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Opposition to attacking Syria wasn’t limited to the traditional crowd–it drew in progressives, libertarians and Americans who simply wanted nothing to do with the civil war.
Protesters in San Francisco against an attack on Syria.
Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes/Flickr
September 17, 2013 |
As I took part in rallies, marches, vigils, conference calls, personal conversations and meetings in the San Francisco Bay Area during the recent crisis over Syria, these are the reasons I heard that Americans opposed even a “limited” US strike on that country:
1 – It won’t do any good. The insanity of killing people with cruise missiles and other conventional weapons to “send a message” that killing people with poison gas is WRONG, was repeated over and over, to good effect.
2 – We’re supporting Al-Qaeda now, really?! I heard this at the August 4 Restore the 4th rally in San Francisco as this crisis started to build. I have the sense that this was mostly a libertarian and right-wing perspective, though Dennis Kucinich came down hard on this as well.
3 – Don’t get involved in someone else’s civil war. People expressed overall wariness not only about Al-Nusra and/or Al-Qaeda in Syria but also unease about the violent and divided Syrian “rebels.” Sometimes an ugly “let the bastards kill each other” or “they’re not worth us getting involved” message was a barely hidden subtext to this oppositional messaging.
4 – Iraq. The US didn’t help that country. Yeah, no kidding. For millions in this country who believed the propaganda in 2002-2003, the lessons from the horror of the Iraq War are finally sinking in. Many people saw a US “strike” as the beginning of Iraq II, and they weren’t having it.
5 – We’re not going to war for Obama. Republicans and Libertarians were the first and some of the strongest opposition; see Bruce Gagnon’s analysis. Some of this opposition was based in a racist desire to thwart our first “black” (really, biracial) president regardless of the issue, but some was principled opposition based on a lack of trust and respect for Obama’s policies overall, including his “dirty” drone strikes and special operations in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
6 – It costs too much, and we need the money at home. The Bring Our War $$ Home messaging has been circulating since 2009, and many people across the political spectrum picked up on it. Also sequester cuts happening simultaneously with this latest propaganda push, and the weak economy, added to the force of “we can’t afford it.”
7 – Our military has been stretched and overdeployed for too long. Active duty troops photographed themselves opposing another war – an unusual and brave move link. People didn’t believe Kerry’s/Obama’s reassurances about how limited a US (air) war on Syria would be.
8 – Afghanistan. The US is still engaged in a “hot” war, one that is still sending young Americans home in coffins or wheelchairs. Even if the mainstream media can’t be bothered to cover that war, Americans, especially veterans and military families haven’t forgotten.
9 – Libya. Americans are (dimly) aware that all is not right in Libya and there have been many unintended, negative consequences from the US/NATO air war there.
10 – The UK Parliament voted NO. Last but certainly not least. It’s one thing to say, write, chant “Say no to war” — it’s quite another, and more mobilizing, thing for our country’s closest ally to do so in a public vote of their legislature, pushed by their citizens. The vote being close didn’t even matter – it was an historic NO, and a pivotal moment in this crisis – and the push to “take it to Congress” really took off after this vote.
Final thoughts: This crisis isn’t over, and the US warships, jets and other machinery of destruction are still hanging fire in the eastern Mediterranean, at vast taxpayer expense. Going forward, we in peace/antiwar organizations, from whatever political perspectives, need to amplify these “talking points of the people” and stay ready to take action again.
There isn’t a single “movement” against war, but an informal, multifocal opposition from across the political spectrum. “Yelling at empty buildings” aka the huge marches of the past especially in DC, may be a tactic that’s outlived its usefulness. Americans live on our phones these days, and we found ourselves ready to use them to call Congress. The timing of this crisis was helpful – we were able to show up at representatives’ town halls during the August recess and speak our minds in person. For now, that was enough to avert a war. More may well be needed later in the year, as the military-industrial-media complex hasn’t gone away. But for now, let’s reflect on a rare, and much-needed victory, staying humble and nimble for the challenges ahead.
