation for writing and circulating the letter. She is also seeking a group meeting with US officials around the PrepCom, we’ll report on any progress.

April 16, 2014

 

Dear President Obama,

 

During the closing session of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014, you cited a number of concrete measures to secure highly-enriched uranium and plutonium and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime that have been implemented as a result of the three Nuclear Security Summits, concluding: “So what’s been valuable about this summit is that it has not just been talk, it’s been action.”

 

Would that you would apply the same standard to nuclear disarmament! On April 5, 2009 in Prague, you gave millions of people around the world new hope when you declared: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Bolstered by that hope, over the past three years, there has been a new round of nuclear disarmament initiatives by governments not possessing nuclear weapons, both within and outside the United Nations. Yet the United States has been notably “missing in action” at best, and dismissive or obstructive at worst. This conflict may come to a head at the 2015 Review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

 

We write now, on the eve of the third Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting for the 2015 Review Conference of the NPT, which will take place at UN headquarters in New York April 28 – May 9, 2014, to underscore our plea that your administration shed its negative attitude and participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding the creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons free world.  This will require reversal of the dismal U.S. record.

 

  • The 2010 NPT Review Conference unanimously agreed to hold a conference in 2012, to be attended by all states in the region, on a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction. The U.S. was a designated convener, and a date was set for December 2012 in Helsinki. The Finnish ambassador worked feverishly, meeting individually with all of the countries in the region to facilitate the conference. Suddenly, on November 23, 2012, the U.S. State Department announced that the Helsinki conference was postponed indefinitely.

 

  • In March 2013, Norway hosted an intergovernmental conference in Oslo on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, with 127 governments in attendance. Mexico hosted a follow-on conference in Nayarit, Mexico in February 2014, with 146 governments present. The U.S. boycotted Oslo and Nayarit. Austria has announced that it will host a third conference, in Vienna, late this year.

 

  • In November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) established an “Open-Ended” working group open to all member states “to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons,” and scheduled for September 26, 2013, the first-ever High-Level meeting of the UNGA devoted to nuclear disarmament. The U.S. voted against both resolutions and refused to participate in the Open-Ended working group, declaring in advance that it would disregard any outcomes.

 

  • The U.S. did send a representative to the UN “High-Level” meeting, but it was the Deputy Secretary for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, rather than the President, Vice-President or Secretary of State. Worse, the U.S. joined with France and the U.K. in a profoundly negative statement, delivered by a junior British diplomat: “While we are encouraged by the increased energy and enthusiasm around the nuclear disarmament debate, we regret that this energy is being directed toward initiatives such as this High-Level Meeting, the humanitarian consequences campaign, the Open-Ended Working Group and the push for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.”

 

  • In contrast, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, the new President of Iran, used the occasion of the High-Level Meeting to roll out a disarmament “roadmap” on behalf of the 120 member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The roadmap calls for: “early commencement of negotiations, in the Conference on Disarmament, on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons for the prohibition of their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use, and for their destruction; designation of 26 September every year as an international day to renew our resolve to completely eliminate nuclear weapons;” and “convening a High-level International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament in five years to review progress in this regard.” The NAM roadmap was subsequently adopted by the UNGA with 129 votes in favor. The U.S voted no.

 

Meanwhile, your Administration’s FY 2015 budget request seeks a 7% increase for nuclear weapons research and production programs under the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSA’s “Total Weapons Activities” are slated to rise to $8.2 billion in FY 2015 and to $9.7 billion by 2019, 24% above fiscal year 2014. Your Administration is also proposing a $56 billion Opportunity Growth and Security Initiative (OGSI) to be funded through tax changes and spending reforms. OGSI is to be split evenly between defense and non-defense spending, out of which $504 million will go to NNSA nuclear weapons programs “to accelerate modernization and maintenance of nuclear facilities.” With that, your FY 2015 budget request for maintenance and modernization of nuclear bombs and warheads in constant dollars exceeds the amount spent in 1985 for comparable work at the height of President Reagan’s surge in nuclear weapons spending, which was also the highest point of Cold War spending.

