Action Alerts

Catholic Priest Killed by Syrian Rebels? Tell Congress to Stand Up

The U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution insist that absent an armed attack on the United States, Congress shall decide when to authorize the use of U.S. military force. But apparently the Obama Administration has different ideas.

The Administration has announced that the U.S. will arm rebels in Syria and is considering a "no fly zone," which would mean bombing Syria. Congress has authorized neither.

A bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives is standing up, led by Sens. Tom Udall and Rand Paul in the Senate, and Reps. Peter Welch and Chris Gibson in the House. They've introduced legislation that would expressly prohibit the Obama Administration intervening militarily in Syria's sectarian civil war without explicit Congressional authorization. Urge your Senators and Representative to stand up and support this legislation.

Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Rick Nolan (D-MN), and Walter Jones (R-NC) have introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2494) to block U.S. military intervention in Syria without an affirmative vote of Congress. [1] Identical legislation (S. 1201) has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT). [2]

Sending military assistance to Syrian rebels, or any direct military intervention, would lead to Americanization of Syria's sectarian civil war. Congress and the American people should be part of a vigorous debate before any such military escalation takes place.

Join Oliver Stone & Noam Chomsky in Urging Correa to Grant Snowden Asylum

The U.S. government’s crackdown on whistleblowers is a direct threat to our efforts to reform U.S. foreign policy to make it more just. If we don't know for sure what the U.S. government is doing, we can’t have an effective democratic debate about what U.S. policy should be.

Faced with the threat of persecution by the U.S, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has applied to the government of Ecuador for political asylum. Join Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, and Tom Hayden in urging President Correa to grant Snowden’s asylum request.

Recently, as part of a CodePink peace delegation to Yemen, I met with the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein. We delivered a petition signed by over 18,000 people urging Ambassador Feierstein to work quickly to transfer the Yemenis at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release and to work quickly to curtail U.S. drone strikes in Yemen as President Obama as promised.

In the course of this conversation, Ambassador Feierstein claimed that there are no “signature strikes” in Yemen – no strikes in which the U.S. doesn’t know who it is targeting. This claim is completely at odds with press reports. When I told a British reporter that Ambassador Feierstein had said this, she said: “He wouldn’t dare say that to me, because he knows I’d laugh in his face.”

This disconnect between what U.S. government officials say about the drone strikes and the record of independent reporting is only possible because of official government secrecy around the drone strikes. This secrecy is enabled by the unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers. This secrecy is a key obstacle to our efforts to reform U.S. foreign policy.

Hunger Striker Near Death? Set Timetable to Transfer Yemeni Detainees

On Wednesday, I met with family members of Yemenis detained at Guantanamo.

Personally, I think U.S. officials are working to try to repatriate the fifty-six Yemenis in Guantanamo who have been cleared for transfer.

But after President Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo didn’t come true, after waiting so long with little information, the families don’t know what to believe.

At this writing, Yemenis who have been cleared for transfer are on hunger strike.

Yemen’s human rights minister says that one of the Yemeni hunger strikers is near death.

It is a plausible danger that one of the Yemenis cleared for release will die on hunger strike, having lost faith that the U.S. will transfer him to Yemen any time in the near future.

If that happens, it would be a tragedy that could have been avoided.

That’s why we want President Obama to establish a public timetable for the transfer of the Yemenis cleared for release back to Yemen. The U.S. needs to communicate to the prisoners’ families that there is a clear horizon for sending their relatives home.

Will you join us in calling on President Obama to establish—and Members of Congress to support—a public timetable for the transfer of the Yemeni detainees cleared for release? You can sign our petition here:

We're Delivering Signatures Against Drone Strikes in Yemen Next Week-Sign Today!

Next week, I'm heading to Yemen on a delegation of US peace advocates, where we'll be meeting Gerald Feierstein, the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen. We'll urge Ambassador Feierstein to use his influence to end U.S. drone strikes in Yemen—especially "signature strikes" in which the US doesn't even know who it is targeting—and to ensure that Yemeni prisoners at Guantanamo who the US government has cleared for release are sent home without delay.

Add your voice! Sign our petition and I'll hand-deliver it—with your signature—to Ambassador Feierstein:

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy

Help support my trip to Yemen! Our delegation will help draw the media spotlight to the US's ongoing drone war in Yemen and put further pressure on the Administration to reform US drone strike policy.

