Welcome to The Peace Action of San Mateo County Newsletter UPDATE Spring 2021
April 18 Virtual Meeting
Author and Activist Phyllis Bennis to Talk About Sanctions
Whether imposed on Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Russia, China or anywhere else, sanctions have in modern U.S. history been regarded in peace-activist circles as a weapon of war. This war tactic is certainly not conducted with actual offensive weapons, though such weapons might be present in “threat mode” to enforce sanctions. But whether they are called “targeted” or “economic” sanctions, the damage they do to mostly civilian populations is comparable to that of guns, bombs or missiles. Poverty, hunger and disease replace wounds, and the scars are less visible but just as painful in their own way.
What justification is used for the practice of sanctions? What are their effects on governments and their people? How might they be used in upcoming U.S. foreign policy? And how should people in Peace Action and similar groups react to them?
On Sunday, April 18, longtime activist and author Phyllis Bennis will be the guest speaker for PASMC’s next meeting on the Zoom platform. She will speak about sanctions, address these questions, and try to answer more of yours. We will begin at 4:30 PM, with the link to follow closer to the event.
Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the DC-based Institute for Policy Studies, where she directs the New Internationalism Project focusing on the Middle East, U.S. wars and United Nations issues. Phyllis co-founded the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and now serves on the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace. She has written and edited 11 books, including the just-published 7th updated edition of her popular “Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer”, “Before & After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the War on Terror”, and “Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the UN Defy U.S. Power.”
We look forward to seeing you on April 18 for a closer look at a harsh side of U.S. foreign policy, from foreign-policy authority Phyllis Bennis.
Summary of February 21 Virtual Meeting
A New President – Now What?
Eric See, Peace Action’s national Senior Director for Outreach and Organizing Campaigns, likened the upcoming to-do list for the organization to “drinking from a firehose”, considering the many peace-related issues the organization has a chance to influence now that the Biden administration has replaced the Trump administration. On February 21, about a month into Joe Biden’s presidency, Eric went over some of the laundry list of possible breakthroughs for which Peace Action and its allies are aiming. “We have the wind at our back”, he said, but emphasized it wasn’t a strong wind considering a historically moderate President and a slim majority in Congress. But he expressed hope for some progress.
Eric noted that Peace Action staff started meeting with the Biden transition team before the November election (a typical practice), in anticipation of a Biden win. This was when Peace Action laid out its agenda of such issues as ending “forever wars” and the war in Yemen, rejoining the nuclear agreement and stopping an aggressive policy with Iran, eliminating nuclear weapons, cutting the military budget, stopping economic sanctions and de-militarizing the police. The organization also had recommendations for State Department appointments to replace the many positions Trump had eliminated. Some of them, said Eric, were later chosen to serve.
Eric lauded early Biden executive orders, among them extending the New START nuclear treaty with Russia for another 5 years, ending the Muslim ban, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, drawing down some military actions against Iran – such as flying bombers into its airspace – and (for now) no longer backing the Saudi war on Yemen with the sale of offensive weapons. (The continuation of support for the Saudis with defensive weapons remains, however.) With further legislation on these matters less likely to succeed in a divided Congress, Eric affirmed the importance of pushing hard for both legislation and more executive orders. “You don’t fight from the middle,” he said, “you fight from your principles and from the side of truth.”
Breaking down the various Peace Action campaigns, Eric began with “endless wars”, typified by the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. He called it “messy but possible to get our troops out”, an effort complicated by Trump’s promise to pull out by May 1 if the Taliban ceases its attacks and cuts off ties with Al Qaeda. With the Taliban not cooperating, U.S. military options are limited. Noting Biden’s preference for disengaging from the region – with concurrence from both the left and the right – Eric suggested the hope for a “face-saving” way to pull out, perhaps involving better negotiating.
