Welcome to The Peace Action of San Mateo County Newsletter UPDATE

Summer 2021


August 1 Film Screening and Election

A Little Business and a Moving Film

We are approaching the 76th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With that much time having passed (thankfully without any kind of an encore), we still depend on the Hibakusha – the Japanese survivors – to tell personal stories of what it was like to live through the bombings. Sadly, their numbers dwindle as age and time take their toll. But we still have films to record the stories, and on Sunday, August 1, to commemorate August 6 and 9, PASMC will screen “Flashes of Hope: Hibakusha Traveling the World”.

This 2009 film depicts atomic bomb survivors on a boat tour as they recall their experiences. Inherent in their travels and presentations is their quest – linked with ours – for a nuclear-free world. The August 1 event will begin at 7 PM on the Zoom platform (we will have the link on www.sanmateopeaceaction.org, or email us at smpa@sanmateopeaceaction.org).

Directed by Erika Bagnarello and produced by the Japan-based NGO Peace Boat in association with Costa Rica Films, the 62-minute documentary film was screened at the 2010 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference, and was an entry at the 2011 New York Peace Film Festival.

Peace Boat has organized the "Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World: Peace Boat Hibakusha Project" since 2008. The film depicts the first year, following 103 Hibakusha as they visit 23 ports in 20 countries from September 2008 to January 2009. They traveled around the world to share testimonies and their messages for nuclear abolition to citizens and governments. The film also includes commentary by experts from Australia, the U.S., UK and elsewhere who participated in the voyage.

Also: it’s time for PASMC to elect our 2021-22 slate of Officers and Board members! Before we show the film, we’ll have a brief election, and we’ll have information for you via email about the slate. We also welcome applicants for a position on the PASMC Board. To let us know you’re interested or for any questions about being on the Board, also email us at smpa@sanmateopeaceaction.org.

In any case, we hope to see you on August 1 for an important film about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Summary of April 18 Meeting:

Sanctions: A Weapon of War

Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies began her talk about the nature of economic sanctions with a simple statement: “Sanctions kill people.” In the course of her talk to PASMC on April 18, Phyllis went on the elaborate on that point as she discussed the history and perceived rationale for sanctions, as well as their deadly effects. She readily called out the practice as one that “should be a regular part of antiwar and anti-imperialist organizing.”

Phyllis defined the sanctions she was targeting as nationally-imposed on an entire government or a section of it, designed to hurt “local people” with shortages of food, medicine, clothes, heat, and other basic needs. The worst victims are women, children and the elderly; a country’s leaders, she said, tend to be well-off enough to not suffer the effects. One goal is that people who are the victims will turn against their government and create “regime change”, but she asserted there is no evidence that such a plan works because the people know who is imposing the sanctions, and that is who they oppose – not their government.

Phyllis pointed mainly to the examples of Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba; in the case of Iraq, in which sanctions immediately followed its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, she noted that the practice lasted longer (until the next military invasion in 2003), and killed more people, than military strikes. That included 500,000 children, and she repeated the infamous claim by then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that those deaths were “worth it”. Phyllis also cited a “double standard” by the U.S. of ignoring similar invasions in modern history by Turkey of Cyprus, Morocco of Western Sahara and Israel of Palestine and Jordan. 

The sanctions on Iraq in 1991 crippled – among other elements of its infrastructure – its water system, electric grid and health care system. They also devastated its economy by initially preventing the sale of oil, its main commodity. The Oil for Food program that was later implemented still placed restrictions on the kinds of food and commodities that Iraq could bring in. Far from the “alternative to war” as which they are often touted, Phyllis called the practice “an act of war, a weapon of war”. Also, lacking the same kind of tangible proof as an actual weapon claiming civilian lives, she noted that sanctions and their effects are harder to mobilize against.

Phyllis addressed the legal question of sanctions in the UN, through which the 1991 sanctions were implemented. The Security Council can authorize military force as well as “actions to be taken”. That includes the interruption of economic relations, communications and diplomatic relations – all of which translates to sanctions. She also noted that the U.S. has taken measures to essentially bribe or economically threaten other countries to approve war – another form of sanctions.

