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.


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


President Obama: United Nations General Assembly Speech

September 24, 2013

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http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/24/remarks-president-obama-address-united-nations-general-assembly 

United Nations
New York, New York

10:10 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen:  Each year we come together to reaffirm the founding vision of this institution.  For most of recorded history, individual aspirations were subject to the whims of tyrants and empires.  Divisions of race and religion and tribe were settled through the sword and the clash of armies.  The idea that nations and peoples could come together in peace to solve their disputes and advance a common prosperity seemed unimaginable.

It took the awful carnage of two world wars to shift our thinking.  The leaders who built the United Nations were not naïve; they did not think this body could eradicate all wars.  But in the wake of millions dead and continents in rubble, and with the development of nuclear weapons that could annihilate a planet, they understood that humanity could not survive the course it was on.  And so they gave us this institution, believing that it could allow us to resolve conflicts, enforce rules of behavior, and build habits of cooperation that would grow stronger over time.

For decades, the United Nations has in fact made a difference — from helping to eradicate disease, to educating children, to brokering peace.  But like every generation of leaders, we face new and profound challenges, and this body continues to be tested.  The question is whether we possess the wisdom and the courage, as nation-states and members of an international community, to squarely meet those challenges; whether the United Nations can meet the tests of our time.

For much of my tenure as President, some of our most urgent challenges have revolved around an increasingly integrated global economy, and our efforts to recover from the worst economic crisis of our lifetime.  Now, five years after the global economy collapsed, and thanks to coordinated efforts by the countries here today, jobs are being created, global financial systems have stabilized, and people are once again being lifted out of poverty.  But this progress is fragile and unequal, and we still have work to do together to assure that our citizens can access the opportunities that they need to thrive in the 21st century.

Together, we’ve also worked to end a decade of war.  Five years ago, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in harm’s way, and the war in Iraq was the dominant issue in our relationship with the rest of the world.  Today, all of our troops have left Iraq.  Next year, an international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan, having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11.

For the United States, these new circumstances have also meant shifting away from a perpetual war footing.  Beyond bringing our troops home, we have limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible, and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.  We’re transferring detainees to other countries and trying terrorists in courts of law, while working diligently to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  And just as we reviewed how we deploy our extraordinary military capabilities in a way that lives up to our ideals, we’ve begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.

As a result of this work, and cooperation with allies and partners, the world is more stable than it was five years ago.  But even a glance at today’s headlines indicates that dangers remain.  In Kenya, we’ve seen terrorists target innocent civilians in a crowded shopping mall, and our hearts go out to the families of those who have been affected.  In Pakistan, nearly 100 people were recently killed by suicide bombers outside a church.  In Iraq, killings and car bombs continue to be a terrible part of life.  And meanwhile, al Qaeda has splintered into regional networks and militias, which doesn’t give them the capacity at this point to carry out attacks like 9/11, but does pose serious threats to governments and diplomats, businesses and civilians all across the globe.

Just as significantly, the convulsions in the Middle East and North Africa have laid bare deep divisions within societies, as an old order is upended and people grapple with what comes next.  Peaceful movements have too often been answered by violence — from those resisting change and from extremists trying to hijack change.  Sectarian conflict has reemerged.  And the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction continues to cast a shadow over the pursuit of peace.

Nowhere have we seen these trends converge more powerfully than in Syria.  There, peaceful protests against an authoritarian regime were met with repression and slaughter.  In the face of such carnage, many retreated to their sectarian identity — Alawite and Sunni; Christian and Kurd — and the situation spiraled into civil war.

The international community recognized the stakes early on, but our response has not matched the scale of the challenge.  Aid cannot keep pace with the suffering of the wounded and displaced.  A peace process is stillborn.  America and others have worked to bolster the moderate opposition, but extremist groups have still taken root to exploit the crisis.  Assad’s traditional allies have propped him up, citing principles of sovereignty to shield his regime.  And on August 21st, the regime used chemical weapons in an attack that killed more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children.

Now, the crisis in Syria, and the destabilization of the region, goes to the heart of broader challenges that the international community must now confront.  How should we respond to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa — conflicts between countries, but also conflicts within them?  How do we address the choice of standing callously by while children are subjected to nerve gas, or embroiling ourselves in someone else’s civil war?  What is the role of force in resolving disputes that threaten the stability of the region and undermine all basic standards of civilized conduct?  What is the role of the United Nations and international law in meeting cries for justice?

Today, I want to outline where the United States of America stands on these issues.  With respect to Syria, we believe that as a starting point, the international community must enforce the ban on chemical weapons.  When I stated my willingness to order a limited strike against the Assad regime in response to the brazen use of chemical weapons, I did not do so lightly.  I did so because I believe it is in the security interest of the United States and in the interest of the world to meaningfully enforce a prohibition whose origins are older than the United Nations itself.  The ban against the use of chemical weapons, even in war, has been agreed to by 98 percent of humanity.  It is strengthened by the searing memories of soldiers suffocating in the trenches; Jews slaughtered in gas chambers; Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands.

The evidence is overwhelming that the Assad regime used such weapons on August 21st.  U.N. inspectors gave a clear accounting that advanced rockets fired large quantities of sarin gas at civilians.  These rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood, and landed in opposition neighborhoods.  It’s an insult to human reason — and to the legitimacy of this institution — to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.

Now, I know that in the immediate aftermath of the attack there were those who questioned the legitimacy of even a limited strike in the absence of a clear mandate from the Security Council.  But without a credible military threat, the Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all.  However, as I’ve discussed with President Putin for over a year, most recently in St. Petersburg, my preference has always been a diplomatic resolution to this issue.  And in the past several weeks, the United States, Russia and our allies have reached an agreement to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, and then to destroy them.

The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles.  Now there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so.  If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.  On the other hand, if we succeed, it will send a powerful message that the use of chemical weapons has no place in the 21st century, and that this body means what it says.

Agreement on chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic effort to reach a political settlement within Syria.  I do not believe that military action — by those within Syria, or by external powers — can achieve a lasting peace.  Nor do I believe that America or any nation should determine who will lead Syria; that is for the Syrian people to decide.  Nevertheless, a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country.  The notion that Syria can somehow return to a pre-war status quo is a fantasy.

