Chicago Area Peace Action on Huffington Post yesterday on Do the Math Climate Crisis Tour

November 21, 2012

Great piece by Roxane Assaf of Chicago Area Peace Action on Huffington Post yesterday.

Fossile Fuel Fury: Climate change Activist Barnstorms Through 21 Towns Inciting Fiscal Revolution

If Noam Chomsky is right that there’s no way the ordinary citizen could possibly understand the threat of climate change by getting their news from mainstream media, no worries.‘s revered enviro-guru Bill McKibben makes housecalls.  Assuming McKibben gets his point across the way he hopes to, his sold-out barnstorming tour through 21 U.S. cities will come to be regarded as the historic beginning of a divestment campaign like the one that buckled apartheid South Africa.

2012-11-18-McKibbenDotheMathNYCNaomiKlein.jpgDo the Math New York City

On opening night of his “Do the Math” tour, one day after President Obama’s victory speech got its loudest applause at the mention of global warming, McKibben said backstage, “We’ve got to reduce the power of the fossil fuel industry.”  Do the Math was designed to “spark the movement that will begin to cut the power of this industry before they raise the temperature of the earth just too high for any of us to deal with.”

Writing for the Huffington Post, Tom Zeller lays out the terms of the impending crisis, but he notes that Washington isn’t doing much.  McKibben blames fossil fuels. “They’ve been able to block every significant piece of legislation in Washington for decades,” he said. “The fossil fuel industry has bought one party, and they’ve scared the other one.”

So local groups like Chicago Area Peace Action (CAPA), host of the Chicago engagement of Do the Math, is poised to carry the torch to its constituency. “The fossil fuel industry and its attendant power elite will not go quietly into the night,” said CAPA Board President David Borris.  “But a broad-based global social movement that we can and will be a part of has the power to move public policy and lead to a more just and sane energy policy that can sustain us far into the future.”

Taking their cues not only from McKibben’s acclaimed Rolling Stone article “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” but also from author/activist Naomi Klein’s piece in the Nation “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” CAPA members are prepared for a battle to win minds.  CAPA’s Michael Lynn said he wants to be “a prophet of the social transformation necessary to move from a consumer society to a sustainable one.”

But is anybody listening?

Chomsky asserts that as long as the news is framed in such a way that climate-change denialists like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin get equal time with climate scientists, the public is fed an illusion that there’s an authentic argument pro and con.  Such news-crafting shields people from the vast scientific consensus proving that the course we’re on does indeed spell the end of life on earth as we know it.

Nevertheless, HuffPost’s Alana Horowitz reported the November 2012 results of a Rasmussen poll finding that 68% of likely voters in the US do believe global warming to be a serious problem.  Furthermore, McKibben’s focus on student activism using the apartheid model has already proven well placed, as the trustees of Unity College in Maine have voted to divest that school’s endowment of all stock in the fossil fuel industry.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu would be proud.  And he is.  He appears on the site as a boisterous endorser, as do Naomi Klein, Josh Fox and Rev. Lennox Yearwood.  Other notables keeping the drumbeat steady are Obama’s former specialist on green jobs Van Jones and actor/activist John Cusack who both use Twitter to combat climate skeptics and raise awareness.

Does Obama care?

“The real first test for the president is going to come when he decides whether or not to approve the Keystone pipeline,” McKibben said of the plan to complete a crude oil delivery system between Canada and U.S. destinations from Illinois to Texas.  “He put it off for a year, and that year has seen the warmest year in American history.  It has seen the catastrophic melt of the Arctic.  It’s seen epic drought across the Midwest.  And it saw a storm so powerful that it flooded our greatest city.”

In light of all that, McKibben said he couldn’t imagine the president agreeing to “a giant straw stuck into that toxic milkshake up there.”

Suggested Actions for the International Day of Peace – Today!

September 21, 2012

Did you know today is celebrated as the International Day of Peace? No? Don’t be embarrassed, it’s not a real big deal in the U.S., maybe because our country is nearly always making war. Anyway September 21 was established as the International Day of Peace by the United Nations in 1981. On September 7, 2001 (four days before 9/11), the UN General Assembly unanimously declared September 21 should also be observed as a global day of cease-fire and nonviolence.