Phyllis talked about sanctions on Cuba, which includes a blockade. This is a practice also imposed with U.S. backing on both Gaza and Yemen – the latter with especially disastrous consequences in which its blockaded port is the main point for food and medicine. She also mentioned the sanctioning of the Iran Revolutionary Guard as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), which cripples that country’s economy of which it is largely in control. And she cited sanctions against members of the International Criminal Court in its investigation of war crimes by the U.S or countries it supports. She also mentioned sanctions against Russia; in the case of a situation in which that country is implicated in alleged “cyber-crimes” against the U.S., she stressed the need to negotiate more.

Phyllis expressed support for strictly arms sanctions, but noted a double standard inherent in selling arms to countries like Saudi Arabia, Israel and Honduras, which have dubious human rights records. She also cited a “humanitarian exemption” for food and medicine, but added the global power of the U.S. dollar keeps other countries from trading; this is especially the case with Iran, which has been deprived of vital drugs and vaccines. In the case of Cuba, the UN votes regularly to oppose the U.S. sanctions, but harsh U.S. shipping requirements keep industrial products and certain medicines from reaching Cuba’s shores.

Phyllis discussed the oil sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. Choking off the sale of both countries’  main commodity has created hardships for both countries. In Iran, the response to the COVID pandemic is severely undermined; they cannot manufacture ICU equipment or ventilators. There is also little or no access to cancer drugs and other remedies to treatable diseases, which become deadly. Spare parts for passenger planes are also unavailable, making flying unsafe. Venezuela is marred by severe poverty and hyperinflation (though Phyllis also noted the presence of government corruption). The government supplies food packages, but there is generally not enough to generally keep citizens healthy, and when store shelves are stocked, the prices are too high and salaries too low to afford groceries.

Phyllis noted that in the case of both countries, tensions with the U.S. – with Iran the assassination of their military leader Hasim Soleimani and with Venezuela the presence of a naval armada at its shores – could have spiraled into a military conflict.

Phyllis turned to the notion of taking action. She recalled how during the Iraq sanctions, Denis Halliday, the UN coordinator of the Oil for Food program, resigned in disgust at how it was being handled. When he and others spread the word about the sanctions’ effects, press coverage led to pushback and mobilization.

Recently two organizations, Win Without War and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) have generated sign-on letters to President Biden calling for an end to sanctions on Iran to which organizations (including Peace Action) signed on. The demand is for the Biden administration, toward returning to the Iran nuclear deal¸ show good faith and immediately lift some of the Trump-era sanctions – rather than insist that Iran make the first move. In Venezuela the Citizen Platform in Defense of the Constitution drafted a letter that outlines remedies to the conflict there. It includes an end to the sanctions and the practice of freezing of government funds, as well as stopping efforts toward regime change.

Phyllis stressed the importance of calling out the idea of sanctions as an alternative to war, because they have resulted in more loss of life than armed conflict. She added, “we need to undo common thought about sanctions being ‘better than war’”.

Ron Zucker

Log on to www.ips-dc.org    


Membership Report

Peace Action of San Mateo County welcomes back these renewing members: Tara Bass, Adrienne Lonzarich, Tom Newman, Elaine Salinger, John St. Peter, Edna Steele


Summary of May 23 Meeting

Lowering the Temperature with China

Journalist and activist Michael Klare has been watching relations between the U.S. and China deteriorate for a number of years now, and it worried him enough to co-found the Committee for a Sane U.S.-China Policy. Michael said at the May PASMC meeting that a new cold war has begun, to the point where it could lead to a “hot war” with potentially catastrophic implications – but concerned activists have the potential to resist and prevent that from happening.

In defining the idea of a “cold war”, Michael noted the tensions between the two countries perceived by both as “an all-consuming struggle” encompassing military, political, economic, diplomatic, technological and cultural efforts. Steeped in an extraordinary notion that the two systems cannot coexist, the U.S. has accused China of “domestic paranoia” and “intolerance of dissent”, while China clamors for the U.S. to stay out of its affairs.

