Cost of War

Action Alert

U.S. fighter jets began striking targets in Iraq last week. The strikes were against Islamic State fighters as they fired on Kurdish forces near Irbil. We’ve officially entered another “engagement” in Iraq and it’s anyone’s guess how this ends.
This history of U.S. military interventions is also a history of mission creep. We need members of Congress to stand up now against an open-ended military action.
The President himself said that U.S. military power can’t end the tragic civil war in Iraq…but he’s become the fourth U.S. President in a row to attack sites there. The 2003 U.S. invasion helped unleash the sectarian fault lines driving the current violence; therefore, the U.S. is the last country that should engage there militarily.
We can and should help the region. Refugees and displaced people from Iraq and Syria need food, water and medicine and fast. The U.S. can increase support for U.N. humanitarian agencies (as opposed to relying on our military to do humanitarian work it’s not designed for).
Congress needs to weigh in. When a President orders attacks like these all the American people receive is pre-packaged speech. We deserve more than that…we need a robust debate.
Congress needs to reconvene and ask the tough questions: What are the precise goals of this intervention? Where does this end? Why shouldn’t the U.S. focus on diplomacy and pushing for a political solution and avoid U.S. military engagement?
ACTION: Contact Representative Jackie Speier or Anna Eshoo, or whomever represents you, as well as Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and call for them to support humanitarian aid but not more airstrikes. Tell them it’s time to talk about just what is going on over in Iraq, and how we all might look for a better solution than more war.

As the civilian death toll in Gaza reached 1900 and counting – punctuated by an Israeli attack on a United Nations shelter – the Obama administration finally paused its affirmation of Israel’s right to defend itself long enough to say the attack on the shelter (which killed 16 children) was “totally unacceptable and “totally indefensible.” Meanwhile our government has continued to resupply Israel with weapons – from a secret armory as authorized by the Pentagon, and separately in an overwhelming vote by Congress.
On July 30, UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said in a statement on the UNICEF web site: “For 23 days, too many children in Gaza have lived with fear and desperation. Water taps have run dry and raw sewage is running in the streets, while health workers try to save lives with little electricity and insufficient medicines. At least 245 children have been killed since the conflict began.
“For 23 days, children in Israel have lived with the threat of indiscriminate attacks targeting their homes and neighborhoods.
“What hope is there for these children – and their societies – if adults no longer live up to their responsibility to protect them? What are these children learning about how to behave when they are adults?
The arms transfers to Israel and the resulting attacks are being funded with our tax dollars. While actions from both sides of the conflict result in more of the same, this is a time for people in the U.S. to have a say in the war and killings for which they are paying.
ACTION: Contact Rep. Speier or Eshoo, or whomever represents you – as well as Senators Boxer and Feinstein – to let them know how you feel about U.S. funding of the Israeli military during the overwhelming siege of Gaza. Suggest that they take a good look at what life (and death) is like in that small strip of land, and how our country is complacent in the fate of its citizens. Contact the White House with a similar message.
And here is a petition put out on August 1 by the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, calling for an immediate end to U.S. arms transfers to Israel.

During the UN-levied sanctions on Iraq between the 1990 Persian Gulf War and just last year, over half a million Iraqi children died from all kinds of treatable diseases because various medicines were somehow related to the possible production of WMD’s. This story is threatening to take shape to some degree in Iran.
Tens of thousands of Iranian civilians with treatable illnesses have suffered unnecessarily and unjustly because of medicine shortages created in part by U.S. sanctions. This has happened despite the fact that by law, U.S. sanctions are supposed to protect trade in medicines. Moreover, sanctions that block civilians’ access to medicines violate international humanitarian law.
Now in the House, Virginia Democrat Jim Moran has written a sign-on letter pressing the White House to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not continue to block life-saving medicine for Iranian civilians. Among other points, Moran’s letter states:
“As the legislative record makes clear, it is not Congress’s intent to block or impede the export of medicine, food, or humanitarian goods to peoples living under the rule of sanctioned regimes. Under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000…the export of licensed medicines, medical devices, agricultural commodities, and food are exempt from sanctions.”
This is a chance for members of Congress to stand with the people of Iran and show that they want to prioritize justice as well as peace.
ACTION: Contact Rep. Speier or Eshoo, and ask them to sign Rep. Moran’s letter pressing President Obama to address this issue so that sanctions do not continue blocking medicine for Iranian civilians. Tell them you don’t want to see a repeat of the humanitarian crisis that befell Iraq in the 1990’s and beyond.