Eric addressed the two versions of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) – the first in response to the “war on terror” following 9/11, the second to greenlight the Iraq War. Every session of Congress has seen East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee introduce bills to “sunset” both versions, and last year the Iraq-related AUMF sunset passed out of committee. While it did not make it into the final military spending bill, Eric feels the chances are better this year, though not as much for the first AUMF due to its “war on terror” terminology.
He next turned to the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, the return to which, he said, “seemed like a sure thing” but has not happened. Eric cited the passage of time which has caused its proponents in Congress to forget its significance as a document for disarmament. Now different sides are making such suggestions as simply rejoining, staying out, or starting over to include other issues. Eric noted the sole point of the deal was about nuclear weapons, which made it more possible. He lamented the current narrative, in which both Iran and the U.S. expect the next move of one another: Iran’s position is that the U.S. pulled out and re-imposed sanctions, so should re-join, while the U.S. argues the agreement benefits Iran the most, thus they should re-join. Meanwhile Iran faces a presidential election, so its President Rouhani is under pressure from hardliners to “stand up” to the U.S., and Biden is in a similar position with Republicans and some moderate democrats. While Iran has talked about kicking out inspectors, this has not happened; like the agreement itself, such a move is, as Eric said, “negotiable”. Peace Action was encouraged by Biden’s appointment of career diplomat Robert Malley (who helped negotiate the deal) as a special envoy to Iran…but it still remains to be seen how Iran will react. Eric stressed the need for us to give Biden “political cover” by encouraging our Senators and Representatives to support rejoining the deal.
Turning to nuclear weapons, Eric began with the Low Yield Nuclear Explosive (LYNE), just one expensive program that Biden will hopefully cut. Eric also mentioned the nuclear weapons modernization plans, with a current price tag of $1.7 trillion. He suggested a plan so wide-ranging and expensive (“it’s hard to punch against it”) needs to be addressed in pieces, and this year the target in the nuclear “triad” is a $100 billion land-based modernization. The warheads are in silos, in known locations around the country. With their vulnerability to enemy missiles, the price tag could come in for more opposition, and Peace Action will be pushing.
As for the overall military budget, Eric implied a sense of urgency since, as Biden’s first, it will be proposed in April with relatively little time for input – from Congress, industry or the peace movement. However the budget goes, said Eric, will set the tempo for the next four years. While Biden has talked about freezing the military budget at its current level, our preference for cuts will meet pushback from the weapons industry’s preference for increases. So Biden will hear from Congress, who in turn need to hear from Peace Action affiliates all around the country. The specifics of what to cut, Eric said, are not as important as the call for cuts.
Eric looked at our ‘military footprint” or “force projection” around the world, with over 500 places where U.S. troops are stationed – 181 of them considered bases. Current military planners, he said, are looking at these numbers for the first time since the Cold War ended, and wondering what makes sense. A sobering notion is that of reducing forces in places like the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America – only to pivot toward China, which some of these same military planners see as the target of our next war.
His last topic was economic sanctions as a tool of U.S. foreign policy. Eric called this “a bit of a climb” because members of Congress often consider sanctions an alternative to an actual war. But their most severe effect (as Phyllis Bennis will talk about in our April meeting) is on the poorest in a targeted nation, and those least in control of their nation’s policies. He added that diplomacy is the real alternative. Eric cited a need for educating Congress, and he looks forward to legislation (which Peace Action helped craft) to stop the sanctions on Iran from Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. He gave the bill little chance of passing, but a good chance of bringing light to the issue. And if sanctions on Iran are eventually rolled back, he said, other targets such as North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela could be examined.
The many issues on Peace Action’s plate are “a juggling act”, said Eric, but until a short time ago nothing much could be achieved with “a fascist administration”. There is lots to do, he affirmed, but “it’s a good problem to have.”
May 23 Virtual Meeting
Michael Klare on U.S.-China Military Tension
For generations, the U.S. and China have been at odds over one thing or another. The ideological divide between a capitalist and a communist government can make such a situation seem inevitable, though only if one or the other (or both) insists on an antagonistic relationship – typically termed a “cold war”.