Cessez le Feu! Don't Let France Kill the Syria Peace Talks

Usually when we write to you, it's the U.S. government that is blocking chances for diplomacy to prevent, contain, reduce and end violent conflict.

But this time it's different. This time, it's the French who appear to be standing in the way of peace!

The U.S. and Russia have agreed to host a peace conference to try to end the Syrian civil war. But France says it will oppose the peace conference if Iran is invited. C'est scandaleux!

For peace talks to have a chance to end the war, all the parties involved in the conflict have to be there. Excluding Iran would likely condemn the peace talks to failure, more Syrian civilians would die for no reason, and calls for direct US military intervention would increase.

Join us in telling Washington to explain to France that trying to exclude Iran from the Syria peace talks would be a major faux pas.

Last Friday, Reuters reported: [1]

“As far as we are concerned, not Iran," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told reporters in Paris, discussing who should attend. "What's at stake is regional stability and we can't see how a country that represents a threat to this stability could attend this conference.”
The U.S., on the other hand, kept the possibility of Iran's participation open:

The United States said on Thursday that it was not ruling anyone in or out of the conference.
As Al-Monitor argued in a recent editorial, [2]

For the Geneva II conference on Syria to have the best chance of enacting a cease-fire and beginning a transition, Iran needs to be there.
It should be a no-brainer to have all parties to a conflict represented at a peace conference. There is no "transition" in Syria absent a cease-fire, and no cease-fire without Iran, which provides the military and intelligence lifeline to the Assad regime.

Iran is unlikely to agree to a deal where its interests and influence are not recognized in Syria.

Urge NYT Public Editor to Probe Times Coverage of Syria Chemical Arms Claim

We learned in the run-up to the Iraq war that the New York Times has tremendous power to establish "truth" in the United States—and when the Times wields that power irresponsibly, the results can be catastrophic.

Last week, the media watchdog Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting documented a lack of skepticism in New York Times reporting of allegations of Syrian government use of chemical weapons. [1] Times reporting suggested that the U.S. government had strong evidence that Syria had used chemical weapons. But, as FAIR documented, the U.S. government was not nearly as certain as claimed by the Times' initial reports. At the same time that the Times was uncritically reporting these claims, other media were appropriately skeptical.

Urge Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times Public Editor, to examine whether the Times showed appropriate skepticism in its reporting of Western government claims about the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons.

On April 18, the Times reported [2] that, according to unnamed diplomats, the UK and France had sent letters to the UN about "credible evidence" Syria had used chemical weapons. On April 23, the Times reported [3] that Israel had "evidence that the Syrian government repeatedly used chemical weapons last month." In its print edition April 25, the Times reported [4] that the White House "shares the suspicions of several of its allies that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons." That same day, with headline "White House Says Syria Has Used Chemical Arms," the Times then reported [5]:

The White House, in a letter to congressional leaders, said the nation's intelligence agencies assessed ''with varying degrees of confidence'' that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had used the chemical agent sarin on a small scale.

Push Back Against the Media Drumbeat for War with Syria

It's breathtaking, isn't it?

After twelve years of war in which justifications for war proved to be lies and claims of easy victory proved false, while the Afghanistan war drags on and Washington cuts Head Start, Meals on Wheels, and cancer clinics, and threatens to cut Social Security and veterans' benefits, elite media are once again manufacturing a drumbeat for war, this time with Syria, even though recent polls have shown that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria's civil war. [1] [2]

Members of Congress who are dubious about another U.S. war in the Middle East will have a good opportunity soon to push back against this media drumbeat when Congress considers the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Amendments can be offered that can counter the pro-war media chorus.

Help us take advantage of this opportunity to push against the media drumbeat for war by urging your representatives to support amendments to the NDAA that will slow down calls for military escalation.

