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.

Peace Talks To End Syrian War Begin

November 12, 2015

Negotiations to end the ‘nonstop horror’ of the Syrian civil war have begun. Peace Action applauds the parties for finally getting to the table – better late than never – but decries the endless political machinations that caused the governments involved from doing so long ago.  These same calculations are still in play, however, and hope for a ceasefire and finally, an end to the war, is still tenuous at best.

For that reason, we – and our peace movement allies – are continuing to collect signatures on our petition calling for a political settlement to the Syrian civil war.  If you haven’t signed, please do.  If you have, please forward the link to your friends and family and ask them to join the effort.

Peace Action is supporting a bi-partisan emergency spending bill introduced by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Graham (R-SC) that would would allow for resettlement of up to 100,000 refugees over 2 years and provide a billion dollars to help deal with the refugee crisis caused by the Syrian civil war.  It’s a human catastrophe that we can’t close our eyes to, yet the U.S. has taken in less than 1,500 Syrian refugees. In contrast, countries like Lebanon have taken in 1.1 million. The U.S. plans on taking in only 10,000 refugees next year – Germany did that in a day.

Please call your Senators today and ask them to co-sponsor the Leahy-Graham bill to provide emergency relief to those who have been displaced by over 4 years of brutal warfare. The number is 202.224.3121.

Senate shenanigans on Iran accord continue, but Peace is greater than Fear!

September 15, 2015


Who knows why, but the Senate is again “debating” (I’d say speechifying) the Iran nuclear accord. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) scheduled another cloture vote for 6:00 today (with the vote being held open for several hours because of Rosh Hashanah)  less than a week after the last vote failed 58-42 (60 votes are needed to invoke cloture, end debate and move to a vote on a piece of legislation). Even worse, they may do it again on Thursday.

UPDATE, 6:45 Eastern time — Majority “Leader” McConnell a short while ago said if cloture failed again as expected, he will file an amendment (to what is TBD) stopping the president from lifting sanctions on Iran until it formally recognizes “Israel’s right to exist” (his words) and releases all US prisoners. Grandstanding? I guess we’ll see. 

This is a waste of time, as the House action was last Friday. The Iran nuclear agreement will go into effect once the Congressional review period expires in two days. Republicans want to:

a. embarrass the president and force him to veto their disapproval of the accord (not happening);

b. stage a show vote for the benefit of AIPAC, Netanyahu and the “pro-Israel lobby”;

c. avoid doing the peoples’ business (like, say, passing funding bills to keep the government functioning);

d. all of the above?

To me this isn’t even the real question. It’s what are the opponents of diplomacy afraid of? To hear their speeches, Iran is the worst threat to life on Earth ever, and even more, the most fiendishly clever country ever to engage in diplomatic negotiations. Somehow Iran was able to hornswoggle the US, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia at the bargaining table to get an agreement that will let Iran run amok over the security concerns of everyone else in the region, more or less.


Time to reject fear, which is the only tool the opponents of the Iran peace accord have.

Diplomacy, and Peace, are greater than Fear.

Update on Congress and Iran Accord: Sausage and legislation…

September 9, 2015


…are still the two things one doesn’t want to watch being made (well I’ve had some very good vegan sausages lately which one probably could watch being made but that’s beside the point). Opponents of the Iran nuclear peace accord are in a lather to try anything and everything to kill it, and they don’t have much time, what with other important congressional business staring them down, including another possible government shut-down at the end of the month. (Tempted to ask, all in favor say “Aye!”)

Long story short-ish: In the Senate, we have 42 senators (all Democrats) in favor of the Iran accord, which is better than we expected. This means the Iran deal will most likely survive. If both Houses actually vote to disapprove the deal, which is now somewhat in question as the next paragraph will explain, the 42 Senate supporters would uphold a presidential veto of the disapproval vote, and we expect we will have similar support of at least 1/3 of the House of Representatives (a 2/3 majority vote is needed to override a presidential veto).

The Senate plans to vote on the Iran accord tomorrow, 9/11, very cynical. There is some (un-) senatorial to-ing and fro-ing about procedure that is too arcane to bother with, so let’s just keep it simple. Please call your senators to make sure they know you support the agreement as negotiated with no funny business, no amendments. The Capitol Switchboard is at 202/ 224-3121. Calls only take a minute or two, ask to speak to your senators (this means two calls) and just let them know you support the Iran peace deal.

