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Rein in Nuclear Weapons
In January, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved their iconic Doomsday Clock ahead to 90 seconds before midnight, the closest it’s ever come to symbolic global apocalypse. Vladimir Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Tensions are rising with China. Last August, the UN Secretary-General said “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”
In short, the threat of nuclear war is all too real and frightening, perhaps greater than it has been since the Cuban Missile Crisis over 60 years ago, and threatening all of humanity, all we hold dear.
In January 2021, 50-plus nations (all non-nuclear weapons states) signed and entered into force the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). This past January 31, Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) re-introduced H. Res 77, “(E)mbracing the goals and provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.” The resolution urges the President and Congress to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by supporting common sense policies, including:
- Actively pursuing and concluding negotiations on a new, bilateral nuclear arms control and disarmament framework agreement with Russia before 2026, as well as negotiations with China and other nuclear-armed states on agreements for the verifiable, enforceable, and timebound elimination of global nuclear arsenals;
- Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first;
- Ending the President’s sole authority to launch a nuclear attack;
- Taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert;
- Canceling plans to replace the U.S. nuclear arsenal with modernized, enhanced weapons.
Rep. Kevin Mullin recently became a co-sponsor of H Res 77; Rep. Anna Eshoo has not yet signed on.
Action: Folks in Rep. Kevin Mullin's district can contact him to express thanks for his support of the measure. Constituents of Anna Eshoo, or of others who have not co-sponosored, can contact them and ask that they sign on. Suggest they need to show leadership and take this step toward preventing nuclear war and advancing policies that will make the world a safer place, before the unthinkable happens.
Palestinian Rights are Human Rights
Through our tax dollars, we unfortunately continue to lend support for the Israeli government’s violence and oppression of Palestinians. The unconditional support of Israel by the United States – which includes $3.8 billion per year – reinforces a militaristic policy that includes annexation, evictions, home demolitions, and the detention and torture of Palestinians…even young children.
But now we have a chance to help change this. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) and 16 other representatives recently re-introduced the Palestinian Children and Families Act, H.R. 3103. This historic bill would help curtail any U.S. military funding to Israel that pays for the military detention of Palestinian children, the demolition of Palestinian homes, or the annexation of Palestinian land. The bill currently has 18 co-sponsors.
The Palestinian Children and Families Act creates sorely needed accountability around how U.S. tax dollars are used by Israel. It’s a modest but powerful step that boils down to one of the boldest pieces of U.S. legislation ever introduced on Palestinian human rights.
Rep. McCollum first introduced this bill in 2021, and thanks to lobbying efforts from peace and justice advocates, 32 additional members of Congress co-sponsored the bill over the course of two years. This year’s version currently has 18 co-sponsors, 16 of them on the day it was introduced. Now we need to continue to grow support for this important bill.
As we’ve seen, Congress is hardly known for staking out bold positions on Palestinian rights. The fact that this bill was even introduced has pushed the needle forward politically. Given the strong support for the Israeli military in Congress, increasing support for this legislation can put real pressure on Israeli policy. At the same time, slowly but surely, we are building greater support for Palestinian rights in Congress. Hawkish, pro-occupation organizations like AIPAC are going to come hard at this bill and its co-sponsors, and it will be imperative that we stand up to their pressure – and encourage members of Congress to do the same.
Action: Contact Rep. Mullin, Eshoo or whomever represents you, and tell them to show their support for human rights by co-sponsoring H.R. 3103, the Palestinian Children and Families Act. Suggest that it’s time to take a stand against Israeli abuses to Palestinian rights.
Hold Padilla and Feinstein Accountable
This is an alert for our members here in California:
It’s surely the case that we have always been proud that our state has blazed a progressive trail, from climate change to anti-war sentiment (Barbara Lee literally was speaking for us when she took her lonely stand against the reckless War on Terror in 2001).
That’s why we are reaching out to our fellow Californians. Both of our Senators have really screwed over anti-war progressives and the cause of peace! (Forgive the language, but this was a real betrayal of pro-peace values.) In December, they helped block Sen. Bernie Sanders’ efforts to end U.S. complicity in the war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Thus U.S. arms and maintenance support are still used to enforce an air and sea blockade that is starving thousands and causing a massive health crisis.
Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein were two of the only Democrats to come out as publicly opposed to Sanders’ legislation that would have ended U.S. support for the war.