Here are four completely subjective suggestions for actions you can take to honor this day:

1. Contact your Members of Congress and tell them no war on Iran! See our blog post and action alert on this from yesterday.

2. Support the civil society initiative led by young Afghans, 2 Million Friends for Peace in Afghanistan, in their call for a cease-fire and negotiated end to the war there. The 2 million refers to the approximate number of Afghans killed in nearly forty years of war. They aim to deliver a petition to the United Nations on December 10, International Human Rights Day.

3. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the end of U.S. nuclear weapons testing! The U.S. conducted 1,030 nuclear weapons test explosions (will the Earth ever forgive us for this violence against her?), the last was September 23, 1992. But with our continued vigilance and hard work, not only will the U.S. never test again, we’ll abolish nuclear weapons worldwide! Please sign onto a letter to President Obama encouraging further nuclear weapons reductions, and for him to push for Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

4. Give as generous a gift as you can to Peace Action!

Afghanistan – A Great New Civil Society Campaign (Initiated by Afghans), Dem Platform on Ending the War “Responsibly,” A “Tough Transition” and Straight Talk on “Security” from a Veteran (Who’s Now a Peace Activist!)

September 6, 2012

Johnny Barber of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who is currently in Kabul, writes inspiringly of a new initiative by the youth group Afghan Peace Volunteers called 2 Million Friends, an international call to end the war and help heal Afghanistan.

Barber’s article begins, “Four decades of war.  Two million people dead. Trillions of dollars spent. Money disappearing into the pockets of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, policemen and the armed forces. No accountability. No transparency. No infrastructure. The misery and poverty of the majority of the people continues unabated, decade after decade.

Children freeze to death in the winter. They starve to death all year round. The question remains, “Who benefits from this misery?” The human cost of war doesn’t enter into any politician’s calculations.

In October 2011 Secretary of State Clinton emphasized a new three-track strategy of “Fight, talk, and build,” claiming to “pursue all three tracks at once, as they are mutually reinforcing.” One year later, it is clear that the 3rd Afghan strategy of the Obama administration can be added to the scrap heap of failed strategies along with the “Af-Pak” strategy and the “Surge”. No one is talking, nothing is being built, fighting is the only track that continues unabated. Security, even in Kabul, is tenuous. Peace seems a distant and illusory concept.”

Barber continues with a more hopeful approach, the 2 Million Friends campaign:

“On December 10, 2012, International Human Rights Day, “2 Million Friends” will present a petition to the UN calling for an immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan, leading to direct, substantial talks to end the war, end the government corruption and begin to advocate for the welfare of the majority of the Afghan people who have suffered for too long.”

Peace Action plans to support this initiative, and I hope you will too. Please visit the 2 Million Friends website, get involved, and help spread the word!

Meanwhile here in the U.S., the Democratic Party Platform, which its convention in Charlotte will ratify today, has a short section (deliberately short I’m sure, as they’d prefer not to remind Americans of our longest war) titled “Ending the War in Afghanistan Responsibly,” which has the political virtue of putting anyone who doesn’t agree with this approach as being irresponsible. Read it for yourself and decide whether it, or the plan advocated in 2 Million Friends, is the better way to “responsibly” end the war.

As to the reality on the ground of how the “responsible end” to the war is going, Foreign Policy has these snippets today in its AfPak Daily (thanks to Michael Eisenscher of U.S. Labor Against the War for this):

Tough transition

Though a March 9 agreement with Afghanistan stipulated that the United States
transfer control of the Parwan detention facility at Bagram Air Base to the
Afghans by September 9, the U.S. military appears set to retain control
indefinitely over about 50 foreign detainees, as well as all Afghans who are
newly detained (
). The U.S. military’s continued role shows the complexity of trying to
put detention and interrogation activities in Afghan hands while American
troops are still conducting combat operations in the country.

