Americans United Against Attacking Syria

americans_against_war

Pew Research center reports that by a 48% to 29% margin, more Americans oppose than support conducting military airstrikes against Syria.

Even more decisive data comes from popvox.com – a convenient tool for communicating with Congress. 96% of Americans who contacted congress through PopVox oppose The President’s Draft Legislation Authorizing Military Action in Syria.The above image shows that people are united across the country in opposition (red circles) to that war. Remember this map, for if Congress approves the attack, then what would this say about the condition of our democratic Republic?

Also if you follow the above link you may see which organizations support the attack – you will not be surprised.

Letter to Congress: No strike on Syria

Dear Congressmen,

I urge you to vote against any kind of military attack on Syria as considered by our Administration. Absent of an attack on our land, the use of military force without approval from the UN Security Council is in violation of international law. Furthermore, the US government, which used Agent Orange in Vietnam and depleted uranium in Iraq, simply has no moral standing for punishing other governments for possible similar violations. An attack on Syria will undoubtedly result in serious repercussions: it may destabilize larger regions of the Middle East, degrade the relationship with Russia to Cold War lows, halt diplomatic efforts toward a nuclear-free Iran, and all the while not ending the civil war.

When the UN investigation is complete, the international community should try the perpetrators of the attack, whoever they are, in the International Criminal Court. If our Administration is interested in building peace, it should lead by example, ending the arms supply to the opposition forces and getting out of the Middle East altogether.

Congressional letter: Defund US military operations in Syria

Dear Senator/Representative:

I strongly object to our Administration’s decision to provide military aid to Syrian “rebels” in their war against Assad’s government. I do not support Assad’s regime, but more importantly, I strongly believe that the US (or any other foreign government) has no unilateral authority to intervene in Syria’s internal affairs, especially by means of arming one side in a bloody civil war. The Administration’s decision is particularly obscene because the rebel groups include such organizations as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which in all other circumstances would be considered an enemy of the US. In case the opposition forces (i.e., “rebels”) prevail, they will proceed to fight for power between each other, potentially turning Syria into a failed state and/or a breeding ground for radical Islamist groups.

The allegations of chemical weapons use by Assad’s government are contentious, not confirmed by the UN and strongly resemble the pre-Iraq war WMD lies. US involvement in Syria has little to do with chemical weapons but rather our government’s desire to engage in a proxy war with Iran aiding Assad’s regime [1].

Please oppose the Administration’s decision by sponsoring/supporting legislation denying the DOD or intelligence services funds for conducting military operations in Syria.

References:
[1] http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/793124.shtml#.UdI6GZziGfw

National Anti-Drone Days of Action

San Diego CA, April 4-7, 2013

Published with permission from San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice.

The Drone Diego Coordinating Committee invites organizations and individuals to come to San Diego on April 4-7, as we protest and bring attention to the dangers drones present to the people of the world. Join us for nonviolent actions, workshops, street theater and more, or organize your own activities.

We oppose drone warfare because:

    Armed drones are weapons of terror. They kill combatants and civilians, children and adults, men and women, alike. Their presence overhead terrorizes entire communities.
    Extrajudicial assassinations by killer drones violate U. S. and international law.
    Surveillance drones threaten our liberties, spying on communities and borders, invading our personal privacy.
    Drones make our families less secure by making it easier for military and paramilitary agencies (like the CIA) to continue endless war without limits in either space or time.

Why come to San Diego? San Diego is the drone production capital of the world. San Diego is home to General Atomics, builders of the killer Predator and Reaper drones (which may be armed with Hellfire missiles), and Northrup Grumman, maker of the Global Hawk surveillance drone. Surveillance drones also regularly fly along the border between San Diego and Mexico.

A strong presence in San Diego will draw attention locally and nationally to the hazards posed by these robotic killers and spy craft. We hope that this will be the first of many actions in San Diego

Of course not everyone has the resources to come to San Diego. We encourage those who cannot come to make April 4-7 days of action against drones in their own communities.

Kickoff day is Thursday, April 4, with a demonstration at the General Atomics drone production facility in Poway, just north of San Diego. The San Diego chapter of Veterans for Peace is holding a weekly vigil there and we will join them.

We invite other organizations to develop workshops, forums and actions during the four days of action. If you or your organization would like to plan an event, please contact our host committee so we can provide information about locations, venues, and schedule coordination. We also welcome sponsoring organizations (which provide financial or organizational resources) and endorsing organizations (which express their public agreement with our goals) to contact the host committee.

Preliminary Schedule:

April 4 – Thursday
3PM – San Diego Veterans for Peace demonstration at General Atomics Predator drones production site along with an Overpss Light Brigade Action nearby

April 5 – Friday
Morning: Demo at General Atomics Headquarters coordinated by CodePink
Afternoon: Demo at Northrup Grumman site coordinated by CodePink
Evening: Assembly with socializing and movie; Overpass Light Brigade Action

April 6 – Saturday
Mid-day: Peace Train riders arrive from LA will join us at the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum for an afternoon demonstration
Evening: Speaker’s Forum

April 7 – Sunday (ending by 3 p.m.)
General Assembly – Workshops, next steps

Our host committee will work to provide housing in San Diego for activists who need it. For details check with SDCPJ.