Janet Weil is a longtime CODEPINK-er and a co-founder of SF 99% Coalition and member of the Peace Center’s Advocacy Committee
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Just a few weeks ago the US government appeared dead set on attacking Syria. Media such as CNN seemed to be pushing for war with discussions where all sides want war.* Meanwhile the powerful lobby group AIPAC was sending hundreds of their members to Congress to press for authorization for war. **
Secretary of State Kerry seemed to be pounding the drums of war more feverishly each day.
Now things look vastly more optimistic. Diplomacy and cooler heads have prevailed, at least for the moment.
OUR THANKS go to…..
The American people for saying loudly and clearly “We do NOT want another war.”
The British Parliament which said NO they will not join an attack.
Our Congressional representatives who listened and spoke out.
President Obama who listened and made the crucial decision.
Let’s hope this will be the start of a new era in international relations and US foreign policy. The credibility of our country is enhanced when the President listens to the American people and the international community and when we respect and abide by international law.
Board of Directors, Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center
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Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center Resolution of Support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on their legal action against the National Security Agency (NSA) PRISM Program, the clandestine national security electronic surveillance.
– Whereas our Constitution is the highest law of our land, which no other law can challenge without a Constitutional Amendment, and whereas our Constitution must be obeyed by every US Citizen, specially by our government and its agents, who are publicly sworn to respect our Constitution since they have the highest potential to do harm if they do not, and
– Whereas our Constitution and its Amendments guarantee our right of free expression and privacy, and whereas the secret electronic surveillance program that the NSA has undertaken violates both our First Amendment rights of free speech and association, and our Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, and
– Whereas the National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander, after many false denials, has gone on the record admitting that thousands of NSA employees and contractors really do listen to our phone calls and read our emails without warrants to do either one, and
– Whereas listening to the phone calls and reading the email of Americans without the justified authorization of a judge is a felony crime, even under the Patriot Act, and therefore this means that the NSA is committing thousands of felonies a day, and
– Whereas the official “fact sheet” explanation about the NSA surveillance efforts posted on their website was removed after Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall had accused the agency of lying, and
– Whereas we are aware that whistle-blowers are fully protected by our laws when exposing an illegal conspiracy such as this one, therefore we support the granting of immediate freedom from prosecution to the brave individuals that at great personal risk exposed this massive and secret spying ring on the American People. They deserve our highest recognition for making us aware of our enemies within, therefore
– The Board of Directors of the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center hereby supports the ACLU in its lawsuit against the NSA’s PRISM Program.
Board of Directors – Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center – www.OurPeaceCenter.org
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Mt Diablo Peace & Justice Center Resolution passed by its Board of Directors on June 17, 2013
Rancho Seco plant (near Sacramento) was closed by public vote in 1989 after 15 years of troubled service and still having 20 years remaining in its operating license.
Whereas our State of California has already recognized the environmental and health dangers of nuclear power generation by not allowing new plants to be built in our State,
Whereas the Rancho Seco plant near Sacramento was closed by popular vote in 1989, and the San Onofre plant near San Diego is now in the process of being permanently retired, and whereas the last remaining California nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo has already served most of its useful life;
Whereas geological studies have shown that the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant is located near several active earthquake fault lines, and scientists have discovered that, in the past, powerful tsunami-type waves have impacted the coastline where this plant is located, so that it has become clear we have the risk of a Fukushima-type disaster that may cause us to lose many lives and the use of part of our State for generations to come,
Diablo Canyon plant (near San Luis Obispo), last one still operating. It is located near 2 active earthquake fault lines and this coast had Fukushima-type tsunamis in the past.
Whereas nuclear power plants suffer from generic problems, including steam generator failures, that makes them likely to unexpectedly fail and leak radioactive and carcinogenic poisons into our environment,
Whereas scientific findings indicate that nuclear power plants in California have released radioactive isotopes into our biosphere that has accumulated in our children’s bodies, resulting in increased rates of childhood cancer and leukemia, and undermining their vitality and reducing their chances to lead healthy and productive lives,
San Onofre plant (near San Clemente, between Los Angeles and San Diego). Closed in June 7, 2013 – 17 years ahead of schedule – due to health risks concerns.