After their actions, alongside a couple other key Democrats, Sen. Sanders had to take a step back in his (and our) campaign to end a brutal war that is over 8 years old. Sanders pulled his bill and said he would negotiate with the administration to craft a compromise. He also said that if negotiation didn’t work, he would bring his bill back to the Senate.
Accountability is one of the most powerful forces in social change activism. As activists we can let these Senators, and their staff, know that we are watching.
Your messages will also force them to explain themselves about this embarrassing and unpopular stance – a critical step to turning them around. Peace Action will follow that up with raising the grassroots pressure in a campaign to explain why the Senators should support Sanders’ efforts to end U.S. complicity. Their support is critical and their opposition is a hurdle we have to get over.
The more support we have in Congress for ending the war, the stronger Sen. Sanders’ hand is in negotiations with the administration. And he has made clear that if he can’t and the administration doesn’t come up with a compromise that draws U.S. support to a close, he’ll bring his bill back to the floor. If and when he does so, we need Sens. Padilla and Feinstein to support it this time.
Our Senators work for us. Peace Action has more supporters in California than anywhere else in the country, and we need them to hear your pro-peace voice loud and clear. This campaign to end the war in Yemen is challenging. Peace Action, our members, and a few partner organizations are the voices at the forefront of it.
Action: Contact Sens. Padilla and Feinstein to tell them you know what they did to block Senator Sanders’ efforts to end the war in Yemen, and you are none too happy about it. Demand their support for any similar war powers legislation in the new Congress.
Funding for the People, a Trim for the Pentagon
This year’s U.S. military budget is at $858 billion, more than China, Russia, and the next seven countries combined. Meanwhile we are told there just isn’t money for healthcare, ending childhood poverty, or protecting the planet. Every year we see the Pentagon get a staggering amount of money, and it has led to wasteful military spending. In addition, the Pentagon has never passed an audit and has not been held accountable for waste, fraud, and abuse. Every year Congress and the President add more money to the Pentagon budget to procure outdated ships, malfunctioning planes, dangerous nuclear weapons, and giveaways to corrupt defense contractors at the expense of our communities.
And in mid-March, the Biden administration released a Pentagon budget request for Fiscal Year ’24 of $886.4 billion – another $28 billion increase over this year’s Congressionally approved level. Considering all of the everyday needs that are being neglected, such an amount threatens to further deprive Americans of the ability to thrive and survive.
With that in mind, East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee and Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan have again introduced the People Over Pentagon Act, which would cut $100 billion from the military budget. H.R. 1134 provides a good start – articulating the need and the ability to prioritize our resources to help Americans struggling with inflation, feed the hungry, care for the sick, cut child poverty, and fight catastrophic climate change. Reducing the Pentagon budget by $100 billion would still leave plenty to keep America safe at a level well above our country’s post-World War II average. Congress just needs to develop the backbone to vote for these priorities.
Action: Contact Rep. Mullin, Rep. Eshoo or whomever represents you, and tell them to co-sponsor H.R. 1134. Suggest that instead of these obscene budgets for war-fighting, we should be investing in human needs and preventing a climate crisis. That would provide more national security than what has come from wealthy weapons contractors. We might have a long way to go to convince a Congressional majority of the practicality of cutting $100 billion from the military, but every vote and gesture of support is one more, not one less.
An Actual Peace with North Korea?
This July will mark the 70th anniversary of the armistice that led to the stopping of the killing that took place during the Korean War. The agreement suggested an eventual end to the war, but we are still waiting for any diplomatic initiative in that direction. We have watched as such actions began to take shape, only to be scuttled by difficult demands by the U.S. on North Korea and new sanctions when the demands were not met. North Korea, for its part, has ramped up its nuclear weapons program to a dangerous level – made more so by the volatility and threats of the ruling Kim family.
The U.S. surely doesn’t want a nuclear confrontation – the “fire and fury” rhetoric of Donald Trump is for now just a memory – but our periodic military exercises with South Korea serve to keep tensions at an unreasonable level, and the volatility has similarly remained. A continued state of war with North Korea has resulted in a lack of real diplomatic relations and a continuation of a hostile relationship.