For more info about the National Days Against Drones Actions in San Diego, or if your organization would like to become a sponsor or endorser, please contact Dave Patterson (dpatterson998@yahoo.com). We can also be found on Facebook.

Tax-deductible donations to support this action can be made on the Donate page. Please specify: “anti-drone action”.

Drone Diego Coordinating Committee

Sponsoring/Endorsing organizations: Peace Resource Center of San Diego, San Diego Veterans for Peace, San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice, CODEPINK, Global Exchange, United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), Canvass for a Cause, Af3irm, A Future Without War.org, Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD), San Diego International Socialist Organization, SAME Alliance, Fresno Light Brigade, Peace Madera, Peace Madera, Overpass Light Brigade San Diego, Alameda County Against Drones, ANSWER Coalition San Diego, Party for Socialism and Liberation San Diego, San Diego Libertarian Party, Environmentalists Against War, San Diego Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), National Lawyers Guild San Diego, al Awda San Diego.

Opinion: Proposal for a revision of VFP’s action strategy

Motivation

In recognition of the need for a focused effort at promoting the mission of the organization, the VFP Board of Directors proposed a National Strategy Plan in August 2012. However, in my opinion, it was so unfocused that it defeated the very purpose it was created to accomplish. More importantly, I claim that the existing action strategy is severely deficient. Here, I first briefly examine the current action strategy, emphasize its deficiency and offer a way to correct it.

Before proceeding I would like to fix a few terms: a mission is the grand goal for which an organization is created; an action strategy is a plan for achieving a mission while tactics are the specific activities carried out by members enabling the strategy.

Current action strategy

Reviewing the range of past and present activities and the National Strategy Plan one may conclude that the existing action strategy condenses to:

    – Exposing the public to the true costs of war and the real motives as to why the Executive branch engages in wars. This is intended to undermine public support for wars in favor of nonviolent means of conflict resolution.
    – Emphasizing to the public the overblown size of “national defense” spending in comparison to the rest of the national priorities. This is intended to galvanize the public to demand a reduction in military funding, thus taming US military capability and limiting the Executive branch’s ability to conduct large scale military offensives abroad.
    – Building a culture of peace on an individual level. This is intended to alter how we think about dealing with international conflicts and ultimately produce a more sensible foreign policy.

This strategy was in place for many years; however, the US Empire remains and the waging of war by our federal government continues, indicating that the strategy is not working well. I claim that the whole strategy is defective because it assumes that the informed public will be able to effectively influence their Congress members or otherwise elect pro-peace candidates needed to keep in check the war-mongering tendencies of the Executive branch.

Genuine representation myth

Someone may claim that members of Congress genuinely represent the public’s views on matters of foreign policy/national security since the public often supports the Executive branch’s decisions for starting wars. The problem with this argument is that when a few years later public opinion swings against a war, Congress does not rush to act to end it. More importantly, members of Congress are elected to represent public interests not the majority opinion. The waning of support for wars over time as war costs begin manifesting while the facts start cracking the facade of propaganda indicates that true public interest does not align with waging occupational wars. However, this realization always comes too late because the manifestations of war costs are always delayed. Here is where a genuinely public representative must rise and present to the constituency the ramifications for a nation to engage in a war proposed by the Executive branch.

Congresspersons are sufficiently familiar with US history to remember that wars lead to displaced federal priorities, economic costs, lots of bloodshed, hatred from people of the occupied nations, and ultimately blowback. Congress members vote annually on the federal budget and know that most of the discretionary funds are spent funding militarism and the maintenance of the Empire at the expense of domestic priorities. Members on Foreign Intelligence Committees have access to intelligence reports to study evidence or lack thereof about potential threats to our national security and ask difficult questions of members of the Administration or to subpoena them if necessary. Moreover, they have the power to authorize (Article I, Section 8) and (de)fund wars. The War Powers Resolution Act of 1973 explicitly spells out the terms for the separation of war powers with Congress having an upper hand. Despite significant powers most members of Congress comply with the judgment of the Executive’s branch on matters of war (while some actively push for wars) against public interest. Why? The majority of congresspersons do not represent the interests of the general public because the general public plays a minor role in electing them to power in the first place as detailed below.

Campaign financing

The success of (re)election increasingly depends on the availability of campaign funds, needed to attack political opponents; therefore raising campaign funds is the first priority of each member of Congress who must allot at least 4 hours/day fundraising. According to the Center for Responsive Politics successful House and Senate candidates in hot races had to raise in excess of $2 and $5 million dollars respectively in the 2012 election cycle. It also found that 67% of contributions in the 2012 election cycle toward federal candidates, parties or PACs came from 0.53% of the adult US population! Below is shown the distributions of sources of funds to congressional campaign committees in the San Diego area:

Brian Bilbray (replaced by Scott Peters in 2012):

Brian Bilbray Campaign Sources
Brian Bilbray Campaign Sources

Susan Davis:

Susan Davis Campaign Sources
Susan Davis Campaign Sources

Darrel Issa:

Darrel Issa Campaign Sources
Darrel Issa Campaign Sources

Duncan Hunter:

Duncan Hunter Campaign Sources
Duncan Hunter Campaign Sources

The above data shows that small individual contributions (less than $200) rarely exceed 5-8% of the total campaign funds, whereas the rest of the funds come from large campaign donors (corporate PACs and wealthy individuals). Therefore members of Congress are easily accessible and attuned toward the demands of major campaign donors and fundraiser organizers (commonly lobbyists). No incumbent member of Congress or candidate wants to upset major campaign donors who thereby implicitly set the political climate and the federal policy. This is very problematic because the interests of the economic elites and the ordinary public are commonly in conflict.