Whereas levels of radioactive Strontium-90 in U.S. children’s baby teeth are now at levels equal or superior to the levels that prompted President Kennedy to ban atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in 1963 to safeguard the safety of future generations,
Whereas the 2012/2013 Transmission Plan of the California Independent System Operator Corporation (CAISO) reports that closing the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant would have no significant impact on the reliability of the CAISO transmission system assuming alternative generation is made available,
Whereas the growing ability of existing and new renewable energy sources to satisfy our energy needs have made it no longer necessary to expose the people of California to the health, safety and security risks associated with nuclear power plants,
We the board of the Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center, taking all the above facts in consideration, declare our full support to the work coordinated by Dr. Jerry B. Brown, Director of the World Business Academy’s Safe Energy Project, to accelerate the closing of Diablo Canyon, the only remaining nuclear power plant in California.
Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center
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Our Annual Membership Meeting was held on Saturday June 22 in Walnut Creek. We shared an abundant and nourishing potluck, heard introductions from our current Board Members and from our nominees to the board as selected by our Selection Committee. All present members were given a ballot and were asked to vote for their chosen officers. We are pleased to announce that all current members that were up for re-election after their 3-year term, and all 4 nominees were elected unanimously to our board, which is now 16 people strong, the most powerful board in our history.
Our four newly elected board members are: 1. Connie Loosli from Walnut Creek, an Education Specialist for the Lindsay Wildlife Museum; 2. Pandora Bethea from Crockett, an English teacher at Deer Valley High in Antioch; 3. Rick Sterling from Walnut Creek, a retired senior electronics engineer at UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory; and 4. David Seaborg from Walnut Creek, an environmental leader and founder of the World Rainforest Fund.
We also brainstormed in small groups to find the most important issues we should address this coming year, and we had the pleasure to hear from Dr. Jerry B. Brown, an expert on nuclear radiation who is working to prematurely close Diablo Canyon, the last remaining nuclear power plant in California and who recently received a resolution of support from our Peace Center. Our next Annual Membership Meeting will be in June 2014 – The date and location shall be announced next spring. We hope you will come and vote with us. See more images of our meeting at: www.flickr.com/photos/lub/sets/72157634294216746
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Pandora Bethea is a dedicated public high school teacher, union activist, poet, world traveler and mother of two grown kids who are pursuing meaningful work. Born and raised in Athens, Greece, she spent her teenage years huddled at the American Community School, the only safe place she could listen to rock and roll during the Greek military junta of ’67 to ’74. She has been committed to peace, freedom and social justice since then.
I have been a volunteer for all my adult life. I began volunteering in my two children’s classrooms and have volunteered since then in literary guilds, youth poetry contests, art commissions, religious organizations, youth summits, graduations, after-school youth clubs, and in my union (CTA).
I have been working as an 11th/12th grade teacher of English at Deer Valley High School for the past six years and continue to do so. I also direct the Poetry Out Loud program for the Antioch Unified School District. I have a Bachelors Degree in English from Sonoma State University and a California Teaching Credential. I speak three languages: English, Greek and French. I have been trained by the organization “Facing History and Ourselves”.
My first career was as an international sales executive of digital equipment which allowed me to travel to many countries and experience many cultures. I am interested and have experience in youth art contests, alternatives to the military for youth, and political involvement for social justice. I have taught poetry workshops for youth at the Contra Costa Youth Summit. I have held phone banking at my home for the Democratic election campaign. I graduated from a multicultural, international high school, The American Community School of Athens, Greece, which trained me in diversity of race, culture and religion.
Have attended both Creating a Peaceful Schools conferences, MDPJC workshops and presentations, and had the honor of having Dr. Ian Harris (the conference initiator and Center member) come into my classroom and speak to my students about alternatives to the military.
I believe in promoting social justice, peace through dialogue instead of violence, respect and acceptance for different races, religions and cultures and would like to see the Center expand so that more community members understand and join in our goals and objectives for society.
