Senate Committee approves limited authorization for war on ISIS

December 16, 2014

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Last Thursday, The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10 to 8 in favor of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS/ISIL in Syria and Iraq, but with some limitations, read more in this article in Stars and Stripes. The importance of this vote remains to be seen, as neither the full Senate or House plans to take up the AUMF issue before the end of the year, so this committee vote will “expire,” and the new Congress may not take up the AUMF until March or April.

The vote was, somewhat predictably, along party lines, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed. While the vote is largely symbolic, key issues surfaced not just in the vote itself but in the debate leading up to it, including possible prohibition or limitations on the use of U.S. combat forces (the bill would allow the use of ground forces for some special missions), the duration of congressional authorization (three years in the bill that passed in committee, meaning it would last into the next presidency), geographic limitations (Sen. Rand Paul’s attempt to limit military operations to Iraq and Syria failed in committee) and sunsetting the previous AUMFS for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

This committee vote fell far short of Congress doing its Constitutional duty regarding authorizing war, especially for a conflict the U.S. entered last summer. Peace Action will of course keep you apprised of the situation and how you can make an impact, including national lobby days, demonstrations and call-in and email actions early in 2015. On a somewhat related issue, we will also keep you informed on how to continue to support diplomacy rather than war or increased sanctions against Iran. While there may some tough moments ahead, resolving the issue of Iran’s nuclear program in the next several months could lead to broader benefits for Middle East peace.


Update on Senate Panel Vote: Today is a good day to tell the Senate, “No More War!”

December 10, 2014

 

 

 

 

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UPDATE DECEMBER 11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-8 in favor of the AUMF for Syria and Iraq, but with some limitations, read more in this article in Stars and Stripes. The importance of this vote remains to be seen, as neither the full Senate or House plans to take up the AUMF issue before the end of the year, so this committee vote will “expire,” and the new Congress may not take up the AUMF until March or April. Peace Action will of course keep you apprised of the situation and how you can make an impact.

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Tomorrow, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The vote is somewhat symbolic, as it’s just a committee vote, and the full Senate and House will not vote on any AUMF before the new Congress convenes in January, meaning they would need to start from scratch on this issue.

 

However, the vote could be an indicator of the depth of support, at least in this important committee, for yet another endless war in the Middle East. The Obama Administration apparently wants at least a three year authorization (stretching beyond the end of the president’s term in office), with no geographic limitations, and no prohibition on deploying U.S. ground troops. Sure looks like a slippery slope to another endless war.

 

I need you to call your senators today, especially those on the Foreign Relations Committee (check the committee roster here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_Committee_on_Foreign_Relations)

 

Regardless of whether you have a senator on the committee, it’s a good day to tell the Senate, “No More War!” Thanks to our colleagues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, you can call toll-free at 877-429-0678.

 

Today is International Human Rights Day, and we at Peace Action certainly believe peace is a fundamental human right. Please call your senators today, toll free at 877-429-0678, on behalf of peace and stopping yet another endless war.

 

Yours in Peace,

 

Kevin Martin

Executive Director

 

P.S. For years Peace Action has advocated the repeal of both war authorizations for Afghanistan and Iraq, passed well over a decade ago. While we opposed both authorizations at the time, many who supported them then now agree that they are outdated and far too broad and should be repealed (we agree).

 

The Obama administration has been leaning on both authorizations for its military intervention in Iraq and Syria, though now it wants Congress to pass a new AUMF. We oppose a new AUMF as Peace Action thinks not enough energy has been spent on a political solution to the Syrian civil war and on starving ISIS of resources (oil, antiquities and sex trade revenue, weapons and foreign fighters).

 

Please call your senators today, toll-free at 877-429-0678, and thank you for all your support as we observe this season of peace.


Do Wars Really Defend America’s Freedom?

December 1, 2014

Not so much, according to Peace Action national board member and SUNY/Albany Professor Emeritus Larry Wittner. See his article on History News Network.

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

U.S. politicians and pundits are fond of saying that America’s wars have defended America’s freedom. But the historical record doesn’t bear out this contention. In fact, over the past century, U.S. wars have triggered major encroachments upon civil liberties.

