Peace Action’s Paul Kawika Martin on MSNBC.com — Is there an alternative to war with ISIS?

February 17, 2015

By Paul Kawika Martin

The world has been pouring fuel on the Middle East inferno, yet expect something other than a larger blaze. On Tuesday, President Obama submitted language to Congress for an Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS. More gas on the fire.

For six months now, Congress has ignored its constitutional duty to declare war by letting the Obama administration continue its military campaign against ISIS using the thinnest legal thread of past AUMFs over a dozen years old. It’s about time that Congress fully debate the U.S. war being waged in the Middle East.

At the end of the debate, I hope Congress comes to the same conclusion the president has proclaimed but refuses to act on: there is no military solution to ISIS. With that finding, Congress should oppose any new AUMF, repeal both outdated AUMFs and support political solutions and other actions to weaken ISIS.

“We need to prevent extremism in the first place by supporting education, religious tolerance, poverty alleviation, civil liberties and freedom.”

If Congress fails to see that the current military strategy is not degrading ISIS and feels it must pass a military authorization, then I encourage them to push for tighter restrictions in an AUMF than what President Obama proposed. Limitations could include a one-year sunset clause; geographic limitations; definitively no combat troops on the ground; repealing both former AUMFs, not just one; restricting combatants to ISIS; and robust reporting requirements including civilian deaths.The president’s proposed AUMF does one good thing: it repeals the outdated and ill-advised Iraq AUMF. It fails, however, to repeal the 2001 AUMF, which has been used as a blanket “war on terrorism.” Unfortunately, it uses the legally ambiguous language of no “enduring offensive ground operations” rather than expressly forbidding combat troops which is supported by a majority of Americans.

As it stands, it doesn’t seem that the current military strategy is working against ISIS. According to government reports, ISIS recruitment continues to keep pace or possibly outpace those killed in battle with foreign fighters coming in from 40 to 50 countries. ISIS continues to control the same amount of territory. And extremism continues to grow in Central Asia, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. There are alternative solutions.

RELATED: Majority wants Congress to back Obama’s AUMF against ISIS

Reducing civilian deaths, casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure while increasing humanitarian aid and refugee support will decrease the recruiting of financial support and foreign fighters for ISIS.

Decrease its income by cracking down on oil sales and working with local communities to stop allowing its use of pipelines. Lower profits from illegal antiquities sales and the sex trade with more policing. Freeze ISIS assets and those connected to them. Diminish military resources by starving the regions of weapons and making travel more difficult for foreign fighters.

“In the end, preventing extremism is only way to keep groups like ISIS from forming in the first place.”

Support political solutions to the Syrian civil war and Iraqi ethnic tensions, two of the structural root causes of ISIS.Looking long term, we need to prevent extremism in the first place with international support for education, religious tolerance, poverty alleviation and civil liberties and freedom.

The above alternatives come at a much lower cost than the over $300,000 an hour for a total of nearly $2 billion the U.S. taxpayer has already paid for our lackluster military strategy. Add the long term costs of veterans care, interest on debt and opportunity costs and alternatives look like a bargain.

Also, these alternatives are far less likely to cause blowback or bad unintended consequences. One must ponder that the Iraq war created al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS, and they are now using arms and training provided by the U.S. and its allies. Similarly, the U.S. armed and funded the Afghan mujahideen to stop Soviet expansion not knowing that these rebels would one day become al Qaeda.

RELATED VIDEO: Is war against ISIS the answer?

Congress is likely to hold hearings regarding the AUMF over the next several weeks. This provides time for constituents to contact their senators and representative and voice their view. In 2013, when President Obama asked for an AUMF to bomb Syria, the war-weary public responded by contacting Congress ten-to-one against. Congress felt the pressure and an AUMF didn’t even get a vote.

While the president wants to continue a failed, expensive military strategy against ISIS, Congress can now debate and direct the White House to take alternative actions more likely to produce results. If Congress decides to follow the Obama administration, then a narrower AUMF is warranted. In the end, preventing extremism is only way to keep groups like ISIS from forming in the first place. It’s time to stop fanning the flames.

Paul Kawika Martin is the policy and political director for Peace Action, the United States’ largest grassroots peace organization and can be contacted on Twitter @PaulKawika.