Michael mentioned a bill in the Senate, the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, aimed at doing a number of things to advance a new cold war: labeling China the “biggest threat” to the U.S., criticizing and undermining its “Belt and Road” international infrastructure initiative, aligning more closely with Taiwan (historically counter to China’s wishes), and calling for a more assertive posture militarily. That element includes budgeting for more hypersonic missiles that could strike China from the Pacific, and increasing an already-significant U.S. naval presence in the region. The U.S. is also trying to create what Michael called an “Asian NATO”, including Japan, India and Australia, to join in the effort against China.

He noted that the two countries’ economies were moving closer for a long time, but are now moving apart. The Trump tariffs were a sticking point (along with blaming China for the Coronavirus), as are new initiatives to ban Chinese investment. A move to separate the global supply lines of the U.S. and China – forcing other countries to choose with which country to trade – “could have devastating consequences for the world economy”, said Michael. China believes it has overcome poverty and backwardness to become a world power, of which its “socialist path” has played a major part. The U.S. believes, he added, it nonetheless should dominate with “paramount status in world affairs.” Regarding human rights, U.S. criticism of China’s handling of Hong Kong protesters and the allegedly oppressed Uyghur population living in the Xinjiang region has also led to tensions between the two countries.

Michael then turned to the issue of what he called “conflictive geographies”, which he described as a dispute over where each country’s military claims it can go. The U.S. says its strategic perimeters extend to China’s coastal waters in the East and South China Sea. He called this “preposterous”, comparing it with the hypothetical of Chinese naval vessels patrolling near Half Moon Bay, and how we would feel about it. China, on the other hand, assumes control of the entire South China Sea and its islands (which Michael called “equally preposterous”), and patrols between the two countries overlap – with the potential for a military incident already documented. This, he said, “is a place where World War III could begin.” A similar situation exists, he said, in the East China Sea, where China and Japan claim the same islands, and the U.S. has vowed to come to Japan’s defense.

Michael turned to Taiwan, citing an article in The Economist calling it “The Most Dangerous Place on Earth”. China claims Taiwan as part of its own, while Taiwan retains the possibility of declaring its independence – which could lead to a military intervention by China. Meanwhile, the U.S. once had adopted a “strategic ambiguity” with its implementation of diplomatic relations with China that date back to 1979, but which also included the possibility of informal relations with Taiwan. But Trump’s turn to more formal diplomatic relations was matched by Biden, to the point where the U.S. has stated its readiness to come to Taiwan’s aid. If Taiwan thus feels “safe” enough to proclaim independence, a military response by China could be met with an attack by the U.S. on Chinese military installations; the resulting escalation could involve nuclear weapons.

Addressing the prevention of such an outcome, Michael suggested those in attendance inform themselves with such groups as the Committee for Sane U.S.-China Policy and the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He also encouraged people to “spread the knowledge” about the need for better relations between the two countries. He called for a countering of the “false narrative” of the necessity of a cold war, as well as of the targeting of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) through hate crimes. Michael advocated coalescing with groups such as Stop AAPI Hate, as well as with business entities that trade with China, academics who fear a “new McCarthyism” from anti-Socialist thought, peace groups here (such as Peace Action) that advocate shifting federal spending priorities from military to human needs, and peace groups in places such as Japan and the Philippines. And he said we should contact our Senators to encourage their opposition to S. 1169, which increases military and economic pressure on China. (At press time the bill has only 6 co-sponsors.) This, Michael suggested, would be helpful in avoiding a permanent cold war.

Ron Zucker

Log on to www.saneuschinapolicy.org 




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Summary of June 13 Meeting

Straight Talk on Israel and Palestine

Mitchell Plitnick, head of the organization ReThinking Foreign Policy, has been watching the Middle East and studying its history for a long time. On June 13, he joined us on Zoom to offer what he knows, sees and thinks about both the current situation regarding Israel and Palestine and how the U.S. has dealt with the region in recent history. As co-author of a new book, “Except for Palestine – the Limits of Progressive Politics”, Mitchell has been preoccupied with both angles of the overall story, as well as how “progressives” – a term in the book which he allowed spans a spectrum from the “far left” to “moderate liberals” – can take action.

