Fear, hate and nuclear weapons threaten to rewrite facts under the Trump administration as we are guided to endless wars and endless military spending under a President who had to ask why we do not use Nuclear Weapons.
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After almost 16 years in Afghanistan, what will it take for our Elected Officials to represent our interests, and ask: is there a military solution for peace in Afghanistan? And, what will it take to try a different approach?
Please, take a quick moment now and tell your members of Congress that you expect them to stand up and fulfill their responsibilities by repealing the 2001 AUMF, and debating whether to authorize continued, endless war in Afghanistan.
Here are six arguments you'll hear for the war in Afghanistan, and what you need to know to respond:
1. War is our only option in Afghanistan. If we pull out, there will be a security vacuum.
Military actions leave a vacuum and a legacy of violence that is exploited by terrorist groups to gain territory and new recruits. Stephen Walt, the American professor of International Affairs of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, is critical of the surge proposal, saying: "It won't destroy the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Islamic State, or other radicals, and more likely may aid their recruiting, just as U.S. interference has in the past."
There is a security vacuum in Afghanistan because of our military actions in the region, and you can't fix something using the tool that broke it in the first place. After 16 years, we should be able to say that war is not a working option in Afghanistan.
But, war is the only option you will hear from this Administration because it is dismantling the State department, while putting Generals in advisor positions that traditionally go to civilians.
As reported by Democracy Now in an interview with Matthew Hoh, who resigned from the State Department in 2009 over the last surge in Afghanistan, General Mattis, General McMaster and General Kelly serve as our Defense Secretary, National Security Adviser, and the President's Chief of Staff, respectively. These roles are traditionally held by civilians. General Mattis actually had to get a waiver to be the Defense Secretary in a vote that passed 81-17 in the Senate, and 34-28 in the House.
There is no diplomat, no functional State department, no equipped UN mission even, to balance out their influence on this Administration, or to put a military action in a context of a political strategy or goal.
There are currently 40 open leadership positions in the U.S. State Department, and the hiring freeze is still in effect. This means that, as troops surge in Afghanistan, cyber security is investigated and escalations rise with North Korea, these positions and others are indefinitely vacant: a Cyber Issues coordinator, Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Director of Overseas Building Operations, Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements, Coordinator of Threat Reduction Programs, Coordinator of Civil Societies and Emerging Democracies, and at least 5 positions relevant to current tensions with North Korea, including Special Envoy for Six-Party Talks, Special Representative of the President on Nuclear Nonproliferation, Coordinator on Sanctions Policy, Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Issues, Special Advisor on Nonproliferation and Arms Control.
Unsurprisingly, positions relating to climate change, women's rights, the closure of Guantanamo, disability rights, labor rights, anti-Semitism, Muslim communities, religious freedom, and LGBTQIA+ rights, are also vacant.
The State Department has, of course, not stopped U.S. military action in the past. But, without anyone with a background in diplomacy advising this Administration, why would we expect anything besides military actions? Secretary Kerry helped broker the Iran Nuclear Agreement. In 2013, diplomacy with the Taliban to end the Afghan war was on the table.
We could be pursuing a nuclear agreement with North Korea or retracing steps of an Afghanistan peace agreement now, but we have an Administration that is actively dismantling any institutional knowledge to pursue diplomatic and non-military options.
Non-military options do exist. Take a look at Vietnam, for example. U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam in 1975. It took time, but today, Vietnam is safe, and it is because of local actors in Vietnam, and an exit of U.S. military forces. Another strategy is called DDR, which stands for: disarmament, demobilization and re-integration (DDR). Have you ever heard that phrase on your local news?
Disarmament is the comprehensive collection, documentation and disposal of small arms, ammunition, explosives and light and heavy weapons of ex-combattants and the civilian population. It is usually the exchange of cash, other goods, or amnesty for weapons of war, and has been used all over the world.
Demobilization is the formal and controlled discharge of active combatants from armed groups. In Colombia, the government hired a communications agency to demobilize FARC rebels – and their efforts were successful. Their first action involved hanging Christmas lights along jungle paths used by FARC rebels, during Christmas, the season in which demobilization was statistically higher. The lights spelled out a message: "If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can come home. Demobilize at Christmas. Anything is possible." As a result of this campaign, 5% of the remaining guerrilla forces demobilized. In the campaigns that followed, 18,000 FARC fighters demobilized.
