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.

Stop Militarizing the Police

August 15, 2014

The tragic death of Michael Brown at the hands of the Ferguson police is a reminder that the upsurge in violence is not restricted to the Middle East or any one place.  It’s right here in our own communities.

Like the Trayvon Martin killing two years ago, the problems of racism, easy access to firearms, and the assault on our civil rights are all, once again, in the spotlight. I suspect I don’t have to explain why peace activists are taking action, mostly in support of activists of color who are leading the organized response to this latest perversion of justice.  Anti-violence is at the very heart of our struggle.

In this case however there is another element that directly connects to our ongoing work to build a more peaceful and just future – that is – militarism.  It’s time to demilitarize our police.

As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ‘wind down’ (though clearly not all the way down) the Pentagon has been offering surplus weapons to local police forces for free.  Tens of thousands of M-16’s, as well as mine-resistant trucks and other battlefield hardware have already been transferred to jurisdictions around the country – but the Pentagon still has lots and lots of free stuff to give away.

A bipartisan chorus has already begun to speak out in Congress against this practice.  Even Tea Party and right wing extremist Ted Cruz is raising alarm.

Tell your Member of Congress where you stand.

How much military hardware has been transferred to local jurisdictions?  It’s not easy to know as the Pentagon makes the trail difficult to track.  Most of the data available comes from local and state officials – like the State of Missouri which CNN reports has received some $17 million worth in transfers from the Pentagon.

I find, and I’m confident you do as well, the images of police in full military gear aiming assault rifles at unarmed protesters upsetting.  We can expect to see more and more of this in the future too, if we don’t do something about the economic terrorism visited upon the poor in our society at the hands of the 1 percent.

We know, for example, the Pentagon has in place plans for dealing with civil disorder brought about by economic or environmental disaster threatening the stablity of the government.  Arming local jurisdictions is a step in the wrong direction.

Since the 1980’s the US government has enabled the militarization of the police force as part of its so-called War on Drugs.  Post 9/11 politics opened the flood gates with grants from the federal government to prepare for the imminent terrorist threat.  Now, as combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended, the Pentagon is literally giving battlefield hardware away.

The militarism of policing – both in terms of weaponry and tactics – is a threat to our freedom as great as any coming from outside our borders.  It’s time to put it to a stop.

Write you Member of Congress today!

Please forward this message to your friends.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin on Syria (video of Senate floor speech)

September 11, 2013

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Senate Floor Speech Opposing Military Involvement in Syria

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


M. President:

I have come to the floor today to stand up and speak to the important debate we are having about the most sobering issue I face, as a Senator, as a Wisconsinite, as an American- the issue of military action by the United States.

Let me start by saying the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people is morally reprehensible and a serious violation of long standing international law.

The various treaties and conventions addressing these issues have been ratified by most of the world’s nations. There is a reason why almost the entire world has gathered under the Chemical Weapons Convention to ban these weapons. It is because chemical weapons are truly barbaric in nature. They are a global threat, and they therefore require a global response.

The President made the right choice to seek Congressional authorization for any potential military action in Syria.

The gravity of the issues before us are significant, and they deserve a full debate. President Obama should be praised for understanding and appreciating that fact.

We must demand that all Presidents—not just this President—come to Congress to get approval before taking military action in another country in instances where we are not facing an imminent threat.  I have made that case with both Democratic and Republican Presidents.

But, I strongly believe that our response to this situation must not be a unilateral military action. This is not America’s responsibility alone. And it is not in our interest to set the precedent that is our responsibility alone. Syria violated international laws and should be held accountable by the international community.

America must not act alone.

The use of chemical weapons is a global atrocity and it demands a global response.  That is why I oppose going to war in Syria.

That is why I oppose authorizing military involvement in Syria’s civil war.

Not for one day, not for 60 days. Not for a decade.

I do not believe in engaging and involving ourselves militarily in the middle of a brutal, years-long civil war. That will not strengthen America’s national security.

But the answer is not to do nothing. The answer, rather, is to create a situation where these crimes against humanity can be dealt with effectively by the UN and other international institutions.

So we must continue to focus on building a global coalition to support the encouraging developments in the past few days to resolve this crisis without the use of unilateral military engagement in Syria.

By working through the United Nations and institutions, we strengthen international frameworks that can help resolve the conflict in Syria, and build a safer and stronger international community going forward.

I firmly believe that the recent potential for progress, in today’s UN discussions, is a testament to American democracy.  By President Obama fulfilling his Constitutional duties to come to Congress, and by our serious, deliberate debate here on Capitol Hill, I believe America has helped drive a more constructive international debate and engagement on the Assad regime’s atrocities.