On the day of the meeting, a diverse and fragile coalition in the Israeli Parliament had just created a new government to oust Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister. Mitchell’s opening remarks (which were followed by a question-and-answer format) dwelled on what the change might mean. For Israel’s democratic structure, he called it “a very big deal”, but as to the occupation of Palestinian lands and the state of apartheid, he felt that nothing much will change. The new Prime Minister, Naftali Bennet, is further to the right than Netanyahu. The PM in two years, Yair Lapid – who has connections to the U.S. Democratic Party – will be looking to roll back some of the new debate about Israel that has lately arisen in Congress.

Mitchell talked about Palestinian governance, saying that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has become “increasingly irrelevant” and the Palestine Liberation Organization is regarded as “ineffectual”. He labeled Hamas as a divisive entity, though they are lauded for uniquely standing up to the Israeli occupation while the PA does next to nothing. Mitchell predicted a younger generation of Palestinians will emerge to “do things differently” and organize politically. The outcome of such efforts is hard to know at this point.

“The opportunity to change policy has never been closer to our grasp”, said Mitchell, noting some U.S. Congressional victories in 2020 and hard questions in response to the latest war as encouraging signs. But if debate is stifled, he added, we could be “back to square one.” With military aid to Israel based on supporting what some in U.S. government regard as a stable presence in a region (with oil a big factor) and with the arms industry pushing to keep its contracts, the status quo (to which Mitchell suggested President Biden wants to return) looms large.

Mitchell’s assertion that progressives “seem to check their values at the door on this one issue” of Israel and Palestine is based in part on the conflation of Israel with Jews and Jewish identity. That can lead to charges of antisemitism that are not necessarily merited and need to be called out, while still opposing antisemitism itself. Regarding Jews having a state to protect themselves from it, Mitchell raised the question of whether it should be “at the expense of another people”. As an example, he cited how a ceasefire generally means Israel is not being attacked, while the fact of live fire routinely used on peacefully-protesting Palestinians is not often publicized. He also pointed out a historical vision of Israel as a state with socialist practices to be supported.

Mitchell addressed positive examples of activism in the U.S. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a growing example, albeit with what he called a lack of coordination among a variety of groups. The concept, he feels, has provoked attacks on free speech that make supporters of Israel look bad. He noted the stir that Sen. (and candidate) Bernie Sanders caused in 2016 when he spoke out for Palestinian rights. Such a gesture, Mitchell thinks, has led to an increase in lobbying and general activism – and an amplification of Palestinian-American voices to lead the cause. Meanwhile the Israeli peace movement has been politically marginalized, which even more bears out the need to organize more here in the U.S.

On the subject of evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, notably the one threatened in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah that helped bring about the recent hostilities, Mitchell noted the practice has gone on “for decades”, based on an Israeli law stating any property owned by Jews before 1948 could be taken and returned to an owner’s descendants. But the reverse does not hold for Palestinians, thus East Jerusalem is a “flashpoint”, he said, made moreso by the frequent claim of Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital”.

Mitchell was also asked about the 2018 “Nation-State” law proclaiming Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, where only Jews can exercise national rights. While he said the law itself doesn’t change anything, it is the basis of other actions such as encouraging settlement expansion, downgrading Arabic from an “official” to a “recognized” language, and removing claims of national rights from Palestinians. The law challenges the idea of Israel “struggling to find a balance between being a Jewish state and a democratic state,” but also justifies some groups’ claims that it is an apartheid state – giving question to the idea of equality under law in Israel, and raising objections from Jewish groups around the world. For Palestinians, said Mitchell, the law didn’t change anything, since their national claims were always denied; it just formalized that policy.