It’s time for Russia and Iran to realize that insisting on Assad’s rule will lead directly to the outcome that they fear:  an increasingly violent space for extremists to operate.  In turn, those of us who continue to support the moderate opposition must persuade them that the Syrian people cannot afford a collapse of state institutions, and that a political settlement cannot be reached without addressing the legitimate fears and concerns of Alawites and other minorities.

We are committed to working this political track.  And as we pursue a settlement, let’s remember this is not a zero-sum endeavor.  We’re no longer in a Cold War.  There’s no Great Game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the wellbeing of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring that it does not become a safe haven for terrorists.

I welcome the influence of all nations that can help bring about a peaceful resolution of Syria’s civil war.  And as we move the Geneva process forward, I urge all nations here to step up to meet humanitarian needs in Syria and surrounding countries.  America has committed over a billion dollars to this effort, and today I can announce that we will be providing an additional $340 million.  No aid can take the place of a political resolution that gives the Syrian people the chance to rebuild their country, but it can help desperate people to survive.

What broader conclusions can be drawn from America’s policy toward Syria?  I know there are those who have been frustrated by our unwillingness to use our military might to depose Assad, and believe that a failure to do so indicates a weakening of American resolve in the region.  Others have suggested that my willingness to direct even limited military strikes to deter the further use of chemical weapons shows we’ve learned nothing from Iraq, and that America continues to seek control over the Middle East for our own purposes.  In this way, the situation in Syria mirrors a contradiction that has persisted in the region for decades:  the United States is chastised for meddling in the region, accused of having a hand in all manner of conspiracy; at the same time, the United States is blamed for failing to do enough to solve the region’s problems and for showing indifference toward suffering Muslim populations.

I realize some of this is inevitable, given America’s role in the world.  But these contradictory attitudes have a practical impact on the American people’s support for our involvement in the region, and allow leaders in the region — as well as the international community sometimes — to avoid addressing difficult problems themselves.

So let me take this opportunity to outline what has been U.S. policy towards the Middle East and North Africa, and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presidency.

The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.

We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.

We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world.  Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply, and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.

We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people.  Wherever possible, we will build the capacity of our partners, respect the sovereignty of nations, and work to address the root causes of terror.  But when it’s necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attack, we will take direct action.

And finally, we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction.  Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security, we reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.

Now, to say that these are America’s core interests is not to say that they are our only interests.  We deeply believe it is in our interests to see a Middle East and North Africa that is peaceful and prosperous, and will continue to promote democracy and human rights and open markets, because we believe these practices achieve peace and prosperity.  But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action, particularly through military action.  Iraq shows us that democracy cannot simply be imposed by force.  Rather, these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and peoples of the region.

So what does this mean going forward?  In the near term, America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues:  Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.  While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace.

The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  This mistrust has deep roots.  Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs and of America’s role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War.  On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy and directly — or through proxies — taken American hostages, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.

I don’t believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight — the suspicions run too deep.  But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.

Since I took office, I’ve made it clear in letters to the Supreme Leader in Iran and more recently to President Rouhani that America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully, although we are determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  We are not seeking regime change and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy.  Instead, we insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has just recently reiterated that the Islamic Republic will never develop a nuclear weapon.

So these statements made by our respective governments should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement.  We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people, while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful.  But to succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.  After all, it’s the Iranian government’s choices that have led to the comprehensive sanctions that are currently in place.  And this is not simply an issue between the United States and Iran.  The world has seen Iran evade its responsibilities in the past and has an abiding interest in making sure that Iran meets its obligations in the future.

But I want to be clear we are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course.  And given President Rouhani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government in close cooperation with the European Union — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.

The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested.  For while the status quo will only deepen Iran’s isolation, Iran’s genuine commitment to go down a different path will be good for the region and the world, and will help the Iranian people meet their extraordinary potential — in commerce and culture; in science and education.

We are also determined to resolve a conflict that goes back even further than our differences with Iran, and that is the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.  I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.  Earlier this year, in Jerusalem, I was inspired by young Israelis who stood up for the belief that peace was necessary, just, and possible.  And I believe there’s a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state.  But the children of Israel have the right to live in a world where the nations assembled in this body fully recognize their country, and where we unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes or incite others to hate them.

Likewise, the United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state.  On the same trip, I had the opportunity to meet with young Palestinians in Ramallah whose ambition and incredible potential are matched by the pain they feel in having no firm place in the community of nations.  They are understandably cynical that real progress will ever be made, and they’re frustrated by their families enduring the daily indignity of occupation.  But they too recognize that two states is the only real path to peace — because just as the Palestinian people must not be displaced, the state of Israel is here to stay.

So the time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace.  Already, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks.  President Abbas has put aside efforts to short-cut the pursuit of peace and come to the negotiating table.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has released Palestinian prisoners and reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state.  Current talks are focused on final status issues of borders and security, refugees and Jerusalem.

So now the rest of us must be willing to take risks as well.  Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depends upon the realization of a Palestinian state, and we should say so clearly.  Arab states, and those who supported the Palestinians, must recognize that stability will only be served through a two-state solution and a secure Israel.

All of us must recognize that peace will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists throughout the region, and embolden those who are prepared to build a better future.  And moreover, ties of trade and commerce between Israelis and Arabs could be an engine of growth and opportunity at a time when too many young people in the region are languishing without work.  So let’s emerge from the familiar corners of blame and prejudice.  Let’s support Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are prepared to walk the difficult road to peace.

Real breakthroughs on these two issues — Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli-Palestinian peace — would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa.  But the current convulsions arising out of the Arab Spring remind us that a just and lasting peace cannot be measured only by agreements between nations.  It must also be measured by our ability to resolve conflict and promote justice within nations.  And by that measure, it’s clear that all of us have a lot more work to do.