Was born and grew up in Vancouver Canada. He studied anthropology at Simon Fraser University. Came to the US as an activist in 1976 after working in Africa. Accidentally got married and ended up staying! With kids, had to get a real job. Studied electronics at Merritt College and Cogswell Polytechnical. After 25 years working in the high tech and aerospace industries he retired to work full time on progressive causes.
I have an interest in public education and activism to promote progressive change. My skills include writing, presentations and outreach and consider myself a ‘self-starter’ able to lead and work with others. Retired from senior electronics engineering position at UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory in 2011 (NASA and satellite work).
Went to Middle East in summer 2007, part of Palestine Summer Encounter seeing the situation on the ground, meeting great Palestinian and Israeli organizations and individuals. Went to Honduras in summer 2011 as part of an international human rights delegation. We travelled around the country and met various organizations speaking about the aftermath of the 2009 coup. Returned to Honduras in November 2012 as part of human rights group monitoring the primary election.
I am interested to bring more information on Latin America and Middle East to Contra Costa. The goal is to push for substantial change in US policy and building support for progressive organizations working for change in other countries.
Was a member of the MDPJC board for a few years (approx 2006 – 2010) and currently on the board of Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas (www.mitfamericas.org/about). I’m currently active or connected to the KPFA outreach committee, Rossmoor friends of KPFA club, Rossmoor Voices for Justice in Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Network, Middle East Study Group and Richmond Progressive Alliance.
I believe the Center needs to continue promoting peace messages in schools and the community. Believe it would be useful to encourage more people from the community to travel abroad and bring back / share their experiences and observations (Latin America, Middle East and beyond). Would like to see the Center take more active positions in opposition to the war machine, oil corporations, etc. and make more connections/coordination with other peace / justice groups.
Favorite bumper sticker: “I’d rather be fighting imperialism.”
David Seaborg is a well-known leader in the environmental movement. He founded and heads the World Rainforest Fund, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to saving the earth’s tropical rainforests and biodiversity.
David wrote an article that is a summary of the scientific research on the effects of high atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide other than global warming. Unlike the climatic effects, these effects are not well known to the general public. They are very serious, and have the potential to cause high levels of extinction of species and greatly disrupt ecosystems and our food supply.
He was on the city of Lafayette’s General Plan Advisory Committee, which he guided to producing a ten-year General Plan for that city that emphasized environmental sustainability, preserving open space, combating global warming, and energy conservation.
David served on the Board of Directors of the Club of Rome of the USA, the environmental think tank that published the Limits to Growth in the 1970’s. This is a computer simulation study that showed that continued growth and consumption of resources will lead society to disaster.
He conceived, and helped secured passage by the Berkeley City Council, an ordinance banning the use of old growth rainforest and redwood in all products used by the city of Berkeley. This ordinance also required all businesses contracting with Berkeley to stop using old growth rainforest and redwood in any products or services Berkeley hires them to use or perform, or in any product they sell this city.
David conceived the idea for and was the head organizer for a press conference of Nobel Prize winners on global environmental issues that was held at the time of the 100th Nobel Prize ceremonies in Sweden, in December, 2001.
He is renowned for being especially socially skilled, excellent at working with and bringing out the best in people, and inspiring them to have an interest in biology, the earth, its animals and their habitats. He has inspired countless people to become environmentalists passionate about saving the earth. As a result of this passion, many of these people worked hard at saving the environment and achieved a considerable degree of success at it.
David has been to over 30 countries, observing various natural ecosystems and wildlife. He is listed is in Who’s Who In America. An excellent public speaker, he lectures to various scientific, environmental, civic, business, and other organizations on evolutionary biology, the philosophical implications of science, and environmental issues.
I have been to several events put on by the Peace Center, but have not been an “active” member, mostly because of work commitments. However, I am now retired (mostly) and, when I commit to something, I always follow through. I am not good at fundraising, but I am good at putting on events and am a creative thinker when it comes to attracting and keeping members and participants.