 

We are particularly alarmed that your FY 2015 budget request includes $634 million (up 20%) for the B61 Life Extension Program, which, in contravention of your 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, as confirmed by former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz, will have improved military capabilities to attack targets with greater accuracy and less radioactive fallout.[1]

 

This enormous commitment to modernizing nuclear bombs and warheads and the laboratories and factories to support those activities does not include even larger amounts of funding for planned replacements of delivery systems – the bombers, missiles and submarines that form the strategic triad, which are funded through the Department of Defense.  In total, according to the General Accounting Office, the U.S. will spend more than $700 billion over the next 30 years to maintain and modernize nuclear weapons systems. The James Martin Center places the number at an astounding one trillion dollars. This money is desperately needed to address basic human needs – housing, food security, education, healthcare, public safety, education and environmental protection – here and abroad.

 

The Good Faith Challenge

 

This our third letter to you calling on the U.S. government to participate constructively and in good faith in all international disarmament forums. On June 6, 2013, we wrote: “The Nuclear Security Summit process you initiated has been a success. However, securing nuclear materials, while significant, falls well short of what civil society expected following your Prague speech.”[2] In that letter, we urged you to you speak at the September 26, 2013 High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament at the United Nations; to endorse UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Five-Point Proposal on Nuclear Disarmament; to announce your convening of a series of Nuclear Disarmament Summits; to support extending the General Assembly’s Open-Ended Working Group to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons; and to announce that the U.S. would participate in the follow-on conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons in Mexico in early 2014.

 

In our second letter, dated January 29, 2014, we urged that you direct the State Department to send a delegation to the Mexico conference and to participate constructively; and that your administration shed its negative attitude and participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding the creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. And we called on the United States to engage in good faith in efforts to make the Conference on Disarmament productive in pursuing the objective for which it was established more than three decades ago: complete nuclear disarmament; and to work hard to convene soon the conference on a zone free of WMD in the Middle East promised by the 2010 NPT Review Conference.[3]

 

Since our last letter, the U.S. – Russian relationship has deteriorated precipitously, with the standoff over the Crimea opening the real possibility of a new era of confrontation between nuclear-armed powers. The current crisis will further complicate prospects for future arms reduction negotiations with Russia, already severely stressed by more than two decades of post-Cold War NATO expansion, deployment of U.S. missile defenses, U.S. nuclear weapons modernization and pursuit of prompt conventional global strike capability.

 

Keeping Our Side of the NPT Bargain

 

Article VI of the NPT, which entered into force in 1970, and is the supreme law of the land pursuant to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, states: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

 

In 1996, the International Court of Justice, the judicial branch of the United Nations and the highest and most authoritative court in the world on questions of international law, unanimously concluded: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”

 

Forty-four years after the NPT entered into force, more than 17,000 nuclear weapons, most held by the U.S. and Russia, pose an intolerable threat to humanity. The International Red Cross has stated that “incalculable human suffering” will result from any use of nuclear weapons, and that there can be no adequate humanitarian response capacity.[4]  Declaringthat “our nation’s deep economic crisis can only be addressed by adopting new priorities to create a sustainable economy for the 21st century,” the bi-partisan U.S. Conference of Mayors has called on the President and Congress to slash nuclear weapons spending and to redirect those funds to meet the urgent needs of cities.[5]

We reiterate the thrust of the demands set forth in our letters of June 13, 2013 and January 29, 2014, and urge you to look to them for guidance in U.S. conduct at the 2014 NPT PrepCom. We stress the urgent need to press the “reset” button with Russia again. Important measures in this regard are an end to NATO expansion and a halt to anti-missile system deployments in Europe.

 

  • We urge you to work hard to fully implement all commitments you made in the Nuclear Disarmament action plan agreed by the 2010 NPT Review Conference and to convene the promised conference on a zone free of WMD in the Middle East at the earliest possible date.

 

  • We urge you again to take this opportunity to endorse UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Five-Point Proposal on Nuclear Disarmament, to announce your convening of a series of Nuclear Disarmament Summits, and to engage in good faith in efforts to make the Conference on Disarmament productive in pursuing the objective for which it was established more than three decades ago: complete nuclear disarmament.

 

  • We call on you to declare that the U.S. will participate constructively and in good faith in the third intergovernmental conference on humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons to be held in Vienna late this year.