There are a lot of things that Congress could do to slow down the rush to war, including passing amendments to the NDAA to:

  1. Bar the introduction of U.S. ground troops to Syria. Such an amendment might pass the House overwhelmingly, as it did in the case of Libya, sending a signal that there is a limit to U.S. military escalation. [3]
  2. Re-affirm that U.S. drone strikes in Syria would constitute "hostilities" as defined by the War Powers Resolution, meaning that any use in Syria would have to be explicitly authorized by Congress. Most of the media discussion ignores the role of Congress, but when the Administration conducted drone strikes in Libya without Congressional authorization, in violation of the War Powers Resolution, the House of Representatives objected. [4]

No to U.S. Military Intervention in Syria

Republican Senators like Lindsey Graham and John McCain are demanding that the Obama Administration get the U.S. involved militarily in Syria's sectarian civil war. [1] But after the experience of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, President Obama and U.S. military leaders are right to be wary of these calls. And if we don't have enough money for Social Security, veterans' benefits, Head Start, and cancer clinics, we certainly don't have enough money for another war.

Urge Congress and the President to resist calls for another rush to war in the Middle East, and to support a political solution instead.

There's something particularly troubling about all this Sunday talk show blather about U.S. military action in Syria: it seems to assume that the President can order military action in Syria without anyone else's approval. But Syria hasn't attacked us, and as far as we know, has no plans to attack us.

Given the absence of a Syrian attack on or imminent threat to the United States:

  1. If the President ordered military action against Syria without Congressional authorization, that would violate the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution.
  2. If the President ordered military action in Syria without the approval of the United Nations Security Council, that would violate the United Nations Charter—just like the Iraq war did.
  3. If Congressional authorization and UN Security Council approval can be treated as trivial inconveniences for war in Syria, they can be treated as trivial inconveniences for war with Iran, or for drone strikes anywhere.

Urge Congress and the President to resist calls for a rush to war in Syria, and to ensure that U.S. actions comply fully with U.S. and international law.

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

April 23 Hearing on Drone Strikes: Four Questions and a Subpoena

On April 23, the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the ethics, legality, constitutionality, and political costs of the drone strike policy. This will be the first time in the history of the drone strike policy that there has been a public Congressional hearing like this focused on the policy.

If you live in Illinois, Minnesota, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, Texas, South Carolina, or Utah, you have a Senator who serves on the subcommittee. [1] That means you're in a position to influence what takes place during next week's hearing.

Urge your Senator to publicly call for a Congressional subpoena of the Office of Legal Counsel memos during the hearing and ask pointed questions about key issues that the Administration has tried to obscure.

Senate committees are supposed to oversee Administration agencies, including the CIA and the Justice Department. But they can't do effective oversight if the Administration won't disclose key documents such as the Office of Legal Council memos that detail elements of the drone strike policy that the Administration has refused to share with Congress. Senator Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has threatened that his committee will issue a subpoena of the drone strike memos if the Administration doesn't hand them over. But the Administration hasn't complied.

In addition, key questions about the drone strike policy have been obscured by the Administration's secrecy, including:

  1. How many civilians have been killed, and why is government information about this classified?
  2. Is the CIA low-balling civilian deaths by automatically classifying "military age males" as "militants" when they are killed by US drone strikes, as the New York Times reported in May?

On April 25, Help MoveOn Kill the Chained CPI and Cut the Pentagon Instead

UPDATE: MoveOn has moved the day of action to Thursday, April 25. All dates in this alert have been changed to reflect this development.

On April 25, MoveOn is calling for actions at Congressional offices across the country in opposition to President Obama's proposal to cut Social Security and veterans' benefits by lowering the cost-of-living adjustment with the "chained CPI."

This is a historic opportunity for the broad public to force a positive change in federal budget priorities. What President Obama, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, and the Washington Post editorial board agree on is that they prefer to cut Social Security and veterans' benefits and raise taxes rather than cut the bloated Pentagon budget. That's what the "grand bargain" is all about.

But the broad, bipartisan public holds the opposite view. Most Americans would rather cut the bloated Pentagon budget, and leave Social Security and veterans' benefits and taxes alone. [1]

Can you help us help MoveOn make history on April 25? We're asking you to do three things:

1. Sign our petition at SignOn:

Cut Social Security & Veterans' Benefits? Cut the Pentagon Instead!

2. Share our blog post:

On Friday, Kill the #ChainedCPI Cut to Social Security & Veterans' Benefits

3. Help organize an action at a local Congressional office on April 25 to deliver our petition:

Host an Emergency mobilization to protect Social Security

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy