Washington Post article on NPT RevCon outcome

May 31, 2010

Today’s Washington Post has an interesting article on the outcome of the month-long Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT RevCon) that Peace Action and allies from around the world worked so hard on (see the Peace and Justice Now website for more on the fantastic conference, rally and march we organized).

This Post article is a good post mortem on the RevCon, and it does accurately reflect an attitude on the part of the Administration that has concerned me for awhile, namely they want uncritical, lavish praise and credit for everything Obama has said or done on nukes, even if most of it has been very modest. It’s a very partisan and frankly arrogant, “love us cuz we ain’t Bush and you couldn’t ever possibly have anybody better than us” attitude, which is frankly very dismissive or at least reveals a lack of understanding that lots of folks (certainly we activists but also other governments) are very serious about abolishing (not just incrementally reducing) nuclear weapons and are independent in our analysis and actions. (And their surprise that Arab and other non-nuclear states insisted on pressing the WMD-free Middle East issue shows this as well, though states were very clear they would push that, and it’s not at the behest of Iran, they are serious and the Administration shouldn’t have been surprised about that). I think Obama is in a way being held accountable to expectations he himself raised with the Prague speech, when in fact it appears all he ever had in mind was a return to modest, incremental arms reductions treaties a la the 80’s and 90’s, not  a serious push toward eliminating nuclear weapons.

I do still have hope this Administration will move more aggressively on nuclear disarmament issues — they have some very smart, committed people in the Administration (along with some who are unfortunately very limited in their vision) — but we will have to push them and work with them to make that happen.

Protest the Israeli Massacre of the Nonviolent Gaza Freedom Flotilla

May 31, 2010

From United for Peace and Justice…

Last night the Israeli navy attacked humanitarian ships in international waters in the middle of the night. Reports indicate that 10-16 humanitarian activists were killed and 50-60 were injured. The ships were seized by the Israeli navy and taken to Haifa to avoid press at Ashdod. UFPJ condemns the Israeli Government for their brutal attack on unarmed civilians. Protests have taken place across the world and a number of Governments are taking action.

The U.S. arms Israel to the tune of billions of dollars a year and hence shares responsibility for this atrocity.  How many more must die before the Obama Administration cuts off the aid we give to Israel each year?

On board were 750 people of conscience from 40 different countries, including 35 international politicians intent on breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade. We offer our sincerest condolences to family and friends who have lost loved ones in the attack. One of the boats was named after Rachel Corrie, to honor this strong young woman killed by the Israel Defense Forces in April 2003.


Demonstrations are being organized in Washington DC, New York, and Boston. Please join in where you can or organize your own. It is time to end the blockade of Gaza and the Israeli occupation of Palestine by ending US support for Israeli slaughter.

New York – 3pm today (Monday, May 31), Times Square

Washington, DC – 3pm today, Israeli Embassy, 3514 International Drive NW (Van Ness metro) – Moving on to the White House at 5pm

Boston – 4pm today, Park Street Station

Use Memorial Day to memorialize all the brave activists, show our outrage, and let the world know we are not sleeping!

Contact the White House!

Call or email to demand an immediate cutoff of U.S. aid to Israel.
Email the White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Contact the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and demand that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice vote to support a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s action and initiating an investigation.    212-415-4062


The UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, urged Monday the international community to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of some 16 unarmed peace activist, when Israeli armed commandos stormed a convoy of ships carrying aid to Gaza.

“Israel is guilty of shocking behavior by using deadly weapons against unarmed civilians on ships that were situated in the high seas where freedom of navigation exists, according to the law of the seas,” Mr. Falk said. “It is essential that those Israelis responsible for this lawless and murderous behavior, including political leaders who issued the orders, be held criminally accountable for their wrongful acts.”

By sailing directly to Gaza, outside of Israeli waters, with cargo banned illegally by Israel, such as the 10,000 tonnes of badly needed concrete, toys, workbooks, chocolate, pasta and substantial medical supplies, the flotilla is exercising international law and upholding article 33 of the Geneva Convention which clearly states that collective punishment is a crime against humanity.

The hardships of Israel’s closure of Gaza have been well documented by all human rights groups operating, most recently by Amnesty International in their Annual Human Rights Report concluding that the siege has “deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law.”

For updates go to http://witnessgaza.com/ and http://www.freegaza.org/

Joseph Gardner, Presente! A Memorial Day Requiem for a Soldier

May 28, 2010
Joseph Gardner, my great-great-great grandfather, was a Quaker abolitionist in Kansas in the mid-1800s. His forebears had come to these shores (Nantucket, to be precise) in 1620.

(I also have Mennonite and Church of the Brethren backgrounds in my family tree, so even though I didn’t know much about these family traditions growing up, I guess it was genetically pre-determined that I become a peace activist.)

Gardner moved from Indiana to Lone Star, Kansas in the 1850’s, to help support the establishment of Kansas as a “free state” as he wanted to help free the slaves. By all accounts he and his family had a hard life, as farmers certainly did back then (and as many still do today). Gardner’s house was a station on the Underground Railroad, and he participated in armed raids into Missouri to free slaves and other abolitionists.

Because of his participation in such raids, he was a wanted man with a $500 reward for his capture, dead or alive, on his head. He was part of a party organized to rescue John Brown from prison in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (Brown declined their help, and told his would-be rescuers he had decided to die a martyr for the cause of abolition).