In the case of these two “superpowers”, the stakes have been raised on a variety of levels; during the last U.S. administration the focus was on trade and our respective economies – that and China human rights was the subject of our September 2020 meeting. But lurking in the background has been, going back to the Obama administration, the notion of U.S. military action and threats. We have heard about an “Asia pivot” with not just economic and political but also military implications. Considering both nations possess a nuclear arsenal, such implications are by no means to be taken lightly.
Writers, scholars and activists Michael Klare and Joseph Gerson, feeling a sense of the danger and the need to raise awareness about this U.S. stance toward China, last fall co-founded the Committee for a Sane U.S.-China Policy. On Sunday, May 23 at 4 PM, Michael Klare will be our guest on the Zoom platform to address that policy. Michael will discuss the current military rivalry between the U.S. and China in the Asia-Pacific region. His talk will cover the risks of war and nuclear escalation…and what we all can do to prevent such an outcome. We will put the Zoom link on our Facebook page, and send it to our email listserve. (If you are not on our list, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get the link or to get on the list.)
Michael Klare is the Defense Correspondent of the Nation magazine, writing regularly on U.S. military affairs. He is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the DC-based Arms Control Association, focusing on the impact of emerging technologies on the future of war. He taught peace and world security affairs at the Five Colleges of Western Massachusetts for 33 years until retiring in 2019.
We hope you’ll be on hand for a knowledgeable speaker telling this emerging story about the U.S. and China.
Summary of March 21 Virtual Meeting
Single Payer in California – Why and How
Once again, the effort is afoot to achieve a single payer health plan in California, to replace the for-profit system with which the country and its citizens have lived for as long as the idea of health insurance itself. On March 21, Amanda Minch and Prakalp Sudhakar, of the Peninsula Democratic Socialists of America Health Care Justice Working Group, talked about the need for a universal health plan, how it would work, and current legislation in California meant to bring it about.
The speakers began by asserting “the right to health”, one of many rights in the 1966 International Bill of Human Rights. That meant both physical and mental health, for infants and children, for all kinds of diseases, and of course the assurance of “all medical service and medical attention.” They next turned to what was wrong with our current healthcare system: That it is profit-driven and often tied to employment – the ability to “sell our labor” – noting 12 million newly jobless Americans losing their healthcare during COVID. Meanwhile, sick people incur higher costs and premiums, resulting in financial burdens (including bankruptcy), loss of coverage, even the uprooting of lives.
Amanda and Prakalp said we are the only developed nation that doesn’t guarantee health care benefits to its citizens. While citing that “the U.S. spends more (by about 2 ½ times) on healthcare per capita than any other developed nation,” they added that we rank among the lowest in life expectancies, but among the highest in rates of maternal and infant mortality rates, as well as of deaths from preventable diseases. Insurance costs rise in the form of premiums, deductibles and copays; meanwhile just in the last quarter of 2020, the healthcare industry made $54.6 billion in profits. The speakers called out administrative bloat of the health insurance industry as “obscene”, and asserted that healthcare corporations exploit the most vulnerable among us by price-gouging in an industry where “supply and demand” do not matter with a constant demand for health.
Amanda and Prakalp talked about “negative health outcomes” particular to Americans under our healthcare system in such areas as adverse birth situations, teen pregnancies, injuries, obesity and diabetes, drug-related mortality and heart disease, among other maladies. The reasons include the large percentage of uninsured and underinsured, socioeconomic inequities in access to healthcare (with more adverse healthcare outcomes among the affluent here than other countries), the fragmented structure of care, and gaps in access to primary care.
The alternative to this state of affairs, they said, is a single-payer system. The federal government would ideally manage it by expanding and improving the existing structure of Medicare, in which everyone has insurance that pays for comprehensive care, on demand and unlimited at the point of service. There would be no fees, no co-pays, no network restrictions, and no deductibles. There would be a jobs and severance initiatives for anyone affected by the transition. And it would be paid for through taxes.