We must now give the opportunity of a path forward without military involvement in Syria a chance to succeed.


Wouldn’t it just be easier to change our foreign policy? (We could leave our shoes on at the airport!)

July 18, 2013

Published on Thursday, July 18, 2013 by Common Dreams

Wouldn’t It Just Be Easier to Change Our Foreign Policy?

by Kevin Martin

A passenger removes their shoes before passing through the passenger security checkpoint at John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 8 on Oct. 22, 2010 in New York City. (Michael Nagle/Getty)

I hate having to take off my shoes to go through airport security, don’t you? It’s really annoying, time-consuming and embarrassing (if you are like me and have holes in a large percentage of your socks).

Then there’s the National Security Agency (NSA), doing its typical skullduggery, spying on everyone’s phone calls, emails, FaceBook posts and other online activity. Our tax dollars pay them to do this to us, supposedly to make us safer, but I don’t feel safer, I feel violated and disgusted, how about you? And the alleged trade-off between privacy and security was concocted by forces that want us to have less of both.

Wouldn’t it just be easier to change our foreign policy?

Think about it. We take off our shoes at the airport as part of the mostly palliative exercise in making our commercial aviation system safer from individuals and organizations that want to do us harm (you know, the “terrorists”). I mean no slight to the good folks at TSA, who are certainly sincere in trying to do their jobs to make flying safer.

Like you, I’m sure, I don’t think anything justifies trying to blow up an airplane, with a shoe bomb or any other device, nor do I in any way support violent political acts against civilians (“terrorism”).

However, recent U.S. wars and other controversial military and foreign policies have undoubtedly earned us enmity from people all over the world, especially in Middle Eastern and predominantly Muslim countries.

Blank check support for Israel’s illegal, endless occupation of Palestinian land and oppression of its people. Political, diplomatic, military and financial support for despotic governments when it’s perceived to be in U.S. “strategic interests.” Over 1,000 military bases around the globe. Our invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps these and other manifestations of our imperial foreign policy don’t endear us to the rest of the world?

Our tax dollars fund all of this, as well as our massive nuclear weapons arsenal, aircraft carrier battle groups, tank squadrons, countless exorbitant war planes, pilotless drone aircraft that rain death from the skies (often on innocent, unsuspecting civilians), spy and command and control satellites and other weapons systems and methods of unparalleled global power projection, to the tune of well over $1 trillion per year for the entire “national security” budget. (Last year, the Pentagon budget was equal to the total military spending of the next 11 countries combined, down from 15 countries in 2011, so I guess that’s progress!)

Adopting more modest, peaceful and just foreign and military policies, based on a real commitment (not the usual lip service) to widely held values — human rights, democracy, justice, international cooperation and sustainability — would serve the interests of the American people, and would make us safer. It would also save a lot of money, which could be invested in more life-affirming priorities like education, affordable housing and rebuilding the economy (as military spending creates fewer jobs and stimulates less economic activity than investments in any other sector of the economy). Also, we could help fund multi-lateral efforts to address global problems which cannot be addressed by one country alone…the climate crisis, access to clean water and nutritious, sustainably produced food, quality education and universal health care for all.

And it would lessen the supposed need to spy on Americans, which is unacceptable under any circumstances, but can only be sold with endless fear mongering about terrorism. So it’s a win-win-win, except for the corporations that profit from weapons, war and global violence.

Here’s an added benefit – people around the world would hate and fear us less, though it might take awhile for them to love us more.

And we could leave our shoes on at the airport, while making calls and sending texts not being monitored by the NSA. Doesn’t that sound good?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Kevin Martin

Kevin Martin is Executive Director of Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 100,000 members and over 70,000 on-line supporters.

Egyptian coup should trigger broad re-examination of U.S. militarization of the Middle East

July 17, 2013

Op-ed published today by The Hill, an influential, widely read Capitol Hill publication

by Kevin Martin and Josh Ruebner

The Obama administration has engaged in astounding linguistic jiu-jitsu to avoid calling the Egyptian military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi what it most obviously is: a coup. The president refuses to dub Morsi’s overthrow a coup because doing so would automatically trigger a suspension of all U.S. foreign aid to Egypt, according to the Foreign Assistance Act. Cutting off weapons transfers to Egypt, which, at $1.3 billion per year is the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid behind Israel, would, in turn, crimp U.S. efforts to further inundate the Middle East with weapons. To underscore the Obama’s administration’s contempt for this law, the Pentagon delivered four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt just days after its military placed Morsi under house arrest. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, President Lyndon Johnson wisely warned that “this last conflict has demonstrated the danger of the Middle Eastern arms race of the last 12 years. Here the responsibility must rest not only on those in the area – but upon the larger states outside the area…We have always opposed this arms race, and our own military shipments to the area have consequently been severely limited.” Yet, both he and his successors threw this caution to the wind, giving Israel and Egypt alone more than $100 billion in military grants and loans since then. While most of this money has been appropriated ostensibly to undergird the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, in fact it has directly impeded democracy in Egypt and especially freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinians.

