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Washington State veterans call for cuts to Pentagon spending

December 9, 2013

A group of military veterans in the state of Washington sent a letter today to their congressional delegation urging them to work to cut wasteful Pentagon spending and preserve government funding that actually helps service members and veterans. In a press release about the letter, Dan Gilman, President of the Greater Seattle Chapter of Veterans for Peace, said:

“We want to make clear that billions of dollars in wasteful Pentagon spending isn’t helping veterans and service members any more than it’s helping the American public. We would all be better served by a budget that ensures us access to healthcare, education and employment. Wasting money on weapons we don’t need isn’t keeping Americans safe, and it’s hurting people who have sacrificed for this country.”

The letter reads:

Dear Washington Congressional Delegation,

We are writing to urge you to work for a budget that provides the services that veterans and service members need while reducing wasteful Pentagon spending.

We join others in the military and veteran community working to adjust to a new reality as more than a decade of war begins to wind down. The Pentagon must do the same and create a budget that reflects our true security needs. The budget reductions required by sequestration are a 31% reduction from peak war spending levels, a smaller reduction than drawdowns after the Korean, Vietnam and Cold Wars.

While some veterans’ benefits are protected from sequester cuts, many veterans and military families in Washington and around the country are impacted by deep cuts in domestic spending. Cutting funding for education, unemployment benefits, job search assistance, and services for domestic violence victims makes it difficult for veterans and their families to build fulfilling, secure lives.

Pentagon spending, not including war costs, has increased 35% in the last decade, while domestic discretionary spending has increased only 12%. Experts from across the political spectrum have identified hundreds of billions of dollars of responsible reductions, including eliminating waste and fraud; improving efficiency; and discontinuing or reducing unnecessary weapons systems.

As you finish work on the 2014 budget and move on to next year’s budget work, we encourage you to promote smart, strategic decisions to reach the levels required by the sequester rather than making arbitrary, across the board cuts. We encourage you to pressure the Pentagon to plan for lower spending levels and make the hard decisions required by the reality of our new budget environment. We oppose any deal that lets the Pentagon off the hook while continuing to slash funding for domestic programs.

As former president and five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.” We look forward to hearing about your work on a budget that keeps Americans safe, takes care of veterans and active duty service members, and provides the quality of life at home that we all deserve.

You can see the letter with the list of signers and their service history here.

Iran deal in danger. Call now!

December 9, 2013

We told you the opponents of the Iran deal weren’t going to take this huge diplomatic victory lying down. Unfortunately, we were right.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is planning to introduce a bill to torpedo the Iran deal this week.  He wants to micromanage the administration’s diplomacy and put deal-killing expectations on the negotiations.

Click here to call your representative NOW to vote NO on this dangerous bill.

Sadly, this isn’t a fringe effort. Democrats have expressed concern that leaders in their party will get on board and make this a bipartisan effort.  The Obama administration is lobbying for Congress to back off, but they need to hear it from the districts.

I know asking you to pick up the phone and call is going above and beyond. But this is one of those times we all need to step up and make sure our voices are heard right away. There are lobbyists on Capitol Hill this week aggressively pushing this bill, and Congress needs to hear the other side. Our calling tool makes it quick and easy for you to take this critical action.

Click to call your representative to vote NO on Cantor’s diplomacy-killing bill.

The deal with Iran is a huge victory that could lead to a long-term peaceful solution. But our victories will only last if we’re willing to defend them. Call your representative now, and forward this to your friends to ask them to join in.

Thank you.

Keep it going

November 15, 2013

“This administration, like Neville Chamberlain, is yielding large and bloody conflict in the Middle East involving Iranian nuclear weapons.” 

I wish I could say these were the words of an irrelevant fringe commentator, but they came from Illinois Senator Mark Kirk (R) in response to the Obama administration’s pragmatic negotiations with Iran. And he’s not alone. John “Bomb, Bomb Iran” McCain is describing Secretary Kerry as a “human wrecking ball” in diplomatic talks.

Peace Action West and our partners have helped create lots of positive momentum for diplomacy on Iran, and we need to show Congress we’re not going to let up.

You can make a difference and multiply your impact with just 3 clicks:

The administration has never been this aggressive in telling Congress that passing sanctions could harm the diplomatic effort. That’s because real success is on the horizon.

If we want to avoid another Iraq, the time for intense pressure is now: when a real viable diplomatic alternative is on the table.  

Thank you for being relentless advocates for peace.

Tweet for peace with Iran

November 13, 2013

News flash: diplomacy works. After just two rounds of talks with the new Iranian government, western diplomats are “very, very close” to a deal. But the prospect of a peaceful solution is riling up the hawks.

Some impatient senators are still pushing for sanctions that could breach the fragile trust being built and undermine this progress. The administration clearly understands the stakes. As spokesperson Jay Carney pointed out“the alternative is military action.”

We’re teaming up for a massive, targeted Twitter campaign to make sure senators can’t ignore the public support for diplomacy. We’ve created a new tool so you can take action in seconds!

  1. Click here to load up our Twitter action page.
  2. Pick your state from the drop down menu. Your senators’ Twitter handles will fill in automatically.
  3. Click the Tweet button to send your message. You can personalize the tweet if you like.
  4. Tell your friends! Forward this email, and share the action page on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s truly amazing how much diplomatic progress has been made in such a short time. Secretary Kerry summed it up: “We just talked more in 30 hours than we have in those prior 30 years.” He’s briefing senators right now urging them to let diplomacy work. The hope for a peaceful solution is real, but it’s under threat.

Show the Senate we won’t let them march us into another war.  Tweet your senators to support diplomacy and block additional sanctions on Iran.