The speakers answered the question of whether the U.S. can afford such a plan with the fact that the U.S. has one of the highest GDP per capita in the world; the “vast amount of wealth and resources in this country”, they said, make it feasible. “What we need…is the political will to challenge the role of capital in our privatized system,” they added.
Amanda and Prakalp turned to California’s own healthcare story, noting that 2.7 million of us are uninsured, and millions more are underinsured. The ethnic and geographical diversity here means the vulnerable face greater health risks and less access to safety-net programs. Also, the senior population will soon far outpace the overall population, straining health services and creating the need to improve access and lower costs by pooling state and federal funds.
Enter Assembly Bill 1400, the California Guaranteed Health Care for All Act – AKA CalCare. This is a universal single-payer healthcare program, providing publicly-funded and progressively-financed healthcare coverage for all California residents. Consistent with the idea of such a system, there would again be no network restrictions, deductibles, co-pays, or other limitations on necessary care. The CalCare program, rather than private insurers, would pay for healthcare costs. Every resident can choose their provider, who in turn would coordinate care – including follow-up and referrals. All care would be “free at the point of service”. The program would be administered by a CalCare Trust Fund, with payment rates and methodologies negotiated with healthcare providers and drug manufacturers. The trust fund would consist of federal funds from the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medi-Cal, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and any other related federal programs in the pipeline. The trust fund would also include state funds already allocated, as well as a revenue plan submitted by the legislature under guidelines in the CalCare bill.
Amanda and Prakalp addressed the process of bringing a single-payer plan to a reality. Along with the passage of AB 1400, the state would need a waiver from the Federal government to use funds from ACA, Medicare, Medical and other programs for single payer. That would involve holding Gov. Gavin Newsom to his pledge to support the plan, and persuading President Biden (who is not a fan of single payer) to allow Health and Human Service Secretary Xavier Becerra to grant the waiver.
Getting AB 1400 passed in the Assembly and State Senate is where single-payer activists come in. A push to get co-sponsors will involve building support in their districts through phone banks (virtual these days) and direct actions, and enlisting coalition partners among labor and other groups. DSA is also looking at running candidates in 2022 to unseat those not in favor.
Amanda and Prakalp encouraged people to get involved by phonebanking and placing doorhangers at homes in strategic neighborhoods, also calling Assemblymembers (Kevin Mullin locally) to ask them to cosponsor. They also encouraged people to join DSA and support the CalCare effort with donations. For the bill’s proponents, there is a lot of work to do.
Peace Action of San Mateo County welcomes these new members: Kathleen Gamba, John, Margo and Emma Hohulin, Siu Tjeng Teng and Sally Whitehead
And we welcome back some renewing members:
David Amendola, Tom Banks. Minette Berger, Mike Caggiano and Keiko Kim, Nancy and David Crabbe, Carol Cross, Al Dean, Lucille Goodier, Laura Hinz, Timonie Hood, Adrienne Lonzarich, Louis Maraviglia, Joanne McMahon, Joanne Rovno, Paul Rudberg and Yelena Malaga, Connie Spearing, Gary White, Linda Whitley, Bob and May-Blossom Wilkinson, Ron Zucker
In Memoriam: in early January our Peace Action family lost a longtime member – Eve Visconti. Eve served on the PASMC Board for two different stints, including as our Vice President as well as editor of the Update newsletter. Beyond those titles, Eve showed a true dedication to the causes of peace and justice…with a sense of love and caring about everything she brought to the group. When her light went out, the world dimmed slightly, but will shine again with each memory of her.
Summary of January 16 Meeting
Speaking and Writing About “Unforgetting”
Author and journalist Roberto Lovato, a San Francisco native of Salvadoran heritage, wanted to “share the best parts of myself” in his recent book, “Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas”. On January 16 he read an excerpt from the book, related it to his experiences in San Francisco gangs as well as the Salvadoran guerilla group Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), and offered frank comments on the state of U.S. politics.