Afghanistan’s top military commander, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, admitted
Wednesday that the rising incidence of insider attacks by Afghan security
forces on their NATO counterparts is not fully attributable to infiltration by
foreign spy agencies as Afghan officials had previously claimed (
). Karimi said senior military officers don’t give their subordinates
enough guidance, so “they don’t know why we are fighting.”

A new report
by Human Rights Watch claims that a suspected Libyan terrorist was waterboarded
by the CIA in Afghanistan, contradicting the official U.S. narrative that just
three high-level al-Qaeda suspects were ever subjected to waterboarding, none
of them Libyan (

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasool and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar
Salehi signed a deal on Wednesday giving land-locked Afghanistan access to the
Iranian port of Chabahar on the Indian Ocean (
). And a senior Pakistani official confirmed Thursday that Pakistan
signed a barter deal with Iran last month to trade wheat for fertilizer,
despite U.S. pressure to continue isolating Iran over its nuclear program (

And last but far from least, our colleague Matt Southworth of Friends Committee on National Legislation posted a very thoughtful, heartfelt, analytical and yet personal piece Is A War Less Noticed Making You Safe? on the FCNL blog. Matt’s conclusion (though you should read the whole article) exhibits a clarity missing from what passes for debate these days over our longest war:

“To me, security doesn’t start overseas; it starts here at home. Security is knowing that if you work hard, you will have a job to go to everyday. It means knowing your children can get a good education and go to college without facing mountains of debt. Security is being able to walk around your neighborhood at night without fear of being mugged—something that can’t be done in every Washington, DC neighborhood. Security means knowing that you don’t have to compromise your health because medical expenses are simply too daunting. To me, security means knowing we, the United States, play a positive role around the world, rather than a sinister, means to ends one that we seem to have adopted.

My deployment to Iraq in 2004 did none of these things. When this next anniversary of 9/11 comes to pass, think about how you’d define security. What makes you feel secure? I bet the bloated Pentagon budget and wars overseas won’t be as large a part of your security as some would have us all believe.”




Appeal to the Youth of the World from Nobel Peace Laureates Summit in Chicago

April 26, 2012

A smart and inspiring appeal from the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit in Chicago, which our National Field Director Judith Le Blanc is attending on behalf of Peace Action and International Peace Bureau, which won the Peace Prize in 1910 (Peace Action is a long-time member of IPB, and we were honored to be asked to send a representative to the Summit by IPB).

The Appeal quotes one of my favorite sayings by Martin Luther King, Jr., a Nobel Peace Laureate, “those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war,” still so true today.

The appeal is attached here as a pdf


What Needs Changing (the Peace Movement)

September 26, 2011

By Jonathan Williams
Manager of Communications and Online Organizing, Peace Action,
Co-founder, Civilian-Soldier Alliance –

Transcribed from a speech given at Military-Industrial Complex at 50 Conference

Thanks to everyone for organizing this conference. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today.

How do we win? How do we get our demands met? We need power. But what is power? How do we get it?

Simply put, power is the ability to act; the ability to end the wars, the ability to convert our economy, the ability to change the world. But how do we get that kind of power?

A lot of my mentors have said there are two kinds of power in this world: there’s organized money and there’s organized people. Which one do you think I’m here to talk about?

So how do we organize people? We can’t get that organized money, but we have the other kind of power. We have the numbers. We have the majority of people on our side.

There’s a great quote that goes something like this: we have to stop thinking that we’re going win because (1) the majority of people are on our side, (2) the facts are on our side, or (3) because we’re morally right. Our opponents have none of these things, and they are consistently winning.

How are they winning then? It’s because they have power. So how do we get that kind of power?

In my organization, Civilian-Soldier Alliance, we talk a lot about leadership. In our work, leadership and relationships are what we think actually organizes people. That’s where you get people power.

So how do you become a leader for social change? None of us are born as social change organizers. We don’t pop out ready to change the world. That’s not how it works. It is a process of transformation. It’s a transformation of an individual to become a leader, and in turn, transforming lots of individuals transforms society. We call this transformational organizing.

It’s important to note that this is a process and a process takes time. Transformation is a process for the individual and it’s a process for society. But it is one that can be very intentional.