 

  • As an immediate signal of good faith, we call on your Administration to halt all programs to modernize nuclear weapons systems, and to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement.

 

Mr. President: It’s time to move from talk to action on nuclear disarmament. There have never been more opportunities, and the need is as urgent as ever.

 

We look forward to your positive response.

 

Sincerely,

 

Initiating organizations:

 

Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation

 

[contact for this letter: wslf@earthlink.net; (510) 839-5877

655 – 13th Street, Suite 201, Oakland, CA 94612]

 

John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

 

Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action

 

David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

 

Joseph Gerson, Disarmament Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee(for identification only)

 

Alicia Godsberg, Executive Director, Peace Action New York

 

Endorsing organizations (national):

 

Robert Gould, MD, President, Physicians for Social Responsibility

 

Tim Judson, Executive Director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service

 

Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

 

Michael McPhearson, Interim Executive Director, Veterans for Peace

 

David Swanson, WarIsACrime.org

 

Jill Stein, President, Green Shadow Cabinet

 

Terry K. Rockefeller, National Co-Convener, United for Peace and Justice

Hendrik Voss, National Organizer, School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch)

 

Alfred L. Marder, President, US Peace Council

 

Robert Hanson, Treasurer, Democratic World Federalists

 

Alli McCracken, National Coordinator, CODEPINK

 

Margaret Flowers, MD and Kevin Zeese, JD, Popular Resistance

 

Endorsing organizations (by state):

 

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) Livermore, California

 

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, Office of the Americas, California

 

Linda Seeley, Spokesperson, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, California

 

Susan Lamont, Center Coordinator, Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, California

 

Chizu Hamada, No Nukes Action, California

 

Lois Salo, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Peninsula Branch, California

 

Rev. Marilyn Chilcote, Beacon Presbyterian Fellowship, Oakland, California

 

Margli Auclair, Executive Director, Mount Diablo Pleace and Justice Center. California

 

Roger Eaton, Communications Chair, United Nations Association-USA, San Francisco Chapter, California

 

Dr. Susan Zipp, Vice President, Association of World Citizens, San Francisco, California

Michael Nagler, President, Metta Center for Nonviolence, California (for identification only)

 

Rev. Marilyn Chilcote McKenzie, Parish Associate, St. John’s Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California (for identification only)

 

James E. Vann, Oakland Tenants Union, California (for identification only)

 

Vic and Barby Ulmer, Our Developing World, California (for identification only)

 

Judith Mohling, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Colorado

 

Bob Kinsey, Colorado Coalition for the Prevention of Nuclear War

 

Medard Gabel, Executive Director, Pacem in Terris, Delaware

 

Roger Mills, Coordinator, Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition, Henry County Chapter

 

Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, Maine
Lisa Savage, CODEPINK, Maine

 

Natasha Mayers, Whitefield, Maine Union of Maine Visual Artists

 

Shirley “Lee” Davis, GlobalSolutions.org, Maine Chapter

 

Lynn Harwood, the Greens of Anson, Maine

 

Dagmar Fabian, Crabshell Alliance, Maryland

 

Judi Poulson, Chair, Fairmont Peace Group, Minnesota

 

Marcus Page-Collonge, Nevada Desert Experience, Nevada

 

Gregor Gable, Shundahai Network, Nevada

 

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico

 

Joni Arends, Executive Director, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, New Mexico

 

Lucy Law Webster, Executive Director, The CENTER FOR WAR/PEACE STUDIES, New York

 

Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, New York

 

Sheila Croke, Pax Christi Long Island, chapter of the international Catholic peace movement, New York

 

Richard Greve, Co Chair, Staten Island Peace Action, New York

 

Rosemarie Pace, Director, Pax Christi Metro New York

 

Carol De Angelo, Director of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation, Sisters of Charity of New York (for identification only)

 

Gerson Lesser, M.D., Clinical Professor, New York University School of Medicine (for identification only)

 

Ellen Thomas, Proposition One Campaign, North Carolina

 

Vina Colley, Portsmouth/Piketon Residents for Environmental Safety and Security, Ohio

 

Harvey Wasserman, Solartopia, Ohio

 

Ray Jubitz, Jubitz Family Foundation, Oregon

 

Cletus Stein, convenor, The Peace Farm, Texas

 

Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT, INND (Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders), Washington