Regarding a solution to the overall question of Palestinian rights, Mitchell noted a lack of political interest in compromise on the part of Israel. It receives $3.8 billion per year and cooperation from the U.S., and it is part of global economic and technological systems. The U.S., as a world superpower, shields Israel from the consequences of its actions. The Palestinians, while historically willing to negotiate and compromise, have nothing to offer except, Mitchell suggested, “the opportunity to do something right for justice and peace…unfortunately, most politicians don’t value that very much.”

The way to persuade Israel, then, would be to pressure them economically and diplomatically, to make worth it the risks for peace and compromise. For now, Mitchell said, there is little motivation to pressure or upset the U.S.’s ally. The task of pressuring members of Congress remains a difficult one, but he suggested making the connection between Israel and apartheid. That issue potentially “casts a shadow” on unquestioning supporters of Israel by making their support politically uncomfortable…a potential step toward changing the equation.

Ron Zucker

Log on to www.rethinkforeignpolicy.org 



Complicit in a Crisis

By Andy Magee

Americans have a responsibility stemming from the unique amount of freedom we have with regards to elections and press when compared against the historical record. This responsibility is to, at the very least, use that freedom to condemn and stop atrocities carried out by our officials. When we don’t do everything in our power to stop these crimes, we share the blood spilled by those who exercise authority (regardless of that authority’s legitimacy).

With that framework in mind, how can any American sleep when we are actively allowing, facilitating, and directly participating in the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world? 14 million are on the brink of starvation in Yemen. To put that in perspective, it is as if the entire population of New England is about to starve to death. Now, it is important to realize that this “14 million” is not some abstract calculation of the distant future – more than 85,000 children have already died since 2018 as a direct result of the famine. That is 130 per day, about one every 10 minutes, dying from a completely preventable famine.

We might ask, “what is causing this famine?” From the evidence, the answer is clear: the Saudi-led blockades of food and supplies (that includes U.S. ships) and the constant bombardment of Yemen by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The weapons they are using to completely devastate this nation are also supplied by the U.S. And most recently, the $23 billion arms deal to the UAE. This was a Trump concoction, but Biden happily went through with it.

Regardless of any political situation in the U.S. or in the Near/Middle East, the U.S. must halt this sale and all of the other weapons sales to these belligerent nations. They must stop the spare parts transfers and the logistical support of this genocide. We must stop participating in blockades of food and supplies. To kill millions of innocent people only to protect hegemonic states and stuff the already overflowing, avaricious pockets of the ultra-wealthy cannot even begin to be described as “vile”, “horrific”, or “evil”. It is up to us to stop this.

Andy Magee is a longtime member of Massachusetts Peace Action who now lives on the Peninsula.

If “A Nuclear War Must Never Be Fought,” Then ...

By Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association

With U.S.-Russian relations at a post-Cold War low, the meeting between President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin in Geneva June 16 was relatively brief and clinical.

While much of the meeting appears to have focused on areas of disagreement, the two men do understand their nations share a mutual interest in avoiding a new nuclear arms race and reducing the risk of nuclear war.

The two leaders agreed to a robust “strategic stability” dialogue to “lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures” on the basis of the principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."

Their summit communique, "albeit modest and overdue, is a vital recognition that the status quo is dangerous and unsustainable. It is a chance for a course correction that moves the world further from the brink of nuclear catastrophe” writes Daryl G. Kimball in the July/August issue of Arms Control Today, the monthly journal of the Arms Control Association.

“Now, each side must walk the talk,” Kimball says. If they are serious about the principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought, the United States and Russia should not be expanding their capabilities to fight and “prevail” in such a war,” and they should narrow the stated role of nuclear weapons in their nation’s declaratory policies, among other steps.

The full text of the editorial is available online at www.armscontrol.org


The force which makes for war does not derive its strength from the interested motives of evil men; it derives its strength from the disinterested motives of good men. -Norman Angell


Israel/Palestine Again

I'd say dysfunctional mythology has created the present-day Israel/Palestine conflict. To think a 2,000 year-old text promising a land to a certain people and allowing that to drive present-day real estate transactions and outright evictions is a perfect recipe for unending conflict. Likewise, to think sending rockets into the occupier's territory and expecting positive results is also subscribing to a dysfunctional mythology.