This is as opposed to transactional organizing. Transactional organizing depends on the self-interest of those being organized. Unions often use this model. They organize workers in the work place by promising higher wages or better working conditions. This is different from transformational organizing, which asks you to organize together for the larger goal of changing society.

So where did we learn this model of organizing?

I started out as a student organizer. I organized a five-day student hunger strike on my campus. I don’t know if you noticed, but the war didn’t end. That’s in part because we didn’t have an analysis of our own power. We did a lot of mobilizing. We ultimately had hundreds of others on the campus participate in our fast. Students on twenty other campuses joined our effort. We raised thousands of dollars for UNICEF and held alternative classes about the Iraq war taught by veterans, military families, and even Iraqi civilians.

However, this did not organize the campus. This was mobilizing. This effort got lots of people involved for a short period of time. This is different from organizing, and it’s an important distinction.

In my own history, I grew up watching major mobilizations, such as the Seattle protests of 1999 against the World Trade Organization. I watched flash points like this and like Tahir Square with lots of people mobilized. I asked myself, how do we do that? I was really infatuated with these flash points and missed the years of organizing work it took to create these flash points.

However, flash points such as major mobilizations alone are not what create change. I can’t just call for a huge student strike, for instance, and expect the war to end. They are only one piece of a larger process of transformation.

I often give this example to explain my infatuation with flash points such as big protests. It’s like I was watching someone build a  house. I watched them for only a few minutes, saw them hammer some nails, and thought to myself, “I want a house like that. I know, I’ll get a hammer!” I was so infatuated with the one tool that I was ignoring all of the other tools. I was ignoring the carpentry required to build the house. So organizing is like carpentry, while mobilizing is like the hammer; it’s only one tool among many in your tool box.

In order to learn about transformational models of organizing, I had to look outside of the peace movement. In the peace movement, I was organizing event after event, protest after protest, lobby visit after lobby visit. I would lobby with the same few folks with the same demands. I wasn’t actually organizing people power. This became very frustrating for me because I wasn’t making change.

Outside of the peace movement, we can take leadership from movements that are winning. In particular, leadership from poor people’s organizations, such as United Workers. United Workers uses transformational organizing, which is where my organization, Civilian-Soldier Alliance, learned the model. In turn, United Workers learned a lot from organizations such as Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA). These are very successful organizations. In the case of CIW, they’ve won every campaign they’ve ever started – a major achievement. In the case of United Workers, in three years they won a living wage for all the day laborers at Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles play.

These organizations win because they focus on leadership development. In the case of United Workers, they ultimately won by doing a hunger strike, but they did not start with a hunger strike. It would be inappropriate to look at the example of the United Workers and think, “I know, I’ll do a hunger strike and then I’ll win a living wage.” The hunger strike was the flash point. It took years of organizing to reach that point. It took years of going to Camden Yards and doing outreach to the workers, and undergoing leadership development with those workers.

In the end, there were about 30 individuals fasting in the hunger strike. Many of them no longer worked at the stadium. A living wage for stadium workers was no longer in their self-interest. They were participating because they had been transformed, they wanted to see Baltimore transformed, and they wanted poverty to end. That’s the ultimate goal of the United Workers.

United Workers used a focus campaign to develop the leadership of an affected community to win victories. If the name of the game is leadership development, campaigns are the vehicle by which we develop leaders.

The United Workers ultimately won a living wage, benefits, and a union for the workers at Camden Yards. Workers went from earning less than minimum wage to over $12 an hour. But this wasn’t the United Workers victory per se – the ultimate victory was there were now 30 new leaders. Thirty new leaders to go on and continue organizing. They are now actively organizing another campaign declaring the Inner Harbor a “Human Rights Zone.” They’re hosting a conference on Fair Development to explore development of Baltimore city through a human rights framework.

We learned from these folks and from folks like Coalition of Immokalee Workers, tomato growers in Immokalee, FL that are organizing as well. They’ve teamed up with students in Student/Farmworker Alliance to boycott companies that purchase their tomatoes at unfair prices. Students are using their power on their campuses in solidarity with workers in Immokalee who are also organizing.