Not only is the Obama administration clearly ignoring the law by keeping open the spigot of weapons to Egypt in the aftermath of the military’s coup; it also turns a blind eye to the law by providing Israel $3.1 billion in military aid per year, despite the fact that Israel clearly violates the Arms Export Control Act by using U.S. weapons not for “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense,” but to perpetuate its 46-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip and to commit gross and systematic human rights abuses against Palestinians, such as the injuring and killing of civilians, the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the illegal colonization of Palestinian land.

The problems, of course, go beyond U.S. military aid and weapons transfers to Israel and Egypt. The Middle East is one of the most heavily armed parts of the planet, which exacerbates the region’s conflicts. The United States is the top arms peddler to the world, and to the region, and thus is in the best position to exert leadership to reduce, or perhaps even establish a moratorium on, weapons transfers to the Middle East as did President Harry Truman in the 1950 Tripartite Declaration.

Instead, the Obama Administration, advancing what it perceives to be U.S. strategic interests (but in reality are the interests of the weapons corporations which pour tens of millions of dollars into lobbying and campaign contributions each year) has sharply increased U.S. weapons transfers the last two years. In 2011 the United States set a record with over $66 billion in arms deals (over three-quarters of the global total), according to the Congressional Research Service, with huge sales of sophisticated armaments to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman driving a tripling of U.S. weapons transfers from 2010 figures.

There are other urgent reasons and opportunities to work to de-militarize the region. Concerns over possible chemical weapons use in Syria, Israel’s nuclear arsenal estimated at between 75 and 400 warheads, and possible future Iranian development of nuclear weapons underscore the need to establish a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone (first proposed by Iran and Egypt in the late 1960s and reaffirmed by the UN resolution officially ending the first Iraq war in 1991, and by the 2005 and 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conferences).

Finland agreed to host a conference last year on such a zone, but the conference was postponed, hopefully to be convened this year. The United States has a key role to play in the success of such a conference, as one of the official conveners and as Israel’s benefactor, as surely it will have to lean on Israel to get it to participate in good faith. Ridding the region of unconventional weapons won’t be easy, but could hardly be more urgent, as the use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction could devastate not only the peoples of the region, but possibly the global economy and environment.

While the current situation in Egypt justifiably holds the world’s attention, we should not miss the opportunity to ease tensions and act in the broader interests of peace for all the peoples of the region. Stopping the torrential flood of weapons into the Middle East would be a great place to start.


Martin is executive director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund. Ruebner is National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/311451-egyptian-coup-should-trigger-broad-re-examination-of-us-militarization-of-middle-east#ixzz2ZKmiwCYp
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Excellent letter to the editor on Syria by Peace Action Education Fund board president Mike Keller in 6/20 Washington Post

June 26, 2013

The Post argued that U.S. security interests require a “more robust . . . intervention” in the Syrian civil war [“No time

for half-measures,” editorial, June 15]. A better case can be made for avoiding the fray altogether.


Sending medium-size and heavy weapons into Syria, with or without the establishment of a no-fly zone, could prolong the violence

and destabilize the country for years even if the Assad regime collapses. There is no way to guarantee that sophisticated

armaments will not fall into the hands of the most radical elements in the rebel camp. The United States’ experience in Afghanistan

suggests caution: The CIA helped give birth to al-Qaeda by supplying weaponry to the mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union.

Plus, in order to control the airspace over Syria, the United States would have to become a belligerent by bombing anti-aircraft

batteries, radar sites and other installations. Employing such force in the absence of a U.N. Security Council resolution

would violate international law and further strain relations with Russia and China.


Iraq, Afghanistan and even Libya demonstrated that U.S. military engagement in the Middle East can produce unexpected and

undesirable outcomes. What confidence can Americans have that that entanglement in the sectarian fratricide in Syria would

be different?


Michael J. Keller, Silver Spring

The writer is president of the Peace Action Education Fund.


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