When peaceful transitions began in Tunisia and Egypt, the entire world was filled with hope.  And although the United States — like others — was struck by the speed of transition, and although we did not — and in fact could not — dictate events, we chose to support those who called for change.  And we did so based on the belief that while these transitions will be hard and take time, societies based upon democracy and openness and the dignity of the individual will ultimately be more stable, more prosperous, and more peaceful.

Over the last few years, particularly in Egypt, we’ve seen just how hard this transition will be.  Mohamed Morsi was democratically elected, but proved unwilling or unable to govern in a way that was fully inclusive.  The interim government that replaced him responded to the desires of millions of Egyptians who believed the revolution had taken a wrong turn, but it, too, has made decisions inconsistent with inclusive democracy — through an emergency law, and restrictions on the press and civil society and opposition parties.

Of course, America has been attacked by all sides of this internal conflict, simultaneously accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, and engineering their removal of power.  In fact, the United States has purposely avoided choosing sides.  Our overriding interest throughout these past few years has been to encourage a government that legitimately reflects the will of the Egyptian people, and recognizes true democracy as requiring a respect for minority rights and the rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly, and a strong civil society.

That remains our interest today.  And so, going forward, the United States will maintain a constructive relationship with the interim government that promotes core interests like the Camp David Accords and counterterrorism.  We’ll continue support in areas like education that directly benefit the Egyptian people.  But we have not proceeded with the delivery of certain military systems, and our support will depend upon Egypt’s progress in pursuing a more democratic path.

And our approach to Egypt reflects a larger point:  The United States will at times work with governments that do not meet, at least in our view, the highest international expectations, but who work with us on our core interests.  Nevertheless, we will not stop asserting principles that are consistent with our ideals, whether that means opposing the use of violence as a means of suppressing dissent, or supporting the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We will reject the notion that these principles are simply Western exports, incompatible with Islam or the Arab World.  We believe they are the birthright of every person.  And while we recognize that our influence will at times be limited, although we will be wary of efforts to impose democracy through military force, and although we will at times be accused of hypocrisy and inconsistency, we will be engaged in the region for the long haul.  For the hard work of forging freedom and democracy is the task of a generation.

And this includes efforts to resolve sectarian tensions that continue to surface in places like Iraq, Bahrain and Syria.  We understand such longstanding issues cannot be solved by outsiders; they must be addressed by Muslim communities themselves.  But we’ve seen grinding conflicts come to an end before — most recently in Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants finally recognized that an endless cycle of conflict was causing both communities to fall behind a fast-moving world.  And so we believe those same sectarian conflicts can be overcome in the Middle East and North Africa.

To summarize, the United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries.  The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.  Indeed, as recent debates within the United States over Syria clearly show, the danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries or to take on every problem in the region as its own.  The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war — rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world — may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill.

I believe such disengagement would be a mistake.  I believe America must remain engaged for our own security.  But I also believe the world is better for it.  Some may disagree, but I believe America is exceptional — in part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interests, but for the interests of all.

I must be honest, though.  We’re far more likely to invest our energy in those countries that want to work with us, that invest in their people instead of a corrupt few; that embrace a vision of society where everyone can contribute — men and women, Shia or Sunni, Muslim, Christian or Jew.  Because from Europe to Asia, from Africa to the Americas, nations that have persevered on a democratic path have emerged more prosperous, more peaceful, and more invested in upholding our common security and our common humanity.  And I believe that the same will hold true for the Arab world.

This leads me to a final point.  There will be times when the breakdown of societies is so great, the violence against civilians so substantial that the international community will be called upon to act.  This will require new thinking and some very tough choices.  While the United Nations was designed to prevent wars between states, increasingly we face the challenge of preventing slaughter within states.  And these challenges will grow more pronounced as we are confronted with states that are fragile or failing — places where horrendous violence can put innocent men, women and children at risk, with no hope of protection from their national institutions.

I have made it clear that even when America’s core interests are not directly threatened, we stand ready to do our part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights.  But we cannot and should not bear that burden alone.  In Mali, we supported both the French intervention that successfully pushed back al Qaeda, and the African forces who are keeping the peace.  In Eastern Africa, we are working with partners to bring the Lord’s Resistance Army to an end.  And in Libya, when the Security Council provided a mandate to protect civilians, America joined a coalition that took action.  Because of what we did there, countless lives were saved, and a tyrant could not kill his way back to power.

I know that some now criticize the action in Libya as an object lesson.  They point to the problems that the country now confronts — a democratically elected government struggling to provide security; armed groups, in some places extremists, ruling parts of a fractured land.  And so these critics argue that any intervention to protect civilians is doomed to fail — look at Libya.  No one is more mindful of these problems than I am, for they resulted in the death of four outstanding U.S. citizens who were committed to the Libyan people, including Ambassador Chris Stevens — a man whose courageous efforts helped save the city of Benghazi.  But does anyone truly believe that the situation in Libya would be better if Qaddafi had been allowed to kill, imprison, or brutalize his people into submission?  It’s far more likely that without international action, Libya would now be engulfed in civil war and bloodshed.

We live in a world of imperfect choices.  Different nations will not agree on the need for action in every instance, and the principle of sovereignty is at the center of our international order.  But sovereignty cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder, or an excuse for the international community to turn a blind eye.  While we need to be modest in our belief that we can remedy every evil, while we need to be mindful that the world is full of unintended consequences, should we really accept the notion that the world is powerless in the face of a Rwanda or Srebrenica?  If that’s the world that people want to live in, they should say so and reckon with the cold logic of mass graves.

But I believe we can embrace a different future.  And if we don’t want to choose between inaction and war, we must get better — all of us — at the policies that prevent the breakdown of basic order.  Through respect for the responsibilities of nations and the rights of individuals.  Through meaningful sanctions for those who break the rules.  Through dogged diplomacy that resolves the root causes of conflict, not merely its aftermath.  Through development assistance that brings hope to the marginalized.  And yes, sometimes — although this will not be enough — there are going to be moments where the international community will need to acknowledge that the multilateral use of military force may be required to prevent the very worst from occurring.

