The run-up to war doesn’t happen overnight. It’s made up of small steps to slowly build acceptance for the idea of military action.
A group of senators have introduced just such a bill that urges US military and other support if Israel attacks Iran. Tell your senators to oppose this backdoor to war with Iran.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a powerful lobbying group with hawkish positions on Iran, is marching on the Hill this week, bringing thousands of supporters to DC to lobby in favor of this bill.
It is very difficult for senators to say no to pressure to support this bill if they aren’t hearing from the other side. Your senators need to hear from you right now.
While the resolution is nonbinding, it sends a very dangerous message. When powerful senators from both parties officially announce that the US should back Israel in the event of an ill-conceived attack on Iran, it undermines ongoing diplomatic efforts and normalizes the idea of bombing Iran.
We know an attack on Iran would be shortsighted and tragic. Let your senators know you’re not going to sit back quietly while they take us on a path toward war. Take action now.
Proliferation of drone technology is a major concern that has been given far too little attention as the US ramps up its use of armed and unarmed drones. Without international standards around their use, and with a dangerous precedent being set by the US, arms control experts worry about a situation like nuclear weapons where we are struggling to get the genie back in the bottle.
Those concerns were sparked today by the news that a San Diego company is selling unarmed Predator drones to the UAE:
Though the company said the Predator XP cannot be weaponized, there are concerns about turning over drone technology and it someday being replicated as a missile-carrying system. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Assn. and a longtime critic of weapons exports, worries about the effect such a sale could have on U.S. foreign policy.
“This deal has potentially far-reaching implications for how the country will handle drone exports in the years to come,” he said. “Congress needs to discuss and explore the long-term risks to the country and our allies in the region with the potential of the proliferation of this technology. Commercial profits cannot compromise national security.”
Another controversial aspect of US drone policy is the use of so-called “signature strikes”—attacks that are based not on the known identities of the targets, but on patterns of behavior. Pro Publica gathered media reports to try to put together a clearer picture of what kind of behavior might make someone the target of drone strike, including the dark joke (hopefully) that the CIA thinks “three guys doing jumping jacks” is a terrorist training camp:
The government apparently calls such attacks signature strikes because the targets are identified based on intelligence “signatures” that suggest involvement in terror plots or militant activity.
So what signatures does the U.S. look for and how much evidence is needed to justify a strike?
The Obama administration has never spoken publicly about signature strikes. Instead, generally anonymous officials have offered often vague examples of signatures. The resulting fragmentary picture leaves many questions unanswered.
Read the full story here to see an interesting list of behaviors that prompted previous strikes.
Imagine turning on the news and hearing a serious discussion about what your elected representatives are doing about critical issues like diplomacy with Iran and the war in Afghanistan.
While that sounds like a fantasy land where the media isn’t focused on Scott Brown’s pocket tweets and John Boehner’s latest gripe about Harry Reid, there is good news. Our report on the 2012 Congress has all the information you need to hold your representatives accountable for their records on the peace issues that matter to you.
|Explore the features of our online interactive voting record to see whether your representatives and senators led the pack in fighting for a smarter foreign policy or fell behind.
The information in this voting record is vital to our work and sustaining our movement. When we see that in 2012 the Senate voted for the first time to withdraw from Afghanistan, and the House supported freezing the Pentagon budget, we see what’s possible and are inspired to fight another day.
Of course there is much work to do to move the peace agenda in Congress, and the voting record also reveals major areas for improvement. That’s why this voting record isn’t just a report—it’s a tool to show your representatives that you are watching their votes and will make your voices heard.
Thank you for working with us to make the victories in this voting record possible. Here’s to another year of making the peace movement a force to be reckoned with in Congress.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is planning to introduce a bill that would permit arms sales to rebels in Syria.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Engel, who is a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said, “I will be introducing legislation to allow the president to arm the rebels. I think it’s time to do that. I think the Free Syrian Army needs help. We know who they are. And I think it’s time that we make that move.”