 

Allen Johnson, Coordinator, Christians For The Mountains, West Virginia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cc:

 

John Kerry, Secretary of State

 

Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

 

Thomas M. Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and

Nonproliferation

 

Susan Rice, National Security Advisor

 

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor

 

Samantha Power, Permanent Representative to the United Nations

 

Christopher Buck, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., Conference on Disarmament

 

Walter S. Reid, Deputy Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament

 

[1] http://blogs.fas.org/security/2014/01/b61capability/

 

[2] http://www.lcnp.org/files/060613_Obama.docx

 

[3] http://www.lcnp.org/pubs/Letter-to-Obama-Mexico-Conference-on-IHL.pdf

 

[4] http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/resolution/council-delegates-resolution-1-2011.htm

 

[5] http://www.usmayors.org/resolutions/81st_Conference/international02.asp

 

 

 


Zero

February 24, 2014

Here’s an easy quiz for you. According to an article in the Washington Post over the weekend , the Obama Administration is considering four options regarding leaving U.S.  troops in Afghanistan after the end of this year. What do you think the number should be?

A.      10,000 (favored by U.S. military commanders, unsurprisingly)
B.      A somewhat smaller number, unspecified
C.      3,000
D.      Zero

Tell the president you want all our troops home, with none left behind in Afghanistan.

It’s long past time to end America’s longest war. In the words of the late, great Pete Seeger (a longtime Peace Action member):

“If you love this land of the free,
Bring ‘em home, bring ‘em home,
Bring ‘em back from overseas,
Bring ‘em home, bring ‘em home!”

Peacefully Yours,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. After you email the president, please click here and tell your friends to do the same.


Update: U.S. Skips Mexico conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons

February 13, 2014

Disappointing, as there evidently was consideration within the Administration about going to the Mexico conference, but not all that surprising they are skipping it. We aren’t though, Alicia Godsberg, e.d. of Peace Action of NY State, is there and we look forward to her reports.

The Hill, February 13, 2014, 02:08 pm

http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/un-treaties/198353-obama-knocked-for-skipping-nuke-conference
Obama knocked for skipping nuke conference

By Julian Pecquet

The Obama administration is skipping a nuclear arms conference for the second time in a row, irritating arms-control advocates.
The U.S. and the four other original nuclear states – Russia, China, France and Britain – are all boycotting this week’s meeting in Mexico because of concerns that it could be used as a forum to push for the elimination of their stockpiles. All five also declined to send a delegation to the inaugural Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, held last year in Oslo.

“The absence of the five original nuclear weapons states in Mexico will only deepen the frustration of the nonnuclear-weapon states about the slow pace of progress toward the fulfillment of the nuclear-weapon states disarmament commitments,” said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. “Rather than dismiss or boycott conferences on the topic, the United States should actively participate and join other nations in a statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the need to prevent any exchange of nuclear weapons.”

Kimball said the goal of the conference was never to launch negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban, since it would never go anywhere without the participation of nuclear-armed states anyway. Rather, the purpose is to highlight the devastating humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the need to prevent any exchange of nuclear weapons.
The decision to skip the conference comes as the Obama administration prepares to commemorate the fifth anniversary of his historic speech calling for a world free of nuclear weapons – rhetoric that helped get him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. The administration strongly denied Thursday that the president was backsliding on those goals.

“After careful consideration, the United States has decided not to attend Mexico’s February 13-14 conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Our decision does not indicate any lessening support for nuclear disarmament,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told The Hill in an email.

“We continue to take very seriously the consequences of nuclear weapons use,” Harf said. “It is in our interest, as well as the interest of all nations, to extend the nearly 70-year record of nuclear weapons non-use forever. We remain committed to practical step-by-step disarmament and will continue to take steps toward securing a world without nuclear weapons.”

Harf pointed to the elimination of 85 percent of the U.S. nuclear stockpile since its Cold War peak and and the recent New START Treaty with Russia as signs of progress. She added that Obama has “reaffirmed his desire to take additional steps along the path to achieving a world without nuclear weapons” and that this would be a topic of discussion during next month’s Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.

While the Obama administration’s decision to skip the conference has been discrete, in Britain by contrast it has set off a firestorm of criticism against Prime Minister David Cameron from lawmakers on all sides.

