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

20141209_MoveOn_ISIS_FBshareable_1EndEndlessWarNotBranded

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

By AUSTIN WRIGHT

 

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.


2014 Global Day of Action on Military Spending: Move the Money!

May 28, 2014

Fourth Annual Day of U.S. Actions 

By Judith Le Blanc, Field Director, Peace Action+GDAMS-Ad

Over 80 activities were organized, for the 2014 Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) in the U.S. GDAMS has become an annual day of U. S. action, part of the ongoing national effort to build a movement strong enough to “move the money” from the Pentagon and wars to fund jobs and public services.

U.S. organizers used U.S. Tax Day as a media hook and opportunity to engage the public in a dialogue on how national governmental taxes are spent by pinpointing the Pentagon budget and wars as a drain on the resources urgently needed for economic security in our communities and to address pressing global problems.

This year, the annual activities targeted the U.S. Congress with grassroots political pressure. The popular education methods, the street visibility actions and media work emphasized the connection between a militarized national budget with a militarized U.S. foreign policy. Without an informed public, fundamental shifts in government policy, foreign or domestic, are impossible. GDAMS is also an important tool to connect the ongoing social justice organizing in the U.S. with solidarity with peace and disarmament movements around the world.

From “penny polls” on city streets and at post offices where pedestrians were asked to share their opinions on national governmental spending priorities to public forums and Congressional town hall meetings the message was clear: it’s time to change national governmental spending priorities from wars and weapons to jobs creation and public services.

Read what the “penny poll” participants said in New Hampshire and in Austin, Texas. about national governmental spending priorities.

In Eugene, Oregon, Community Alliance of Lane County, (CALC), Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network-Jobs With Justice (ESSN), Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), Taxes for Peace Not War, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Veterans for Peace asked their community to voice how they would spend their tax dollars. The results were: 42% for Human Services, 31% for Infrastructure/Environmental Services and 1 % for Military: Present & Past.

“If Eugeneans were in charge in Washington, D.C., things would be radically different — our tax dollars would be fighting climate change and not endless war”, said event organizer Michael Carrigan of CALC. An opinion article by the organizers was also published in the local newspaper, The Register-Guard entitled, “Move tax dollars from Pentagon back to people.”

In Boston, Massachusetts, on April 12, the Budget for All Coalition organized a visibility action at the Bank of America followed by a forum with 200 people. Both events touched on the need to close corporate tax loopholes and tax the 1% as well as redirect Pentagon spending to domestic needs.

In northern California, the New Priorities Campaign (NPC) organized for the fourth year in a row, a distribution by 24 organizations of 15,000

Bay Area, CA GDAMS brochure

Bay Area, CA GDAMS brochure

brochures on excessive U.S. military spending at 34 rapid transit light rail stations in both the East Bay and San Francisco. NPC asked organizations to adopt a station.  Each year the number of stations covered and number of brochures distributed has increased.

In Bethesda, Maryland, Representatives of the Fund Our Communities Maryland coalition co-lead by Montgomery County Peace Action and Progressive MD, “flew” an F-35 aircraft to celebrate Tax Day. The plane fell apart—exhibiting the absurdity of using our taxes on a plane that doesn’t work and will end up costing $1.5 trillion. The action was part of the ongoing local campaign to hold Lockheed Martin accountable on local and state tax issues and to advance “ defense industry transition” state legislation.

In Saint Louis and Clayton, Missouri, Missouri Pro-vote hosted events with the Peace Economy Project, Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom and Veterans for Peace conducting a “chalk-talk” using sidewalks as a blackboard with concise messages about national governmental budget trade-offs.

Virginia Organizing & Richmond Peace Education Center, Richmond, VA GDAMS action

Events were held in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio; Charleston, West Virginia; Superior, Wisconsin; Duluth, Minnesota; Buffalo, New York; Los Angeles, California; Bay Ridge and Staten Island, New York; Dallas, Texas; San Jose, California; Kansas City, Missouri, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Indianapolis, Indiana; Royal Oak, Michigan; Des Moines, Iowa; Greensboro, North Carolina; Bath, Maine and many other small towns and big cities reflecting the commitment of local economic justice and peace groups to build a national consensus that we must “move the money from the Pentagon to fund our communities!”

U.S. Congress heard GDAMS!