Gardner put his body on the line, serving in the First Kansas Colored Regiment, fighting alongside free black soldiers. (As my friend George Paz Martin, no relation, quipped, “You know what he was don’t you? A buffalo soldier!”) He died in battle in August, 1863 at the age of 43, or four years younger than I am now.

Every time I read his biography I can’t believe his courage and dedication. Though I believe strongly in the power of nonviolence, I might well have made the same choices he made in his life, that is if I somehow had his fearlessness.

As far as I know (and I have not researched this), Joseph Gardner was the only member of my family killed in war. I’ll be thinking of him this Memorial Day, in two different ways – pride that such a man of strength and conviction is my ancestor, and hoping he would approve of my calling as a peace activist dedicated to abolishing war and building a peaceful and just world.

Who, and what, will you think of this Memorial Day?

(More on Joseph Gardner, some of it written by his son, is available here).

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

“Don’t Reward Violence in Iraq by Extending U.S. Troop Withdrawal Deadline”

May 27, 2010

“President Obama should not bow to the Beltway voices urging him to keep U.S. troops longer in Iraq.

At a speech at West Point on Saturday, May 22, Obama said: “We are poised to end our combat mission in Iraq this summer.” His statement, which the cadets greeted with applause, is a reaffirmation of his pledge to have all U.S. combat forces leave Iraq by Aug. 31. Any remaining armed forces are required to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 in accordance with the binding bilateral Security Agreement, also referred to as the Status of Forces Agreement.”

Read the rest of Raed Jarrar’s article in the Progressive.

Peace Action of New York State Video Blog from Times Square!

May 24, 2010

Peace Action of New York State’s first video blog is very cool, and it connects with a scene in the soon-to-be-released feature film Countdown to Zero (more on that soon).

Check out the video blog, and also lots of other good info on our inspiring, empowering events around the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York and other happenings on the terrific PANYS website at http://panys.org/.

“The Iraq Exit Plan”

May 17, 2010

by Raed Jarrar
Reposted from CounterPunch

Last week, rumors that the U.S. might delay the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq led to much confusion and concern. These rumors are thankfully not true, and both the U.S. and Iraqi leaderships are going ahead with the agreed upon plan.

There are two approaching deadlines guiding the US withdrawal from Iraq. The first is August 31st of this year, which is a self imposed deadline not included in the bi-lateral security agreement. The august 31st 2010 deadline requires all combat forces to be out of Iraq, bringing down the number of all troops to less than 50K, and the number of contractors to less than 75K. In addition, all combat operations must end and that will be officially the last day of ‘operation iraqi freedom’. The second deadline is December 31 2011, which is the end game of the binding bilateral Security Agreement that was signed between the two countries in late 2008. According to this deadline, all remaining troops and contractors must leave the country bringing their number down to ZERO, and all bases and military installations must be shut down and/or handed over to the Iraqi governmnent.

These two deadlines did not appear out of the blue; it took millions of Iraqis and Americans years of hard work to push for this plan. On the Iraqi side, the parliament — the only elected entity in the Iraqi government — managed to take out provisions about permanent military bases from the Bush agreement. Iraqis demonstrated in the streets for months and demanded that their parliament stand up to the Iraqi government and Bush Administration, and they ended up succeeding in changing these provisions. The new agreement that was ratified by the Iraqi parliament prohibits any US military bases or installations beyond 2011. On the American side, millions of Americans demonstrated against the war and occupation, and voted for Obama after he adopted a plan to withdraw all combat forces in 18 months and to withdraw all other forces in accordance to the bilateral Security Agreement.

Within the U.S. peace movement, two equally damaging attitudes dominate: on the one hand, there are those who think Obama will end the war, and therefore they don’t need to do anything about it. And on the other hand, there are those who think the occupation will never end, and therefor it is a lost cause.

I personally stand in the middle. I think the withdrawal plan is good enough because it requires all U.S. armed forces and contractors to leave by the end of next year, but at the same time I don’t think we have enough guarantees that it will become reality. Therefore, I believe we need to do a lot of work to make sure Obama implements the plan as promised.

It is very important to understand how we’ve managed to reach to the the current plan, which is a good plan aimed at ending the occupation completely. But what is more important is to understand that this plan needs a lot of work until it becomes reality. We need to activate both our grassroots oversight and the congressional oversight to make sure the Obama Administration will abide by the plan and fulfill its promises and obligations.

These 2 approaching deadlines are recognized and supported by existing congressional language. Section 1227 of the defense authorization and section 9010 of the defense appropriations, both for fy10, recognize and support the deadlines and their guiding doctrines. This language provides some congressional oversight, but more is needed. A number of national organizations in the US, including Peace Action, are calling for more congressional oversight and White House accountability. You can learn more about Peace Action’s campaigns here

The August 31st deadline is being challenged by the spike of violence in Iraq and by a drumbeat in Washington trying to use that violence as an excuse to justify prolonging the occupation. Giving into skepticism will take us to no where, and believing that Obama will do our work for us is not the answer either. We need to work hard to make sure that the plan for withdrawal becomes reality, and that this tragic war with Iraq comes to an end.

Raed Jarrar is an Iraq-born political analyst based in Washington DC.

Raed Jarrar on RT: “US Withdrawal is not linked to conditions on the ground.”

May 14, 2010

Senior Fellow Raed Jarrar on RT: “So far the Obama administration and the Iraqi leadership have been against linking the withdrawal to conditions on the ground, but if the Obama administration actually delayed the withdrawal that would be rewarding these acts of terror and it will embolden them further. I think the best way to pull the rug out from under their feet is by continuing with the withdrawal.”

Watch the full piece at RT.


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