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.

Japan’s Peace Movement Will “Never Give Up!”

September 30, 2015

by Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director, New Jersey Peace Action

originally published by The Socialist

On the International Day of Peace 2015 (September 21), I spoke at the First Presbyterian Church of Rockaway, a New Jersey Peace Action recognized Peace Site, about being a local peacemaker and working to create a culture of peace. I welcomed the opportunity, having recently returned from a two-week trip to Japan, representing Peace Action and New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) as a guest of the New Japan Women’s Association (Shinfujin). From August 1st through August 13th, I participated in an International Meeting for Peace, the 60th World Conference for A-Bomb and H-Bomb Survivors and ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I gave my presentation just two days after the Upper House of the Japanese Diet passed extremely controversial and hotly contested “Security Rules” pushed by Prime Minister Abe and supported by President Obama. These rules violate Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, adopted post-World War II, by allowing Japanese soldiers to deploy overseas in support of their American allies, ending Japan’s 70 year commitment to pacifism. I read Article 9 out loud:

(1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
(2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.


I emphasized the words that I thought elected officials in the U.S. should hear, describing behaviors the U.S. seems to have abandoned years ago. I praised the Japanese commitment to these words and their ongoing desire to preserve their culture of peace, following Japan’s experiences in World War II as both an imperialist nation and the victim of two atomic bombs.

A Japanese woman activist who attended the program said afterward, “I was devastated when the Diet approved the new rules, but it wasn’t until I heard you, an American, read Article 9 to a multi-faith audience that my tears first began to flow.”

Why would my reading these words have such an effect? Could it be because the history of Japan-American relations since 1940 hasn’t been easy — beginning with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1944 and continuing with U.S. internment camps for Japanese, the U.S. firebombing of 67 Japanese cities and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The U.S. used the military base at Okinawa as a launch pad during the Vietnam War and today wants to expand that base, despite tremendous local opposition. President Obama pressured Prime Minister Abe to abandon a 70-year commitment to pacifism over tremendous objections in order to support the U.S. military agenda in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East. To hear an American read Article 9 with such reverence and respect and then talk about how the U.S. could learn from these words must be part of the reason it was so moving and meaningful.

While in Japan, I saw firsthand just how determined the majority of Japanese are to abolish nuclear weapons and put an end to war. At the end of every plenary session at the World Conference in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hundreds of people nearly ran onto the stage carrying colorful banners, some in English, others in Japanese and many in both languages, decrying nuclear weapons, calling for “Peace Not War” and protesting against efforts to undermine their constitution’s Article 9.

On August 30th, in the largest demonstration in decades, approximately 120,000 Japanese gathered at the Diet Building in Tokyo to protest the passage of these new rules. Organizers reported 200 protest rallies held throughout the country.


High school students are leading this effort. I heard several young Japanese people say that they don’t want to fight in an overseas war. They don’t understand why differences can’t be resolved peacefully. I found myself imagining what it would be like to live in a country where for more than three generations, no Japanese man or woman has been killed in a war and no Japanese man or woman has killed anyone in another country during a war. I wished that the same dilemma faced high school students in the U.S., but since the U.S. has been at war for 213 years of our 239-year existence, we have become numb to the prospect of yet another war.

On September 10th, in anticipation of the upcoming vote in the Diet, the Japanese NO WAR Network held a press conference to express its opposition to the “War Rules.” 103 Japanese organizations were joined by 228 foreign NGOs, including New Jersey Peace Action, in criticizing Prime Minister Abe’s proposed rule changes as both unconstitutional and against the interests of peace and security. Many statements implored Japan to remain a pacifist nation and a role model for other nations, instead of succumbing to pressure from the U.S. to become more militaristic.

Unfortunately, in the early morning of September 19th, the Upper House of the Japanese Diet voted to approve Prime Minister Abe’s new “Security Rules” while thousands of people protested outside. Inside, it was chaos, a result of intense differences of opinion about these new rules.

The majority of the population were disappointed but vowed to continue their fight. A newly formed student organization SEALDs is calling on all peace organizations to look ahead to next summer’s elections and work to replace anyone who voted for the rule changes with pro-Article 9 legislators.

I believe we can learn a lot from the Japanese. The leaders of the global anti-war movement and the movement to abolish nuclear weapons come from Japan. The Japanese have apologized for their own imperialism and many have vowed that Japan will never again be that imperialistic nation.

