Bernie Sanders on peace issues

February 16, 2016

This article by national Peace Action board member Larry Wittner was originally published by History News Network at http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161986

Bernie Sanders:  The 2016 Peace Candidate

 

By Lawrence S. Wittner

 

[Dr. Lawrence Wittner (www.lawrenceswittner) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany.  His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?]

 

On February 10, 2016, Peace Action—the largest peace organization in the United States—announced its endorsement of Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for President.

 

Peace Action is the descendant of two other mass U.S. peace organizations:  the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign (the Freeze).  SANE was founded in 1957 with the goal of ending nuclear weapons testing.  Soon, though, it broadened its agenda to include opposing the Vietnam War and other overseas military intervention, reducing military spending, and backing nuclear disarmament treaties, as well as supporting economic conversion from military to civilian production.  Among SANE’s early supporters were Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Walter Reuther, and Dr. Benjamin Spock.  The Freeze, initiated by Randy Forsberg, appeared in the late 1970s and reached a peak in the first half of the 1980s, when it led a widespread campaign to halt the Reagan administration’s dramatic nuclear weapons buildup and the dangerous slide toward nuclear war.  With much in common, SANE and the Freeze merged in 1987 to form Peace Action.  Like its predecessors, Peace Action devoted its efforts to building a more peaceful world.

 

Although the three peace organizations rarely endorsed Presidential candidates, they did so on occasion.  Appalled by the Vietnam War, SANE backed the peace campaigns of Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972.  In 1984, challenging the Reagan administration’s bellicose approach to international affairs, SANE and the Freeze endorsed Walter Mondale.  Then, in 1992, fed up with twelve years of Republican hawkishness, the newly-combined organization threw its support behind Bill Clinton.

 

In its statement endorsing Bernie Sanders, Peace Action praised his opposition to both Iraq wars, support of legislation to reduce spending on nuclear weapons, strong backing of the Iran agreement, votes to curb military spending, and championing of diplomacy over war.  According to Kevin Martin, the executive director of the peace organization, Sanders “best represents the values that Peace Action and its 200,000 supporters have espoused.”  And, in fact, before Peace Action’s board of directors voted overwhelmingly to have the organization’s Peace PAC back the Sanders campaign, an online poll of Peace Action’s members revealed support for endorsement by 85 percent of the respondents.

 

This enthusiasm for Sanders among peace activists reflects other aspects of his record, as well.  The U.S. Senator from Vermont has opposed NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, favored normalization of relations with Iran, and decried the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2014 as “disproportionate” and “completely unacceptable.”  When it comes to the war in Syria, he has opposed the establishment of a “no-fly zone” and the use of American ground troops.   In a July 2015 interview, Sanders explained that, although he is not a pacifist, he believes that “war is the very, very, very last option.”

 

Sanders’ depiction as a peace candidate has inspired some grumbling.  During the Presidential race, he has shied away from foreign and military policy issues, and this has disappointed some peace activists.  Hard-line leftists, already irked by his benign brand of socialism, have been particularly critical.  A writer in the Socialist Worker denounced Sanders’ “backing of U.S. imperialism,” while another, in Jacobin, charged that he was “willfully blind to the hand-in-glove relationship between capitalism and militarism.”

 

Even so, when it comes to mainstream electoral politics, Sanders is a logical choice for peace activists.  Although it’s true that he has focused his campaign on economic inequality within the United States, he has not hesitated to assail the “military-industrial complex,” as well as the “regime change” policies of past U.S. administrations.  Also, the attacks upon him by leftwing purists are often divorced from reality.  Driven by a sectarian mindset and a fierce hatred of the Democratic Party, these firebrands distort or ignore much of his peace-oriented record.  Furthermore, they overlook the unpleasant alternatives to a Sanders presidency:  a hawkish Hillary Clinton or a rabidly militaristic Republican in the White House.

 

A more serious question is whether American voters, in 2016, will respond positively to a peace candidate.  Although the answer remains unclear, there are some indications that they will.  Opinion polls reveal that most Americans do not support increasing the U.S. military budget, are wary of sending U.S. ground troops into another Mideast war, and back recent agreements that ease tensions with “enemy” nations like Iran and Cuba.  Therefore, campaigning as a peace candidate might end up producing benefits for Bernie Sanders at the ballot box.