“‘Unforgetting’ humanizes us,” said Roberto, making a distinction from “remembering”, a political act with its own value. He invoked the concept of “Aletheia”, a Greek word for “truth”, from a Greek fable about the need for some “to be dead to forget who they were in life”. This seemed to inform his desire to “unforget” – and what he termed “memoria historica”.
Roberto talked about the various “underworlds” he inhabited that he described in the book. The excerpt he read, from his days in the FMLN, depicted an intimate evening with a woman who was also a fellow guerilla, followed by their awareness of an imminent threat from Salvadoran government soldiers. Roberto related the experience to the intense feelings arising from the war in El Salvador, as well as to the tradition of the “poet warriors” of ancient Aztec days, who used poetry and dance to enhance their “warrior skills”. FMLN revolutionaries, he said, endeavored to carry on that tradition. Indeed, he said, the indigenous in El Salvador were the first to rebel against the repressive government, with up to 40,000 ultimately killed. With their faith a key part of their cause, they used “the cross and the gun.”
Roberto recalled being pursued by Salvadoran death squads while living in Los Angeles. He also said that while gangs there were often blamed for the troubles on the city’s streets, the LAPD had its own gangs – such as the one called Ramparts – doing surveillance on him and others. He also spoke of the FBI’s role in undermining the revolution – infiltrating groups in El Salvador (until the Bureau was exposed), and then working with the death squads as part of COINTELPRO. Salvadoran counter-insurgents, he said, were trained in tactics at the School of the Americas (later called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), and later entered other police forces in the U.S.
Returning to the politics of El Salvador itself, Roberto asserted that while previously El Salvador had no history of gangs, and despite power-sharing agreements following the revolution, the government structure arising from the revolution led to a revival of death squads, leaned toward what Roberto saw as fascism, and became an ally of Donald Trump.
Roberto had some comments about our own government and what he called its own tendency to fascism – calling out President Obama for himself putting immigrant children in cages. For Obama, said Roberto, this was not a policy but was nonetheless a practice. It took the Trump
administration to actually make it policy. This, added Roberto, was an example of events he surely “didn’t want to forget”. The hope is for the new administration to undo the policy.
Asked about the hardest part of “Unforgetting…” to write, Roberto indeed said it was what children went through, in El Salvador and here. That concern, he added, is what made him a “guerilla”. He noted the difficulty of getting out the truth on these issues. And he suggested that expression of such a vision in the book, he said, makes it “hopeful and positive.”
Roberto also mentioned the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) – located both here and in Los Angeles – founded by Salvadoran refugees to help other refugees from Central America.
Ron Zucker and Cheryl Kozanitas
Peace Action Virtual Lobby Days
Every year up to 2020, Peace Action members have been gathering from around the country to get information and background on issues on our agenda, and then meeting with our Representatives and Senators – or their aides – to impress upon them the importance of those issues. Last year COVID made this a virtual effort, which frankly saved people travel expenses. While meeting in person remains optimal, the presence of the pandemic keeps a Zoom meeting the most practical vehicle for lobby visits, as well as preparation for such visits.
Last year PASMC members met online with aides for Reps. Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo, as well as for Sen. Dianne Feinstein. We had discussions about bills in Congress relating to military spending, sanctions, nuclear weapons, the JCPOA with Iran, and police militarization.
The Peace Action Lobby Days will happen again virtually this year. The dates for the issue briefings and training will be June 15-17, with lobby visits to be held in the days and perhaps weeks to follow. Anyone interested can email Ron Zucker at email@example.com.
Online Resources to Oppose Asian Hate
Hate crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community have risen dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 3,795 incidents reported between March 2020 and February 2021, according to Stop AAPI Hate. Nationally, women reported hate crimes 2.3 times more than men. In the Bay Area, a recent surge in violence against Asian elders has led to stepped-up police patrols. This ought not be necessary, and we all need to be vigilant.