It’s understandable to want to take some kind of concrete action to aid the FSA after months of harsh fighting. But throwing more weapons into a heated conflict is the kind of shortsighted policy that has gotten the US in trouble before.
The complexity of this kind of situation was exemplified by reports of human rights violations by rebels in Libya:
“The rebel conduct was disturbing,” said Fred Abrahams, a special adviser to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“We documented fairly widespread looting of homes and shops, the burning of some homes of suspected Gaddafi supporters and – most disturbingly – the vandalisation of three medical clinics [and] local small hospitals, including the theft of some of the medical equipment.”
He said the Libyan government had committed more serious crimes, but that did not excuse the behaviour of the rebels.
“Our aim is to hold all combatants, all militaries – whether they’re organised and states and governments or rebels groups – to the same standards, and it’s very much also a warning shot across the bow, because of these other areas they are approaching. We’re deeply worried about how they might behave and treat civilians in those areas.”
Our country has a long, shameful history of arms transfers and military aid to human rights abusers, from Pinochet to Mubarak. The Obama administration has continued arms transfers to Bahrain despite brutal crackdowns on protesters.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is working on a solution. He has reintroduced the Arms Sale Responsibility Act, which would prohibit arms transfers if there is significant risk that the weapons would be used to commit human rights abuse. Twenty-six organizations signed a letter supporting the bill last year, and we’ll be working to build support for it again in 2013.
Our sister organization the Peace Education Fund is proud to be one of three dozen organizations calling on President Obama to support a robust Arms Trade Treaty at UN negotiations next month. As Reuters reports:
“The United States, as the world’s leading arms supplier, has a special responsibility to provide the leadership needed for an ATT (arms trade treaty) with the highest possible standards for the transfer of conventional arms and ammunition,” the groups wrote to Obama in a letter delivered late on Friday.
“The Arms Trade Treaty can provide a key tool to help reduce enormous human suffering caused by irresponsible international arms transfers and arms brokering,” the letter said.
The 36 groups that co-authored the letter include Amnesty International USA, Arms Control Association, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Oxfam America, National Association of Evangelicals and other groups.
Peace Action West has been mobilizing supporters in favor of the treaty and working to educate the public and Congress about the NRA’s myths about the ATT. You can urge your senators to speak out in favor of a strong Arms Trade Treaty here.
Bloomberg has been doing some great reporting on the Pentagon budget. Their infographic below paints an effective picture of how weapons companies make cutting back on unnecessary Pentagon spending difficult.
This is the logic presented by former State Department official Frederick C. Hof, who told the New York Times that “the odds are very high that, for better or worse, armed men will determine Syria’s course for the foreseeable future … For the U.S. not to have close, supportive relationships with armed elements, carefully vetted, is very risky.”
FP’s Marc Lynch has already provided a comprehensive set of reasons why arming the rebels is not a good idea. Here I just want to challenge the idea implicit in Hof’s statement above — that providing arms to a warring group earns you lasting gratitude, leverage, or long-term influence. The issue isn’t whether you can “carefully vet” the recipients or not; the issue is whether giving arms today has any lasting effects on what even well-vetted recipients might think, feel, or do in the future.
Indeed, isn’t this a movie we’ve seen many, many times? The United States poured billions of dollars of aid into South Vietnam, but we could never get that government to behave the way we wanted. We sent vast piles of weaponry — including sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles — to the Afghan mujaheddin, and ended up helping create Al Qaeda. We bankrolled Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress and listened to his advice about overthrowing Saddam Hussein, only to watch him go rogue after Hussein was toppled. We’ve given hundreds of billions of dollars to the Karzai government in Afghanistan, but that hasn’t made it any less corrupt or any more compliant with U.S. wishes. Needless to say, it’s easy to think of lots of other recipients of American largesse who take the money and the arms and then do whatever they think is right, even if it is sharply at odds with Washington’s wishes.