Largest Peace Group Endorses Sanders

February 10, 2016

 

Washington, DC — February 10, 2016 — For the first time in nearly 25 years, Peace Action PAC, the political action committee of Peace Action (the largest peace group in the U.S.) has endorsed a candidate for President:  Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) for the Democratic primary.

“Peace Action PAC is proud to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) for the Democratic presidential primary.  With Sanders’ opposition to both Iraq Wars, support for the significant reduction of nuclear weapons, endorsement of the Iran agreement, championing the reduction of Pentagon spending and general support of diplomacy over war, he best represents the values that Peace Action and its 200,000 supporters have espoused for nearly 60 years,” said Kevin Martin, Peace Action’s executive director.

The organization has a high-bar for presidential endorsements requiring the agreement of two-thirds of its board of directors.  Before the board voted, it polled its supporters, and Sanders received 85% support.  The Sanders endorsement easily passed with near unanimity.

“Sanders opposed the proposed Syria airstrikes in 2013, sending arms to Syrian rebels, and military escalation in the region with U.S. special ops forces.  His clear preference to find alternatives to costly, ineffectual and many times backfiring military intervention, making him deserving of Peace Action PAC’s rare endorsement,” added Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action PAC’s director.

In support of Sanders’ low donor campaign, Peace Action asks its supporters to donate here (Note that donations are split between Sanders and Peace Action PAC, though you may adjust that to your preference):

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About Peace Action:

Founded in 1957, Peace Action (formerly SANE/Freeze), the United States’ largest peace and disarmament organization, with over 100,000 paid members and nearly 100 chapters in 36 states, works to abolish nuclear weapons, promote government spending priorities that support human needs, encourage real security through international cooperation and human rights and support nonmilitary solutions to the conflicts with Afghanistan and Iran. The public may learn more and take action at http://www.Peace- Action.org. For more up-to-date peace insider information, follow Peace Action’s political director on Twitter. http://twitter.com/PaulKawika

Notes to Editors:

For a more reasons why Peace Action PAC endorsed Sanders:

https://peaceblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/top-5-reasons-peace-action-pac-is-endorsing-bernie-sanders-for-president/

Top 5 Reasons Peace Action PAC is Endorsing Bernie Sanders for President

By Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action & Jon Rainwater, Executive Director, Peace Action West

After 15 years of war, the next president of the United States will inherit daunting foreign policy challenges. Sadly, many of those challenges were fueled by an “act first, think later” U.S. military policy in places like Iraq and Libya that has backfired. At the same time, the new president will need to sustain diplomatic initiatives started by President Obama including the Iranian nuclear deal and peace talks to end the Syria war.

We need a president that can cultivate diplomatic openings while turning the country away from an over-reliance on the blunt military instrument. Bernie Sanders has vocally opposed this military-first foreign policy and the sprawling quagmire the U.S. is enmeshed in. That’s why Peace Action PAC is endorsing Senator Bernie Sanders for President in the Democratic primary.

Sanders didn’t just get the Iraq war vote right. Then and now, he’s had the foresight to predict the dangers of a military-first foreign policy.

Bernie Sanders has been a leading voice in Congress against risky U.S. military adventurism. Sanders was prescient in describing the pitfalls of the Iraq war that so many of his colleagues were blind to. Sanders predicted the high cost of the war for the U.S. in terms of lives and wasted resources. He had the foresight to accurately predict that a U.S. invasion of Iraq could lead to sectarian conflict and he argued that the ensuing chaos could support the rise of extremism.

Sanders has continued to point out when blunt military tools only make the complex conflicts in the Middle East worse. He opposed plans to bomb Syria over concerns about chemical weapons use. He voted against the disgraced program to arm “moderate” Syrian rebels that resulted in some U.S.-trained rebels taking their weapons stockpiles and joining the ranks of extremists.

Sanders now opposes sending U.S. ground troops to Syria and warns of a potential quagmire. There are already roughly 6,000 Americans involved in the fighting in Iraq and Syria and most of the leading presidential candidates are calling for more. Sanders also opposes the proposed “no-fly-zone” in Syria which many experts feel would endanger civilians while risking a direct conflict with Russia that could spiral out of control.

Sanders supports a truly diplomacy-first foreign policy

Sanders is not afraid to take bold positions on behalf of diplomacy and conflict resolution. He was a vocal and visible leader in the debate about the Iran nuclear deal and forcefully rebutted the deal’s critics like Benjamin Netanyahu. Now, like President Obama, he wants to build on the Iran deal to help reduce tensions in the Middle East. Recently, when Sanders expressed cautious optimism about normalized relations with Iran he was immediately pounced on by opponents as naive  —  despite the fact that allies like Canada and Europe are eagerly moving towards economic and diplomatic normalization with Iran. We need someone who can seize and sustain diplomatic openings.

Sanders has articulated a much more cautious approach to regime change and military intervention than the other leading candidates for president. In the run up to the Gulf War (1991) and the Iraq War (2002) he pushed for a diplomatic resolution. He is also resisting the growing saber rattling and talk of a new Cold War by some U.S. and Russian politicians. Sanders instead calls for a diplomatic approach to the conflict in Eastern Europe.

Sanders’s campaign is also making a critical strategic point that the country needs to hear: If the military fight against extremism in the Middle East continues to be led by the U.S., the extremists’ recruitment narrative  —  and thereby their lasting power  —  is strengthened. In the long run that makes us all less safe. Most experts agree that only political and diplomatic solutions can bring stability to Iraq, Syria and Libya. But Sanders is the rare elected official willing to resist the climate of fear that leads to band-aid military tactics. He instead champions the tools that can really keep us safer.

Sanders is taking on Pentagon bloat

Bernie Sanders is one of the leading voices in Congress in the fight against wasteful Pentagon spending. He has opposed the special war-funding account that is being used as a “slush fund” for the Pentagon. He’s repeatedly pointed out that the Pentagon’s out of control spending is based on Cold War era military thinking and weapons systems. Sanders also points out that the Pentagon budget is so mismanaged that the Pentagon is unable to say where they actually spend all their money.

Sanders knows that diplomacy, humanitarian aid, and economic development are often more effective security building tools than military intervention. He’s pushed to reform security spending by cutting wasteful Pentagon weapons systems and foreign arms transfers to increase spending for programs that work to prevent conflict and build stability.

Getting Big Money out of our politics is as important for a progressive foreign policy as for domestic priorities. Economic fairness and truly secure communities are linked.

Sanders is the only candidate challenging the power of the military-industrial complex and their campaign contributions. Pentagon industry insiders are reaping record profits for weapons systems that aren’t needed given our real twenty-first century security needs. Meanwhile other needs that also contribute to real security for U.S. communities are starved for funds.

Sanders has smart, concrete proposals for an accessible education system; for fixing our crumbling infrastructure; for investments in clean energy and a healthy of the environment; and for a strong, resilient universal health care system. In the twenty-first century these things are part of what makes our communities truly safe and secure. It will be very difficult to fund those proposals without taking on entrenched interests that benefit from a military budget that currently gobbles up half of discretionary expenditures.

“I would ask all of my colleagues to remember what Eisenhower said [about how the military-industrial complex robs from social investments] and understand that today, when we have this bloated and huge military budget, there are people who are talking about massive cuts in food stamps, massive cuts in education, massive cuts in affordable housing, cuts in Social Security, cuts in Medicare, cuts in Medicaid. I would argue very strongly that before we cut from the elderly and the children and the sick and the poor, maybe we take a hard look at this bloated military budget.”

—  Bernie Sanders on the floor of the U.S. Senate, December 2013

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Peace Action Applauds Iran Agreement Success; Urges Similar Diplomatic Efforts with Syria and North Korea

January 16, 2016

Peace Action Applauds Iran Agreement Success; Urges Similar Diplomatic Efforts with Syria and North Korea

Washington, DC — January 16, 2016 — In response to today’s announcement that all parties (The United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany — the P5 + 1), including Iran, have implemented their responsibilities under the agreement reached last July 14 that has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions against the country, Paul Kawika Martin the policy and political director of Peace Action (the largest peace group in the U.S. founded on abolishing nuclear weapons) who has been working on the Iran issue for over eight years and had the rare opportunity to spend time in Iran and enjoyed hospitality from its people and its vast culture, made the following statement:

“Successful diplomacy has moved Iran from a possible timeline of a few months to over a year away from having the fissile material needed to make a crude nuclear weapon if it so chose.  This historic agreement, now implemented, makes the U.S. and the world a safer place.

“The implementation of the agreement proves that diplomacy works.  Instead of isolation, sanctions that don’t affect leaders or military intervention that costs vast amounts of blood and treasure and untold long-term costs and unintended consequences, the U.S. used dialogue, negotiations and the international community to solve conflict.

“The U.S. should continue to use diplomacy with Iran to tackle issues like human rights and regional security that will further reduce Middle East tensions.

“Additionally, we should take lessons learned and continue diplomacy to bring about a cease-fire within Syria and finalize a political solution to end its civil war.

“In particular, the U.S should heed its success of negotiating with Iran without preconditions to re-enter into six-party talks with North Korea and drop its demand of preconditions for continued dialogue.

“Lastly, this success shows that excessive Pentagon spending needs to be replaced with more diplomatic tools to solve international conflicts without the horrendous costs of military intervention.”

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Founded in 1957, Peace Action (formerly SANE/Freeze), the United States’ largest peace and disarmament organization, with over 100,000 paid members and nearly 100 chapters in 36 states, works to abolish nuclear weapons, promote government spending priorities that support human needs, encourage real security through international cooperation and human rights and support nonmilitary solutions to the conflicts with Afghanistan and Iran. The public may learn more and take action at http://www.Peace- Action.org. For more up-to-date peace insider information, follow Peace Action’s political director on Twitter. http://twitter.com/PaulKawika


Iran Peace Accord Victory Celebration

October 15, 2015

On Monday night (Indigenous Peoples Day), Washington, DC area peacemongers from groups including the National Iranian American Council, Institute for Policy Studies, CODEPINK Women for Peace and others joined Peace Action for a celebration of the Iran Peace Accord at Busboys and Poets restaurant. Our hosts were Busboys and Poets owners Marjan (originally from Iran) and Andy (originally from Iraq) Shallal. Here are a few photos from a festive, fun evening! It was certainly a long time coming! Peace Action has worked for diplomacy and peace, and against threats of war, with Iran since at least 2004! Photos by Eric Swanson, Peace Action’s Database Manager.

a few of the 50 people who joined us!

a few of the 50 people who joined us!

Marjan Shallal

Marjan Shallal

Peace Action Executive Director Kevin Martin emceeing the festivities

Executive Director Kevin Martin emceeing the festivities

Alli McCracken of CODEPINK

Michaela Anang and Alli McCracken of CODEPINK

Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies

Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies

Peace Action Policy Director Paul Kawika Martin

Policy Director Paul Kawika Martin

Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council

Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council

Andy Shallal

Andy Shallal


Tell the Senate: diplomacy worked with Iran, time to use it with Syria

October 6, 2015

'Nuff said?

Last week, with the help of our affiliates and allies, Connecticut Representative Jim Himes quickly organized a letter signed by 55 Members of Congress to President Obama calling for international talks to end the Syrian civil war, talks that include Russia and Iran.

It’s time for the other Congressional chamber, the Senate, to speak up.  President Obama, other leaders and experts agree that the main solution to the crisis in Syria is a political one.  Yet, comprehensive negotiations between all the key stakeholders have yet to occur.

Write your Senators now and ask that they make a statement or send a letter like Rep. Himes sent to support international talks and diplomacy.

As you know, with Syria’s invite, Russia started conducting airstrikes in Syria.  Now military hawks are suggesting the U.S. enforce a no-fly zone.  The Obama administration and others rightfully point out that such actions would like only escalate the situation.  Again, international talks- not jet fighters- are more apt to stop the civil war.

Take a moment now and tell your Senators to speak out for diplomacy with Syria and against military escalation by way of a no-fly zone.

The longer we wait to have comprehensive peace talks to work out a peace plan, the longer the war and refugee crisis will continue. Take action now and forward this message to your family and friends and ask them to take action as well.


After the Iran Nuclear Agreement: Will the Nuclear Powers Also Play by the Rules

September 29, 2015

Peace Action board member Larry Wittner on History News Network

By L

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

Тягач МЗКТ-79221 (комплекс Тополь-М)” by ru:Участник:Goodvint – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

When all is said and done, what the recently-approved Iran nuclear agreement is all about is ensuring that Iran honors its commitment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) not to develop nuclear weapons.

But the NPT—which was ratified in 1968 and which went into force in 1970—has two kinds of provisions. The first is that non-nuclear powers forswear developing a nuclear weapons capability. The second is that nuclear-armed nations divest themselves of their own nuclear weapons. Article VI of the treaty is quite explicit on this second point, stating: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

What has been the record of the nuclear powers when it comes to compliance with the NPT?

