Two Peace Movement Book Events Next Week in DC with Authors Michael Heaney and Vincent Intondi

February 27, 2015

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Our good friends at Busboys and Poets are hosting two very interesting book events in Washington, DC next week, well worth your time if you are free Monday and/or Tuesday evenings.

Our good friends at Busboys and Poets are hosting two very interesting book events in Washington, DC next week, well worth your time if you are free Monday and/or Tuesday evenings.

Event #1: Monday, March 2, 6:30-8:00 pm at the 14th and V Sts, NW Busboys and Poets, sponsored by Teaching for Change

Author Michael Heaney, assistant professor at the University of Michigan, will speak about his book (written with Fabio Rojas) Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11.  Michael, Fabio and their assistants did a phenomenal job interviewing anti-war activists and attendees at all the major antiwar rallies of the 2000s, and their findings are very compelling. Click here for more information.

Event #2: Tuesday, March 3,  6:30 pm at the Busboys and Poets Brookland location, 625 Monroe St, NE, Washington, DC 20017, sponsored by Politics and Prose

Vincent Intondi, professor at Montgomery College and American University’s Nuclear Studies Institute, will speak on his book African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism and the Black Freedom Movement. Vincent’s book is groundbreaking in raising up a forgotten history of people of color movements against nuclear weapons, in the context of broader liberation and justice struggles. Click here for more information.


Let’s Give Diplomacy a Chance in Ukraine

February 8, 2015

I don’t pretend to be an expert on Ukraine, or Ukrainian-Russian social, historical and economic ties. I do recall after the break-up of the Soviet Union there was consternation in Ukraine, a country about the size and population of France in what Ukrainians consider to be the heart of Europe (it’s not “Eastern Europe,” that’s the westernmost part of Russia), that all anyone seemed to care about was the disposition of Soviet nuclear weapons there. Ukraine wisely gave up the nukes, returning them to Russia, but I recall a justifiably angry quote by a Ukrainian that the attitude of most of the world was “Give us your nukes and go to hell.” And of course Ukrainians still deal with the awful legacy of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster nearly 30 years ago.

As the current situation in Ukraine devolves into an increasingly horrible war, we see an urgent diplomatic initiative led by Germany and France contrasted by contradictory “tough talk” by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and some in Congress advocating increased U.S. weapons sales to Ukraine while admitting there is no military solution.

So let’s just skip the field day for the weapons dealers and focus on diplomacy.

Here is a radio interview I did yesterday on the status of diplomacy and pressure for increased U.S. weapons sales to Ukraine on KPFA Pacifica radio. One part they didn’t use was my question about how anyone can justify the loss of life in this increasingly horrible war when the likely outcome is known now — some sort of de facto autonomous region for the Russian population of Eastern Ukraine, with assurances to Russia by the U.S., NATO, European Union and Ukraine that the country will not become the eastern-most outpost of U.S./Western European military/strategic/political economic neo-imperialism — whether it becomes a reality in a week, a month, or a year from now. How is this situation worth anyone dying over? (Host David Rosenberg replied that could be said of most wars, I wish they had aired that part of our exchange!)

And here is a letter to the editor I sent to the New York Times last week, unpublished.

February 3, 2015

To the editor:

Sending U.S. weaponry to Ukraine as the conflict there escalates is a horrible idea (“U.S. considers supplying arms to Ukraine forces, officials say,” February 1) unless the objective is to increase overall death and destruction there. Any moves that inflame the situation in Ukraine should be avoided. Apart from the situation in Ukraine itself, U.S. and NATO triumphalist policies since the end of the Cold War have needlessly and unwisely isolated Russia, at a time when the U.S. and Russia need better relations, not worse, for cooperation on a host of issues including nuclear weapons reductions, bringing peace, stability and security to the broader Middle East region and addressing violent extremism and global climate change.

U.S. arms transfers into regions of conflict are short-sighted and have a spectacularly bad record of blowback and unintended consequences against our country and our allies (in Iraq and Afghanistan, to note only two bitter and current examples). It’s hard to recall many instances where such transfers brought about peace and stability instead of worsening armed conflict. Let’s give renewed diplomacy involving the various actors in the region a chance instead.

Sincerely,

Kevin Martin

Executive Director

Peace Action

I’d be interested to know what readers of this blog think we, as U.S. peace activists, should advocate regarding Ukraine and specifically U.S. government policies toward the conflict.


Are the U.S. and Russian Governments Once Again on the Nuclear Warpath?

February 3, 2015

by Lawrence S. Wittner (Peace Action national board member)

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?

A quarter century after the end of the Cold War and decades after the signing of landmark nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements, are the U.S. and Russian governments once more engaged in a potentially disastrous nuclear arms race with one another? It certainly looks like it.

With approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons between them, the United States and Russia already possess about 93 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, thus making them the world’s nuclear hegemons. But, apparently, like great powers throughout history, they do not consider their vast military might sufficient, especially in the context of their growing international rivalry.

Although, in early 2009, President Barack Obama announced his “commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” the U.S. government today has moved well along toward implementing an administration plan for U.S. nuclear “modernization.” This entails spending $355 billion over a ten-year period for a massive renovation of U.S. nuclear weapons plants and laboratories. Moreover, the cost is scheduled to soar after this renovation, when an array of new nuclear weapons will be produced. “That’s where all the big money is,” noted Ashton Carter, recently nominated as U.S. Secretary of Defense. “By comparison, everything that we’re doing now is cheap.” The Obama administration has asked the Pentagon to plan for 12 new nuclear missile-firing submarines, up to 100 new nuclear bombers, and 400 land-based nuclear missiles. According to outside experts and a bipartisan, independent panel commissioned by Congress and the Defense Department, that will bring the total price tag for the U.S. nuclear weapons buildup to approximately $1 trillion.

For its part, the Russian government seems determined to match―or surpass―that record. With President Vladimir Putin eager to use nuclear weapons as a symbol of Russian influence, Moscow is building, at great expense, new generations of giant ballistic missile submarines, as well as nuclear attack submarines that are reportedly equal or superior to their U.S. counterparts in performance and stealth. Armed with nuclear-capable cruise missiles, they periodically make forays across the Atlantic, heading for the U.S. coast. Deeply concerned about the potential of these missiles to level a surprise attack, the U.S. military has already launched the first of two experimental “blimps” over Washington, DC, designed to help detect them. The Obama administration also charges that Russian testing of a new medium-range cruise missile is a violation of the 1987 INF treaty. Although the Russian government denies the existence of the offending missile, its rhetoric has been less than diplomatic. As the Ukraine crisis developed, Putin told a public audience that “Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers,” and foreign nations “should understand it’s best not to mess with us.” Pravda was even more inflammatory. In an article published in November titled “Russia prepares a nuclear surprise for NATO,” it bragged about Russia’s alleged superiority over the United States in nuclear weaponry.

Not surprisingly, the one nuclear disarmament agreement signed between the U.S. and Russian governments since 2003―the New START treaty of 2011―is being implemented remarkably slowly. New START, designed to reduce the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons (the most powerful ones) in each country by 30 percent by 2018, has not led to substantial reductions in either nation’s deployed nuclear arsenal. Indeed, between March and October 2014, the two nations each increased their deployed nuclear forces. Also, they maintain large arsenals of nuclear weapons targeting one another, with about 1,800 of them on high alert―ready to be launched within minutes against the populations of both nations.

The souring of relations between the U.S. and Russian governments has been going on for years, but it has reached a very dangerous level during the current confrontation over Ukraine. In their dealings with this conflict-torn nation, there’s plenty of fault on both sides. U.S. officials should have recognized that any Russian government would have been angered by NATO’s steady recruitment of East European countries―especially Ukraine, which had been united with Russia in the same nation until recently, was sharing a common border with Russia, and was housing one of Russia’s most important naval bases (in Crimea). For their part, Russian officials had no legal basis for seizing and annexing Crimea or aiding heavily-armed separatists in the eastern portion of Ukraine.

But however reckless the two nuclear behemoths have been, this does not mean that they have to continue this behavior. Plenty of compromise formulas exist―for example, leaving Ukraine out of NATO, altering that country’s structure to allow for a high degree of self-government in the war-torn east, and organizing a UN-sponsored referendum in Crimea. And possibilities for compromise also exist in other areas of U.S.-Russian relations.

Failing to agree to a diplomatic settlement of these and other issues will do more than continue violent turmoil in Ukraine. Indeed, the disastrous, downhill slide of both the United States and Russia into a vastly expensive nuclear arms race will bankrupt them and, also, by providing an example of dependence on nuclear might, encourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional nations. After all, how can they succeed in getting other countries to forswear developing nuclear weapons when―47 years after the U.S. and Soviet governments signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which they pledged their own nuclear disarmament―their successors are engaged in yet another nuclear arms race? Finally, of course, this new arms race, unless checked, seems likely to lead, sooner or later, to a nuclear catastrophe of immense proportions.

Can the U.S. and Russian governments calm down, settle their quarrels peacefully, and return to a policy of nuclear disarmament? Let’s hope so.

