April 15 Tax Day: Global Day of Action on Military Spending!

February 20, 2014
VA Organizing at teh Richmond, VA post office on April 15, 2013

VA Organizing at teh Richmond, VA post office on April 15, 2013

By Judith Le Blanc, Peace Action Field Director

The International Peace Bureau’s Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) is April 15, US Tax Day. Peace Action is convening a cross section of peace and community, faith-based national groups who are supporting local actions across the country on Tax Day. Tax Day will be a day to shine a light on the Pentagon budget and how it drains the resources needed for our communities.

Not only does our government allocate a majority of the discretionary spending every year on the Pentagon at the expense of human needs and diplomacy, it also is one of the world’s biggest arms dealers.

The Tax Day actions are a call for changing national spending priorities, it is also a day of solidarity with all those who suffer from US wars past and present and the presence of over 1,000 bases around the world. The actions will call attention to the domestic impact of continuing to pour money into the Pentagon budget while community services are cut.

The recent Congressional budget deal delayed the next round of ”sequestration” or across the board budget cuts. Federal budget cuts were made but the Pentagon came out the big winner. In fact, the Overseas Contingency Operations account got bumped up while the war in Afghanistan is winding down creating a slush fund to blunt the impact of cuts!

Initial reports are that the Pentagon will announce their budget on February 24 and will include a $26-28 billion dollar “investment fund.” Yet another maneuver to add money to the budget and relieve the pressure to cut the Pentagon budget!

The April 15 Tax Day local actions will focus on Congress. In April, the Congress will be in the midst of working on the federal budget.

We will send a clear message to our Congressional representatives: ”Move the Money” from wars and weapons to human services and convert military industries into civilian use.

We have commitments from 10 Peace Action affiliates to work with their community allies to organize Congressional lobby visits, town hall meetings, and vigils, leafleting, banner drops or other visibility actions. Please post your event here.

Soon a US website will be up with materials, information and organizing tips. Find out more about what is going on around the world at http://demilitarize.org/

For more information email: JLeBlanc@peace-action.org.


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


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


WAPO Faith Blog: 10 Things we can do right now about Syria besides bombing

September 6, 2013

The Washington Post On Faith Blog entry By Susan Thisthlethwaite using the practices of Just Peace to offer alternatives to military strikes:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/09/06/10-things-we-can-do-right-now-about-syria-instead-of-bombing/


Peace Action quoted on Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC last night

September 6, 2013

Good segment on opposition to a U.S. military attack on Syria, and alternative options, on Rachel Maddow last night. Peace Action is mentioned at about 4:50 into the clip.

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26315908/#52933514


Join the No War with Syria Thunderclap!

September 4, 2013

 

Speak in one powerful voice to Congress on September 9 as the they meet to vote on military action in Syria!

Join the No War with Syria Thunderclap. 

On September 9, the message below will automatically be sent to all your friends and supporters. As of today, over 100 people have signed up to have the message below automatically posted on Facebook and Twitter at Noon on September 9 to 77,828 people.

“Tell Congress, #NoWarwithSyria. Military strikes could spiral into another US war. Only diplomacy can end the crisis. http://thndr.it/18mXCpj

Click on this link http://thndr.it/1fvyNdt and sign up to be part of the Thunderclap. 

Watch a brief video about how a Thunderclap amplifies a mobilization far beyond a single organization or individuals’s social media reach.

If 100 people have at least 200 friends on Facebook and 50 followers on Twitter we would reach 25,000. If 10 of their friends do the same…you do the math!

Power to the peaceful,

Judith Le Blanc

Field Director

Peace Action

 


Mitt Romney sounded like Gandhi last night, and Au Revoir to a true man of peace

October 23, 2012

Mitt Romney sure mentioned the word “peace” an awful lot in the last presidential debate Monday night. While my take is that he did so in a pretty cynical way, trying to make folks think he is less of a dangerous guy than he really is, it was interesting, and I think good sign, perhaps counterintutively.