Re-integration means re-entering society. Countries must provide education, job, and community programs necessary to ensure that violence is not pursued again by demobilized non-state actors. This is where economic development, human rights, infrastructure, education and other programs are essential in making sure that violence is not the only path to survival.
This is the only path forward that doesn't leave a security vacuum in Afghanistan.
2. We should give President Trump a chance as a military leader.
As President-elect, Trump regularly turned down intelligence briefings. In the two weeks immediately after the election, and knowing that he would be the Commander in Chief of the largest military in the world, Donald Trump (having no military or diplomatic experience) received only two classified intelligence briefings. That number is lower than his predecessors, and despite having analysts ready to give the President-elect daily intelligence briefings.
The president-elect said, about turning down these briefings, "You know, I'm, like, a smart person. I don't have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years."
But, maybe these intelligence briefings would have clarified that the Prime Minister position in the Afghanistan government, which he referenced while announcing the surge, is a defunct post. The current head of state is President Ashraf Ghani. Maybe this could have been clarified in consultations with the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan – if that post wasn't vacant.
3. The Surge is a New Strategy. We Should Give It a Chance to Work.
False. In 2009, President Obama authorized a surge of 33,000 troops into Afghanistan. The reasoning given then is the same reasoning given now: that the surge was necessary to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Even then, this rationale was questionable, because al-Qaeda had, according to Harvard Professor Stephen Walt, "better havens elsewhere and denying them access to Afghan territory would not reduce their capabilities very much if at all."
That strategy was questionable then, and today, we have the benefit of hindsight: we know that strategy did not work.
According data released by NATO command in Afghanistan in 2012, the surge did not stop the momentum of terrorist organizations in Afghanistan in the long-run. According to the Pentagon's Defense Casualty Analysis System and iCasualties, the U.S. military suffered 14,627 casualties during the surge period, but today, the Taliban controls as much territory as it did in 2001, before the U.S. had any troop presence in Afghanistan.
Leaders from both parties, knowing this history and being war-weary, are opposing the proposed surge:
"Everybody who voted for Donald Trump hoping that he would reduce the US miltary's involvement in foreign wars has been made a fool of. I'm sorry, but there it is."
"The Democrats should be clear and bold: We are for withdrawal… After 16 years of that kind of muddled thinking, people expect their leaders to take a firm stand… Either you're for increasing troops, keeping the status quo indefinitely, or for getting out. We should be for getting out."
"I know he wants to end this war. We've all heard him say it. But talk won't get it done. Although I've been informed that the president rejected larger expansions of troops than the one announced this week, that's not good enough. He should have rejected this one and stuck to his principles. He knows this war is over, and he – unlike the last two presidents – should have the guts to end it."
"The war party got to him."
- AntiWar.com writer Eric Garris
(Antiwar.com is a hub for anti-imperialist Libertarians)
"Trump was elected to end America's involvement in Middle East wars. If he has been persuaded that he simply cannot liquidate these wars – Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan – he will likely end up sacrificing his presidency."
"America cannot afford to make an open-ended commitment of further lives and treasure to the improbable proposition of building a cohesive nation in Afghanistan."
4. We support our troops, and so does House Speaker Paul Ryan. Supporting our troops means supporting them in Afghanistan.
Supporting our troops cannot mean sending them to die in our wars, in a strategy that has failed before, while blocking debate on what victory in these wars would even mean, and if withdrawal is a better strategy. Congress won't even debate these wars, but will send our friends and family off to die in them.
Earlier this summer, Paul Ryan blocked an amendment that would re-open debate on U.S. wars abroad, even though it received bi-partisan & nearly unanimous support in the House Appropriations committee.
Paul Ryan said he blocked the amendment because it didn't belong in an appropriations bill, but he's not supporting or seeking more robust debate on our wars abroad, either. So, what does it mean when he blocks the only measure that is demanding a debate on our wars?
U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was authorized in 2001 and has been the status quo for 16 years. Since the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force was passed, it has been used more than 37 times in 14 countries to justify military force – without additional Congressional debate. In Afghanistan, upwards of 20 different generals have commanded the U.S. or International Security Assistance Force troops. None have succeeded, so our strategy must be revisited.
Congress has the Constitutional responsibility – and obligation under our separation of powers – to debate and authorize any U.S. wars - but the majority of the current members of the House of Representatives and Senate have not debated our wars.
As reported by Senator Flake (R-AZ), 300 of the total 435 members in the House today were not in the House to debate or vote on the 2001 AUMF, and only 23 current Senators voted on the 2001 AUMF.