Get more information or report an incident.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice: www.standagainsthatred.org
Asia Pacific Policy Planning Council: www.stopaapihate.org
Although Peace Action is a non-partisan organization, it’s hard not to see the chasm developing between the political parties in the U.S. In the case of the Democratic Party, with which we have spent many hours haranguing about needless wars, military spending, and so many other issues over the years, we never had to caution our supporters that they were sliding into an authoritarian mode where our foundational freedoms might be at imminent risk. Not so the Republican Party. It appears to be heading for some sort of “Bugs Bunny Dictatorship”. It has that appearance with the likes of Mitch McConnell stating the ex-president was responsible for the riot at the Capitol, but that McConnell will support him in a reelection bid. That QAnon types deserve a hearing and to be taken seriously even though they’re speaking as if from another planet. That the ex-president did really win but, hey, let’s pretend all those Trump-appointed judges didn’t toss his election cases.
So we have an organization that likes to defy reality and coddle fantasy as well as work towards newer, larger forms of voter suppression and gerrymandering going forward. They recognize that if the public is allowed to play by the rules of fairness and democracy there is little chance of a Republican return to power. I'd say replacing the elephant symbol with Bugs ought to be the order of the day. That’s all folks.
Biden must do more to bring peace to Yemen
Thank you to President Joe Biden for announcing an end to the United States’ six years of aiding and abetting the Saudi coalition’s devastating military attacks on Yemen. On Feb. 4, President Biden said “this war has to end” and called the suffering of the Yemeni people “unendurable.” He said the U.S. would no longer support Saudi offensive military attacks on Yemen, and ordered a freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and a pause on arms sales to the UAE (United Arab Emirates). Since that announcement, his administration has rescinded the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and has initiated diplomatic talks with many of the parties involved.
The victims of this six-year war have been largely Yemeni civilians. Yemen, population 30 million, was already the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula. To be clear, no player in this conflict has a clean record. The Houthis have blocked access to humanitarian aid, enlisted child soldiers, and have terrorized civilians. But to also be clear, it was not the Houthis that started this armed conflict. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia, with U.S. approval, intelligence, and logistic support, began dropping U.S. bombs, putting an end to the negotiations that were on the table. There has never been congressional approval of our military role against the Houthis, as required by the U.S. Constitution.
Sadly, we, the U.S., bear a great responsibility for the Yemen catastrophe. This disaster is human-made, and the U.S. has been complicit from day one. A U.S. change in policy now cannot bring back the 100,000 Yemenis killed by U.S. bombs dropped by Saudi F-15s, nor can it bring back to life the hundreds of thousands of civilians, mostly women and children, who have starved to death in the last six years. But the U.S. can and must do more now, because the situation is dire. Food and fuel in Yemen are scarce and terribly expensive. On Feb. 12, four UN organizations (Food & Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, World Food Program, and the World Health Organization) said that without an immediate increase in humanitarian aid, 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of 5 could die of starvation yet this year.
The U.S. must do no more harm in Yemen. Veterans For Peace urges that all pending arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE be canceled, not just frozen or paused. We also urge that all U.S. troops and military contractors be withdrawn from Saudi Arabia. The U.S. must work with the UN and other nations to increase humanitarian aid and work with all parties to secure a cease fire and peace negotiations.
Lastly, this welcome change in policy by the Biden administration should be looked upon as low hanging fruit – this unproductive, senseless use of U.S. power in the past six years has not increased our national security one iota. The reversal of U.S. policy in Yemen can be the opportunity for a true reset of our policy toward the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran. We must encourage the Biden Administration to seek peace in Yemen. To do so, go to the websites, whitehouse.gov and state.gov, scroll to the bottom where “contact us” will allow you to send your message to the White House and the U.S. State Department. And our U.S. senators must be encouraged to support this change in policy.
John Jadryev. president of Veterans For Peace, Chapter 161 based in Iowa City.
