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Submitted by Robert Naiman on 29 September 2011 - 2:43pm
Ordinarily, I think of myself as a card-carrying liberal. But lately, I'm getting the feeling that Liberal America had a meeting to decide on our current priorities and peace advocates weren't invited. I open my email and it's full of rallying cries about the urgency of taxing the rich. When was it decided that taxing the rich was the marquee demand of Liberal America at this juncture? Were peace advocates invited to this meeting? I see no evidence that we were.
In a different political juncture, I would be happy to march behind the banner of taxing the rich. But at this political juncture, when the war budget is half of federal discretionary spending, and when because of the Budget Control Act and the Supercommittee, we have a historic opportunity to cut the war budget - a much better prospect, at present, than our prospects for raising tax rates on rich people - I ain't marching for this dogwhistle anymore.
Suppose there were a massive government program to dump truckloads of dioxin in Lake Michigan. And suppose that - in addition to the direct effects of poisoning a major source of drinking water - this program were tremendously expensive in blood and treasure. Suppose that since October 7, 2001, more than five thousand American workers had been killed carrying out the Lake Michigan-poisoning project, with tens of thousands of American workers counted as wounded, and the real toll of wounded American workers many times higher. And suppose that the budgeted cost so far of the massive government program to dump poison in Lake Michigan were over a trillion dollars so far, with the real financial cost to society, when you count things like the future health costs of the poisoned American workers, much higher.
Would the marquee demand of Liberal America be to make Warren Buffett pay his fair share for the Lake Michigan-poisoning program? Or would the marquee demand of Liberal America be to stop dumping poison in Lake Michigan?
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 27 September 2011 - 2:09pm
On October 7, 2011, the United States will have been at war for ten years.
Let's mark the occasion by making a national clamor for peace so loud that Congress, the President, and big media will have to pay attention.
October 7 happens to fall on a Friday this year. If you get to choose, Friday is not necessarily the most strategic day to make a national clamor for peace, because 1) Congress will likely not be in session 2) Friday is, in general, a crummy day to try to get media attention and 3) even if these two things weren't true or relevant, Friday is not a great day to try to hold public attention. People's thoughts are turning to the weekend, and then the weekend erases the chalkboard.
Moreover, the press has to cover the anniversary of the war, but these stories are going to be largely written and produced before Friday. The default media narrative will be: America has lost interest in the wars, because of the economy and unemployment, because "the wars are already winding down," or some other story that journalists or editors will make up. We have to beat this default media narrative. To beat it, we need to get in front of it.
So let's mark the occasion on Thursday, October 6. Let's have a national, "ecumenical" day of action for peace: to end the wars and cut the military budget.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 23 August 2011 - 6:55pm
By Thanksgiving, the Congressional "Super Committee" is supposed to come up with $1.2 trillion in debt reduction over the next ten years. The Super Committee can include anything it wants in its package - short-term economic stimulus (like extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax holiday), revenue increases from curtailing tax breaks, cuts in military or domestic spending, subject only to two constraints. To avoid automatic cuts, the package has to add to $1.2 trillion in debt reduction over ten years. Also, to avoid automatic cuts, the package has to pass both houses of Congress in December, so the package has to have the property that it can pass the House and Senate.
A plausible and reasonable option would be to curtail future spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, consistent with keeping existing agreements and commitments to withdraw our troops, rather than replacing these agreements and commitments with agreements to establish permanent military garrisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under plausible and moderate assumptions, this would save at least $200 billion over ten years, 1/6 of the Super Committee's debt reduction goal.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 27 May 2011 - 2:32pm
Voting on amendments on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the House of Representatives took action to hasten the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Libya.
By a 204-215 vote [roll call] - six switchers would have passed the amendment - the House narrowly failed to adopt a bipartisan amendment from Reps. Jim McGovern [D-MA] and Justin Amash [R-MI] that would have required the Department of Defense to develop a plan for an "accelerated transition of military operations to Afghan authorities."
It may seem counter-intuitive to count narrowly failing to adopt an amendment as "taking an action," but in terms of consequences, it is taking action. Getting more than 200 votes sends a signal to the White House: if you don't move - for example, by announcing a significant drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer - you could lose the next vote in the House. And if the Administration lost a vote in the House on the Afghanistan war, you can bet that would be front-page news in Europe, weakening the Administration's case to the Europeans for continuing the status quo. It seems likely that the Administration will want to stay one step ahead of the House, rather than face a public defeat. That points toward an accelerated drawdown this year.
If 204 Members were willing to vote yes, it seems extremely likely that 6 House Members who voted no gave a yes vote serious consideration. Indeed, The Hill reports:
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 6 May 2011 - 5:20pm
Following the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the floodgates opened in Washington this week for reconsideration of U.S. plans to continue the open-ended war in Afghanistan.
Now Representatives Jim McGovern and Walter Jones have introduced the "Afghanistan Exit and Accountability Act," bipartisan legislation that would require the President present to Congress a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and a clear end date for the war. It would require the President to submit quarterly reports to Congress on the progress of troop withdrawal, as well as the human and financial costs of continuing the war. The President would also have to report how much money U.S. taxpayers would save if the war were brought to an end in six months, instead of five, ten, or twenty years.
