Budget Deal Reached, Pentagon Gives Thanks

November 13, 2015

After years of gridlock and partisan rancor, the budget impasse may finally be broken. The President won increases in ‘non-defense’ spending as part of the deal, but the Pentagon will still gobble up more than 50% of the discretionary budget.  Allowed to increase spending at this pace, the Pentagon can look forward to its first trillion-dollar budget a decade from now.

Peace Action opposes the planned increases in Pentagon spending to $548 billion in fiscal 2016 and $551 billion in fiscal 2017.

The agreement would also increase the Pentagon slush fund, the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund (OCO), which is not subject to the budget caps. The deal would allow about $16 billion more than President Obama requested bringing the total number of tax dollars at the Pentagon’s disposal to over $600 billion for fiscal 2016.

Holding our elected leaders accountable for their rubber stamp approach to war and weapons spending is the first step.  With elections less than a year away, Peace Action is doing just that through our Peace Voter campaign.  Here’s an example of that work, as Will Hopkins, Executive Director of New Hampshire Peace Action asks Hillary Clinton about her “close ties to elements within the military industrial complex” last month on the Today show.

Peace Action continues to work with our allies on Capitol Hill pressing Congress to cut funding for big ticket items like the F-35 and nuclear overkill.  We are investing resources in our grassroots campaign to Move the Money from the Pentagon to meet the needs of our communities, working to build and strengthen local coalitions.  Over the past three years we have conducted workshops in 10 states training local activists in the workings – inside and out – of military budgets. Presently, we are planning trainings in Florida and Oregon for 2016.

More money for high-tech weaponry and unending war means less for our communities and people in need and less invested in green technologies necessary to avert climate disaster.  The federal budget is all about choices.

The federal budget represents our priorities as a nation and it should reflect our values. But powerful ideological forces and financial interests have hijacked the budget process for their own gain.

Martin Luther King Jr challenged us with the admonition, ‘those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.’

The political power required to bring democracy to decisions on federal budget priorities and foreign and military policies is not beyond us.  We are more than capable and we will make it happen.

US taxpayer dollars, $250 million of em, spent to train sixty, that’s 60, Syrian rebels (that’s fewer fighters than an NFL roster, and more expensive per gladiator!)

July 8, 2015


How about instead of throwing this money down the proverbial crapper, we use it to potty-train all the children in the world. Or for refugee/humanitarian assistance in Syria. This failure (which we’ve also seen with “training” “our guys” in Iraq and Afghanistan) was inevitable, since nobody could even guess what “success” would look like. Shut this asinine program down now!

PoliticoPro: US has spent hundreds of millions for just 60 Syrian fighters



7/8/15 3:41 PM EDT

How much has the United States spent to train that whopping force of 60 Syrian rebels to take on the Islamic State? Well, according to basic math, about $4 million for each of them.

POLITICO has learned that of the $500 million requested last year for the “train-and-equip” program, roughly half has been spent.

“About half of the $500 million has been obligated thus far, mostly on equipment required to train the Syrian fighters,” said a congressional aide who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The fact that the Obama administration has spent so much on a program that has yielded so few vetted fighters makes clear just how difficult it is to find “moderate” Syrian rebels who can make it through the stringent screening process — and are willing to prioritize the fight against ISIL over the civil war against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The figure also provides new ammo for Republican critics of President Barack Obama’s strategy for dealing with ISIL, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday blasting the president’s Syria plan as “delusional.”

McCain’s statement came after Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the Armed Services panel during a hearing that just 60 fighters had made it through the vetting process for the three-month-old Syria train-and-equip program — a number he conceded was “much smaller than we hoped for at this point.”

Another 7,000 volunteers, Carter said, were going through the screening process.

Last year, Congress approved $500 million for training program, with a goal of training about 3,000 vetted Syrian rebels this year, according to the Congressional Research Service.

There are many reasons why the number of vetted fighters is so low, including the Obama administration’s requirement that the fighters — who are being trained at sites in Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — agree to prioritize the fight against ISIL over the war against the Assad regime.

Administration officials are concerned about the aftermath if Assad were toppled without a political structure ready to replace him. But McCain and other Republicans say it’s imperative that the administration go after both the Syrian leader and ISIL.

“The administration is telling Syrians to forego fighting their greatest enemy, the Assad regime, which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and meanwhile refusing to protect these fighters from the terror of Assad’s barrel bombs,” McCain said in a statement. “That is why it is no small wonder that our train and equip program in Syria is so anemic.”

For his part, Carter predicted during Tuesday’s hearing that more allied fighters will be vetted and trained.

“As training progresses,” he said, “we are learning more about the opposition groups and building important relationships, which increases our ability to attract recruits and provides valuable intelligence for counter-ISIL operations.”

A separate, classified program to train Syrian rebels run by the CIA, reportedly to the tune of nearly $1 billion, has been underway for several years. Its effectiveness has also been called into question, leading some lawmakers to move to cut some of the secret funding.

Video of Move the Money training session in New Hampshire

May 27, 2015

Peace Action Education Fund’s Move the Money training program, in conjunction with our friends at National Priorities Project and funded by the Colombe Foundation, is in its third year of training local activists on the Pentagon budget and how to build powerful coalitions to impact federal spending priorities — to move the money from weapons and wars to community needs.