In the House, there is a revolt by members of the Liberty Caucus who claim, absurdly, at the 11th hour, that the vote cannot take place, and as a matter of fact that the congressional time period for acting (or not) on the agreement is in fact not over September 17th, as previously agreed all around, but that the 60 day clock has not even started since the Obama Administration did not transmit to Congress two “side agreements” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the White House doesn’t even have access to, as is customary in IAEA agreements with countries where it is inspecting nuclear facilities. Scratching your head? Don’t blame you.

This plan was hatched Tuesday night at a Republican conference meeting in the basement of a Tortilla Coast restaurant on Capitol Hill, overturning the Rules Committee’s agreement from that very afternoon on how to treat the vote. One is tempted to speculate it was after several pitchers of margaritas.

So now instead of the expected resolution to disapprove the agreement, it appears the House will vote Friday on the following three pieces of sausage, I mean legislation:

  • H. Res. 411—Finding that the President has not complied with section 2 of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (the bill that established the congressional review process and 60 day period). This is a non-binding resolution meant to set up a lawsuit against the president.
  • H.R. 3460—To suspend until January 21, 2017, the authority of the President to waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions pursuant to an agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran (this would effectively kill the deal, but if passed would be vetoed by the president and upheld if an override vote were held).
  • H.R. 3461—To approve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed at Vienna on July 14, 2015, relating to the nuclear program of Iran (this of course will fail since all Republicans at this point oppose the deal, and is meant to embarrass the president and the deal supporters).

Again, this is more than one could be expected to understand, even many of us who have done this kind of work for a long time. To simplify, just call your representative (same number as above) and tell her or him to ignore the tomfoolery and sausage slicing and dicing and support the diplomatic accord with Iran that is supported by most of the world.


You Helped Stop a War! NOW Help Seal the Peace Deal with Iran!

July 14, 2015

peace girl

You made history!

The peace deal reached this morning with Iran thwarting any nuclear weapon production is one of the most important diplomatic accomplishments of the century so far. It demonstrates that intelligence, patience, creativity and an openness to conflict resolution can prevent war.

Illustrating that, the history books, as usual, will be full of photographs of a handful of people, around a table.

But we know that thousands of our members and like-minded folks protected the talks by speaking up for diplomacy. Without you, attacks by the Iran hawks could easily have derailed diplomacy.  Peace Action was one of the first organizations to work on this issue by organizing a high-level meeting of NGO leaders over eight years ago.

Now we all need to make one final push to ensure that the peace deal makes it across the finish line.  Congress is likely to vote to approve or disapprove the deal in the next 60 days   Please take three simple actions now:

1.  Please sign this coalition petition to stop Congress from killing the agreement. 

2.  Call Congress!  (855) 68 NO WAR (66 927 toll free)  First, ask for each of your Senators, when finished call your Representative and say:

I am calling to ask that my Senator/Representative publicly support the announced Iran agreement and vote to support the deal.

3.  Forward this important email to your friends, family and colleagues.

Because we know that an epic battle is about to begin in Congress we’ve teamed up with 18 other progressive groups to send a strong message to Congress: don’t take us to war by destroying this peace deal.

Please take a moment to do as many of the three actions as you can above.  Do it now.

We know that many in the Republican party will do anything they can to deny the president a major foreign policy victory.  At the same time many Democrats have historically voted a very hawkish line on Iran.

This campaign brings together progressive groups to push the swing Democrats back to diplomacy.

The petition’s ask is simple but its political message is clear. It reads:

“Republicans are trying to take us to war by sabotaging the Iran nuclear deal. I urge you to support the deal and stop the Republicans from starting another war of choice in the Middle East.”

Can you please take the above actions today?

Thank you for your help during this historic moment,

Iran: Our Hard Work Pays Off

May 12, 2015

With a little over a month to go before negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) are concluded, everything is proceeding as planned. The technical details are being worked out in Vienna with no obvious hurdles in evidence at this writing. The deadline for presenting a final document, expected to be several hundred pages long, is June 30, 2015.