If Congress cannot muster the courage to debate these wars, it should not sacrifice the lives of U.S. troops. That cannot be how we define supporting our troops. Instead, we have to admit this strategy isn't working, and bring them home.
5. We should give every resource to defend our country. Whatever the Generals ask for, we have to provide.
The total costs of these wars will be a staggering $12.7 trillion dollars, counting costs to date and cumulative interest on loans we had to take out to pay for these wars, because we also passed and extended the Bush-era tax cuts. We're going to be paying off these wars until 2054, according to the Costs of War Institute at Brown University.
That number is only going to grow the longer we are in these wars. It costs $1 million dollars to station one member of the U.S. military in Afghanistan for a year. If we expect a surge of 4,000 troops, that's an addition $4 billion in costs to taxpayers per year – without an end in sight, or debate on an exit strategy.
$12.7 trillion is an impossible number to understand on its own, so here are the trade-offs to keep in mind: $12.7 trillion could cancel all student debt in the United States ten times, or it could cancel all student debt in the United States ($1.3T), fix all crumbling infrastructure in the United States ($3.1T), give every student entering college in the United States this fall a four-year full-ride scholarship ($680.9B), provide the salary of every elementary school teacher in the country for 15 years ($3.76T), give the 200,000 U.S. troops stationed abroad jobs in the clean energy sector and pay their salaries for the next 90 years ($1.3 trillion), give every single unemployed person in the U.S. a job in the infrastructure industry for the next 5 years ($2.12T), and create 2 million jobs in high-poverty communities ($200B). And, we'd still have $200 billion left over for defense, which is almost 3-times as much as Russia's entire defense budget.
What do you think is a better investment in our country?
Also, it's not always the Generals asking for this money. Often, it's politicians spending on the military despite what Generals ask for. In 2012, General Odierno testified beore the Senate Armed Services Committee that the army did not need more tanks. It was allocated $183 million for more tanks anyways. In 2015, the same thing happened, but the army was allocated $120 million – which would cover the costs of fixing the still poisonous water pipes in Flint. Funding the military is supporting the careers of politicians, but not the military.
6. We can win in Afghanistan.
Do we even know what winning looks like? Do our military leaders? Does our President? After 16 years of the same strategy, with no apparent exit strategy, all we can know for sure is that we need more accountability when it comes to Afghanistan, to make sure that we aren't throwing endless U.S. lives and resources into actions with no long-term progress for peace or regional stability.
We need accountability. That will be a victory. Saving lives will be a victory. Investing in our communities will be a victory.
Let's win that. Together.
Please, take a quick moment now and tell your members of Congress that you expect them to stand up and fulfill their responsibilities by repealing the 2001 AUMF, and debating whether to authorize continued, endless war in Afghanistan.
Director of Policy and Outreach
Grassroots Campaigns Coordinator
We Stand with Charlottesville
Most people I speak to today tell me that peace is not possible. But they believe peace is impossible because we live in a country that was built on violence and continues to embrace it.
We live in a country that was founded on genocide and slavery, promotes imperialism, celebrates militarism, and that continues to justify the possession of nuclear weapons.
We live in a country where both major political parties put responsibility on the Muslim community to denounce terrorism, while ignoring the fact that the biggest perpetrators of domestic terrorism are white men.
I speak now to white people, like me, who have seen Black Lives Matter protesters be threatened online for months. Whose silence enabled this violence in Charlottesville?
As peace activists, we must say, not just at rallies when the world is watching, but in our homes and always: Black Lives Matter.
Any silence in the face of hate enables violence and irrational fear, because we know that hate speech is violence, and it is a tool of this Administration. With hate speech, this Administration has unleashed violence against immigrant, indigenous, Muslim and Black communities at home, and may kill innocent North Korean people with nothing to do with war, who have suffered the most under their regime.
But the violence of this government does not define us because we will not let it silence or divide us.
We cannot rest until we recognize that every human being in the world has the right to live without a constant threat of violence, and that there is no U.S. global leadership when our actions at home and abroad erode this most fundamental human right.
Because, though our Administration now chooses war and violence, we can make another choice. As peace activists, we choose radical, revolutionary love. We choose diplomacy. We choose diversity. We choose to say Black Lives Matter.
We must be the rational actors of truth with empathy for those most impacted by our wars at home and abroad. We must not be the victims of fear falsely promoted by our Government.
We are peace activists because peace is not just the absence of war. It is the active rejection of violence against marginalized communities by the few who have too much power, abuse it, and have left wounds all over the world.
