The Brain Trust, the Love Circle and the Seed Sowers

March 24, 2015

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–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Last week I had a very enjoyable, short work trip to New York City. On Wednesday night, the indefatigable Judy Lerner (90+ years young!), who has served on the Peace Action national board for at least two decades, hosted a wonderful wine and cheese reception at her Manhattan apartment. Close to 30 Peace Action supporters turned up for a relaxed, social soiree, but we also talked a lot of politics as you can imagine (the picture above, taken by my Uncle, Todd Whitmer, who was there along with my brother, Kris Martin, shows just some of the assembled good folk) and raised a bit of much needed dough, thanks to a strong pitch by Joanne Robinson, Peace Action of New York State’s fundraising chair.

A few days before the event, I saw an RSVP list compiled by Sylvia Rodriguez Case, Peace Action of New York State’s superb administrator, and thought, wow, the brain trust of Peace Action in New York will be at the event, that’s great! And I got to thinking about the term “brain trust.” In Peace Action’s case, leadership is a collective, decentralized “brain,” and we have a lot of trust in our leadership to make the right decisions about priorities, strategies and tactics in our work.

Then I recalled Jim Anderson, board chair of Peace Action of New York State, from Buffalo, calling our national organizers’ meeting in DC two months ago a “Love Circle.” This wasn’t some hippie thing, he was encouraging a younger colleague to feel comfortable that her concerns would be heard and respected, even if they made some folks at the meeting a bit uncomfortable. Peace Actionistas certainly do form a trusting love circle where disagreements can be respectfully aired so we might reach higher ground together. I felt honored to be a part of that love circle last week at Judy’s, and also the following night at a chapter meeting of Peace Action of Staten Island, where I spoke to a terrific bunch of local supporters about the state of Peace Action’s work to support diplomacy with Iran, cut the gargantuan Pentagon budget, abolish nuclear weapons and end our country’s endless wars.

We also focused quite a bit on the April 24-26 Peace and Planet mobilization in New York City, which will bring together these issues as well as social, economic and racial justice and climate concerns. Right there at the meeting, Staten Island organizing powerhouse and Peace Action Fund of New York State board chair Sally Jones got firm commitments from over 50 people to turn out for Peace and Planet! And kudos to Peace Action of Staten Island chair Eileen Bardel for running a great meeting, keeping the agenda moving while also allowing space for everyone to participate, no easy feat!

Lately, some scholars and a few journalists have raised questions about why the peace movement isn’t as strong or visible as it was in the Bush error, I mean era, or why the peace movement isn’t as strong as the labor or environmental or human rights movements. Sometimes I get analytical about it (I could go on and on with my analysis but won’t do so here), other times I get a bit defensive, and other times I think, well if you’ll let me get off the phone I’ll get back to my job, which is to help organize and strengthen the peace movement.

Taking a long view, there are many social, political, economic and cultural factors (most out of our control) at play in why a movement catches fire or doesn’t in a particular place and time. One thing we can always control is sowing seeds that will lead to future growth in our organization and movement, and Peace Action of New York State is a leader in its investment in student/campus organizing. PANYS now has ten student chapters around the state, which didn’t just spring up by themselves. PANYS has invested in building those student chapters, and has a wonderful Student Outreach Coordinator Natia Bueno hard at work to spread this student chapter network even further (Natia will help lead a training session on student organizing for Peace Action affiliates and chapters next month, details TBA soon). Another crackerjack young organizer, Drew King, is working as our coordinator for Peace and Planet (and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as his father, Jonathan King, is an MIT professor and Massachusetts Peace Action activist).

Peace and Planet will be an outstanding opportunity to build and support the Peace Action brain trust, embrace our love circle, and sow seeds that will blossom in myriad, wonderful ways we can’t fathom today. Please plan to join us!

 


Diane Nash, George W. Bush, Selma and Our Understanding of Nonviolence

March 11, 2015

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

In case you missed it, civil rights heroine Diane Nash, one of the relatively few women in leadership positions in the civil rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s (she was a key aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. and a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC) boycotted the 50th anniversary commemorative march in Selma, Alabama last weekend, not wanting to march with George W. Bush. (She was at the event, but her conscience wouldn’t let her be seen marching with Bush).