In looking to the peace movement for these examples, I’m very excited lately, particularly with what’s going on with Bring the War Dollars Home, and with the Move the Money campaign. This is a big part of my work at Peace Action.

One example I’m sure you’re familiar with is the Fund Our Communities, Bring the War Dollars Home coalition in Maryland. This is a coalition initiated by members of Peace Action Montgomery who started out 2 years ago by setting their sights on military recruiters in schools. They went to the state legislature and tried to lobby to protect student’s rights. They identified clearly as the peace movement and anti-recruitment. This didn’t get them anywhere. The next year, they went back to the State legislature but this time formed a coalition of groups, including right-wing, left-wing, and no-wing, under the banner of “Protect Student Privacy.” Recruiters consistently violate the privacy of students, but we can get into that later. They ultimately won legislation that has ostensibly banned the ASVAB test (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) in public schools.

They won in part because they got smart. They didn’t identify as an anti-recruitment or peace organization. They recognized that they needed a broad cross-section of Maryland in order to win this legislation, so they went out and did it. Now, many of those relationships are what’s behind the Fund Our Communities, Bring the War Dollars Home coalition.

I went to their first meeting and the President of the local United Food and Commercial Workers union stood up and said, “we’ll put $10,000 up for this  right now. Who’s with us?” This was a union jumping on board with this. Peace Action Montgomery and others are leading the way in building a new cross-section coalition of Maryland.

This is an example of coalition building. This is going to organized sectors of a community and working together around issues that affect everyone. They’re going to church groups, unions, high schools, etc. They’re hosting a Town Hall on September 20, they have members of the government speaking, and they’re even having break out groups and doing some organizing. This is very exciting to me. But that’s an example of coalition building within the peace movement. This is organizing organized people.

I’d like to give another example which is our work with Civilian-Soldier Alliance on Operation Recovery. This is a campaign in which we are using transformational organizing to develop the leadership of active-duty service members and veterans, as well as civilian allies.

Operation Recovery is a base-building campaign. This is different from a coalition-building campaign, which organizes organized sectors. While the military is highly organized, we can’t simply go to an active-duty unit and ask for their endorsement on an antiwar campaign. That’s obviously not going to work, so we have to go to individuals within the military community – individual active-duty service members and individual veterans.  This is called base building. We’re going into a community and trying to build up a base of leaders. This doesn’t mean we go in and say, “hey aren’t you against the war as much as we are? I know you just got back” – this does not work.

We spent years thinking about an outreach strategy that would work. I’m sure many of you are familiar with Iraq Veterans Against the War, who initiated Operation Recovery. They began as a speakers bureau of veterans willing to speak out about their experiences. They highlighted stories of war resistance, of service members refusing orders, this kind of thing. This is still ongoing and important work.

These veterans, together with allies from Civilian-Soldier Alliance and others, developed a campaign over a long, four-day process of consensus. What we landed on was Operation Recovery. Operation Recovery seeks to stop the deployment of service members diagnosed with trauma such as Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as a result of their service.

How is this an antiwar campaign?

Currently, 20-50% of all service members deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan right now suffer from PTSD. A large number of these troops are also on psychotropic drugs. While in combat, there is no reporting on how these drugs are prescribed or taken. Military medics for instance are not required to write scripts, they simply hand out the drugs. In effect, we are arming traumatized troops, dosing them up and sending them back in.

Our campaign is focused in Killeen, Texas right now in partnership with a coffeehouse down there called Under the Hood. We also work with another coffeehouse just outside Joint Base Fort Lewis-McChord  called Coffee Strong. In the case of Under the Hood, we actually go on base to Fort Hood and talk to soldiers. We invite them to come out to the coffee shop. We don’t ask them if they are against the war. We have a campaign based on the experiences of service members and veterans because it was service members and veterans that said we needed to do something about this trauma.

This becomes an antiwar campaign because without 20-50% of the fighting force, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan become untenable. You can’t keep a war going without soldiers to fight it. In some cases, the military is violating many of their own policies by deploying troops diagnosed with trauma.