Ultimately, this is the international community that America seeks — one where nations do not covet the land or resources of other nations, but one in which we carry out the founding purpose of this institution and where we all take responsibility.  A world in which the rules established out of the horrors of war can help us resolve conflicts peacefully, and prevent the kinds of wars that our forefathers fought.  A world where human beings can live with dignity and meet their basic needs, whether they live in New York or Nairobi; in Peshawar or Damascus.

These are extraordinary times, with extraordinary opportunities.  Thanks to human progress, a child born anywhere on Earth today can do things today that 60 years ago would have been out of reach for the mass of humanity.  I saw this in Africa, where nations moving beyond conflict are now poised to take off.  And America is with them, partnering to feed the hungry and care for the sick, and to bring power to places off the grid.

I see it across the Pacific region, where hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty in a single generation.  I see it in the faces of young people everywhere who can access the entire world with the click of a button, and who are eager to join the cause of eradicating extreme poverty, and combating climate change, starting businesses, expanding freedom, and leaving behind the old ideological battles of the past.  That’s what’s happening in Asia and Africa.  It’s happening in Europe and across the Americas.  That’s the future that the people of the Middle East and North Africa deserve as well — one where they can focus on opportunity, instead of whether they’ll be killed or repressed because of who they are or what they believe.

Time and again, nations and people have shown our capacity to change — to live up to humanity’s highest ideals, to choose our better history.  Last month, I stood where 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. told America about his dream, at a time when many people of my race could not even vote for President.  Earlier this year, I stood in the small cell where Nelson Mandela endured decades cut off from his own people and the world.  Who are we to believe that today’s challenges cannot be overcome, when we have seen what changes the human spirit can bring?  Who in this hall can argue that the future belongs to those who seek to repress that spirit, rather than those who seek to liberate it?

I know what side of history I want to the United States of America to be on.  We’re ready to meet tomorrow’s challenges with you — firm in the belief that all men and women are in fact created equal, each individual possessed with a dignity and inalienable rights that cannot be denied.  That is why we look to the future not with fear, but with hope.  And that’s why we remain convinced that this community of nations can deliver a more peaceful, prosperous and just world to the next generation.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)


Only One Place to Cut: Pentagon Budget

May 8, 2013

By Judith Le Blanc, Field Diretor Peace Action464924_524878344214561_1362332631_o

Sequestration, across the board cuts, is no way to run the federal government. Some say it is stupid or dumb. Plain and simple, it is a bad idea with no basis in fact.

Now academic research has debunked the idea that cuts and austerity are the way out of the economic crisis.

The Congress acted to fix the sequestration chaos for frequent flyers. They allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to move money from the longer-term infrastructure account to pay the salaries of the air traffic controllers. While flights might fly on time, the sequestration chaos continues everywhere else, in our schools, national parks and on the unemployment line.

We must tell Congress: Repeal sequestration. 

Now local services and jobs are being cut town by town, in all 50 states. Yes, as Tim Murphy documents in Mother Jones, we have become the United States of Sequestration.

Join Peace Action and the Campaign for America’s Future and over 500,000 people who have already done so last week to tell Congress to end the sequestration chaos. 

There is one place cuts could and should be made, the Pentagon budget.

Why did the economy and the federal budget go off the tracks? Two wars, tax cuts for the rich, corporate tax loopholes and a runaway Pentagon budget that has never been audited.

What is the biggest drain of our tax dollars? It is the explosion of the Pentagon budget since 9/11 on new weapons, military bases around the world and nuclear weapons that serve no purpose except to generate international tensions.

Write an email to Congress and add this paragraph:

“We need to move the money from wars and ever newer weapons to fund human services and jobs that we need in our communities instead!”

The sequestration chaos will not end without mobilizing the huge outpouring of public pressure on Congress.

Write an email today; Join teachers, first responders, and the unemployed in actions in your community.

There is a smart, good and doable solution. We must move the money from where it is in the Pentagon budget, in the tax free, mega profits of the corporations to invest in programs that will create jobs and turn the economy around.

 


Good, Concise Analysis of President Obama’s State of the Union Speech by The Progressive’s Matthew Rothschild

February 13, 2013

Mixed Messages in Obama’s State of the Union

By Matthew Rothschild, February 13, 2013

President Obama’s State of the Union Address provided some solace to progressives on some issues, but left a lot to be desired on others.

He was right to point out that we can’t keep “drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next”—a good, clean shot at Republican obstructionism on the fiscal cliff and sequestration.

But for the longest time in the first part of his speech, he focused on deficit reduction, which is an exaggerated problem. He said that “economists” say we need $2 trillion more in deficit reduction “to stabilize our finances.” Which economists was he talking about? Not Nobel Prize-winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, who have urged him not to focus so much on deficit reduction but rather on job creation.

And in his discussion of deficit reduction, Obama hinted that most people are going to suffer. “We can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful,” he said. That doesn’t sound like he’s making a good bargain to me. Instead, it sounds like he’s going to ask “senior citizens and working families” to shoulder a big part of the deficit burden, which they can’t afford to do.

His endorsement of universal pre-kindergarten was a positive step. But he acted like that would even the playing field by itself, saying, “Let’s . . . make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.” Actually, children in poverty are already behind, so how about tackling poverty in America? But Obama didn’t talk about eliminating poverty in the American context, only in the global context.

And as for high schools, he boasted about Race to the Top, which has been a nightmare, and said he now wanted to “redesign America’s high schools” so they can give students “the skills today’s employers are looking for.” What about giving students the skills to be engaged learners or thoughtful citizens?

On the positive side, he did come out for raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour. But why $9 an hour instead of the $10 an hour that Ralph Nader has been calling for?

He did give some welcome shout outs to LGBTS and women and the cause of equality for all.

He did come out strongly for a fairer tax code, for gun control, and for protecting voting rights.

And he spoke forcefully for action on global warming, though he favored a “market-based solution.”

He proposed to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, which was welcome.

And he said he wanted to fix the housing market by allowing “every responsible homeowner in America” to refinance at today’s rates. The problem is, he seems to be calling anyone who ever missed a payment an irresponsible homeowner, when they may have been unable to pay because they got sick or got laid off. Is he not going to help them at all?