Still, we need to see the chronology here. The most recent flareups relate to the attempts to displace folks who have inhabited East Jerusalem for generations. Of course they object. Then to hinder access to religious sites goads the subjected population still further. They resist again and the occupier resorts to tear gas tossed into the holy places with predicable results. More protests spread throughout the land. Hardly surprising that finally the Hamas group resorts to what they see as their only option, rockets. So here are we not seeing that the Israeli political establishment went from an internal crisis (and division) to an international one that unites them against their “implacable foe”? Any cynicism here?

Now we have President Biden taking a leaf from the same “thumb in the eye” playbook by bombing Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria, even as the Iraqi government objects. Seems like we’re playing at making Iran's recommitting to the JCPOA deal nearly impossible. Is that the real plan?

Mike Caggiano

Action Alert

Rein In Military Spending

The Coronavirus pandemic revealed that the U.S. must reevaluate how it prioritizes spending to keeping us all safe. The country spends more on its military than the next 11 countries combined, yet President Biden’s FY 2022 budget request included $753 billion in Pentagon spending – for the Pentagon through the Department of “Defense” and for nuclear weapons through the Department of Energy. Soon Congress will begin work on the National Defense Authorization Act. Though there are few details right now, there will surely be amendments designed to reject the increase to the Pentagon’s already-bloated budget, plus make cuts to top-line Pentagon spending.

For decades, consistently massive military budgets have funded wars and overseas operations that disproportionately target and harm people of color around the world, while leaving far too little for critical programs here at home. That overwhelmingly takes a greater toll on many of us, including our own communities of color. While we face a historic pandemic, another racial reckoning, another economic crisis, and a growing climate crisis, only 50.5% of this administration's requested FY ‘22 budget is allocated to non-military programs. Now more than ever, we need a budget that represents people’s priorities, not those of the defense industry.

Among the many opportunities for cuts that exist are the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) Program, for which plans to upgrade the entire land-based leg of the nuclear triad have been called “destabilizing and completely unnecessary.” With a lifetime estimated cost of $264 billion and sure to go up, there are certainly more pressing needs in our country. There is also the Space Force, which is asking for $17.4 Billion for FY ‘22. This additional structure runs the risk of increased bureaucracy and redundancy among the armed forces. Over $2 billion will be spent simply building this new stand-alone military service. And let us not forget Lockheed Martin’s disastrous F-35 Fighter Jet. The FY ‘22 budget request includes 85 more of these, starting at around $100 million per plane. Numerous malfunctions over the years have ballooned costs to an estimated $1.7 trillion for this program’s life cycle. This plane has received a reputation as notoriously flawed and carries dangers for those flying it. Earlier this year, the Air Force essentially admitted this jet is not what they need. It’s just one more example of misplaced priorities elevated in Congress.

Action: Contact Rep. Jackie Speier or Anna Eshoo, or whomever represents you, and tell them to oppose any version of the NDAA that does not cut Pentagon spending. On the same order, they should support amendments to the NDAA – and any Defense Appropriations bills – that would cut unnecessary and wasteful weapons. Contact Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla with the same requests in the Senate version of the NDAA. Suggest that we need the resources that might go to wasteful weapons systems and programs to go to human-based needs that benefit true security and general welfare.

Nuclear Weapons Threat and Debt

It goes without saying that if nuclear weapons are ever used again, a dangerous escalation is likely to follow, with the definite possibility of billions of casualties, nuclear winter and a global environmental crisis. The Biden administration and its allies in Congress need to recommit to the vision of a nuclear weapons free world that President Obama articulated early in his presidency (though could have done more to bring about). Such a commitment would be boosted by a dramatic reduction in both nuclear weapons spending and the salience of nuclear weapons in U.S. security policy.