Take Action to Stop Endless War

February 11, 2015

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After six months of Congress and the Administration ignoring their constitutional duty, today President Obama sent language to Capitol Hill to authorize war for the next three years (an Authorization for the Use of Military Force or AUMF) against ISIS.  During the last six months of this military strategy, many argue little progress against ISIS has been made.

Take a quick moment and write Congress demanding a vote against an ISIS AUMF and to support political and other alternative solutions rather than war. 

It’s about time that Congress fully debated the U.S. war being waged in the Middle East.  We agree with past statements of the president that there is no military solution and we oppose any AUMF.  That said, if one passes it should be much narrower than what President Obama proposes and include limitations such as:

*A one-year sunset clause
*Geographic limitations
*Definitively no combat troops on the ground
*Repealing both former AUMFs not just one
*Robust reporting requirements including civilian deaths

Act now by sending a brief letter to Congress asking for a full debate on war in the Middle East, and to oppose a new AUMF and support long-term solutions.

The president’s proposed AUMF does one good thing: it repeals the outdated and ill-advised Iraq AUMF.  It fails, however, to repeal the 2001 AUMF which has been used as a blanket “war on terrorism.”  Additionally, it uses the legally ambiguous language of no “enduring offensive ground operations.”  It’s not clear that this actually excludes combat troops.

As it stands, it doesn’t seem that the current military strategy is working.  Instead the international community should:

*Reduce civilian deaths, casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure that tends to recruit financial support and foreign fighters for ISIS.
*Weaken ISIS by reducing its income (oil, antiquities, sex trade), freezing assets, reducing military resources (weapons, training and foreign fighters).
*Support political solutions to the Syrian civil war and Iraqi ethnic tensions.
*Increase humanitarian aid and refugee support.
*Support actions that will help prevent extremism in the first place: education, religious tolerance, poverty alleviation and justice.

Congress has not voted on a war authorization regarding terrorism since 2001.  It’s time for a full debate in Congress on ISIS.  Make sure your voice is heard now.

 

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Today’s presidential proposal of the use of force (AUMF) against ISIS won’t work.  Write Congress now to oppose war and support activities that create a long-lasting peace.


Update on Senate Panel Vote: Today is a good day to tell the Senate, “No More War!”

December 10, 2014

 

 

 

 

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UPDATE DECEMBER 11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-8 in favor of the AUMF for Syria and Iraq, but with some limitations, read more in this article in Stars and Stripes. The importance of this vote remains to be seen, as neither the full Senate or House plans to take up the AUMF issue before the end of the year, so this committee vote will “expire,” and the new Congress may not take up the AUMF until March or April. Peace Action will of course keep you apprised of the situation and how you can make an impact.

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Tomorrow, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The vote is somewhat symbolic, as it’s just a committee vote, and the full Senate and House will not vote on any AUMF before the new Congress convenes in January, meaning they would need to start from scratch on this issue.

 

However, the vote could be an indicator of the depth of support, at least in this important committee, for yet another endless war in the Middle East. The Obama Administration apparently wants at least a three year authorization (stretching beyond the end of the president’s term in office), with no geographic limitations, and no prohibition on deploying U.S. ground troops. Sure looks like a slippery slope to another endless war.

 

I need you to call your senators today, especially those on the Foreign Relations Committee (check the committee roster here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_Committee_on_Foreign_Relations)

 

Regardless of whether you have a senator on the committee, it’s a good day to tell the Senate, “No More War!” Thanks to our colleagues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, you can call toll-free at 877-429-0678.

 

Today is International Human Rights Day, and we at Peace Action certainly believe peace is a fundamental human right. Please call your senators today, toll free at 877-429-0678, on behalf of peace and stopping yet another endless war.

 

Yours in Peace,

 

Kevin Martin

Executive Director

 

P.S. For years Peace Action has advocated the repeal of both war authorizations for Afghanistan and Iraq, passed well over a decade ago. While we opposed both authorizations at the time, many who supported them then now agree that they are outdated and far too broad and should be repealed (we agree).

 

The Obama administration has been leaning on both authorizations for its military intervention in Iraq and Syria, though now it wants Congress to pass a new AUMF. We oppose a new AUMF as Peace Action thinks not enough energy has been spent on a political solution to the Syrian civil war and on starving ISIS of resources (oil, antiquities and sex trade revenue, weapons and foreign fighters).

 

Please call your senators today, toll-free at 877-429-0678, and thank you for all your support as we observe this season of peace.