Now I don’t for a moment want Mitt Romney to be president. His proposals to amp up Pentagon spending, his hawkish views regarding Iran, his desire to build up U.S. nuclear forces instead of reducing them, his kowtowing to Bibi Netanyahu and conservative Jews in the U.S., to name just a few policies that are out of whack with the interests of the American people, speak much more loudly than his kumbaya-ing last night.

However, it’s clear that Romney and his campaign handlers want to at least appear to be breaking with some of the policies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (and with some of his own previous bellicose positions), to appear kinder and gentler, more acceptable as a possible commander in chief. And even if it was cynical, the fact that he thought he had to appear to be more of a peacenik is a good sign. “Peace” shouldn’t be a dirty word in presidential campaigns, especially in a country nearly always at war (and where the current Nobel Peace Prize-winning president presides over drone strikes to get folks on a “kill list,” yet who is also talking like he wants his second term to be more peaceful, many contradictions with his current policies notwithstanding).

I guess for me it comes down to being somewhat surprised, but glad, that the two main presidential candidates are talking about peace, even when we know their policies don’t live up to their words. Peace is one of the values that human beings hold dearest, but it shouldn’t be used cynically. And of course our job is to hold them accountable to actually carrying out more peaceful policies after the election.

How did you react to Romney’s peace prose last night? Please share your thoughts and feelings.

Remember the last true peace candidate for president (of the “major” parties that is)? Senator George McGovern passed away at the age of 90 over the weekend. I couldn’t add anything to this moving tribute by William Greider at The Nation, so I won’t try, except to say he was the first candidate I can remember. My mom volunteered for him, and in the straw poll in my 5th grade class (I think it was 5th grade), I may have been the only McGovern “supporter.” Rest in peace, good man, and thanks for all your peace-and-justice-mongering and truth-telling. Would that we had some leaders like you today.


Suggested Actions for the International Day of Peace – Today!

September 21, 2012

Did you know today is celebrated as the International Day of Peace? No? Don’t be embarrassed, it’s not a real big deal in the U.S., maybe because our country is nearly always making war. Anyway September 21 was established as the International Day of Peace by the United Nations in 1981. On September 7, 2001 (four days before 9/11), the UN General Assembly unanimously declared September 21 should also be observed as a global day of cease-fire and nonviolence.

Here are four completely subjective suggestions for actions you can take to honor this day:

1. Contact your Members of Congress and tell them no war on Iran! See our blog post and action alert on this from yesterday.

2. Support the civil society initiative led by young Afghans, 2 Million Friends for Peace in Afghanistan, in their call for a cease-fire and negotiated end to the war there. The 2 million refers to the approximate number of Afghans killed in nearly forty years of war. They aim to deliver a petition to the United Nations on December 10, International Human Rights Day.

3. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the end of U.S. nuclear weapons testing! The U.S. conducted 1,030 nuclear weapons test explosions (will the Earth ever forgive us for this violence against her?), the last was September 23, 1992. But with our continued vigilance and hard work, not only will the U.S. never test again, we’ll abolish nuclear weapons worldwide! Please sign onto a letter to President Obama encouraging further nuclear weapons reductions, and for him to push for Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

4. Give as generous a gift as you can to Peace Action!


25,000 U.S. Troops to Remain in Afghanistan for a Decade After the Supposed “End of the War” in 2014?

September 11, 2012

Well, we still have tens of thousands of troops, and dozens of bases, in Germany, Japan and South Korea, don’t we?

Last spring, when President Obama announced a “Strategic Partnership Agreement” with the government of Afghanistan (which he claimed needed no congressional approval), he also announced the security arrangement (how many U.S. troops would remain) would be negotiated separately. According to Foreign Policy’s Situation Report by Gordon Lubold, those talks are beginning, and the option being floated is for up to 25,000 U.S. troops to stay.