New Hampshire Peace Action hosted this training, and Peace Actionistas from Massachusetts and Maine also attended. Peace Action Maine’s Martha Spiess did a great job filming the session, check it out!

Your Priorities, Not War

May 12, 2015

by Paul Kawika Martin

It’s that time of year when Congress figures out the federal budget for next year. The House will take up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week. Despite the Republican stranglehold in the House they may allow a few amendments to be voted on where we can make a difference.

Please call your Representative now at 202-224-3121 and ask them to support amendments to the NDAA that cut Pentagon spending and cut the OCO slush fund.

You’ve heard us talk about the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. It is supposed to be used to fund the U.S. wars abroad that we oppose. The Republicans and, to a lesser extent, the Obama administration has been using it as a slush fund to cover costs for programs the Pentagon would otherwise be forced to cut. Indeed, the Republicans almost doubled the account to nearly $100 billion at a time when the war in Afghanistan is supposed to be winding down.

This week, Congress may vote on amendments to slash the OCO, make the slush fund more transparent, or both. Additionally, House amendments might address various Pentagon boondoggles like the wasteful F-35 and unneeded nuclear weapons.

This is not how we want our hard earned tax dollars spent. Pick up your phone now and call your Representative, 202-224-3121, and tell them to slash the OCO slush fund and cut Pentagon pork like the F-35 and nuclear weapons.

For Peace and Prosperity, Support the People’s Budget

March 23, 2015

MOVE circle

On Tuesday, the Republicans introduced a draconian budget proposal that would gut Medicare, defund the Affordable Care Act, and make deep cuts to domestic programs such as food stamps, housing, education, and the environment.   They’ve made these proposals before — but since they now control both Houses of Congress, it might really pass. Their budget would increase the Pentagon’s slush fund that pays for the Afghanistan war and the war on ISIS.

But the Congressional Progressive Caucus has an alternative.  They call it the People’s Budget: A Raise For America, and it is the polar opposite of the Republicans’ budget proposal.

Congress will vote on budget proposals as early as next week – so contact your Representative TODAY and ask him or her to vote for the People’s Budget.

While working families face smaller paychecks, corporations and the super rich are amassing record wealth.  American families know the system is rigged in favor of the corporations. The People’s Budget makes the economy work for everyone. It creates high quality jobs and reduces family expenses, restoring the buying power of working Americans to drive a full economic recovery.

The People’s Budget creates 8.4 million good paying jobs by 2018; invests $1.9 trillion in America’s future; and puts $820 billion towards infrastructure and transportation improvements.   Ask your Representative to support the People’s Budget!

The People’s Budget cuts waste from the base military budget, eliminates the Pentagon’s “Overseas Contingency Operations” slush fund, ends the US military presence in Afghanistan after 2016, cuts unnecessary spending on destabilizing nuclear weapons, requires that the Pentagon be audited, and invests in diplomacy.  It also provides a new framework to transition workers in military industries to good jobs in the civilian sector.

The People’s Budget would bring in revenue and redress extreme inequality by closing corporate tax loopholes and by a progressive tax on incomes over $1 million a year.   It takes on the climate crisis by imposing a carbon tax as well as by funding transportation improvements.

The People’s Budget is a package that brings together the big issues – taxes, jobs, government services, and militarism – and asks our Members of Congress to take a stand for peace and justice and against austerity and war.  Support of the Progressive Caucus budget in Congress has grown over the years. Let’s keep up the momentum by adding more support this year!   Will your Representative vote for the People’s Budget?

Write Congress now to support the People’s Budget.

For Peace and Justice,

Cole Harrison
Executive Director, Massachusetts Peace Action
National Peace Action Move the Money Working Group Convener

P.S.  Please click now to ask your Representative to support the People’s Budget!

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.”

Mass banner

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.

Stop the Wars, Stop the Warming!

September 9, 2014

Richmond, VA GDAMS action

We are at a crossroads, faced with a climate crisis that threatens to end our world as we know it.  We can’t afford the greenhouse gas emissions from the way we live and from war and preparations for war.  We must end the fossil fuel energy economy which war protects.

Join us for the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, September 21! 

The specter of nuclear war still hangs over the world. US policy is the main obstacle to effective global action on climate change, world peace, and nuclear disarmament.  Peace, antiwar and environmental activists must join together for immediate action!

The Peace, Justice and Climate contingent will assemble at 10:00 am for a pre-rally on Central Park West north of Columbus Circle.   Confirmed speakers include Bill McKibben, Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, Father John Dear, Margaret Stevens, and Erica Violet-Lee of Idle No More, with music by Emma’s Revolution, Dar Williams, and Holly Near.   The march steps off at 11:30am.

We go to New York to demand that the US government:

•    Stop wars for oil
•    Redirect military spending to fund green jobs and sustainable infrastructure
•    Stop the Keystone pipeline project, fracking and offshore drilling
•    Move to abolish all nuclear weapons as required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
•    Stop blocking proposals for effective international action on climate put forward by developing countries

Be sure to check out the Climate Convergence conference on Friday, September 19 and Saturday, September 20 in New York, with keynote speakers including Naomi Klein and many more.

Humbly for peace,


Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

PS: Your tax-deductible contribution to Peace Action Education Fund will support our efforts to build a strong peace presence in the movement to stop climate change.


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