Shortly after the United States entered World War I, seven states passed laws abridging freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In June 1917, they were joined by Congress, which passed the Espionage Act. This law granted the federal government the power to censor publications and ban them from the mail, and made the obstruction of the draft or of enlistment in the armed forces punishable by a hefty fine and up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Thereafter, the U.S. government censored newspapers and magazines while conducting prosecutions of the war’s critics, sending over 1,500 to prison with lengthy sentences. This included the prominent labor leader and Socialist Party presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs. Meanwhile, teachers were fired from the public schools and universities, elected state and federal legislators critical of the war were prevented from taking office, and religious pacifists who refused to carry weapons after they were drafted into the armed forces were forcibly clad in uniform, beaten, stabbed with bayonets, dragged by ropes around their necks, tortured, and killed. It was the worst outbreak of government repression in U.S. history, and sparked the formation of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Although America’s civil liberties record was much better during World War II, the nation’s participation in that conflict did lead to serious infringements upon American freedoms. Probably the best-known was the federal government’s incarceration of 110,000 people of Japanese heritage in internment camps. Two-thirds of them were U.S. citizens, most of whom had been born (and many of whose parents had been born) in the United States. In 1988, recognizing the blatant unconstitutionality of the wartime internment, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, which apologized for the action and paid reparations to the survivors and their families. But the war led to other violations of rights, as well, including the imprisonment of roughly 6,000 conscientious objectors and the confinement of some 12,000 others in Civilian Public Service camps. Congress also passed the Smith Act, which made the advocacy of the overthrow of the government a crime punishable by 20 years’ imprisonment. As this legislation was used to prosecute and imprison members of groups that merely talked abstractly of revolution, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately narrowed its scope considerably.

The civil liberties situation worsened considerably with the advent of the Cold War. In Congress, the House Un-American Activities Committee gathered files on over a million Americans whose loyalty it questioned and held contentious hearings designed to expose alleged subversives. Jumping into the act, Senator Joseph McCarthy began reckless, demagogic accusations of Communism and treason, using his political power and, later, a Senate investigations subcommittee, to defame and intimidate. The president, for his part, established the Attorney General’s List of “subversive” organizations, as well as a federal Loyalty Program, which dismissed thousands of U.S. public servants from their jobs. The compulsory signing of loyalty oaths became standard practice on the federal, state, and local level. By 1952, 30 states required some sort of loyalty oath for teachers. Although this effort to root out “un-Americans” never resulted in the discovery of a single spy or saboteur, it did play havoc with people’s lives and cast a pall of fear over the nation.

When citizen activism bubbled up in the form of protest against the Vietnam War, the federal government responded with a stepped-up program of repression. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, had been expanding his agency’s power ever since World War I, and swung into action with his COINTELPRO program. Designed to expose, disrupt, and neutralize the new wave of activism by any means necessary, COINTELPRO spread false, derogatory information about dissident leaders and organizations, created conflicts among their leaders and members, and resorted to burglary and violence. It targeted nearly all social change movements, including the peace movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the environmental movement. The FBI’s files bulged with information on millions of Americans it viewed as national enemies or potential enemies, and it placed many of them under surveillance, including writers, teachers, activists, and U.S. senators Convinced that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a dangerous subversive, Hoover made numerous efforts to destroy him, including encouraging him to commit suicide.

Although revelations about the unsavory activities of U.S. intelligence agencies led to curbs on them in the 1970s, subsequent wars encouraged a new surge of police state measures. In 1981, the FBI opened an investigation of individuals and groups opposing President Reagan’s military intervention in Central America. It utilized informers at political meetings, break-ins at churches, members’ homes, and organizational offices, and surveillance of hundreds of peace demonstrations. Among the targeted groups were the National Council of Churches, the United Auto Workers, and the Maryknoll Sisters of the Roman Catholic Church. After the beginning of the Global War on Terror, the remaining checks on U.S. intelligence agencies were swept aside. The Patriot Act provided the government with sweeping power to spy on individuals, in some cases without any suspicion of wrongdoing, while the National Security Agency collected all Americans’ phone and internet communications.

The problem here lies not in some unique flaw of the United States but, rather, in the fact that warfare is not conducive to freedom. Amid the heightened fear and inflamed nationalism that accompany war, governments and many of their citizens regard dissent as akin to treason. In these circumstances, “national security” usually trumps liberty. As the journalist Randolph Bourne remarked during World War I: “War is the health of the state.” Americans who cherish freedom should keep this in mind.

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/157574#sthash.LdEUZxWF.dpuf


Alternatives to Endless War

November 13, 2014

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 A Sustainable, Effective Response to ISIS

 

Instead of another endless war, Members of Congress should stand up in support of effective alternatives to combat the threat from ISIS. Below are possible ways for the U.S. government to take action. These are examples of the many alternatives available to move towards a political solution.

 

The United States Congress can:

  • Insist that President Obama seek congressional authorization for continued military intervention, and then vote to oppose our latest war in Iraq and Syria
  • Cosponsor measures like H. Con. Res. 114, offered by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to require Congress to debate, vote, and constrain U.S. military intervention
  • Support measures to prohibit U.S. ground troops and sunset the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs

 

The United States can take immediate unilateral action to:

  • Tighten loopholes in existing sanctions to help cut off ISIS’s funding streams
  • Condition U.S. support for the Iraqi government on success in stopping sectarian violence and promoting inclusive governance. This can undermine the roots of ISIS’s hold in Iraq
  • Cut off U.S. government contracts with anyone doing business with ISIS
  • Increase humanitarian funds for acute needs. The UN’s Syria Regional Refugee Response Plan for 2014 is only half-way funded. As winter approaches, the key World Food Program has “run out of funds”: rations will be cut and some refugees will go without any WFP aid
  • Stop channeling weapons into a volatile situation. The U.S. has armed Iraqi forces and Syrian rebels despite rights violations. U.S. weapons have ended up in the hands of ISIS
  • Support civil society efforts to build peace and reconciliation at the community level