He talked about comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship, as he did in his Inaugural address. Fortunately, he added the need to “cut waiting periods,” which can be 20 years or longer right now. Some people will die on that path to citizenship.

On foreign and military policy, he was the most disappointing. He threatened Iran again, saying, “Now is the time for a diplomatic solution,” and warning: “We will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.”

He was blatantly one-sided on the Israel-Palestinian issue, saying, “We will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.” He didn’t even bother to mention the Palestinians at all.

And appallingly, he defended his drone warfare and assassination policy. “Where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans,” he said. And in the very next sentence, he had the chutzpah to add: “As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight.”

He said his Administration “has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations.” But is it “legal” just because he and his Justice Department say it is?

He also said, in a bald-faced lie, that “throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts.” Try running that past Sen. Ron Wyden, who for months has been trying to get his questions answered on the Administration’s assassination doctrine.

He also sang from the hymnal of American exceptionalism. “America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change,” he said. “In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights.” Tell that to the people of Bahrain.

This was neither Obama’s most eloquent defense of an affirmative role for government, nor was it close to his most honest discussion of U.S. foreign policy.

Instead, it was lukewarm liberalism at home coupled with Bush-league justifications for lawlessness and hypocrisy abroad.


Dr King on Peace, Militarism and Internationalism

January 19, 2013

Dr. Martin Luther King at a press conference.

By Judith Le Blanc – Field Director, Peace Action – A sermon delivered on January 13, 2013 to the Transcontinental Baptist Church and Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts on the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King. Every year, I enjoy the celebration of Dr King’s birthday because it reminds me of being young and militant and inspired.

Back in the day, we were mindful of having been too young to be involved in the Civil Rights movement. We were anxious for a way to continue the struggle. So we joined the struggle to make his birthday a national holiday: marching, petitioning, and pressing Congress and the Reagan administration.

The rhythm and blues artist, Stevie Wonder led the charge along with civil rights leaders He wrote a song about the struggle for a national holiday to honor Dr King.

We knew when we danced to Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday song in the clubs that we were dancing for justice and honoring the legacy of a movement that fundamentally changed the course of US history.

Nothing like it, to be out dancing in a club and reminded of what Dr King called the “beautiful struggle!” For me and many other young people of color, the fight for his birthday national holiday was really a search for way to carry on the struggle for racial justice. Then as now, we are so painfully aware of how far we must go to realize the dream of racial equity, economic justice and a world without wars.

In 1966, Dr King delivered the Ware Lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, not too far from here, in Hollywood, FL.

Every year someone is chosen to deliver this address at the general assembly as a call to witness, a signaling of the most pressing issues of the day.

In Dr King’s Ware lecture, he said, “One of the great misfortunes of history is that all too many individuals and institutions find themselves in a great period of change and yet fail to achieve the new attitudes and outlooks that the new situation demands. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution. “

There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution!

And today we are in such a moment when the militarization of the federal budget is the greatest obstacle to justice at home and global peace. Fifty eight percent of yearly discretionary spending goes to the Pentagon.

We are in a moment when Dr King’s prophetic voice can fortify our resolve to break the cycle of weapons and wars being prioritized over jobs, education and diplomacy.

We, in the peace and justice movement, have come to a moment as Dr King and the Civil Rights movement did. We must break the silence on the impact of US militarism and how it holds back a more just and peaceful world.

In his Beyond Vietnam speech delivered at Riverside Church in 1967, Dr King outlined a rationale for why our country must end the war in Vietnam in order to change the US relationship to the rest of the world and address the urgent needs of our communities.

He spoke about those who had asked, “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, aren’t you hurting the cause of your people?”

He believed those questions revealed a ”tragic misunderstanding”. He had led a movement dedicated to ending legalized segregation and won, yet he and the movement were confronted with continuing obstacles to realizing “The Dream”.

He began to confront the main obstacle to true equality: the economic system. President Johnson began to turn back the war on poverty and build up of the war in Vietnam.

Dr King knew that as long as resources were being sucked into the conflict in Vietnam that there would be no investment in our communities. He said, “I am compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”

He began to speak out in the face of, what he called “such cruel manipulation of the poor, the cruel irony of watching Black and white young people on TV as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.”

He said, “ I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

In his Beyond Vietnam speech, he spoke at length about the need to see human kind, other countries, not as enemies but as people with needs that mirror our own. He argued that demonizing the Communists could not rationalize our country’s war and occupation of Vietnam.

He began to develop a deeper analysis of the role of militarism in shaping US foreign policy. He called upon all those who believed in justice to question the fairness of our past and present foreign policies.

He said, “ Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady. If we don’t understand that reality, we will be attending rallies and marching without end.”

Why did his organizing and speaking out against the connection between poverty and war stir such controversy? Because he was pinpointing the root causes of injustice at home and abroad, he connected foreign policy and its impact at home.

He said,” When the bombs are dropped in Vietnam, they explode in our communities.” Dr King said the triple evils of militarism, poverty and inequality; cause our people and the peoples around the world to suffer needlessly. His prophetic teachings resonate today because it continues to be even truer now, than ever.

The bombs dropped in Afghanistan and Pakistan do explode in our communities.

US history has been consistently marked by wars and occupations. Constant wars or threats of wars.

Across the political spectrum a new awareness is growing that wars cannot solve the world’s most complicated problems. In fact wars and occupations worsen the crisis problems: climate change, hunger or democracy as examples.

Our country spends more on the military than any other country on the world, yet honestly and objectively: the US can no longer control the global economy nor politics with war. And can no longer afford to do so. It is the beginning of the end of US world domination.

Many of the realists on the Right are beginning to take note and are searching for ways to promote US interests through other means.

Realists among former generals and even neoconservatives and libertarians are calling for closing US bases, negotiating reductions in nuclear arsenals and ending the war in Afghanistan sooner than 2014. They are realists, not believers in Dr King’s vision, realists.

The Rand Corporation released a report in 2006 on the study of 648 terrorist groups and armed conflicts between the years 1968-2006. They found a majority ended the armed struggles by entering into the political process, and only 7% of those conflicts ended through military action. A majority of armed conflicts were ended through negotiations and a political process not military action.