Contradiction of interests

Such a contradiction of interests is vivid on the issue of war. Ordinary Americans overwhelmingly pay human and economic costs at the time of wars whereas executives of “defense” companies and their lobbyists reap huge rewards from government contracts. As war ends, ordinary Americans continue paying economic costs due to displaced government priorities whereas executives of transnational corporations and banks receive favorable access to new markets falling under the control of the American Empire. The described contradiction of interests when multiplied by the differences in the ability to influence Congress (roughly measured by the amount of campaign donations) creates a gross misrepresentation of public interest in Washington D.C. and therefore is a form of government corruption. So, even though the ordinary public constitutes the majority of voters and technically elects candidates to Congress, large campaign donors effectively decide which candidate will be able to sustain the political campaign to end up on the voting ballot. To that extent, the assumption that “the informed public will be able to effectively influence their Congress members or otherwise elect pro-peace candidates …” is flawed because public demands are not matched by campaign contributions vital for the Congressperson’s re-election campaign.

Revised action strategy

Existing misrepresentation in Congress indicates that repairing the current action strategy requires putting ordinary people at the center of the congresspersons’ attention. Moreover, since waging occupational wars contradicts the interests of ordinary people, a genuine representation of those interests in Congress, not corrupted by the influence of large campaign donations, may actually be sufficient to guide the peace-oriented foreign policy. Therefore, an effective action strategy should include a campaign toward putting ordinary people at the center of the congresspersons’ attention.

Campaign finance reform

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There is a reason public approval of Congress consistently polls around 15%. The majority of Americans understand that our Republic is severely ill, but the cause of the illness is far less obvious. Therefore many advocacy groups attempt to treat the symptoms of the illness manifested in unending wars, a militarized budget, income inequality, an absence of accessible health care and higher education, etc. My thesis is that the root cause common to all of the above (and many other) ills is the undue influence of big money in politics and must be addressed by enacting campaign finance reform for congressional elections.

The infamous Supreme Court ruling in 2010 on Citizens United vs. FEC invigorated the public on the broader issue of the influence of big money on our elected officials. Now, the majority of voters across party lines support some form of campaign finance reform. In my opinion, VFP and other peace groups must not only welcome but actively advocate for campaign finance reform in order to create an effective action strategy.

Some believe that only a constitutional amendment declaring that “corporations are not people” and that “money is not a protected speech and can be regulated” is the only way to address the problem. Since constitutional amendments are hard to obtain, a meaningful reform may seem out of reach. However, it appears that substantial reform may be achieved without a constitutional amendment. As of 2013 there are several legislative proposals which would help reduce the influence of big money and increase the influence of ordinary voters on the decision making process in Washington D.C. Undoubtedly, most of them will fail or if enacted would not solve the entire problem. Nevertheless, they are the elements which shift the influence on Congress from the affluent minority with special interests towards the general public in order to create a more perfect union. Until then all we have is the hope that our Presidents will choose to not over-abuse their war power.

Further reading:
Billion-Dollar Democracy: The Unprecedented Role of Money in the 2012 Elections
Democracy 21
United Republic

Sergey Gratiy, Associate Member

Open letter opposing the San Diego City Council’s resolution which dramatizes the effects of the military spending “cuts” on local economy

Dear Councilmember Sherri Lightner,

I am writing to express my disappointment at your efforts to dramatize the potentially negative effects the reductions in military spending authorized by the US Congress could have on the San Diego economy and for proposing the corresponding resolution in the City Council to oppose them.

Perhaps, you are not familiar with the study conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute titled “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities”. This study concludes that $1 billion spent on domestic priorities will create substantially more jobs within the U.S. economy than would the same $1 billion spent on the military: 1.5 times more in Clean Energy and 2.4 times more in Education. Therefore, spending shifted from the defense to the domestic sectors of the economy will actually create jobs not the other way around.

There is nothing devastating about the proposed cuts in the Military budget: Military spending has sharply risen since the beginning of the War on Terrorism, from $294b in FY 2000 to $716b in FY 2012 (Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2013, Table 6.1). If mandated cuts go through, military spending will amount to $600b in FY2014, which is still more than was spent on “National Defense” in 2006 at the height of the war in Iraq.

It is important to support the 75% of the people in the local economy not just the 25% working for the military economy.

In light of the above mentioned information could you notify me whether or not you changed your position on the issue and if not why?

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Please copy and paste this letter and send it to Sherri Lightner or your other Councilmember, because the City Council approved the resolution unanimously.