Nash said, “”I think the Selma Movement was about nonviolence and peace and democracy and George Bush stands for just the opposite—for violence and war and stolen elections,” also noting that his administration conducted torture. “George Bush’s presence is an insult to me and to people who really do believe in nonviolence,” Nash continued, voicing concern that the nonviolent legacy of the Selma Movement would now be “confused.”

I love the following part of Nash’s interview the most:

“Back in the 1960’s we did not know if nonviolence would work,” Nash told NewsOne. “Now we know that it does.” Nash said that she thought the Selma March anniversary “should have been a celebration of nonviolence,” which she added, was “definitely one of the most significant social inventions of the 20th century.”

A longtime respected colleague of mine voiced some mixed emotions about Ms. Nash’s position, stating he understood her but also that we need to welcome former adversaries when they join us.

I agree, and that certainly is in the spirit of nonviolence, if the former adversary is in fact transforming into an ally and “joining” us. If I thought that were true in George W. Bush’s case, I’d welcome him to the side of peace, social and economic justice, civil rights and nonviolence, though I’d be highly skeptical and would demand some accountability or at least repentance from him for his egregious actions as president. I see no evidence Bush is anywhere close to such a transformation.

What Bush’s appearance at the Selma commemoration does show is hard-earned mainstream respect for the courageous civil rights heroines and heroes and the social progress they sweated, bled and died for. But that has nothing to do with war criminals like Bush. Sister Nash was right, but that’s not really the point. From her comments I think it’s pretty clear that on a gut level her conscience just wouldn’t let her be at the same event as Bush, so it was much more a personal than political statement.

And of course Barack Obama, aka President DroneStrike, is no advocate of nonviolence, Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding. We need to push him not just to conclude a peace deal with Iran, but also to end drone strikes and give up the madness of a new war in Iraq and Syria.

Thanks to Common Dreams and NewsOne for their reporting on Diane Nash’s powerful statement of conscience.


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.


Please Join a Dozen Organizations in Telling Congress to Reject Endless War

February 19, 2015

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The U.S. Congress is considering another “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” — a broad approval for more war.

Click here to oppose any new AUMF.

This is the last thing we need. These wars are not making us safer but generating enemies. They are not surgical operations, but mass killings, as well as assaults on the natural environment and the public budget — not to mention excuses for curtailing civil liberties.

Please click here to sign the following statement for delivery to the media and Congress:

We oppose any new authorization for the use of military force and call for the immediate repeal of the authorizations passed by Congress in 2001 and 2002.

This petition will be a powerful tool as it is being jointly promoted by Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Iraq Veterans Against the War, KnowDrones.com, Military Families Speak Out, Peace Action, Peace Action Montgomery, RootsAction.org, United National Antiwar Coalition, Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones, U.S. Labor Against the War, and World Beyond War.

After signing the petition, please forward this message to your friends. You can also share it from the webpage after taking the action yourself.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

 


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.


Largest Peace NGO Opposes Obama’s War Proposal

February 11, 2015

Washington, DC — February 11, 2014 — In response to President Obama this morning sending proposed language for an Authorization of use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS to Congress, Peace Action, the largest peace group in the U.S. released the following statement by its policy and political director, Paul Kawika Martin:

After six months of Congress ignoring its constitutional duty, finally President Obama sent language to Congress to authorize war for the next three years (an Authorization for the Use of Military Force or AUMF) against ISIS.  It’s about time that Congress fully debate the U.S. war being waged in the Middle East.  Peace Action agrees with past statements of the president that there is no military solution to ISIS and so we oppose any AUMF.

While we oppose any AUMF because the war is not working, we encourage members of Congress to push for tighter restrictions than what President Obama proposes should an AUMF move forward.   Limitations could include:  a one-year sunset clause; geographic limitations; definitively no combat troops on the ground; repealing both former AUMFs, not just one;  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.”  Additionally, it uses the legally ambiguous language of no “enduring offensive ground operations” rather than expressly forbidding combat troops.

As it stands, it doesn’t seem that the current military strategy is working against ISIS.  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.

###

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


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