 

The United States can support multilateral efforts to:

  • Build regional stability and security through aid for refugee host nation communities to reinforce stressed health, education, and housing infrastructure and to encourage job creation
  • Keep the conflict from spreading to Jordan, Turkey or Lebanon etc. by encouraging a global effort to share responsibility for resettling refugees from Iraq and Syria
  • Prevent problems when ISIS recruits– originating from the U.S.– return by dissuading recruits from leaving in the first place and by monitoring the most dangerous returnees

The United States can work with the United Nations to:

  • Organize humanitarian evacuations of stranded and trapped civilians
  • Impose comprehensive, enforceable financial sanctions against ISIS
    • ISIS profits from selling petroleum, archaeological artifacts, and wheat
  • Restrict ISIS’s access to the international financial system
  • Support a political solution to Syria’s civil war:
    • With the UN and regional powers, press the regime and rebels to support truces to reduce non-combatant deaths and increase the focus on defending against ISIS
    • Re-energize diplomacy for negotiation on a political transition that would include all parties to the conflict as well as outside parties, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and the U.S. A regional Contact Group could lay the groundwork for peace talks
    • If necessary, the UN General Assembly could assume responsibility under the Uniting for Peace procedure (to circumvent possible Security Council inaction)
    • Begin discussions and planning for a possible international peacekeeping or stabilization mission in Syria (and possibly parts of Iraq)

 

The United States can work with regional states and organizations to:

  • Engage in strategic outreach to Sunni communities in both Iraq and Syria to address political and economic grievances and thus undermine crucial political support for ISIS. The region’s Sunni powers—the Saudis, Emiratis, Jordanians and Turks—can all play a role
  • Work to impose an arms embargo against all armed actors in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait have provided weapons to the opposition, including ISIS, in Syria
  • Work with the states near ISIS territory to close the borders leading into and out of ISIS areas
  • Enforce sanctions against ISIS and stop member nations from purchasing ISIS’s goods
  • Conduct a social media campaign that truthfully exposes the grotesque nature of ISIS ideology in terms that would-be jihadists can understand

The legacy of WMDs in Iraq – the real ones, courtesy of Uncle Sam

October 20, 2014

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Below is a letter to the editor sent to the New York Times (they didn’t publish it, happens to the best of us) prompted by an article last week on the actual weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq — no, not the nukes Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld lied to us about in order to invade Iraq, the chemical weapons supplied by the United States to Saddam Hussein and company in the late 70s and early 80s, sacrebleu! The article by C. J. Chivers is tough reading, but highly recommended.

Apart from the awful possibility that ISIS has gotten or could get its hands on these horrific weapons, this should be a lesson in how short-sighted our government’s weapons proliferating practices are and how they nearly always come back to hurt us — our troops, our allies and the security of the American people.

October 16, 2014

To the editor,

Revelations by the Times of the recent discovery of forgotten – or worse, covered up — chemical weapons stashes in Iraq and negligence in the treatment of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and police exposed to sarin and mustard agents would be shocking, but they are unfortunately all too predictable. Similarly, if ISIS has gotten hold of and perhaps used some of these horrific weapons, no one should be surprised.

The effects of decades of the United State and other western powers pouring conventional and unconventional weapons into the Middle East are wide-ranging and unpredictable, except that they will likely prove disastrous, as they have time and again. From Gaza to Syria to Iraq to Egypt to Libya to Afghanistan, U.S. and western military intervention and/or an always open spigot of weaponry (with American taxpayers usually footing the bill) amount to attempting to put out the region’s near-constant fires with gasoline.

In the near term, working with the new Iraqi government and international agencies to secure and destroy the remaining chemical weapons, as is underway in Syria, and delivering fair and just treatment to those exposed to these weapons need to be urgent priorities.

More broadly, it’s time for a fundamental re-orientation of our policies away from failed militaristic, weapons-based stratagems that make the region and the United States less safe. Instead, we need a more sustainable commitment to diplomacy (such as restarting negotiations to end the Syrian civil war), strict arms control (beginning with establishing a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East and serious curbs on conventional weapons transfers) and international cooperation instead of bombing or invading as the way to address the threats of violent extremism.

Sincerely,

Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Peace Action


Your Opinion Matters – Survey on U.S. War in Syria and Iraq

October 17, 2014

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Please take a minute to complete a simple, four question survey regarding U.S. military action in Iraq and Syria..

It helps to know what you think.  We want our communications, and most especially our calls to action, to align with your interests and concerns.  That means greater participation and greater impact on decision makers.

Asking you to share your views is something we don’t do enough of, so please take a minute – just a minute – to answer four questions.


Peace and Climate Justice: Inseparable

September 29, 2014

–Judith Le Blanc, Field Director

stop the wars stop the warming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geneseo chapter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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