Back to the table with Iran
Nearly two months into his administration, the fate of the Iran deal remains uncertain. Rather than abide by his campaign promise to return the U.S. to the nuclear deal, the Biden team has done nothing to reverse Trump’s failed “maximum pressure” policy that imposed crushing sanctions on a nation of 83 million people amidst a global pandemic. The longer Iran and the U.S. remain in a political deadlock, the greater the risk of escalating tensions in the Middle East, of bringing Iran closer to having nuclear weapons capability, and of irreparably harming the road to diplomacy.
In response, On February 24 Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey re-introduced the Iran Diplomacy Act from the previous Congress, meant “To seek a diplomatic resolution to Iran's nuclear program…” This year’s bill number is S.434. It calls on both the U.S. and Iran (as well as the other five nations involved) to resume efforts to implement and hopefully strengthen the deal, and for the U.S. to become pro-active about relieving the sanctions on Iran that Trump leveled, and aiding Iran in its struggle against COVID. Senator Dianne Feinstein is a co-sponsor of the measure, Sen. Alex Padilla is not yet.
It is important for Congress – beginning with the Senate – to put pressure on the Biden administration for a prompt and decisive return to the JCPOA…especially in light of a recent bipartisan and bicameral letter from Congress calling for Biden to toughen his stance on Iran and exact agreements on other issues regarding Iran. The strength of the JCPOA was its narrow focus on nuclear weapons issues, the resolution of which could be followed by other matters that divide our two nations. We need to resolve this one first.
Action: Contact Sen. Padilla and tell him to co-sponsor S.434, the Iran Diplomacy Act. Remind him of the limited window of opportunity to de-escalate tensions with Iran, and that he should be part of the Senate’s effort to weigh in on our countries’ relations. Then call on Biden himself to take steps to restore and rejoin the deal.
Vaccine, yes – nuclear missiles, no
The first step this year in an unfathomable $1.7 trillion nuclear weapons modernization effort is the proposal for an initial $100 billion, for the Ground-based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) – projected to cost a total of $264 billion by the time it’s completed. The program’s goal is an upgrade of missile systems in silos around the U.S., mostly in the northern Midwest.
The systems and silos mostly exist to be a vulnerable “nuclear sponge” in case of an enemy attack, to which we might respond with air- and sea- based nuclear weapons. In short, the ground-based silos exist to help “win” a nuclear war – a relative term considering the resulting destruction likely done to the earth and much of its population. The possibility of a false attack warning, which has already happened more times than publicly known, would make GBSD a typically dangerous and expensive part of the nuclear “triad”. It also makes populations subject to sacrifice in areas where the silos exist.
Enter again Sen. Markey, along with South Bay Rep. Ro Khanna, who at the end of March introduced respective versions of the “Investing in Cures Before Missiles” (ICBM) Act. Too new at press time to have bill numbers, the measure first diverts $1 billion from the proposed program to funding for a universal COVID vaccine…“a vaccine of mass prevention before another new land-based weapon of mass destruction on” as Markey put it. It redirects additional GBSD funding to prevention of future bio-threats. And it would launch an independent study to “explore viable technical solutions to extend the Minuteman III” intercontinental ballistic missile to 2050. While we would prefer no such missiles exist, that provision would stop extra money for anything new like them.
Overall, the ICBM Act takes steps to redirect funding from arms-contractors’ needs to human needs. “With all of the global challenges we face,” said Khanna, “the last thing we should be doing is giving billions to defense contractors to build missiles we don’t need to keep as a strong nuclear deterrence.”
Action: Contact Sens. Feinstein and Padilla and urge their co-sponsorship of the Senate version of the Investing in Cures Before Missiles Act. Likewise tell Rep. Jackie Speier or Anna Eshoo, or whomever represents you, to co-sponsor the House version. Suggest that getting rid of COVID and other possible diseases would be far better for our national security than a new $100 billion missile system.
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
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.
President: Mike Caggiano
Vice President: Cheryl Kozanitas
Secretary: Mary Beavins
Update Editor: Ron Zucker
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