America is Tired of Afghanistan War – Peace Action Op-Ed published by USA Today

May 30, 2014

Our Policy and Political Director, Paul Kawika Martin, was asked to submit this piece to USA Today, which published it yesterday. Please like, share, forward, comment on the site, write a supportive letter to the editor, etc.

Bring the troops home as soon and as safely as possible.

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President Obama announced on Tuesday that the U.S. would extend the Afghanistan War, the longest in American history, an additional two-and-a-half years. What will that get us?

For most Americans, the answer is unclear. Despite polls saying that a majority of Americans think the Afghanistan War was a mistake and not worth the blood and treasure, the U.S. will leave 9,800 troops and an untold number of contractors in the country after the end of this year.

OUR VIEW: Obama’s risky Afghanistan exit

Economists estimate that the long-term costs of being at war in Afghanistan for nearly 13 years will exceed a few trillion dollars. That’s enough tax dollars to take care of all our woefully needed infrastructure investments through 2020. So why spend more taxpayer dollars on the Afghanistan War?

The president claims that we need the troops to continue training Afghan forces for stability and to continue our fight against terrorists such as al-Qaeda.

Yet, the surge of troops in 2009 and 2010 into the country failed to quell the violence, showing that large troop numbers neglect to lead to stability or lead to a democratic or even a well-governed Afghanistan. Historically, political solutions are the best solutions to produce stability, even if difficult to obtain.

Also, history teaches us that local policing, working with the local populace, is far more likely to reduce terrorists than foreign forces that may increase recruitment by killing innocents and arousing resentments.

In 2009, senior U.S. military intelligence officials claimed that fewer than 100 members of al-Qaeda remained in Afghanistan. In contrast, nearly 15,000 operate in Syria. And remember that Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan, where experts think that al-Qaeda is led in the tribal regions.

While it’s unlikely that the Obama administration will change its mind on wasting two more years with a military presence in Afghanistan, Congress should take its war powers back and force the president to listen to Americans. Bring the troops home as soon and as safely as possible.

Paul Kawika Martin is the policy and political director for Peace Action — the nation’s largest grassroots peace group (www.Peace-Action.org). He traveled to Afghanistan in 2010.


Zero

February 24, 2014

Here’s an easy quiz for you. According to an article in the Washington Post over the weekend , the Obama Administration is considering four options regarding leaving U.S.  troops in Afghanistan after the end of this year. What do you think the number should be?

A.      10,000 (favored by U.S. military commanders, unsurprisingly)
B.      A somewhat smaller number, unspecified
C.      3,000
D.      Zero

Tell the president you want all our troops home, with none left behind in Afghanistan.

It’s long past time to end America’s longest war. In the words of the late, great Pete Seeger (a longtime Peace Action member):

“If you love this land of the free,
Bring ‘em home, bring ‘em home,
Bring ‘em back from overseas,
Bring ‘em home, bring ‘em home!”

Peacefully Yours,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. After you email the president, please click here and tell your friends to do the same.


Open Fire and Open Markets: The Asia-Pacific Pivot and Trans-Pacific Partnership

January 22, 2014

Excellent, concise analysis of the link between the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S. military’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, published by our colleagues at Foreign Policy in Focus. The author is the always right-on Christine Ahn, who in addition to her attributions listed below is a Peace Action Advisory Board member.

Thomas Friedman once said the hidden hand of the market needs the hidden fist of the military. The TPP and the Obama administration’s Pacific Pivot pack both.

By , January 14, 2014.

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By increasing U.S. market access and influence with China’s neighbors, Washington is hoping to deepen its economic engagement with the TPP countries while diminishing their economic integration with China. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The struggle for food sovereignty in the Pacific got a major boost last December when Billy Kenoi, mayor of Hawai’i’s Big Island, signed a law that prevents farmers from growing any new genetically engineered crops (with the exception of papaya). This follows a successful push on Kauai, at the other end of the islands, to force large growers to disclose the pesticides they use and which genetically engineered crops they are growing.

This is a major step in the battle for more ecologically sustainable agriculture in Hawai’i, which has suffered for over a century under the heavy weight of U.S. corporate and military domination.

Yet like other local, state, and national regulations intended to protect the public and the environment, these anti-GMO laws can be swiftly overturned if President Obama signs the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the world’s most ambitious and far reaching free trade agreement yet. On January 9, the U.S. Congress introduced “fast-track” legislation allowing the Obama administration to sign the TPP without undergoing public debate. Fast-track authority would grant the White House the power to speed up negotiations, while giving Congress only 90 days to review the TPP before voting.