(Not on Twitter? No problem. Call your senators at 202-224-3121 and tell them to support the diplomatic talks with Iran and oppose any new sanctions that could disrupt diplomacy.)

Promoting diplomacy with Iran in LA

November 11, 2013

The Los Angeles Times published my letter to the editor on Friday urging our California senators to be leaders on promoting diplomacy with Iran:

Doyle McManus is right that we should be willing to take “yes” for an answer when it comes to negotiating with Iran.

Members of Congress such as Sens. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) who advocate more sanctions must face the real choice they are foisting on the American public: If they push through unnecessary, punitive policies that could torpedo talks with Iran, they are saying yes to another military intervention.

With Iran at the negotiating table, offering new tone and substance, there is no good reason to pass additional sanctions. Still, hawks in the Senate might try to attach the new sanctions to a bill coming to the floor this month.

California’s Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein must step up and push the leadership to block this vote and make sure we don’t squander the best opportunity we’ve had in years for a peaceful solution.

This followed two local lobbying meetings in LA on Thursday. We joined partners from Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA, National Iranian American Council and Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace to meet with staff for Sens. Boxer and Feinstein to urge them to work to block additional sanctions in the Senate and speak out for diplomacy with Iran. You can see a photo of some of our astute delegation in Sen. Feinstein’s LA office below:

SenFeinsteinOffice

Know the Score

October 15, 2013

After a ridiculous government shutdown, you don’t need me to tell you how important it is to hold Congress accountable. But I can point you toward a new tool to make it easier.

While the shutdown dominates the headlines, not everything Congress does happens in the spotlight. If we’re going to push Congress to be pro-peace, we need to know what’s happening under the radar—like the vote on funding nuclear weapons while good programs suffer we alerted you to this week.

That’s why I’m excited to share Know the Score, our new congressional accountability tool. We took the congressional voting record, our most popular resource, and made it even more useful. We’re tracking Congress in real time. Every time there’s a vote in Congress on peace issues, every representative’s record will be updated and the vote will be searchable on our site. Here are just a few of the things you can do with this tool:

We’ve seen what an informed, organized peace movement can do. We helped pull the US back from the brink of war with Syria by understanding the political landscape and flooding Congress with overwhelming opposition. With Know the Score, we can be watchdogs and make our voices count.

Let us know what you think about our new tool in the comments, and please share it with your friends so we can make sure Congress doesn’t operate in the shadows.

Diplomacy with Iran: the administration gets it, Congress…not so much

October 14, 2013

The opening for diplomacy with Iran gets its first big test this week with the resumption of the P5+1 nuclear talks. The signs look good following an encouraging couple of months since Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration as president of Iran.

One basic principle of diplomacy is that each side must gain something from the negotiations in order to get to a deal (seems obvious, but clearly isn’t to a lot of pundits).  After decades of harsh sanctions, sanctions relief is one of the most tempting incentives the US has to offer Iran. Thankfully, the administration is showing openness to sanctions relief in exchange for concessions with Iran.

Iran is expected to propose a moratorium on enrichment to 20 percent, a level that experts say is worrying, while restricting enrichment to the range of 3 percent to 5 percent that is used in commercial reactors. In return, it wants quick reciprocal gestures from the United States, a step that a senior American official said the Obama administration was prepared to take.

“We are quite ready to move,” said the official, who added that the American delegation to the talks, scheduled to start on Tuesday, includes top experts on the economic sanctions that have heavily damaged on Iran’s economy.

But the senior official also said that the United States and its partners in the talks would first wait to see if Iran was prepared to take concrete steps to constrain the pace and scope of its nuclear program, address its growing stockpile of enriched uranium and provide a new degree of transparency about its nuclear activities.

Unfortunately, many in Congress still seem stuck in a sanctions-only mentality without regard to what the actual path to a successful diplomatic solution looks like. Almost all freshman representatives signed a letter to President Obama calling for strengthening sanctions on Iran. The letter, ignoring the changes in the political landscape, says that “we must increase the intensity and accelerate the pace of our pressure on Iran” at exactly the wrong time for this sentiment. It contradicts the intelligence community’s conclusions about Iran’s nuclear program, saying “time is running out,” and puts unrealistic expectations on Rouhani. It’s unfair to condemn him for the lack for “substantive evidence” that Iran will address concerns about its nuclear program in a two-month window in which no serious diplomatic talks have even taken place.

A group of senators also weighed in with ostensible support for diplomacy today, yet they outlined unrealistic parameters for negotiations.

We support your efforts to explore a diplomatic opening, but we believe that the true test of Iranian sincerity is a willingness to match rhetoric with actions.  The critical test will be Iran’s proposal to the P5+1 this week in Geneva.  Iran’s first confidence-building action should be full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, fulfillment of its responsibilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and implementation of all Resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program, to include immediate suspension of all enrichment activity.  If the Iranian government takes these steps in a verifiable and transparent manner, we are willing to match Iran’s good-faith actions by suspending the implementation of the next round of sanctions currently under consideration by the Congress.  In short, the U.S. should consider, with the other members of the P5+1, a “suspension for suspension” initial agreement – in which Iran suspends enrichment and the U.S. suspends the implementation of new sanctions.

All credible experts acknowledge that Iran must be allowed some kind of enrichment program for a deal to succeed; this letter rejects that out of hand. The supposed carrot they offer is also ludicrous–in exchange for a major concession from Iran, we would not lift any of the existing sanctions, but would deign to hold off from passing more?

If Congress is going to fundamentally misunderstand the role of sanctions at this point, which are not an end in and of themselves, and the outlines of an effective diplomatic deal, they are better off keeping quiet and letting the administration pursue diplomatic talks unhindered.

You can take action here to tell your representative and senators not to take action that will undermine diplomacy with Iran.

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