In some areas, vigils and informational leafleting were done outside of Congressional offices, while in other areas Congressional representatives or their staff participated. In Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Congressional Representative Barney Frank sent video greetings to the GDAMS Budget for All forum.

On April 15, Women’s Action for New Directions/WiLL released a letter sent to U.S. Congress signed by 290 women state legislators calling on the Congress to cut the Pentagon budget to fund human needs.

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AFSC youth delegation visits U.S. Congressional representatives.

On April 12, in Washington, D.C sixty five youth from across the country came to D.C. for a film festival and leadership training on national budget priorities. This annual event has become the Capitol Hill visibility event for the U.S. GDAMS actions.  The “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” youth film festival had its world premiere screening at Busboys and Poets on April 13.  On April14, the youth had meetings at the Congressional offices of U.S. Senators Portman (OH), Blunt (MO), Kirk (IL), Durbin (IL), Gillibrand (NY), Casey (PA), Toomey (PA) and U.S. Representatives Becerra (CA) and Coble (NC).

U.S. GDAMS goes cyber!

Social media was used creatively to engage, mobilize and educate.Network, the Catholic social justice group, collaborated with GDAMS with a social media campaign to show how local activists want their tax dollars spent. Hundreds of people including 2 Congressional representatives sent photos in. 

Win Without War Meme

Win Without War Memesocial media campaign to show how local activists want their tax dollars spent. Hundreds of people including 2 Congressional representatives sent photos in. 

Groups contributed social media memes and organized a Thunderclap, which had a social media reach of 272, 955 people. Twitter was used to mobilize and even report on the days activities in real time.

Here is a sample Tweet from April 14: “Students from SFSU took #GDAMSbayarea brochure, happy to share info. #GDAMS #movethemoneyhttp://twitpic.com/e15jsa

GDAMS in the news

The National Priorities Project was the “go to” resource for research, materials and media efforts. As a nationally recognized institution their commentaries and comments on Tax Day appeared in a cross section of traditional and online media from Boise, Idaho to Tucson, Arizona to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to the Wall Street Journal Market Watch to Al Jeerzera-America. We were able to track 43 articles, radio, blog and TV appearances.

Times News April 16 2014 (2)Some local actions got front page in their town newspaper like Burlington, North Carolina’s The Times-News and many areas had letters to the editor, opinion pieces and radio.

A National Infrastructure for Local Action

Local organizers sparked community actions supported by a national infrastructure of organizations that are committed to supporting the growing of a national grassroots infrastructure for the long-term.

In 2014, national sponsoring groups agreed to host a series of webinars and training opportunities to build local organizing capacity in 2014 and continue to build the “move the money” movement.

Starting in early March, four webinars/conference calls were organized which engaged from 20-100 local and national organizers in trainings on creative tactics with a contributor to Beautiful Trouble, a national budget review with National Priorities Project, a special review of the Overseas Contingency Operation budget line item or what has been called , the Pentagon’s “Slush Fund” and a briefing on how to use social and traditional media for local actions conducted by the Pentagon Budget Campaign.

Templates for leaflets, fact sheets, organizing tool box, state tax receipts and even more were made available on the global GDAMS website. Montgomery County, Maryland Peace Action that has been locked in battle with the greedy Lockheed Martin defense contractor for years, created a “Mockery Newspaper” to bring a smile or a howl.

Looking ahead, GDAMS offers the best and most exciting opportunity every year to link foreign and domestic policy with global solidarity actions around the world.

U.S. groups sponsoring Tax Day/GDAMS events: Alliance for Global Justice, American Friends Service Committee, CODEPINK, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Foreign Policy in Focus, Friends Committee on National Legislation, National Priorities Project, National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, Peace Action, Progressive Democrats of America, United for Peace and Justice, USAction, US Labor Against the War, War Resisters League, Women’s Action for New Directions & Women’s Legislators

The author, Judith Le Blanc, Peace Action’s Field Director  was the U.S. coordinator for GDAMS. 2014 GDAMS was a grand success due to the special efforts of  American Friends Service Committee’s Mary Zerkel, National Priorities Project’s Jo Comerford, Foreign Policy In Focus intern Ved Singh and the incredible leadership and staff of the International Peace Bureau, Colin Archer and Mylene Soto.


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