– See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/158159#sthash.vfbjTQf5.dpuf


Largest Peace Group Supports Extending Iran Negotiations

November 24, 2014

Washington, DC — November 23, 2014 — In response to various sources citing that the P5 + 1 (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany) and Iran will extend their negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program beyond today’s deadline until July, Peace Action, the largest peace group in the U.S. released the following statement by its policy and political director, Paul Kawika Martin who has been working on the issue for over eight years and had the rare opportunity to spend time in Iran:

The recently announced extension of international talks with Iran over their nuclear program will continue to roll back Iran’s nuclear program and provide time to negotiate final difference and come to an agreement that guarantees Iran will not pursue a nuclear weapon makes the U.S. and the world a safer place and paves the way for more discussions that will reduce Middle East tensions and increase economic opportunities benefiting world markets.

The U.S. has come along way from the days when Vice President Dick Cheney tried to sway the Bush administration to bomb Iran, to today when the Obama administration is key to international negotiations that we hope will lead to an agreement with Iran that will roll back its nuclear program and ensure it does not build a nuclear weapon even if it wanted one.  International verification and monitoring will guarantee compliance.  This extension of talks with Iran over its nuclear program is yet another example that diplomacy is working and is far less expensive in blood and treasure than military intervention.

Unfortunately, there are some in Congress and the Israeli Government who take the Cheney tack that war is the answer.  But, this seven-month extension of talks with Iran is better than any imaginable alternative.  Military strategists have said over and over again that a military intervention into Iran would at best slightly delay any nuclear program and at worst force Iran to engage or speed up getting a nuclear weapon even if they had no such program.  Additionally, it could start another Middle East war that the U.S. cannot afford and Americans oppose.

It is vital that Congress not scuttle an agreement with Iran now that the parties are so close .  Any letters or legislation that offers more sanctions or ties the hands of the countries, preventing them from coming to an agreement, is clearly a poison pill to kill the negotiations.  That would be very short sighted, as an agreement with Iran on their nuclear program would likely lead to productive negotiations on other items of concern with the Iranian Government, not to mention, to open up important economic channels to help world financial woes.

With bad news coming out of the Middle East nearly every day, continued negotiations with Iran is something to lift up not bring down.  This is a key time to lessen tensions in the Middle East.  The extension of talks continues to heavily limit Iran’s nuclear program while providing significant safeguards and inspections to guarantee non-weapon uses of nuclear technology.

Peace Action will join dozens of other organizations to have our supporters call on their congressional delegation to publicly support the talks with Iran by asking them to make a floor statement, write an OP-ED and release a positive statement.

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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


Some good (and even kinda funny!) news on nukes

November 10, 2014

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While you might not have known it from the scant attention they received in the recent midterm elections, there is a lot brewing on Peace Action’s top priority issues these days. We’ll have more for you soon on a possible breakthrough deal on Iran’s nuclear program (the current deadline for a deal is in two weeks, though it could be extended), as well as potentially interesting developments on the Pentagon’s budget. For today, here are some items you might have missed regarding nuclear weapons issues (good news), and I’ll do another post on Iraq and Afghanistan (definitely mostly bad news).

–U.S. to attend Vienna conference next month on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons: Peace Action has helped lead national and international efforts to press the Obama Administration to more faithfully participate in various international fora on nuclear disarmament, with not a lot of success to date. The U.S. skipped the first two conferences in this relatively new push regarding the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, but the State Department announced Friday it would send representatives to the third such conference in Vienna in early December.  We signed onto a letter initiated by our colleagues at the Arms Control Association urging U.S. participation, so this is definitely good news, and we’ll keep you updated on the conference, U.S. participation, and follow-up steps. What the U.S. reps say and do at this confab will have even more resonance as the international community prepares for the every five years Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT RevCon) at the United Nations in New York City next April. Peace Action will once again help lead national and international groups in organizing around the RevCon, we’ll have more information on this in the New Year.

-Updated Don’t Bank on the Bomb report released: This terrific resource, which catalogs the banks, insurance companies, mutual funds and other businesses that help support and finance nuclear weapons contractors worldwide, was released last Friday. It’s a great educational and action tool, as even most peace activists are likely unaware of the web of financial links so many seemingly non-military related companies have to the production of nuclear weapons. Check it out, you’ll want to know if companies you deal with are involved. Some Peace Action supporters have used the report to withdraw investments from firms they had long done business with, over the companies’ financial ties to nukes. You may want to do the same.

-And the funny (sort of): Death Wears Bunny Slippers: Hanging out with the disgruntled guys who babysit our aging nuclear missiles – and hate every second of it, a terrific article in Mother Jones magazine about the decay of the ICBM force and the morale and performance of the Air Force personnel who allegedly safeguard them

 


Next Tuesday’s elections: Trick or Treat?