With support personnel, guesstimates are this could cost U.S. taxpayers at least $40 to 50 billion per year, all on us. Unlike Germany, Japan and South Korea, who we strong-arm into helping defray the costs of U.S. forces on their soil, Afghanistan won’t be able to pay any of this.

Like the Afghanistan war itself, this issue is unlikely to garner much attention in the upcoming presidential or congressional elections. But it should. Congresspeople, and candidates, should demand now that this security agreement be in the form of a treaty, subject to U.S. Senate ratification, and they should ask hard questions and demand transparency in the negotiations. Seems not a lot to ask when they hold the purse-strings (to our tax dollars), yes?

An easy place to start would be to support U.S. Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in their quest to assert congressional oversight with their bill H.R. 5787, co-sponsored by Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Jim McGovern (D-MA). (Thanks to Stephen Miles of Win Without War for the reminder on this bill.) As Rep. Jones noted in his press release when he introduced the bill last May, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton supported an identical bill regarding Iraq in 2007 when they were senators. So they should have no problem with this bill now, should they?

Of course this won’t be easy. And the president’s own logic behind his plan to “responsibly wind down the war” means it should happen ASAP, not at the end of 2014. So how about we support the youth-led Afghan Peace Volunteers’ 2 Million Friends Campaign for a cease-fire and end to the war instead?

 

 


Honor Nuclear Weapons Treaty

August 13, 2012

Salt Lake City Tribune

By Christine Meecham And Deb Sawyer

Published August 9, 2012 1:01 am

 

For much of this year, the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear weapons state has been a major international concern. As members of the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, we have a perspective we’d like to share concerning the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons.

We both grew up in Utah during the Cold War, when the threat of mass annihilation was very real. As young adults we were hopeful when the Non-Proliferation Treaty was put into force in 1970. The grand bargain of the NPT was simple: Nations that did not have nuclear weapons agreed never to acquire them, while the five nuclear states, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, agreed to share the peaceful benefits of nuclear technology as they pursued the elimination of their nuclear arsenal. Making sure that both ends of this agreement are honored is essential to the long-term viability of the NPT.

Now the countries with nuclear weapons also include Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Unlike the Cold War, today our greatest national security threats come from the breakdown of the non-proliferation regime and nuclear terrorism. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, there are at least 40 other nations with the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, which brings us back to the current conflict with Iran.

Despite the censures, sanctions and embargoes, Iran continues its nuclear program claiming that it is within its rights to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and threatening to withdraw, as did North Korea, from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If Iran withdraws from the NPT, efforts to ensure that its enriched uranium not be diverted to develop nuclear weapons would no longer be subject to oversight by the UN nuclear agency. In addition, it would bring us one step closer to another war in the Middle East.

We believe it is time to take another tack. Many of the NPT non-nuclear states believe that the nuclear-weapon states have not complied with their side of the bargain. In an attempt to reassure the non-proliferation regime, President Obama, in his Prague speech in April 2009, outlined a series of initiatives that would honor our disarmament commitment and lead to a nuclear-weapons free world. One of the first steps toward this end is putting a permanent ban on nuclear weapons testing.

Twenty years ago in 1992, President George H. W. Bush signed a moratorium on nuclear testing and other states followed. In 1996, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed, but the Senate failed to ratify it in 1999.

What if the United States surprised the world and ratified the test ban treaty? Since our experts maintain that we don’t need to test nuclear weapons to keep them viable, doesn’t it make sense to make this moratorium permanent? Wouldn’t it go a long way in affirming our commitment to nuclear disarmament?

One thing is certain, if we continue to bolster our nuclear capabilities, no amount of persuasion or sanctions will keep non-nuclear states, particularly our political foes, from eventually acquiring these weapons of mass destruction. In contrast, if we honor our commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, we will be leading the global community towards a greater security for all.

Christine Meecham and Deb Sawyer are members of the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Both live in Salt Lake City.

(Note – the Utah Campaign is an organizational member of Peace Action.)


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