In the spirit of changing that, CA Rep. Brad Sherman has once again introduced the Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act. H.R.1369 would direct the Secretary of State “pursue serious, urgent diplomatic engagement with North Korea and South Korea in pursuit of a binding peace agreement” to formally end the state of war. The hoped-for peace is of course meant to reduce the tensions in the region, including allowing North Korean citizens in the U.S. to visit family in their home country.
The January ROK·US·International Call to Resolve the Threat of War on the Korean Peninsula and Suspend ROK-US Combined Military Exercises (signed by 99 U.S. and international civil society organizations including PASMC) puts it quite well: “We must end the Korean war that has afflicted all members of the Korean Peninsula for over 70 years, and redirect the cost of destructive weapons to solving inequality and the climate crisis. It is time to end hostility and confrontation and strive for a peaceful and sustainable world through reconciliation and cooperation.”
Action: Contact Rep. Mullin, Eshoo, or whomever represents you, to urge their co-sponsorship of H.R.1369, the Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act. Suggest that pursuing diplomacy with North Korea is a pivotal first step to breaking through the stalemate in U.S.-North Korea relations, and reducing the heat that could lead to a nuclear confrontation.
Pardon a Whistleblower
In mid-2021, former U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in prison under the Espionage Act, for divulging classified documents about the military’s secretive and highly controversial drone assassination program. Serving as an analyst between 2009 and 2013, He was involved in identifying, tracking, and targeting “high-value” terrorism suspects in 2012 in Afghanistan while working with the DOD’s Joint Special Operations Task Force.
In exposing the drone program, Hale gave the public access to critical information regarding a taxpayer-funded, internationally targeted killings program. The documents he provided, which were in a report by The Intercept entitled “The Drone Papers,” showed that during a five-month period in Afghanistan, nearly 90% of people killed by the drone program were not the intended targets.
Hale explained his belief to the presiding judge “that to stop the cycle of violence, (he) ought to sacrifice (his) own life and not that of another person.” The bigger issue here isn’t Hale’s decision to come forward, but the actual program itself (which government and military officials have continuously downplayed and lied about.) Clearly he felt more allegiance to humanity than he did to waging war. As for the government’s case, while prosecutors claimed Hale’s actions put “national security” at risk, no evidence emerged that what Hale revealed had resulted in any direct harm.
Hale is serving his sentence in a “communication management unit” (CMU) at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. CMUs have been condemned by human rights experts for severely restricting inmates’ communications with their families and the outside world and have earned the nickname “Little Guantanamo.” Without intervention from the Biden administration, he will remain in prison until July of 2024.
Action: Contact President Biden and tell him to pardon whistleblower Daniel Hale. Suggest that Americans have a fundamental right to know about gross and immoral misuse of power within our government, especially at the expense of innocent lives.
Biden’s Saudi and UAE weapons sales
Sadly, last year President Biden gave the green light to continue selling Saudi Arabia and the UAE billions of dollars worth of fighter jets, armed drones, bombs, and missiles. This is a follow-up to a policy endorsed and pursued by his predecessor and by no means becoming of a new President whose policy seemed to be to stop such arms sales.
The Biden administration, in response to the horrors of the Saudi war in Yemen, had in its first days stated its intention to halt “offensive” weapons to these countries. But, as the New York Times reported earlier in April, “it will allow the sale of other matériel that can be construed to have a defensive purpose…”. In a region considered the site of perhaps the world’s worst human rights crisis, giving such nuance to the idea of weapons sales to countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE looks like throwing human rights to the winds.
On the campaign trail, Biden called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” and promised to end U.S. complicity in the moral and strategic catastrophe in Yemen. It now appears he and his administration team may not hold Saudi Arabia and the UAE accountable without some extra pressure. That is where we need to come in.
Action: Contact President Biden and tell him to cancel any weapons sales – defensive or otherwise – to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Perhaps suggest anything less would amount to a broken promise, as well as demonstrate acquiescence in a deadly military intention – with war crimes and mass famine of Yemeni civilians.
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 Kevin Mullin
1528 S. Camino Real, Ste. 307 San Mateo, CA 94402
(202) 225-3531 (650) 342-0300
Representative Anna Eshoo
698 Emerson Street Palo Alto, CA 94301
(202) 225-8104 (650) 323-2984
President Joe Biden
The White House
(202)456-1111 (The comment line is open Tuesday-Thursday from 8 AM - Noon PST.)
Find out who your Representative is: www.house.gov
If you are not in California, identify your senators here: www.senate.gov