“We should be there. I cannot understand why we are not [going]“, The Guardian quoted former Defense minister and  chairman of the defense committee James Arbuthnot as saying.

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/un-treaties/198353-obama-knocked-for-skipping-nuke-conference#ixzz2tERFK6Zg
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____________________


Will the U.S. Skip Another International Conference on Nuclear Weapons?

February 11, 2014

-Kevin Martin, Executive Director

When professed nuclear dove Barack Obama was elected president, hopes were high in this country and globally for serious progress toward global nuclear disarmament. However, other than the modest New START  arms reduction treaty with Russia, there is little to show so far for his five years in office.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, signed by President Clinton in 1996, was rejected by the U.S. Senate in 1999. While the Obama Administration would like to get Senate advice and consent, garnering the 2/3 vote in the Senate the Constitution for ratification appears a very tall order given the prevailing hyper-partisan gridlock. (Could the president get 2/3 of the Senate to agree the sky is blue?)

Much worse, the Administration has proposed a Dr. Strangelovian “nuclear weapons modernization” program that could cost over $1 trillion over the next thirty years. This unconscionable boondoggle, if fully funded and implemented, would upgrade the entire U.S. nuclear weapons complex, soup to nuts – new nuclear weapons production facilities capable of designing nuclear warheads with new capabilities, increased warhead production capacity, and new bombers, missiles and submarines. Predictably, other nuclear weapons states have followed suit and are concocting their own “modernization” programs. It’s not hard to see how this undercuts our credibility, and U.S. and global security, when it comes to the urgent problem of nuclear proliferation. And the opportunity cost of that $1 trillion not going to human and environmental needs is scandalous.

The United States is getting it wrong not just on substance, but also on process. The U.S., and the other nuclear weapons states, generally scoff at efforts by non-nuclear states and the international community to get the process of nuclear disarmament unstuck. There is a new emphasis, in both governmental and non-governmental processes, on raising up the (horrific) humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. Recent studies project even a “modest” regional nuclear war could not only kill tens of millions of people, but also threaten a regional or even global “nuclear famine” that could affect hundreds of millions or billions more through severe agricultural impacts.

The Norwegian government hosted a conference on this subject about a year ago. The U.S. and the other members of the “P-5” – the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, all nuclear powers – boycotted the confab.

Last September, the Non-Aligned Movement sponsored the first ever UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament at the General Assembly, and has formed an Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear weapons abolition. The U.S. and other nuclear states participated (they could hardly have boycotted a General Assembly meeting), but unfortunately in the most condescending, arrogant manner. The U.S., United Kingdom and French statements at the meeting were an embarrassing display of nuclear colonialism, as they scolded the Non-Aligned states for wasting their time and not trusting the nuclear states to take care of nuclear disarmament in their own good time in processed dictated by the nuclear haves. (See my bog post No Right Hands for the Wrong Weapons – 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)

This Thursday and Friday, the Mexican government will host the follow-up to the Norway conference, again focusing on the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. An activist NGO conference, organized by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) will convene before and after the governmental conference in Nuevo Vallarta. While informed sources had said the Obama Administration was considering attending the conference, there has been no announcement one way or the other, which doesn’t appear to bode well for those hoping the U.S. would show up.

The United States should be there, if it is serious about nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Ninety-eight percent of the world’s countries eschew nuclear weapons, as does the solid majority of the world’s population.

Nearly 10,000 people have emailed the president on this issue, and it’s not too late to convince him that he, or more likely a high-level representative of his administration, should go to the Mexico conference. In his recent State of the Union Address, President Obama stated,  “America must get off a permanent war footing.” I couldn’t agree more, and nukes are a great place to start. You can make your thoughts known to the president by email, please see this action alert


Letter from 32 peace organizations to the president urging U.S. participation in Mexico conference on nuclear weapons

February 6, 2014

This letter is a follow-up to one we sent the president last year, as well as a petition campaign that garnered over 25,000 signatures, urging U.S. participation in multilateral nuclear disarmament fora. Next week, governmental and non-governmental reps will convene in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico for the second conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons (the U.S. and other nuclear states skipped last year’s meeting in Oslo, Norway). Reliable sources had said the U.S. was considering participating in the Mexico conference, but there has been no announcement on this to date. Last week’s email action alert generated over 2200 Peace Action supporters’ emails to the president (thank you!) and other organizations including Physicians for Social Responsibility and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation have also generated emails to President Obama on the Mexico conference. The letter below is also posted on the website of our colleague organization, the Lawyers Committee for Nuclear Policy.