In Fort Hood, for example, there were 22 suicides last year alone. In Joint Base Fort Lewis-McChord, there were 4 suicides on post last month alone. This is an epidemic that the military is refusing to deal with.

We are organizing active-duty service members and veterans to fight. We have a long-term campaign, which is the vehicle by which we develop the leadership of these service members and veterans. We’re not asking them to protest with us immediately. We’re asking them to do things like come to the coffee shop on Thursday nights for “Ribs and Rights” to learn about G.I. rights and have free barbeque. We ask them to come to Women’s Night on Mondays and these kind of things. At Coffee Strong, they offer free coffee to anyone with an enlisted ID. They like to say that officers have to pay double.

The whole idea here is that Operation Recovery develops the leadership of those directly impacted by the wars. We are withdrawing consent from the wars. When a service member withdraws his/her consent from the war and refuses to participate, this ultimately depletes the power of the military to maintain these wars.

This is, as you might imagine, a long haul campaign. This is not us planning a protest in 3 months and hoping the war will end. We make our plans in multi-year timelines. We learned much of this from United Workers, including how to phase campaigns, set goals, and develop tactics to achieve that goal. This is what works and this is where we’re seeing victories.

It’s also important to uplift the role of civilians whose experience is not in the military, who have not been to Afghanistan and seen this first hand, who maybe arrive at an antiwar or peace politic as a result of their own analysis and not their direct experience. For others, it is indeed from a direct experience. We have a member whose brother served in Iraq, and this largely influences her perspective.

It’s important to have a role for allies in order to uplift our experience as well. This is where groups like Civilian-Soldier Alliance come from. We are civilian allies to service members and veterans. Student/Farmworker Alliance is the same thing; they are students using their power on their campuses to stop buying tomatoes grown under poverty conditions in Immokalee. Simultaneously, the farm workers are organizing in the fields. These kinds of connections create victories.

In conclusion, the title of my talk is “What Needs Changing.” I think aside from our economy, perhaps the peace movement itself needs changing. We need to be building leadership. We need to not only do coalition building, in which we go after the low-hanging fruit by trying to get all of the peace organizations together to form a coalition, but we actually need to be doing base building as well. According to polls, the majority of people are on our side, yet we never talk to them. I went on post and spoke with service members in uniform in Fort Hood about Operation Recovery and it was not difficult to get signatures on a pledge about that. The hard part is developing their leadership and creating pathways for involvement. The sentiments are there, and we need to be doing base building, we need to do campaign organizing, and most importantly, we need to take leadership from movements that are winning, in particular poor people’s movements. Thank you.

Transcribed from a speech given at

Public Mobilization for a Nuclear-Free World

September 24, 2010

Long-time scholar, author, professor and peace activist Larry Wittner, a member of the national Peace Action board of directors, has a new article on the state of public opinion and activism for nuclear weapons abolition published by our friends at Foreign Policy in Focus. It begins:

“One of the ironies of the current international situation is that, although some government leaders now talk of building a nuclear weapons-free world, there has been limited public mobilization around that goal — at least compared to the action-packed 1980s.

However, global public opinion is strikingly antinuclear. In December 2008, an opinion pollconducted of more than 19,000 respondents in 21 nations found that, in 20 countries, large majorities — ranging from 62 to 93 percent — favored an international agreement for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.”


Young, Afghan Peace Activists contact Peace Action

May 20, 2009

I hope you are as touched by this message as I was.  Paul Kawika Martin

Dear Martin,

Thanks for your peace action peace blog articles Afghanistan and Pakistan Myths vs. Facts and Call Now To Stop War Funding

We are also trying to do what we can here in Afghanistan to just touch the silence on truth, albeit with almost ZERO results.

What has humanity become when it’s almost a ‘shameful’ matter to struggle for peace? No wonder some of my Afghan college student friends have concluded that peace is NOT possible. It certainly isn’t where the money is. J

WE are merely asking questions through our effort but have realized that even our questions will not be heard.

Please watch one of our clips where Afghan youth working at Bamiyan Peace Park ask :
Where is humanity in Obama’s 83 billion++ American war?

Many thanks and much peace!
Young / Hakim
On behalf of Our Journey to Smile


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