Both are borne out in the $1.7 trillion 30-year price tag for modernization of the arsenal as laid out in the Nuclear Posture Review. There is also the GBSD (which we like to call the “Money Pit Missile”) mentioned above; a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) which candidate Biden opposed but President Biden is backing; and low yield nuclear weapons, which are “only” about the size of the bombs we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and whose use could lead to a world-ending escalation.

To once again address the U.S. nuclear weapons buildup and its costs, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer have re-introduced respective versions of the SANE (Smarter Approaches to Nuclear Expenditures) Act. These bills are meant to cancel or reduce nuclear weapons programs over the next 10 years, generating at least $73 billion in savings. They would cut redundant and destabilizing nuclear programs, and include an affordability analysis component as recommended by the Government Accountability Office. And they would, again, allow for more and smarter spending on programs we can all use – while cutting back on weapons we pray will never be used.

Action: Contact Sens. Feinstein and Padilla, to urge their support for Markey’s version of the SANE Act (S.1862). Also contact Rep. Speier or Eshoo and tell them to co-sponsor the House version (HR 3653). Remind them that if we can avoid a new nuclear arms race and the wild spending it requires, we can also spend more smartly on such programs as needed health care, education and the fight against global warming.

Question Arms Sales to Israel

Israel's recent airstrikes in Gaza killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children. United Nations human rights experts wrote: “The firing by Israel of missiles and shells into heavily populated areas of Gaza – particularly with the rising civilian toll and property destruction – constitute indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians and civilian property. These attacks likely violate the laws of war and constitute a war crime.” Hamas also launched rockets indiscriminately killing at least 12. As a matter of law, all military forces involved have engaged in war crimes. As a matter of policy and moral culpability, U.S. military support enabled the Israeli military’s violence.

Israel is historically by far the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, with $3.8 billion yearly going to its military. U.S. foreign military financing grants to Israel total more than those to every other country in the world combined. Biden’s national security strategy calls for the U.S. to prioritize human rights, toward restoring a foreign policy that respects international law. After the violence in Gaza, other nations are looking to see if the President lives up to his pledge here.

Just before the recent violence, the Biden administration approved a $735 million sale of weapons systems and munitions to Israel. The proposed sale included Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMS), which are believed to have been used in the recent violence, as well as in the past. A resolution of disapproval came too late to prevent the sale. But majorities of Democratic, Independent and Republican voters all support restricting aid to human rights violators. Indeed, U.S. law already makes clear that all countries receiving U.S. aid need to meet human rights standards, the violation of which can lead to the curtailment of aid. Specifically, recent polling shows a growing skepticism regarding U.S. arms sales to Israel, especially with Democratic and Independent voters. Congress should listen to those sentiments.

Action: Contact Rep. Speier or Eshoo, as well as Sens. Feinstein and Padlla, and tell them to publicly call on the Biden administration to question weapons sales such as the recent one to the Israeli government. Suggest they should support efforts to ensure that our weapons are not used anywhere in violation of international humanitarian law and U.S. laws on weapons transfers.



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 Alex Padilla                                        

333 Bush Street, Ste. 3225 San Francisco, CA 94104
(202) 224-3553                         fax: (202) 224-2200

(415) 981-9369                        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                             (650) 375-8270

Representative Anna Eshoo                                                                                                 

698 Emerson Street               Palo Alto, CA 94301    

(202) 225-8104                            fax: (202) 225-8890  

(650) 323-2984                                   (650) 323-3498

President Joe Biden

The White House 

1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW,  Washington, DC   20500               

(202)456-1111:                         fax: (202)456-2461


Find out who your Representative is: www.house.gov 

If you are not in California, identify your senators here: www.senate.gov 

The Update is published quarterly by Peace Action of San Mateo County. We welcome all submissions and letters, and reserve the right to exclude or edit for content and other considerations. The views expressed within are not necessarily those of the members of Peace Action of San Mateo County or Peace Action.

PASMC Officers

President: Mike Caggiano  

Vice President: Cheryl Kozanitas

Secretary: Mary Beavins                                     

Update Editor: Ron Zucker                         

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