–Kevin Martin

January 29, 2014
President Barack Obama

The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20500

Mr. President,
The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report rightly declared: “It is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly 65-year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever.” On February 13-14 in Mexico, governments will gather for a second conference on the consequences of nuclear explosions. The point is to develop and disseminate understanding of the consequences, and the inability to respond adequately to them, so as to reinforce the determination, well expressed in the Report, that nuclear weapons must never be used again.
The United States should be there. The aim – and the focus on catastrophic consequences – is completely in accord with your speeches in Prague, Berlin, and elsewhere. In Prague you said: “One nuclear weapon exploded in one city – be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague – could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be – for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival.”
As representatives of organizations working for the global elimination of nuclear weapons, we respectfully urge that you direct the State Department to send a delegation to the Mexico conference and to participate constructively.
We last wrote you by letter dated June 6, 2013 to urge that you speak at the September 26, 2013 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament. While regrettably there was no high-level US representative at the meeting, the United States did make a statement and also joined in a statement made by a UK mission policy advisor (!) on behalf of the United Kingdom, France, and United States.
It would have been better if the joint statement had not been made at all. It conveyed a profoundly negative attitude toward the multiple efforts being made in international forums to stimulate progress on achieving and sustaining a world free of nuclear weapons, stating: “And while we are encouraged by the increased energy and enthusiasm around the nuclear disarmament debate, we regret that this energy is being directed toward initiatives such as this High-Level Meeting, the humanitarian consequences campaign, the Open-Ended Working Group and the push for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.”

In the remaining three years of your Presidency, we strongly urge that your administration shed that negative attitude and participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding the creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. Opportunities will arise in the Conference on Disarmament, the NPT Review Process, and the UN General Assembly.
Regarding the Conference on Disarmament, in December 2013 the General Assembly adopted a new resolution following up on the High-Level Meeting. The resolution calls for “the urgent commencement of negotiations, in the Conference on Disarmament, for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention” to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Rather than reflexively rejecting that call, the United States should engage in good faith in efforts to make the Conference on Disarmament productive in pursuing the objective for which it was established more than three decades ago: complete nuclear disarmament.
Finally, your administration should work hard to convene soon the conference on a zone free of WMD in the Middle East promised by the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Prospects for movement on substantive issues are appreciably higher now than they were a year ago, due to the praiseworthy US-Russian initiative on disarmament of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal and the encouraging progress on reaching a permanent settlement of disputes over Iran’s nuclear program.
We would appreciate a reply to this letter, and would be happy to meet to discuss the matters it addresses.
Sincerely,
John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
[contact for this letter: johnburroughs@lcnp.org; (212) 818-1861;
866 UN Plaza, Suite 4050, New York, NY 10017]
Joseph Gerson, Disarmament Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee
Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation
David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Ashish Sinha, Program Director, Alliance for Nuclear Accountability
Henry Lowendorf, Chair, Greater New Haven Peace Council
Alfred L. Marder, Honorary President, International Association of Peace Messenger Cities
Alice Slater, Director, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, New York
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
Tim Judson, Acting Executive Director, Nuclear Information & Resource Service
Baria Ahmar, Canada/Lebanon coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, Office of the Americas
Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
Sheila Croke, Pax Christi Long Island Council
The Rev. David W. Good, Tree of Life Educational Fund
Nydia Leaf, Granny Peace Brigade (New York)
Paul Hodel, Promoting Enduring Peace
Odile Hugonot Haber, Co-Chair, Middle East Committee, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – US
Alan Haber, The Megiddo Peace Project.
David Hartsough, Executive Director, PEACEWORKERS, San Francisco
Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., Director, Shareholder Advocacy, Dominican Sisters of Hope, Mercy Investment Services, Inc. and Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, U.S. Province
Margaret Melkonian, Executive Director, Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives

Sr. Rosemarie Pace, Pax Christi New York
Rob van Riet, Coordinator, Disarmament Program, World Future Council
Ellen Rosser, President, World Peace Now
Rev. Kristin Stoneking, Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Program Director, Hibakusha Stories
David Swanson, cofounder, WarIsACrime.org
Carol Urner, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 2014 Nuclear Weapons Abolition Campaign.
Alyn Ware, Member, World Future Council
Bill Wickersham, Adjunct Professor of Peace Studies, University of Missouri – Columbia
cc:
John Kerry, Secretary of State
Rose Gottemoeller, Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
Thomas M. Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation
Susan Rice, National Security Advisor
Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor
Samantha Power, Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Christopher Buck, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., Conference on Disarmament


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

January 29, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peacefully and Diplomatically Yours,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

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


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


No More Sanctions on Iran, Give Diplomacy and Peace a Chance!

November 15, 2013

The tide is indeed turning, but your senators need to hear from you – no more sanctions, support diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear program. You can reach your senators’ offices via the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Good article (with a nod to Peace Action!) on Huffington Post by our colleague Jamal Abdi of the National Iranian American Council, titled Tide Turns Towards Diplomacy as Key Senators Oppose New Iran Sanctions

Jamal Abdi

Policy Director, National Iranian American Council

GET UPDATES FROM JAMAL ABDI

 

Posted: 11/15/2013 2:27 pm

 

President Obama and the White House have been engaged in a battle in the Senate to block the chamber from passing new sanctions that could derail ongoing negotiations with Iran. The White House has been clear: new sanctions could kill the talks and put the U.S. on a “path to war.”

Groups including NIACFCNLPeace ActionAmericans for Peace NowJ Street, andInternational Campaign for Human Rights in Iran have  all come out against new Senate sanctions. Groups including AIPAC and Foundation for Defense of Democracies are, as usual, advocating more sanctions. AIPAC even says they will explicitly try to kill a deal.

But it looks like the pro-diplomacy side is winning.

Senators Carl Levin, Christopher Murphy, and Dianne Feinstein have all now come out in opposition to new Iran sanctions, saying they will instead support  the ongoing negotiations with Iran. And today, even Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told the BBC  today he will not support new sanctions for now, saying, “I am skeptical of talks with Iran but willing to give the Obama administration a couple months.”

Here are the three Senators who are leading the charge to protect diplomacy from a new sanctions push:

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “Whether it is a 10%, 40% or 60% chance [that the change is real], it should be tested and probed. We should not at this time impose additional sanctions.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: “I am baffled by the insistence of some senators to undermine the P5+1 talks. I will continue to support these negotiations and oppose any new sanctions as long as we are making progress toward a genuine solution.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “At this critical juncture in these negotiations when Iran may be on the verge of making serious concessions regarding its nuclear program, I worry it would be counterproductive for Congress to authorize a new round of sanctions, diminishing American leverage and weakening the hands of Secretary Kerry and his counterparts in the P5+1.”

While the House of Representatives voted in support of new sanctions just days before Rouhani’s inauguration, a recent letter calling for the Senate to support new sanctions drew less than half as many supporters as a previous letter supporting diplomacy and calling for sanctions to be traded in for Iranian nuclear concessions.

Now, it is now up to the Senate to decide whether to pass a sanctions bill opposed by the White House. The chamber has yet to advance their own  bill despite prodding from hawks like Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The most likely path for the new sanctions was the National Defense Authorization Act, expected to be on the Senate floor next week. But with the two Senators who will manage the bill – Levin and McCain – now opposed to adding sanctions, U.S. negotiators are likely to have more space to conduct talks and secure a framework for a deal without Congressional interference.

If the sanctions can successfully be paused, the next battle looms: Will Congress be able to accept a good deal that puts constraints on Iran’s nuclear program to protect against weaponization in exchange for sanctions relief? Or will they set unrealistic Bush-era demands, such as that Iran completely end even civilian nuclear work, to scuttle the talks? Stay tuned.

Follow Jamal Abdi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jabdi


Next Steps on Syria

October 7, 2013

We helped stop a potentially disastrous U.S. military intervention in the Syrian civil war, but that war rages on. Here is a “peace platform” Peace Action helped craft along with allies* in the very effective ad hoc  coalition on Syria we initiated. Your comments on the substance of the platform, and on how to promote it to the media, the public and policy-makers, are most welcome. 