And the violence that threatens all of us is not far from us: It is here. It is in the White House.
You can count on me to never believe in anything but the power of the just. Of those who stand against evil where it exists. Of those who stand against prejudice, hate, and fear. Of those who stand for love.
And I count on you to join me.
NO WAR WITH NORTH KOREA
I'm not worried about North Korea launching nuclear weapons, but I am worried about the Trump Administration.
I am worried about the Trump Administration because we have a U.S. President who is improvising policy and threats on the use of the most dangerous weapon ever developed – and then doubling down on those threats.
President Trump improvised comments saying that "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."
After North Korea then threatened the U.S. territory of Guam, whose residents are unable to vote in federal elections, Defense Secretary James Mattis doubled down on the threat, saying "The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."
In case you were wondering: that's nearly threatening a genocide of the North Korean people, who cannot be held accountable for the actions of this regime which has systematically oppressed them for decades. Genocide is defined as widespread and systematic violence, with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a recognizable group of people, for example, based on their nationality.
All of these threats are based off of the rhetoric of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, and demonstrably incomplete intelligence on its nuclear weapons program.
According to numerous reports, North Korea may or may not have miniaturized a nuclear warhead to where it could arm a delivery system like an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile, but North Korea likely has not acquired the technology to fire a nuclear-tipped missile that would be able to re-enter the earth's atmosphere intact.
And, while we're worried about one nuclear weapon, North Korea is worried about the hundreds of U.S. nuclear weapons on ready-launch status that can be deployed within 10 minutes of President Trump giving the launch codes.
The United States has the clear strength in arms and has the obligation to pursue diplomacy before pursuing war. But the United States is keeping diplomacy off the table. The same week that Trump issued his "fire and fury" threat, North Korean diplomats met with diplomats from China, Russia and South Korea, four of the six parties of the six-party talks to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
So, when Secretary Tillerson says that the U.S. can talk to North Korea when it stops missile tests, he's leaving diplomacy to the rest of the world and keeping the United States committed to war.
That's why I'm much more worried about the U.S. starting a nuclear war than the possibility of North Korea launching a nuclear weapon. We need to stand up to this Administration and to Congress now with one demand: NO NUCLEAR WAR.
Here are ways for you to take action now:
- Tell Your Representatives to Sponsor HR669/S.200 to Take Nuclear Weapons Out of Trump's Hands & Remove the Ammo From His Threats
Our Representatives in the House and Senate have the opportunity today to take nuclear weapons out of Trump's hands by co-sponsoring and passing HR669/S200, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons act. It would ensure that nuclear weapons cannot be launched on a whim, but that Congress must debate any possible use of the most dangerous weapon in the world, which was outlawed by 122 nations at the United Nations this July. Call Your House Representative and Senators at 202-224-3121 and tell them to co-sponsor HR669/S200 today.
- Buffalo Event: Vigil Against War & Stand for a Nuclear-Free Future and Against Wars
Saturday, August 12 from 1-2PM at Bidwell Park, BIdwell Parkway & Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo.
Signs welcome; some on hand. Come stand against war and war-mongering – so bad for all; and stand for a Nuclear Free Future. Sponsored by the Interfaith Peace Network and the WNY Peace Center.
- New York City-area Events: No War with North Korea!
Friday, August 11
7-8PM/Staten Island: Vigil for Peace with North Korea in Front of Rep. Donovan's Office
265 New Dorp Lane, Staten Island, 10305
Join us for a vigil in front of Rep. Dan Donovan's office on Staten Island to call for peace talks with North Korea. Tell our elected leaders to "Negotiate, Don't Escalate." Bring your signs and banners.
Sunday, August 13
11AM – 1PM/Brooklyn: Rally for Peace and Sanity
(Grand Army Plaza). Sponsored by Indivisible Nation BK, Indivisible Brooklyn and NY Indivisible
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1991895927700235/
Monday, August 14
12 – 1PM/Manhattan: Rally at the United Nations Headquarters to Stop U.S. Provocations Aimed at North Korea
(1st Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets, Across from the UN) Sponsored by UNAC-NYC
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1467744269974365/
5 – 8PM/Manhattan: Protest at Trump Tower – No More, No War: Tell Trump to End His Threats of Nuclear War Now!
(Trump Tower New York, 5th Avenue between 56th & 57th)
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/117255448926579/
J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace and the ACLU Nationwide all oppose this bill because of its chilling impact on free speech.