I have been working as the Education Director and then Education Specialist for the Lindsay Wildlife Museum for over 25 years, so I know the community and I know non-profits! I have served on the board of the Walnut Creek Open Space and now on the Advisory board for over 25 years.
I have lived in Walnut Creek for over 40 years and love this community (even with its many flaws). I believe that grass roots organizations can make a difference and feel that a good citizen is a participant in their community. I am a good “team builder” and have been responsible for newsletters, creating invitations, planning events, mailings, signage, group facilitation and many other parts of organizations.
Although I have never participated on a board or as an active member of a peace group, I have been in leadership positions in the following local organizations:
Lake Lakewood Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church Walnut Creek Open Space WC Parks Dept, Committee for creating natural spaces in Heather Farms Park WC Soccer Assoc. board WC Little League board 6 years on 3 different school PTA/Parents’ Clubs as President
I believe in non-violence and am especially interested in gun control. I am a good listener and hope to be supportive in many ways. I grew up in a large family in Missouri, a strong hunting state, with a father who was adamantly against using guns for anything except games such as skeet shooting. Even though many family members were decorated World War II veterans, Viet Nam was considered a mistake. I’ve always felt that violence leads to violence and know that education is an important step in stopping that cycle.
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By Bob Maxwell
Of the three scandals currently swirling around the Obama Administration, the only one universally and unambiguously scandalous involves a number of IRS agents in the Cincinnati office who singled out groups with the words ‘Patriot’ or ‘Tea Party’ in their names for extra scrutiny if they applied for tax-exempt status as ‘social welfare’ organizations. Some conspiratorially-minded conservatives have even suggested that Obama’s criticism of the Tea Party during the last Presidential campaign sent a signal to the IRS to go after them.
There is, however, a simpler and more plausible explanation for all this. In the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court maintained that corporations are ‘people’ and therefore enjoy the same right to free speech that biological people do and so have the right to spend as much money as they want on political campaigns. The majority on the court who pushed through this regrettable decision answered criticism that this would lead to corporate control of political life by suggesting that corporations would be reluctant to exercise this ‘right’ out of fear that they might lose customers and investors who disagreed with their politics. Clever lawyers working for political action committees that hoped for big corporate donations quickly discovered a way around this problem by claiming social welfare organizations are not only tax-exempt but don’t have to disclose their donors! A PAC like, for example, Karl Rove’s ‘Crossroads PAC’ could create a ‘social welfare’ organization (like Crossroads GPS) that could take corporate money anonymously, then ‘donate’ that money right back to the PAC that created it.
All of this presented the IRS with a problem. Clearly, sorting which “social welfare” organizations are the genuine article and which are bogus was going to be a lot murkier than it used to be. Just as clearly, the IRS agents involved in this scandal fumbled the ball. The entirely justifiable suspicions that many of the sudden flood of ‘new’ rightwing organizations claiming to be ‘social welfare’ organizations were up to something fishy was no excuse to single out one particular slice of the ideological spectrum, nor does the fact that previous administrations have used the IRS to go after left-wing organizations and individuals make it justifiable. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now. We can’t very well deny others any rights we claim for ourselves. By extension, if we can’t deny others any rights we claim for ourselves, then we can’t deny any point of view the same right of organization and expression we claim for our own—no matter how much that point of view may turn our stomachs!
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Now, last month Peace in the News featured the sad and bad. So this month we look at some more positive developments in the global struggle for Peace and Justice. Since most of you are so well-informed, we will again focus on just the headlines, and let you fill in the details.
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- Congress begins hearings into American deaths by drone attack, especially of three citizens apparently neither ‘specified’ for death nor accidentally killed.
- Obama (again) begins to press for closure of Guantanamo and for US-based trials for those deemed actual terrorists— as the hunger strike and forced feedings at the prison continue into the fourth month.
- Obama hints it may be time to wind down the “War on Terror”. Ya think!
- Brookstone catalogue now offers personal surveillance drones, which should make our neighborhoods that much safer and may offer the best use of a Wal-Mart assault rifle (on the drone, not the neighbor).
Well, this last one might not be so positive, but it certainly is thought-provoking!