Meanwhile, the Corker Bill, which we have been opposing, has passed the Senate, but it’s been watered down and has yet to pass the House. Just last week, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and David Price (D-NC) sent a letter, signed by 151 Representatives, to President Obama praising the work of his administration to finalize an agreement that verifiably ensures Iran will refrain from developing nuclear weapons. The letter demonstrates strong support for the agreement in the House, sufficient to sustain a presidential veto on any effort by congressional opponents of the deal should they attempt to torpedo an agreement this summer.

Peace Action affiliates across the nation generated calls, letters and emails to Representatives urging them to sign on to the letter and will continue to pressure Congress until a final agreement is reached and implemented. Thanks to all our members and our allies for all your hard work.

Thoughts on the way forward for the Iran nuclear deal

April 16, 2015

Geneseo chapter

-Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Starting with a great statement by journalist Robert Parry:

“The April 2 framework agreement with Iran represents more than just a diplomatic deal to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. It marks a crossroad that offers a possible path for the American Republic to regain its footing and turn away from endless war.”

Now some musings about our message focus and framing moving forward:

1. While we need to continue arguing the merits of a nuclear deal with Iran from various angles, I think it’s time to be a bit assumptive, play some offense, and help create an air of inevitability, which can help us dig in more on the politics, which are clearly going to be more important than the policy. The argument goes something like this:

“Like it or not, a nuclear deal with Iran is extremely likely to happen. Iran, the Obama Administration, P5+1 and international community has invested too much for it to fall apart at this point. Just about the only way a deal could get scuttled is by the U.S. Congress.  How could that happen? Who would benefit, or perhaps better asked as in whose interests would killing the deal be?

Most Republicans want to kill anything that has Obama’s name on it out of blind partisan loathing. No news flash there. But we shouldn’t let them off the hook. When push comes to shove, to they really want to undermine the President of the United States for their partisan gain, or for their perceived notion of the interests of Israel or Saudi Arabia? I don’t see the harm in raising those questions, not likely to move them, but to help isolate them if they don’t budge.

The key to supporting or upholding a deal (in case there is the need for the President to veto any deal-killing legislation passed by Congress) will be Democrats, even more likely liberal/progressive Dems, some who have been either silent, insufficiently supportive of the Administration’s diplomacy, or outright opponents of a deal. Some are frankly disingenuous, saying they want peace and support diplomacy while advocating completely unrealistic conditions for a deal (Alan Grayson stands out right now). Some are, acknowledged or not, “pro-Israel hawks” or at least highly susceptible to AIPAC et al pressure. They’ll have to be smoked out – do they support the president of their party, and what their base wants, what the world wants, or what AIPAC wants? If the latter, they are helping make a war more likely.

Here is a pretty good analysis going more deeply into some of the political questions, both domestic and international:


2. Back to the policy, which reinforces our message on the politics (I think)

We might want to consider broadening our messaging to address re-balancing regional concerns and U.S. policy so it’s not all about Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the possibility of a new, transformed, positive relationship between the American and Iranian peoples (perhaps phrased like that, rather than between governments).

The latter is fairly self-evident I think, emphasizing that a deal on the nuclear issue could open up all kinds of economic and social benefits to the peoples of the two countries. It’s positive, peaceful, visionary. We should also emphasize the sanctions mostly hurt ordinary Iranians, not the mullahs or oligarchs. I don’t think we’ve gone far enough in “humanizing” the Iranian people, which I know seems simplistic but the level of demonization of an entire country for decades is tough to overcome.

The former is harder, maybe out of our reach. Certainly many elites and Members of Congress advocate Iran remaining in the penalty box forever, regardless of what happens with the nuclear program, and want U.S. policy to continue to privilege Saudi/Gulf states and Israeli interests indefinitely. I doubt they’d see it this way, but Obama, Kerry and co. have actually gone pretty far in bucking that elite consensus with the Iran negotiations.

Perhaps the way to frame this is to get the U.S. on the right side of inevitability. Iran is going to get out of the penalty box, we may become isolated from our allies if we hew to a hard line. Iran is going to play a key role in the region, there are already common interests between the U.S. and Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel are not going to dominate considerations of US policy in the region forever. There may well be a democratic revolution in Iran in the next decade so let’s be on good terms with the Iranian people, and a deal on nukes is the first step in all of this.

As the sign above says, Peace Demands Action, so we need to stay very engaged as the Congressional deliberations and international negotiations proceed.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts, criticisms, alternative suggestions.


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