The TPP spans 12 countries — including the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam — comprising 40 percent of the world’s economy. Like nearly all trade agreements signed since NAFTA, the TPP is almost to certain to allow multinational corporations from anywhere in the bloc to sue governments in secret courts to overturn national or local regulations, such as Hawai’i’s recent GMO laws, that could limit their profits. So it’s not just Hawai’i’s food sovereignty that’s at risk.

“This is not mainly about trade,” explains Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “It is a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade.” More than 600 corporate lobbyists representing multinationals like Monsanto, Cargill, and Wal-Mart have had unfettered access to shape the secret agreement, while Congress and the public have only seen a few leaked chapters.

But the TPP is even more than a corporate Trojan horse. It’s a core part of the Obama administration’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, which is centrally about containing China.

A New Cold War?

Ahead of the fall 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) meeting in Hawaii, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined a plan to transfer U.S. military, diplomatic, and economic resources from the Middle East to the Pacific, in what she called “America’s New Pacific Century.” Describing the pivot in militaristic terms as “forward-deployed diplomacy,” Clinton hailed the TPP as a “benchmark for future agreements” leading to “a free trade area of the Asia- Pacific.”

Yet the TPP excludes China, which has become the second largest economy in the world and is poised to outpace the U.S. economy in a matter of years — a fact that is none too pleasing to U.S. elites accustomed to unrivaled hegemony.

Like the United States, the future of China’s economic growth lies in the Asia-Pacific region, which by all indicators will be the center of economic activity in the 21st century. By 2015, according to a paper from the conservative Foreign Policy Research Institute, “East Asian countries are expected to surpass NAFTA and the euro zone to become the world’s largest trading bloc. Market opportunities will only increase as the region swells by an additional 175 million people by 2030.”

Enter the TPP. By increasing U.S. market access and influence with China’s neighbors, Washington is hoping to deepen its economic engagement with the TPP countries while diminishing their economic integration with China.

Obama’s “Pacific Pivot” also seeks to contain China militarily. By 2020, 60 percent of U.S. naval capacity will be based in the Asia-Pacific, where 320,000 U.S. troops are already stationed. The realignment will entail rebuilding and refurbishing former U.S. facilities in the Philippines, placing 2,500 marines in Australia, transferring 8,000 marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam and Hawai’i, and building new installations like the one on the tiny Pacific island of Saipan. Meanwhile, the U.S. military regularly stages massive joint military exercises involving tens of thousands of troops and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with its key allies — and China’s neighbors — Japan and South Korea. It has been regularly conducting Cobra Gold exercises with Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and even Myanmar.

Official Washington seems to believe that these are necessary precautions. According to theRAND Corporation, for example, 90 percent of U.S. bases in the region are “under threat” from Chinese ballistic missiles because they are within 1,080 nautical miles of China. But who is threatening whom? The Chinese have precisely zero bases in the Asia-Pacific outside of their own borders.

Some U.S. analysts insist that a more robust U.S. military presence is necessary to curb China’s ambitious territorial claims in the region. Without a doubt, China has recently taken a more aggressive stance in regional territorial disputes over dwindling natural resources, angering many of its neighbors. But by turning to the United States as a check against China, less powerful nations invite a bargain with the devil as Washington will advance its own strategic interests. And by getting itself involved, Washington risksencouraging China’s rivals to behave more provocatively, as well as angering China itself. According to Mel Gurtov, “While accepting that the United States is a Pacific power, Chinese authorities now resist the notion that the United States has some special claim to predominance in Asia and the western Pacific.”

A One-Two Punch

“The hidden hand of the market,” as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman famously wrote in the 1990s, “will never work without a hidden fist.” The Asia-Pacific Pivot, a one-two neoliberal-militaristic punch, packs both.

Of all people in the world, Hawaiians know this especially well. Once a sovereign nation, Hawai’i was the starting point for America’s century of imperialism and conquest in the Pacific. Most people don’t know this critical history, but what fueled the overthrow of Hawai’i’s monarchy was trade. During the 1800s, American merchants were profiting handsomely from exporting sugar from Hawai’i to the United States. When faced with new tariffs that the U.S. government imposed to protect the domestic sugar industry in the American South, the exporters orchestrated a coup with the U.S. marines to overthrow the islands’ queen and annex Hawai’i so that Hawaiian sugar would not be subject to tariffs.

With the world facing the pressing issues of global climate change, biodiversity loss, rising food prices, and declining sources of fossil energy, what is now needed more than ever are policies that promote local, sustainable economies that ensure the well-being of their people and protect the ecosystems upon which all of our lives depend.

Local communities seem to get it — new laws like the GMO restrictions recently passed in Hawai’i are a step in that direction. But with multinational elites and the U.S. government pushing undemocratic monstrosities like the Pacific Pivot and the TPP, prospects for a more genuine security appear more distant than ever.

Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Christine Ahn is a Senior Fellow of the Oakland Institute and Co-chair of Women De-Militarize the Zone (DMZ).


Afghanistan — should we stay or should we go?

November 18, 2013

While Afghanistan has not been in the U.S. news much recently, key issues are now being debated regarding a possible enduring U.S. military presence past the end of 2014 deadline for “full withdrawal.”

The Reuters article below notes the two sticking point issues, immunity from prosecution in Afghan courts for any remaining U.S. troops and the right for U.S. troops to enter and search Afghan homes, with or without Afghan troops. Won’t hazard a guess as to how this plays out, but it may well be decided over the next week.

Exclusive: U.S.-Afghan security pact hits impasse as time runs out

Click for a zoom view

Reuters

Monday, November 18, 2013 11:56 AM GMT

 

By Dylan Welch and Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai has rejected a provision of a U.S.-Afghan security pact, putting the entire deal in jeopardy just days before the country’s elite gather to debate it, a senior Afghan official and a Western diplomat said.

The question of whether foreign troops will be able to search Afghan homes after NATO’s combat mission ends next year has long been a sticking point of an agreement setting out the terms under which remaining U.S. forces will operate there.

But in a series of meetings over the weekend the enter-and-search issue emerged as the biggest roadblock facing the security pact as Karzai dug his heels in, the Afghan official, who has been close to the talks, told Reuters.

Without an accord on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), Washington says it could pull out all of its troops at the end of 2014, leaving Afghanistan’s fledgling security forces on their own to fight the Taliban-led insurgency.

Two years ago, the United States ended its military mission in Iraq with a similar “zero option” outcome after the failure of talks with Baghdad, which refused to guarantee immunity to U.S. personnel serving there.

The United States is concerned that as campaigning intensifies for Afghanistan’s presidential election next April, it will be increasingly difficult to broker a security pact.

“They want a window left open to go into Afghan homes, but the president does not accept that – not unilaterally and not joint,” the Afghan official said, referring to house raids by U.S. troops either on their own or with Afghan forces.

The U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul declined to comment, but a Western diplomat in Kabul with knowledge of the talks confirmed the two sides had reached an impasse.

“It’s a very tense time,” the diplomat said.

“NO FLEXIBILITY”

On Thursday, a five-day national gathering of the country’s political, tribal and other elites, called a loya jirga, will begin to debate the BSA in Kabul.

If an agreement on the pact is not reached by then, Karzai may tell the meeting in his opening address that he does not agree with the article about house searches, the official said.

“If the jirga becomes about that one article then it risks seeing the entire document rejected,” the Afghan official said.

Talks stalled over the house-search issue during two meetings Karzai held at his palace with U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and NATO’s commander, General Joseph Dunford.

“From our side there is no flexibility on this issue of allowing Americans to search Afghan homes, because this is more important than jurisdiction,” the Afghan official said.

Jurisdiction refers to giving all American service members in Afghanistan immunity from Afghan law, another U.S. demand that has been resisted by Karzai.

The issues of jurisdiction and unilateral military operations by U.S. forces have been the main bones of contention in the months-long negotiations over the security agreement.

The question of house searches, which have sometimes led to civilian deaths, is a highly charged one that has contributed to the rifts between Karzai and foreign forces in an increasingly fractious relationship.

The United States wants to be able to conduct such searches to continue targeting al Qaeda and other militants in Afghanistan. Karzai is concerned that the hated searches could sap support for the government and foreign troops who stay on.

Another meeting between Karzai, the U.S. envoy and the NATO commander was expected on Monday, though the official said there was little hope of a breakthrough.

(Editing by John Chalmers and Robert Birsel)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp


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