It would impose civil penalties of up to $250K and criminal penalties of up to $1M and 10 years in jail on individuals supporting or seeking information to support any boycott of Israel.
Thanks to Peace Action New York State staff Emily for getting it partially on video
UPDATE: Senator Gillibrand has formally REMOVED herself as a co-sponsor of this legislation! Grassroots power, once again, makes a big difference!
United Nations Adopts Historic Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, 122 Member States Sign On
July 7, 2017 New York City: Today, the UN has finished negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. The treaty recognizes the limited strategic impact of the continued existence of nuclear weapons, the risks of their continued existence, and the gross humanitarian consequences of their development, testing and use.
The representative of Palestine stated, “The seats here are filled by those who want to send an unequivocal message to those whose seats are empty”. One of those empty seats was the United States, who along with other nuclear powers and their allies, boycotted the conference.
Peace Action New York State, a grassroots peace organization with over 5,000 supporters statewide, is disappointed in the lack of U.S. participation in the UN negotiations and hopes to see U.S. representatives show an increased commitment to nuclear disarmament.
“Despite the promises of past administration, the United States has 6,970 nuclear weapons, and spends approximately $61.3 billion per year on maintaining the arsenal – 20 times the cost of the U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Deal, and 15 times the funding gap of the global refugee crisis. The United States is considering modernizing its nuclear arsenal, with $1.2 trillion in costs over 30 years,” said Kate Alexander, the Director of Policy and Outreach at Peace Action New York State. “These costs are unnecessary and dangerously erode our nation’s fiscal and national security priorities.”
“The continued existence of nuclear weapons perpetuates Cold War security doctrines much of the world is moving past, while locking the United States, Russia and North Korea into predictable but insecure patterns of aggression. This treaty is a global call to move past MAD theories of nuclear deterrence and towards a secure world that is free of nuclear weapons.”
122 Member States signed onto the treaty today. The full text of the treaty is available here: http://www.undocs.org/en/a/conf.229/2017/L.3/Rev.1
Today, the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee did something historic. They approved an amendment from Representative Lee that, if passed, would sunset the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).
The AUMF has been used by the United States over the past 16 years to authorize more than 37 military actions in 14 countries.
If passed, this amendment would repeal the AUMF within 240 days and apply “with respect to each operation or other action that is being carried out pursuant to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force initiated before such effective date”.
Our endless wars could end. We could stop sending troops into wars without a debate on an exit strategy for those wars. We could stop crippling our domestic economy to pay for the destruction of the Middle East. We could win, and today, we found out we could win with bipartisan support.
Your Membership Matters
Peace Action New York State is driven by the active membership of more than 5,000 supporters throughout the State. For maximum political power, for justice and peace, we need Peace Action New York State members in every Congressional District in New York. That’s our goal this year, and we need your support to make it happen. Will you join us? Click here! »
Because of PANYS members, we are making a difference. Over the past two weeks, we’ve seen unprecedented levels of opposition to an arms sale, international support for the United Nations and the abolition of nuclear weapons, and deepened our own community involvement to connect the issues of peace, religious freedom and gender expression. We’re working for a world with peace and justice for all.
This year, we want Peace Action New York State members in every Congressional District standing up for peace. Will you join us and become a PANYS member today?
Over the past two weeks, PANYS members in New York City took to the streets to demand a more peaceful and just world. We co-organized the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb and as PANYS members, WILPF volunteers and concerned world citizens, we marched in a torrential downpour through midtown Manhattan to demand support for a treaty to ban nuclear arms. The next day, PANYS member Sally was one of several peace activists arrested outside the U.S. Mission to the United Nations to demand that the U.S. stops boycotting these negotiations.
The week after the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb, PANYS members took to the streets of NYC again. Twice. First, we joined with Just Good Neighbors to offer support and solidarity to a mosque near our office that had recently been the subject of Islamophobic threats, including a bomb threat. We stood outside of the mosque during prayer service with signs of support and solidarity for our Muslim brothers and sisters, and spoke with many of our neighbors after, sharing thoughts of compassion, care and peace. Then, two days later, we joined the historic Resistance contingent of the NYC Pride Parade to connect the dots for a peaceful & just world for all.
That’s what being a Peace Action New York State member is about: showing up to oppose state-sponsored violence in foreign and domestic policies.
Will you join us? And, will you share this call to action with friends, family and allies for peace?
In peace & community,
Peace Action New York State, President