Military action, as the leading edge of US foreign must, should and could come to an end. Democracy, economic development and protection of civilians cannot be achieved at the end of the barrel of a gun or with drones.

2013 is the moment for a national debate that starts club by club, church, synagogue and mosque, classroom by classroom, editorial page by editorial pages and talk radio shows. A national debate on the need for a fundamental change in US foreign policy.

The bombs are exploding in our neighborhoods, because the crisis problems faced globally cannot be solved through militarism, only worsened. War as Dr King said is the enemy of the poor of all countries.

In the next 2 months we have a call to action to carry forward the legacy of Dr King. We cannot afford to sleep through a moment where great changes, revolutionary changes are necessary and possible.

The stage has been set in Washington for a tough battle over the federal budget. Every dollar given to the Pentagon will be taken from food stamps, student loans and healthcare.

Some say that we should make the cuts 50% from domestic spending and 50% from the Pentagon.  But what they do not say is that over 1 trillion has been cut in the last 4 years from domestic programs while the Pentagon has grown.

The truth is that military corporations are making mega profits. They are in the mass media and on Capitol Hill driving the budget debate with fear mongering.

While they push for weapons systems such as the F35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, which even the Pentagon, doesn’t want. There is waste, fraud, and abuse, which is where the cutting can and should start.

A consensus is building on sensible cuts to the waste in the Pentagon budget. It is a start. We must move the money from wars and weapons to fund jobs, human services and diplomacy.

When economic and racial inequality is growing dramatically isn’t that a very serious national security problem? When we hear from some the call for militarizing our communities, our public schools. Armed guards in our public schools?

More guns will not address the crisis needs of the poor, communities of color, immigrants and the middle class or the despair and mental illness that grows when opportunities or public services are denied.

Just as war will not solve the world’s most pressing problems neither will more guns in our communities.

The 21st century struggle for racial justice is for more equity, inclusion and dignity, a more loving society and world. Don’t we all need a little more love? 

It is time to change national spending priorities and move the money from wars and weapons to fund jobs, education and diplomacy.

We can deal with the debt by expanding the economy, helping the people in our communities to get on their feet and fund the diplomacy that can change the US relationship with countries around the world.

It will be no easy path in the next two months. Military corporations have nearly two lobbyists for every Congressional representative.

Some in Congress have pledged to cut essential human needs programs, put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block and protect the Pentagon from cuts.

We should do now as Dr King did and raise up the necessity that our government must, “Go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism as the path to a better world.”

Given the situation in our world: real danger of acts of terror or nuclear war, climate crisis, scarce resources. The truth is national security is no longer possible. Only collective global security is. Collective global security is achievable through international cooperation, respect for international laws and national sovereignty.

Our world needs more diplomacy, negotiations, and engagement, not threats of war. 

As Dr. King said ”Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to humankind as a whole, in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”

Let’s mark Dr King’s birthday this year with some promises.

First, I hope you will do as I do. And every time you hear Stevie Wonder’s Birthday Song on the radio, you will get up and shake your tail feathers. And celebrate what Dr King called the long and beautiful struggle.

And I hope you will remember Dr King’s keen insight into social change when he said: “Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.”

In the next two months, we must meet the challenge of engaging in the fierce struggle to change national spending priorities and move the money from wars and weapons to fund jobs, education and diplomacy.

Because there is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution! 


The De-Mythologized History of the United States

January 7, 2013

Review of the Showtime television series “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States”

(Note, this review was written after five of the ten episodes in the series had aired. Tonight’s episode, at 8 pm eastern time on Showtime is the 9th in the series.)

–Kevin Martin

What if, in the summer of 1945, former progressive prairie populist Vice President Henry Wallace had been president instead of Harry Truman?  Wallace likely would have continued as Vice President, and thus succeeded President Franklin Delano Roosevelt upon his death, if not for some serious chicanery by party bosses, taking advantage of the gravely ill Roosevelt’s absence, at the Democratic Convention in Chicago which installed Truman as the Vice Presidential candidate over the incumbent Wallace.

Would Wallace, a noted “dove” and advocate of global governance and peaceful policies, have ordered the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had he been president?  Maybe so, as there was so much investment and momentum behind the Manhattan Project.  But perhaps President Roosevelt, who held Wallace in higher regard than he did Truman, would have told Wallace about the Bomb sooner, as opposed to the way Truman was kept in the dark about the existence of the Manhattan Project (he knew nothing of it until he became president after Roosevelt’s death). Regardless, Wallace, as president, might have rallied support from the scientists and generals who did not support dropping the Bomb on Japan. Wallace might have been more patient about the clear but halting signals that Japan was about to surrender, and would likely have rejected the idea of “demonstrating” the Bomb’s unprecedented lethality in order to impress our Soviet ally of our military superiority, which many historians agree was the “real reason” behind the bombings.

Is this idle parlor game historical “what-ifing?” Oliver Stone doesn’t think so. The three-time Oscar winner wants you to think about these paths not taken, while also revealing some little known or underemphasized paths that were taken as he deconstructs U.S. post-War mythology in his ten part television series on Showtime, “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States.” The series, narrated by Stone, airs one hour episodes on Monday nights at 8:00 pm eastern, with several rebroadcasts on Showtime channels during the week. The first five episodes have taken us from World War II through the early Cold War period of the fifties and early sixties, with five more shows to go. The next episode will focus on John F. Kennedy’s presidency.

The Showtime series is accompanied by a 750 page book co-authored by Stone and American University Professor of History Peter Kuznick, who also shares a writing credit on the TV series with Stone and Matt Graham. (Disclosure – Peter Kuznick, who also founded and directs the University’s Nuclear Studies Institute, is a colleague and friend of this reviewer.)

While it is certainly interesting and stimulating, Oliver Stone is not primarily interested in thought experiments about history. He’s a great story teller, and he aims to peel back the fascinating layers of history from a perspective that deconstructs or refutes many American myths. Such a project will no doubt challenge some viewers (and I’m sure it’s meant to!).