There is more “reining in” of Pentagon spending to do, and it involves the cessation of hostilities in which our country robustly has taken part over the last several years. The wars in Iraq (presumed finished until recently) and Afghanistan (presumably winding down) have been funded with a special item called Overseas Contingency Operations funds. It has amounted to over $1 trillion since 2001; $79 billion is proposed for the FY ’15 budget, in addition to the $500 billion in the military base budget.
While the Budget Control Act of 2011 – the same legislation that gave us the sequester – nominally set a cap on Pentagon spending, Overseas Contingency Operations funds were exempted. And the Pentagon – with the blessing of folks in Congress in charge of defense appropriations – has simply shifted tens of billions in spending from its base budget, which is subject to the spending caps, to the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, which is not. This item is also low on accountability and transparency – a hallmark of many military budget items – and in many peace advocates’ eyes it amounts to a “slush fund” for the Pentagon to keep on spending.
If the U.S. is not conducting “overseas operations”, we would hope to spend that money for more peace-related priorities such as health research, food stamps and education that are otherwise shorted due to the sequester…or that we are told we just can’t afford with our huge Federal deficit. It also seems that if hundreds of billions in Pentagon spending are meant to prepare for war, the question arises of why we would then need extra money to actually fight said war. Kind of like “having your cake and eating it too”.
ACTION: Contact Rep. Speier (a member of the House Armed Services Committee) or Eshoo if she is your rep, and tell them to do what they can to stop Congress from transferring funds that could otherwise be cut over to the Overseas Contingency Operations budget. Likewise tell Sens. Boxer and Feinstein to make the same case in the Senate. Suggest that the Pentagon needs to share the pain of budget cuts that are already happening to social programs, and certainly should not be entitled to a budget loophole that includes a lack of accountability.

Recent U.S. history has seen a series of dubious international trade agreements that seem meant to help wealthy corporations at the expense of working people around the world. A significant hallmark of such agreements is the element of skirting U.S. laws by turning damaging policies into international agreements that become “the law of the land”. The latest such accord in the (mostly alternative) news is the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). We turn to the organization RootsAction for a few details about this dangerous agreement:
“The TPP would provide special benefits to, and eliminate risks for, companies that offshore jobs (and) would push wages downward. The TPP would impose limits on labeling food to let you know where it comes from or how it was produced; the only way to know may be if you grow it or buy it from a neighbor who grew it. But the odds will be stacked even more heavily against the small farmer if the TPP is enacted.
“Corporations would be able to overturn domestic patent and drug-pricing laws. The big drug companies would be able to raise prices with extended monopolies over drugs and over surgical procedures. Internet censorship, defeated in Congress, would be snuck through within the TPP. Serious bank regulation or a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions would be forbidden.”
There is more: “Under the TPP, foreign or domestic corporations could force governments to change their laws on healthcare, the environment, banking, or other public policies – by appealing to a special tribunal of three corporate lawyers accountable to no voters, no precedents, and no appeals process.”
None of the 600 corporate lawyers writing this accord want the public to see it. They would prefer that Congress put it on a “fast track” to ratification without amendments or even a proper vetting. A brave whistleblower (who as far as we know has not had “war” made upon him or her) did help get these particular details into public view. And there are many more details of TPP to see, if only Congress would insist they be seen. As with 16 other questionable trade agreements that did not survive public opposition, how Congress deals with TPP may be up to us.
ACTION: Contact Rep. Speier or Eshoo, as well as Sens. Boxer and Feinstein, to tell them to oppose fast-tracking of the TPP and instead make the entire agreement public. Contact the White House with the same request. Suggest, as has RootsAction, that “If it’s as good as (you) seem to think, what have (we) got to lose?”

Right now the Obama administration is making the decision to cut back on nuclear weapons we don’t need. This could be the beginning of a major step to nuclear disarmament. In fact, the President reinforced his commitment to disarmament in the State of the Union Address on Tuesday, saying, “…we will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals…”.
Whatever size this step winds up amounting to, Obama will need the support of the Senate to keep moving it forward, and of course some senators will do anything they can to stop any cuts to our massive nuclear arsenals. Those who support further nuclear weapons cuts need to speak up, thus they need to hear from people who feel the same way.
ACTION: Contact Senator Feinstein and Boxer and tell them to actively support nuclear weapons cuts by making public statements of that support. Suggest this is an important window for them to step forward on behalf of nuclear disarmament, in order to make the world truly more secure. Perhaps add that we have a chance to set an example for Iran and North Korea that nuclear weapons are unnecessary and obsolete as a foreign policy option.

Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

Senator Dianne Feinstein
One Post St., Ste 2450 San Francisco, CA 94104
(202) 224-3841 FAX: (202) 228-3954
(415) 393-0707 FAX: (415)393-0710

Senator Barbara Boxer
70 Washington St. suite #203 Oakland CA 94607
(202) 224-3553
(510) 286-8537 FAX: (202) 224-0454

Representative Jackie Speier
155 Bovet Rd., Ste 780 San Mateo, CA 94402
(202) 225-3531 FAX: (202) 226-4183
(650) 342-0300 FAX: (650) 375-8270

Representative Anna Eshoo
698 Emerson Street Palo Alto, CA 94301
(202) 225-8104 FAX: (202) 225-8890
(650) 323-2984 FAX: (650) 323-3498

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20500
(202)456-1111: FAX: (202)456-2461

Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Department of State:
(202)647-6607 FAX: (202)647-2283

Find out who your Representative is here.
If you are not in California, identify your senators here.