A CALL FOR U.S. ACTION FOR PEACE IN SYRIA

1.    The U.S. should, first, do no harm. Stand against any U.S. military strikes or any further military intervention in Syria. Support UN decision-making, international law and diplomacy instead of military force.

2.   The U.S. should call for an immediate ceasefire by all sides and a comprehensive international arms embargo.  Announce plans to stop sending or facilitating any arms to rebel forces or allowing U.S. allies to do so, and urge Russia and Iran to stop sending any arms to the Syrian government.

3.   The U.S. should immediately re-open plans with Russia for international diplomatic negotiations towards a political solution in Syria. The talks must include all sides in Syria, including non-violent Syrian civil society, and representatives of Syrian, Palestinian, and other refugees and internally displaced persons forced from their homes in Syria. All key parties to the conflict, including Iran, should be included. The U.S. should also support efforts towards accountability and justice for all war crimes that have been committed in the Syrian war.

4.   The U.S. should announce a major increase in refugee and humanitarian assistance coordinated through the United Nations, and call on other countries to increase aid and coordinate through the UN.

5.   The U.S. should support the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons to lead and oversee the transfer of chemical weapons to international control so they may be safely destroyed or removed. The U.S. should support further disarmament efforts by endorsing calls for a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone throughout the Middle East, with no exceptions.

* Groups working together on Syria: 

Peace Action

Pax Christi

Sisters of Mercy

Win Without War

Institute for Policy Studies

Fellowship of Reconciliation

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


Shutdown the Shutdown Talking Points and Resources

October 4, 2013

Compiled by Peace Action’s Move the Money Working GroupID-10055209

We need to find ways to connect the current Congressional crisis with the ongoing struggle to change national spending priorities: Move the Money from wars and weapons to fund jobs, human services and diplomacy.

Two immediate actions we can take:

1. Public education: Letters to the Editor (LTE), op-eds and using social media.

2. Join in solidarity with domestic needs, labor and others taking action in our communities to pressure Congress to end the shutdown and change national spending priorities. Although the bottom line is ending the shut down it is also true that the struggle over the passage of a budget and the debt ceiling are all connected.

Talking Points & Resources for LTE, op-eds and social media: some of theses points are the biggest demand we can make, others are shorter term points suited to appeal across the political spectrum. You are the best judge of which will be appropriate for your audience. Use National Priorities Project’s handy interactive online tools to get specific data on your state, city or town and the federal budget to make your LTE or op-ed hit home.  Read a brief history of how we got to the shutdown.

Immediate impact of shutdown: 800,000 workers are furloughed and may not get a paycheck while tens of billions will be wasted to implement the shutdown and restart services when it is over. Read what the National Priorities Project estimates. For the most up-to-date information on the shutdown including the impact on the state level can be found here: Center for Effective Government

• Democracy: The shutdown and failure to pass annual budgets and resorting to Continuing Resolutions are limiting the rightful role of constituents and the grassroots to dialogue and inform Congressional decision-making on federal budget priorities. The ball keeps getting kicked down the field with Continuing Resolutions. Time for Congress to pass a budget and decide on national spending priorities!

Role of government: Speeches from the floor of the House of Representatives say better to have less government and the shutdown proves that. We need effective government with a federal budget, which reflects the needs and aspirations for a better country and world. Not a government which spends 57% annually on wars and weapons while there is high unemployment and cuts to community services.

Government is not broke. We can’t let the norm for federal budget decisions become the Budget Control Act or what is called sequestration. The problem is that a federal budget has not been passed in years. It’s been replaced by stopgap Continuing Resolutions, which now lock in cuts, set by sequestration. We need, even with limited resources, a thoughtful prioritization for annual spending. We need to Move the Money!

In fact, there is growing support for cutting the Pentagon budget if the political will exists.

What can be cut in the Pentagon budget so we can have more funding of essential community programs?  Read 27 recommendations for budget cuts in the 2015 budget drafted by 17-member defense advisory committee, which includes two former vice chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, a former Air Force chief and a former chief of naval operations. Read entire Stimson Center report issued on 9/25/13

Use Peace Action’s website to send your Letter to the Editor.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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