Take for instance the Soviet peoples’ role in defeating Nazi Germany, in which the over 20 million people died. Why is this undisputed fact so neglected in the West in favor of mostly uncritical worship of Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and MacArthur? Neither Soviet dictator Jozef Stalin’s atrocities nor the Cold War that ensued can diminish the centrality of the Soviet peoples’ sacrifice and heroism in absorbing, outlasting and ultimately defeating Adolf Hitler’s relentless, massive assault. This is especially true as the Western allies did so little throughout most of the war to help the Soviet Union.

Or the decision to drop the Bomb (that and the ensuing, mad nuclear arms race receive a lot of attention in the series). Why is this issue still so divisive and why does it provoke such defensiveness when the historical record is clear? The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were unnecessary; an exhausted and thoroughly fire-bombed Japan, fearing imminent Soviet entry into the Pacific war, would have surrendered under terms nearly identical to those obtained after the bombs were dropped. If the U.S. had been more patient and more interested in diplomacy rather than intimidating Stalin with this horrific new weapon, the atomic threshold needn’t have been crossed and over 200,000 Japanese lives would have been spared.

The most recent episode of “Untold History,” covering Dwight D. Eisenhower’s two terms in the White House, was quite the whirlwind. Despite the image of the 1950s as ho hum, a lot was going on! The civil rights movement, the assault on the Bill of Rights by J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph McCarthy and friends, the U.S. support of or participation in overthrowing the governments of Iran, Guatemala and Congo (and later Indonesia), the rise of the Non-Aligned Movement and the targeting of many of its leaders by the CIA, and the absurd build-up of nuclear weapons in “peacetime” all rocked the 50s and early 60s. The episode reminded me of books I’ve read on many of these events, and stimulated me to go deeper into some I dimly recall or know very little about.

Stone certainly wants to tell an alternative, “peoples history” in the proud tradition of Howard Zinn and Studs Terkel, but he doesn’t completely abjure the “great man” theory of history. The series paints rich portraits of some of the era’s seminal and neglected figures, such as Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Wallace, Truman, Eisenhower and George C. Marshall. Stone and Kuznick were particularly interested in fleshing out Ike, exploring much more complex contradictions than the aloof, reluctant politician caricature which is too often the norm in his biographical treatments.

While the ’50s are remembered by many (and here I believe this refers to the dominant, white, Anglo-Saxon cultural view) as a time of peace and prosperity, with the huge expansion of the American middle class, the seemingly immovable foundations of the cancerous U.S. national security state were laid, or certainly cemented. Stone notes the irony of Ike’s “military industrial complex” warning in his farewell address, as he had done more than anyone to enable the growth of the MIC and the spying on Americans. Eisenhower himself said he left a “legacy of ashes” to his successor.

Under Ike, the nuclear weapons enterprise expanded from 1000 to 22,000 nuclear warheads (most far more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb) as well as the “triad” of delivery systems (bombers, land-based missiles and submarine-based missiles) and a sprawling, secretive, environmentally devastating nuclear weapons production complex. He also made it common US policy to  threaten nuclear attacks (on at least four occasions in his presidency, over Korea, the Formosa Straits, the Suez Crisis and the escalation of tensions over the Chinese islands of Quemoy/Matsu).

All Ike’s successors have considered or threatened to use nuclear weapons (including our Nobel Peace Prize winning incumbent, who continues to insist “all options are on the table” regarding concerns over Iran’s nuclear program).  Further, Eisenhower delegated authority to launch nukes to field commanders, who in turn did so to lower level officers, resulting in dozens of “fingers on the trigger.” Ike authorized a the development of a plan to nuke China and the USSR, which would have killed an estimated 600 million people and initiated a nuclear winter that might have ended life on the planet.

Again in the “roads not taken” department, Stone persuasively argues Ike could have put the world on a different path, as his popularity and military bona fides were so strong that nobody could have questioned his patriotism or devotion to national security, and the Soviet leadership was undergoing reforms and was ready, even eager, for a more peaceful relationship with the U.S. and the West. While Eisenhower is credited with avoiding war with the Soviet Union, he put the world on a dangerous path to possible annihilation, and presided over the “most gargantuan expansion of military power in human history.”

The series and the book, coming as they do at an important time politically (in the short run, Obama’s second term, in the broader view, the beginning of the end of the American Empire), also stimulate thinking as to what might be the “Future Untold History of the United States.” Fortunately, independent media now dig up a lot of dirt on the national security state, but we really don’t know what we don’t know, do we, regarding military actions being carried out in secret (but with our tax dollars)?  And then there’s the reality that most Americans pay scant attention to military and foreign policy.  

Of course, what we do know about the continuing accumulation of imperial presidential power under the allegedly “liberal” Barack Obama (drone strikes, kill lists, spying on U.S. citizens and other threats to our civil liberties under the guise of “national security”) is bad enough.

My guess is Oliver Stone, Peter Kuznick and company will be glad if their book and series stimulate critical thinking, and action, about the present, putting to good use lessons learned (at least partly thanks to their work) from our past.

Kevin Martin has served as Executive Director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund since September 4, 2001, and has worked with the organization in various capacities since 1985. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 90,000 members nationwide. www.peace-action.org


Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99%

December 18, 2012

published by Foreign Policy in Focus

Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99 Percent

By Kevin Martin, December 18, 2012

Relief, rather than elation, was probably the emotion most U.S. peace activists felt when President Barack Obama won re-election. While Obama has been very disappointing on most peace issues, Mitt Romney would have been all the worse. So what now to expect from a second Obama term?

Most likely, more of the same; anyone expecting Obama to be decidedly more pro-peace this time around is likely to be sorely dispirited. However, there is a diverse, growing peoples’ movement in the United States linking human and environmental needs with a demand to end our wars and liberate the vast resources they consume. This, combined with budgetary pressures that should dictate at least modest cuts in the gargantuan Pentagon budget, could lead to serious constraints on new militaristic ventures such as an attack on Iran, “modernization” of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise at a cost of over $200 billion, a permanent U.S. force of up to 25,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, or an absurd military “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific aimed at isolating Russia and especially China.