Other Members of Congress have spoken out this week against indefinite continuation of the war, including Senators Dick Durbin , Richard Lugar, and Robert Menendez; (jointly) Representatives Lee, Ellison, Grijalva, Woolsey, and Waters; Representative Barney Frank; and Representative Cliff Stearns.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 2 May 2011 - 11:52am
We got our man. Wave the flag, kiss a nurse, and start packing the equipment. It's time to plan to bring all our boys and girls home from Afghanistan. When the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks rolls around, let the world see that we are on a clear path to bringing home our troops from Afghanistan and handing back sovereignty to the Afghan people.
With more Sherlock Holmes than Rambo, and judging from press accounts, not much role for the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence tracked Osama bin Laden to a safe house in a well-appointed suburb of Pakistan's capital and a small U.S. force raided the compound. Press reports say Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight in the compound and that his body has been buried at sea, in accordance with Islamic tradition that expects a burial within 24 hours.
Success typically has many authors, and I don't doubt the ability of some to argue that our occupation of Afghanistan has contributed to this result. Perhaps it will turn out that some prisoner captured in Afghanistan by U.S. forces contributed a key piece of information that helped investigators find bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
And of course it will be argued, correctly, that Osama bin Laden's death is not necessarily the end of al Qaeda nor of groups inspired by al Qaeda; indeed, that there will be an incentive now for al Qaeda and al Qaeda-inspired groups to retaliate and to prove that they can still carry out actions against the United States.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 25 April 2011 - 11:26am
Last week, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson announced his candidacy for President of the United States.
This was a historic event, because 1) Gary Johnson wants to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and 2) Gary Johnson is a Republican. He also wants to slash the military budget.
Last year, he teamed up with singer Melissa Etheridge and actor Danny Glover for a Hollywood rally in favor of Proposition 19 -- an initiative that would have legalized marijuana in California.
This suggests that Gary Johnson can play well with others around issues of common concern.
It is tremendously important that there be at least one Republican candidate for President who is against the war in Afghanistan.
Polls show that Republican voters have turned against the war. But the majority of Republican voters who want US troops out of Afghanistan are so far almost totally unrepresented by Republican officials in Washington. Gary Johnson's campaign could break through the national Republican wall, because as a candidate for president, Gary Johnson will be able to get into the media, and the national Republican party leadership - "the party's ruling class," as The Hill put it - won't be able to silence him. Even if he doesn't get a dime from Lockheed or Raytheon, they won't be able to keep him off the stage in the early Republican debates, and that will change the discussion.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 21 April 2011 - 12:50pm
If you've ever spent quality time trying to move an agenda through Congress, you know that moving an agenda isn't just about lobbying individual Members. You need a "champion" for your issue. The champion introduces your bill. The champion recruits other offices to sign up. The champion introduces an amendment that carries the same idea as the bill and lobbies other Members to vote for it. The champion circulates letters to other offices. The champion raises the profile of your issue in the media.
When Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold lost his bid for re-election, advocates working to end the war in Afghanistan lost their champion in the Senate. It was Feingold's office that introduced the bill, introduced the amendment, circulated the letter, led the lobbying of other offices, led the charge in the media.
Now California Senator Barbara Boxer has re-introduced Feingold's bill requiring the President to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan - a timetable with an end date. So far, Senators Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Sherrod Brown have signed on as co-sponsors of Senator Boxer's bill.
The re-introduction of this bill is extremely timely and important, for two reasons.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 14 April 2011 - 4:03pm
The House of Representatives is expected to vote soon, perhaps by tomorrow morning, on the People's Budget put forward by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
A vote in favor of the People's Budget is a vote against the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, because the People's Budget would end the wars.
In particular, the People's Budget would end emergency war funding beginning in FY 2013:
End emergency war funding beginning in FY 2013 The CBO baseline assumes that all discretionary funding--including emergency war funding--grows with inflation (from a starting point of $159 billion in 2011) when projecting future discretionary spending. Eliminating all emergency defense funding starting in 2012 would save $674 billion over 2012-16 and $1.6 trillion over 2012-21 relative to this baseline.
Furthermore, the People's Budget would cut the "base" military budget (that is, the "not for the current wars" or "future wars" military budget.) It would:
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 28 March 2011 - 3:53pm
Middle East historian and blogger Juan Cole recently wrote a polemic against progressive U.S. critics of the new U.S. war in Libya. In his polemic, he wrote, "I hope we can have a calm and civilized discussion of the rights and wrongs here."
I strongly agree with Juan that it is important for progressive critics of U.S. foreign policy to try to have a calm and civilized discussion about the issues that have been raised by the U.S. military intervention in Libya. In general, it's important to try to have calm and civilized discussions about all issues of public policy, even when - especially when - the underlying issues are matters of life and death. The alternative is nasty polemics, and a principal effect of nasty polemics is to exclude people from discussion who don't want to engage in nasty polemics. In this way the effect of nasty polemics is anti-democratic; nasty polemics tend to demobilize people and cause them to disengage, when what we need is the opposite: more engagement and more mobilization.
In this particular case, the decision of the Obama Administration to engage the country in a new Middle East war without Congressional authorization represents a long-term threat to the U.S. peace movement, because the U.S. peace movement is engaged in a long struggle to try to influence U.S. policy in the direction of less war, and Congress is a key arena in which the peace movement tries to assert influence over U.S. policy. If you take away power from Congress to determine issues of war and peace, you substantially reduce the power of the U.S. peace movement to influence issues of war and peace. Taking away Congressional war powers is to the peace movement like taking away collective bargaining is to the labor movement: a direct threat to our ability to move our agenda on behalf of our constituents.