October 30, 2014

Dear Voter,

A few days after All Hallows’ Evening, the midterm elections will occur. Tuesday, November 4th. Your actions can make the results less scary.  Please take two actions now:

Vote!
Contribute to Peace Candidates! 

Even if you are not registered to vote, a number of states allow you to register at the ballot box.  Did you know you can avoid possible lines and hassle by voting at early polling places or using an absentee ballot?  You can find your polling place, information on registration and early voting and other important election information by visiting www.vote411.org

Already Peace Action and our affiliates, through our Peace Voter campaign has made a difference by endorsing candidates and fundraising for candidates, contributing to primary elections, briefing candidates, collecting candidate questionnaires and hiring organizers to work in important swing races.  You can make a difference here.

As you read this, Peace Action organizers are working in critical Senate races in Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire and swing House races in Minnesota and New Hampshire.

Please contribute to these peace candidates and to Peace Action PAC now.  Even $5 can make a difference.  By law, $5,000 is the maximum you can give to our PAC.  You may consider a recurring gift so that our PAC is always prepared even for surprise special elections

Peace Action PAC has helped elect such peace leaders as:

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) — a leader in bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and ending the Iraq War.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) — another leader in stopping endless wars and cutting the Pentagon budget.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) — co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) — a rare Republican ally on ending the wars and reducing Pentagon waste.

Your support now can make a difference in last minute advertising and get out the vote efforts.  It’s not just electing Members of Congress that will vote the right way.  That certainly helps.  But the key is electing leaders on peace issues who will lead a number of lawmakers to vote the right way.  Leaders who will do the the hard, behind the scenes, work on issues you and I care about that will make a lasting difference.

Please take a moment now to make a gift so that we can make a difference in key elections.

For a more peaceful Congress,

Paul Kawika Martin
Director, Political Action Committee
Peace Action

P.S. – The only thing scarier than Halloween this week, would be not to take action regarding next Tuesday’s (November 4th) midterm elections.  Please make sure you vote.  And give generously to peace candidates and Peace Action’s PAC.  Be sure to share and forward this post.


Letter to Obama Administration on upcoming nukes conference

October 30, 2014
Peace Action Development Director Peter Deccy at the "A-Bomb Dome" in Hiroshima

Peace Action Development Director Peter Deccy at the “A-Bomb Dome” in Hiroshima

The following news release is part of an ongoing effort to press the Obama Administration to participate in multilateral nuclear disarmament fora. Peace Action has helped lead this push for a few years now. The first link is to the letter we signed onto. Scuttlebutt is the Administration may soon decide on whether to attend the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons in December.

Leading Nuclear Policy Experts and Organizations Call on the United States to Participate in International Conference on Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons

For Immediate Release: October 29, 2014

 

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, 202-463-8270 x107

(Washington, D.C.) –A group of more than two dozen leading nuclear policy experts, former U.S. government officials, and peace and security organizations are urging the Barack Obama administration “to authorize U.S. participation in the Dec. 8-9 Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna, Austria.”

In an October 29 letter to the White House, State Department, and Pentagon, the signatories write that U.S. participation in the Vienna conference “would enhance the United States’ credibility and influence at the 2015 NPT Review Conference. U.S. participation would also provide support to key U.S. allies and partners,” many of which are also urging the United States to send an official delegation.

The Vienna humanitarian impacts conference, which is the third such meeting since 2013, “is a useful and important venue for raising awareness about the risks of nuclear weapons,” the letter signers write, and it “contributes to the oft-repeated U.S. government call for ‘extending the nearly 70-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons forever.'”

The United States and the other five original nuclear weapon states–Russia, the U.K., France, and China–have not attended the two previous humanitarian impacts conferences, citing concerns that it could be used as a launching point for negotiations calling for a ban on nuclear weapons or a convention leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

“While some participating states and some nongovernmental organizations support such a ban … this conference is not a negotiating conference and is not intended to launch such an effort. Even if it were, there is no clear consensus among the participants about the direction of any such process,” the signers note in their letter, which was addressed to the president’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

“Nuclear-armed states may have reasons to argue that not all potential uses of nuclear weapons necessarily would lead to humanitarian disaster, and that nuclear weapons may deter other existential threats,” says George Perkovich, Vice-President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and one of the letter’s signatories.

“But given that the whole world would be affected if they are wrong, they should be willing to discuss these issues with others,” Perkovich says. “Unwillingness to do so suggests an arrogance that can only provoke international contempt and resistance.”

A decision on the part of the Obama administration not to attend the Vienna conference, the signatories write, “would be a major lost opportunity and a setback for President Obama’s own call for action toward a nuclear weapons free world.”

 

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons.


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