We in the peace movement need to be able to think, and act, with both a short- and long-term perspective. In the near term, swiftly ending the war in Afghanistan and ensuring no long-term U.S./NATO troop presence, stopping drone strikes, preventing a war with Iran and building support for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, pushing for serious cuts to the Pentagon budget, and advocating progress toward nuclear disarmament will consume most of our energies. Renewed emphasis on a just and lasting peace between Palestine and Israel should also garner more attention and activism. Finally, peace activists will need to lend solidarity those working to save social programs from austerity-minded elites and to address climate chaos.

In the longer term, we need to hasten what Professor Johann Galtung calls “The Decline of the U.S. Empire and the Flowering of the U.S. Republic.” We have an opportunity in opposing the outrageous “Asia-Pacific Pivot,” which the military-industrial complex has concocted without asking the American people if we support it or want to continue borrowing from China to pay for it (too weird, right?). We can point out the insanity of this policy, but we can also devise a better alternative, including building solidarity with the peoples of Okinawa, Jeju Island, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and other nations in the region opposing the spread of U.S. militarism and advocating peaceful relations with China.

Defining the Democratic Deficit

This pivot is just the latest example of the fundamentally undemocratic nature of U.S. foreign policy.

The more we in the peace movement can point out that our tax dollars fund policies contrary to our interests, the easier it will be not just to build specific campaigns for more peaceful and just policies, but also to create a new vision for our country’s role in the world—to create a new foreign policy for the 99 percent.

So we peace activists need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We need to offer credible, sustainable alternatives on the issues listed above, with specific actions ordinary people can take that make a difference. But we must go further and advocate a foreign and military policy that is in the interest of the majority of this country, one that comports with widely shared ideals of democracy, justice, human rights, international cooperation, and sustainability.

It’s no news flash that elite and corporate interests have long dominated U.S. foreign policy. Illustrating this democratic deficit has two related aspects. The first is the question of access: “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” Currently, although it technically foots the bill, Congress—let alone the public—has barely any say in how U.S. foreign policy is set or implemented. On a second and integrally related note, in whose interest is it to perpetuate a gargantuan military budget, maintain a vast and expensive nuclear arsenal, or start an arms race with our banker, China? It’s hard to imagine that any ordinary person could conclude these policies serve anyone but the 1 percent.

Notions of justice and human rights are widely resonant in the United States, but they require careful consideration and explanation. “Justice” should not be invoked simply as it concerns parties to a conflict, but rather should entail racial, social, and economic fairness for all those who are affected by the grinding military machine. Emphasizing the broader social consequences of militarism will be key for growing our ranks, especially among people of color, community activists, and human needs groups. And while “human rights” is a no-brainer, it requires courage and commitment to communicate how U.S. foreign policy constantly contradicts this ideal abroad, even as our government selectively preaches to other countries on the subject.

International cooperation, while it can seem vague or milquetoast—especially given the neglect or outright stifling of “global governance” structures by the United States—is a highly shared value among people in this country and around the world. Selling cooperation as a meaningful value is fundamentally important for undermining the myth of American exceptionalism, which so many politicians peddle to sell policies that only harm our country in the long run.

Finally, while the environmental movement still has loads of work to do, the successful promulgation of the concept of sustainability is an important achievement, one we can easily adapt to military spending, the overall economy, and a longer-term view of what kind of foreign policy would be sustainable and in the interest of the 99 percent. Climate activists and peace activists need to know that they have a vital stake in each other’s work.

A glimpse of the power of democracy was in evidence on Election Day, and not just in the legalization of gay marriage and recreational marijuana in a few states. When given a choice, as in referenda in Massachusetts and New Haven, Connecticut advocating slashing military spending and funding human needs, people will choose the right policies and priorities; both initiatives won overwhelmingly.

Contrary to the hopes many people in this country and around the world invested in Barack Obama (which he didn’t deserve and frankly he never asked for), it’s never been about him. It’s about the entrenched power of the U.S. war machine, and about how we the peoples of this country and around the world can work together to create more peaceful, just, and sustainable policies. We can do it; in fact we have no choice but to do it.

Kevin Martin has served as Executive Director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund since September 4, 2001, and has worked with the organization in various capacities since 1985. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 90,000 members nationwide.

Recommended Citation:

Kevin Martin, “Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99 Percent” (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, December 18, 2012)


America – An Intervention

December 17, 2012

Hi America. Come on in. Have a seat. Get comfy. Well, we’ll just come right out and say it, since we really care about you. You have an addiction. To violence.

I know you’re hurting, but today IS the day to talk about this, and not just about gun control, but that’s where we need to start. Twenty kids massacred at school. Jesus. You can’t go on like this.

You have almost as many guns as you do people. How is that a good idea? Why does no other country think that’s a good idea? How is this making your people safer?

How come it’s easier to get guns than mental health care? Oh right, you don’t have universal health care like other grown-up countries. You could fix that, easily. Take that money you squander on your endless, pointless wars (really, enough of that already!) and give everybody health care, okay? No need for you to keep spending as much on the military as the rest of the world combined.

What was that you said? Second Amendment? You can read, right? What does a well-regulated militia have to do with anything? Really, stop being evasive. Folks can keep all their guns. Just stop making or buying bullets. It ain’t rocket science. Oh yeah, stop with the rocket science too. No more drones and missiles and “missile defense” and space weapons and all that kinda stuff.

Stop yammering about the NRA. Declare them to be what they are – a terrorist organization. Come on, sit up straight now, stiffen your spine. You can do this!

Let’s get to the bottom of something – what’s with all the fear? You have riches most other countries would only dream of – your natural resources, you bounty, and especially the ingenuity of your people. Yet you seem obsessed with fear at every level of society, from the personal to the neighborhood to the national and international levels. Why do people of different races or sexual orientation scare you so much? There’s no such thing as absolute security, for people or for countries. So ease up on all the fear-mongering already. Garrisoning neighborhoods or the country is no way to live.

Okay a lot more we could discuss that’s a lot at one sitting. Now say the following:

“Hi I’m America. I’m addicted to violence.”

Hi, America.


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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