The good news is that there has been some compliance. Thanks to a variety of nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements negotiated among the major nuclear powers, plus some unilateral action, the world’s total nuclear weapons stockpile has been reduced by more than two- thirds.

On the other hand, 45 years after the NPT went into effect, nine nations continue to cling to about 16,000 nuclear weapons, thousands of which remain on hair-trigger alert. These nations not only include the United States and Russia (which together possess more than 90 percent of them), but Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. If their quarrels—of which there are many—ever get out of hand, there is nothing to prevent these nations from using their nuclear weapons to lay waste to the world on a scale unprecedented in human history.

Equally dangerous, from the standpoint of the future, is that these nations have recently abandoned negotiating incremental nuclear disarmament agreements and have plunged, instead, into programs of nuclear weapons “modernization.” In the United States, this modernization—which is projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years—will include everything from ballistic missiles to bombers, warheads to naval vessels, cruise missiles to nuclear weapons factories. In Russia, the government is in the process of replacing all of its Soviet era nuclear weapons systems with new, upgraded versions. As for Britain, the government has committed itself to building a new nuclear-armed submarine fleet called Successor, thereby continuing the nation’s nuclear status into the second half of the twenty-first century. Meanwhile, as the Arms Control Association recently reported, China, India, and Pakistan “are all pursuing new ballistic missile, cruise missile, and sea-based delivery systems.”

Thus, despite the insistence of the nuclear powers that Iran comply with the NPT, it is pretty clear that these nuclear-armed countries do not consider themselves bound to comply with this landmark agreement, signed by 189 nations. Some of the nuclear powers, in fact, have been quite brazen in rejecting it. Israel, India, and Pakistan have long defied the NPT—first by refusing to sign it and, later, by going ahead and building their own nuclear weapons. North Korea, once a signatory to the treaty, has withdrawn from it.

In the aftermath of the Iranian government’s agreement to comply with the treaty, would it not be an appropriate time to demand that the nuclear-armed nations do so?

At the least, the nuclear nations should agree to halt nuclear weapons “modernization” and to begin negotiating the long-delayed treaty to scrap the 16,000 nuclear weapons remaining in their arsenals. Having arranged for strict verification procedures to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons, they should be familiar with procedures for verification of their own nuclear disarmament.

After all, isn’t sauce for the goose also sauce for the gander?

– See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/160658#sthash.r50T2a8Y.dpuf


There They Go Again, R’s Still Trying to Scuttle the Iran Peace Accord!

September 16, 2015

peace_with_iran21

If by the end of tomorrow no legislation is passed to oppose the Iran agreement, it will move forward.  Republicans have tried to ditch the accord but Democrats in the Senate have blocked them twice now.  Even if such a bill passed, President Obama would veto and it is very clear that there is enough support for the Iran accord to sustain the veto.

Nevertheless, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues to play games by forcing useless votes.

Last night, after the Democrats blocked an opposition vote, McConnell introduced an amendment prohibiting the Iran accord from proceeding until Iran recognizes Israel’s right to exist and frees the American prisoners in Iran.  These are important issues but completely separate from the nuclear agreement.

Clearly, this is a last minute attempt by Republicans to embarrass Democrats and kill diplomacy with Iran that six countries negotiated over several years to limit Iran’s nuclear program and keep it peaceful.

We expect votes to occur tomorrow night, so please dial (855) 68 NO WAR (66 927 toll free) to reach both your Senators now and say:

I am a constituent and I support the Iran agreement as is.  I want my Senator to oppose any attempts to delay, change or kill the important Iran accord.

While we are pretty sure we have the votes to move the Iran deal forward, we will not declare victory until tomorrow’s votes are finished.  Even then, we expect hawks in Congress to continue to make implementing the Iran agreement difficult.  With your calls, we will prevail.

Peacefully yours,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Efforts by Senate Republicans to kill the Iran accord must be stopped.  Though they have been defeated twice, several votes will occur tomorrow to thwart the Iran agreement.  Please call both your Senators now and say:

“I am a constituent and I support the Iran agreement as is.  I want my Senator to oppose any attempts to delay, change or kill the important Iran accord.”

After calling, please forward this important email.

*Thanks to Friends Committee on National Legislation for the toll-free number.


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