Cost of War

Action Alert

(Thanks to Peace Action West for much of the text in this alert.)
Did you see the president’s speech outlining his ISIS strategy?
He said the air war would expand as we go on the offense in both Iraq and Syria.
The violence by ISIS has shocked people's consciences. We do need a strong global response that protects the victims and addresses the political factors driving the rise of ISIS.
That's why need to support a global diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic effort, not U.S. military escalation. U.S. military action only adds fuel to the sectarian fire.
A U.S. presence exacerbates the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide that is the source of ISIS's strength. Each bomb dropped gives violent extremists a powerful recruitment pretext.
It's time to stop repeating our mistakes. It was the earlier U.S. military occupation that helped create ISIS – then called al-Qaeda in Iraq. Sending more and more arms to the region has also backfired as those weapons fall into the wrong hands.
At this time near the anniversary of 9/11 we can look back and see that over a decade of the “war on terror” has not destroyed terrorism or terror groups. And it’s cost our country too much: in lives, in a drag on our domestic economy, and in a blow to U.S. moral standing.
The crisis in Syria and Iraq deserves a response that is both thoughtful and forceful. Parts of the President’s plan are worthy of support. For example, cutting off funds to ISIS and blocking the flow of foreign fighters to the region could be powerful.
We can also increase humanitarian aide including food, medical care, and housing. That not only saves lives – it's a smart preventative move to keep the crisis from spreading. But once a war escalates no one can tell us how long it will last and how much it will cost. A strong reaction from Congress now could put the brakes on the intervention and prevent an escalating involvement.
ACTION: Contact Rep. Jackie Speier or Anna Eshoo, or whomever represents you, and ask them to oppose escalation and to support alternatives that don’t lead to another open-ended war. Likewise contact Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (both of whom have expressed support for airstrikes), and suggest that more military action will not mitigate the latest results of over 11 years of military action.
Use the contact information below, or click here for a pre-printed letter that will go to your Representative and Senators.

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.