The Japanese have also suffered the worst of war – the tremendous devastation from the U.S. firebombing of 67 cities and the dropping of two atomic bombs. Many military experts determined that dropping the atomic bombs was not necessary to force the Japanese to surrender, since it appeared likely that the Emperor of Japan was ready to surrender, if only the U.S. would allow him to “save face.” However, the U.S. military wanted to show off its new prize, the atomic bomb, both to Russia and to the rest of the world. For the U.S., the loss of 210,000 lives was a small price to pay for the opportunity to “flex its muscle.”

Hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have emotional, psychological and physical scars to prove the dangers of war and nuclear weapons. The average age of the Hibakusha is now over 80, making it more important than ever for youth to become involved, both in the effort to prevent war and to hear and learn the stories of those who survived the atomic bombs.

One such Hibakusha, Taniguchi Sumiteru, is 87-years-old. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki burned his back so badly that he spent the next 45 months lying on his stomach in a hospital bed. Years later when he met his surgeon, Taniguchi Sumiteru didn’t recognize him because he was never physically able to look him in the eyes. His surgeon said that he couldn’t believe Taniguchi Sumiteru survived so long. What moved me most of all was Taniguchi Sumiteru apologizing to the thousands gathered at the conferences in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for not doing enough to abolish nuclear weapons. Burned and mangled though he had been, he still expected more of himself.

He wasn’t the only Hibakusha to apologize and expect more from himself. I met another survivor, aged 81, who said he walks five miles every day and eats the most healthy food he can find because he owes it to his children to speak out for as long as possible against nuclear weapons and war.

The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the most extreme and dangerous example of the logic of war. In order to wage war, one side has to demonize and dehumanize the other. Once that fatal step has been taken, the magnitude of destruction no longer becomes an issue. What does it matter whether the military uses a conventional weapon, a nuclear weapon or an atomic bomb?

The Japanese are also in the forefront of the movement against nuclear power, due to the catastrophic effects of the radiation leaks at Fukushima. Today, three years later, 100,000 evacuees are still unable to return to their homes in Fukushima, due to excessive levels of radiation.

It is my fervent hope that Abe’s “War Rules” won’t remain in effect for very long. Grass roots activism is spreading throughout Japan and is the best way to fight back against increased militarism.

We need to spend as much time thinking about creating a culture of peace as we do on waging war, in order to tame the military-industrial complex and change our nation’s and then the world’s spending priorities. We have to resist letting fear and greed dominate our thinking about resolving disputes between nations. It is tragic that the grassroots peace movement in the U.S. had to work so hard to protect a diplomatic agreement negotiated over 22 months between the P5+1 and Iran. The rhetoric of opponents and even many proponents of the deal showed how deeply the “culture of war” is engrained in the U.S.

The motto of the Japanese activists I met was “Never Give Up!” And those of us here in the U.S. who promote and value a culture of peace, won’t give up either.


About the Author:  has been the Executive Director of New Jersey Peace Action and the NJ Peace Action Education Fund since August 2000. Prior to being hired by NJPA, Madelyn was the Director of the Grass Roots Environmental Organization, Inc. of New Jersey from 1983 until 1998. She worked with over 200 citizens’ groups from every part of New Jersey around issues of toxic chemical pollution affecting their communities. Before holding that position, Madelyn was a community organizer for the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, working with senior citizens living in public housing projects and with residents concerned about toxic chemical pollution in the neighborhood.

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 ( 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:

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

September 16, 2015


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.

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

September 15, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

d. all of the above?

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


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

Diplomacy, and Peace, are greater than Fear.

Celebration in DC of Victory in the Senate on Iran Accord

September 10, 2015

Dupont Circle, Washington DC, vigil (which was a celebration since the Senate vote this afternoon to uphold the Iran peace agreement). Photos by Eric Swanson, Peace Action’s Database Manager (for nearly 20 years!)dupont circle rally km

Peace Action Applauds Senate Vote to Uphold Iran Peace Deal

September 10, 2015


September 10, 2015




Washington, DC—Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization, founded in 1957, hailed today’s Senate vote to uphold the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by the U.S. and its allies with Iran.


“What a great day for those who support diplomacy as the best way to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons,” exclaimed Kevin Martin, Executive Director. “Peace Action chapters, affiliates, associates, members and supporters have worked for diplomacy and against war with Iran since 2004, and are very gratified to see our hard work pay off. May this be the start of a new era for U.S. policy in the Middle East.”


Martin noted there may well be further twists and turns as Senate and House opponents of the nuclear agreement resort to parliamentary and legal gymnastics to try to kill the accord.


“Diplomacy rejectionists are on the wrong side of not just of this issue, but of history. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPOA, as the Iran accord is formally known) will go forward and provide a strong foundation for enhanced security in the region, and hopefully a new relationship between the peoples of Iran and the United States.”




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