By Madelyn Hoffman and Ryan Swan
From the Old Cold War to the War on Terror
The four and half decades following World War II were characterized by intense competition with the Soviet Union, which saw the cultivation of weaponry capable of ending all life on earth multiple times over. Massive resources were poured into nuclear weapons and sophisticated delivery systems, before the Kennedy Administration’s Flexible Response Strategy shifted focus to development of advanced conventional capabilities to enable more “credible” military threats. President George H. W. Bush promised these enormous Cold War military investitures would yield a “peace dividend,” realizable upon the dissolution of the Soviet apparatus. However, this high-priced peace was to be short-lived.
The Clinton Administration quickly began to preoccupy itself with transnational organizations in the Middle East (whom the Central Intelligence Agency had provided with extensive funding during the Soviet-backed government’s control of Afghanistan). It undertook bombings in Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998 and, by the time the Bush Administration came to power, a new national security paradigm centered around transnational actors – dubbed “terrorist organizations” – was reaching maturity. 9/11 solidified this with President Bush proclaiming the “war on terror” to begin with al Qaida, but “not [to] end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
This opened-ended objective, given near carte blanche authorization by the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), introduced the war in Afghanistan, an expansive complex of military and clandestine operations spanning more than 70 countries and revamped national security infrastructure, including introduction of the Patriot Act and creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Director of National Intelligence.
Together with the 2003 invasion of Iraq – perhaps the gravest war crime of the new millennium, the US counterterrorism paradigm has consumed the 21st century with perpetual American force employment against an expansive list of self-identified threats. The toll has been severe in terms of human life (240 thousand civilians and 15 thousand US armed service members between 2003 and 2018 just in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan – not to mention innumerable more lost and affected lives in other regions scourged by US operations) and financial costs (Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs estimates expenditures for post-9/11 wars between fiscal years 2001 and 2019 to be $5.9 trillion, with an additional $808 billion predicted over the next four years; the long term healthcare costs of the veterans of just Afghanistan and Iraq are expected to increase the tab by another $1.8 trillion over the coming years).
What has the United States gained during the past nearly 20 years of continual war – a war that former vice-president Dick Cheney predicted back in 2001 “would not end in our lifetimes?” US militarism has led to the destruction of ancient cities throughout the Middle East and South Asia. This militarism has resulted in the creation of the largest number of refugees worldwide since the end of World War II, many from nations experiencing conflict as the result of US aggression.
Millions of people took to the streets in 2002 and 2003 to oppose the invasion of Iraq, knowing full well that the invasion was based on lies and the violation of international law. The creation of a coalition for the operation of “shock and awe” set off a chain of events that leave us almost twenty years later wondering how to stop the on-going cycle of violence. Those who protested in opposition to these wars knew that the use of military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, in addition to being illegal, immoral and unjustified, was of suspect strategic calculus given the illogic of ending “terror” through war – itself an act of state-sponsored “terror.”
Retired General Wesley Clark publicized the strategy of the Project for a New American Century described in their late 20th century publication “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” He discussed what he was told by his superiors shortly after 9/11. He reported that there were plans to replace the governments of seven countries within five years – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finishing off with Iran.
The absurdity of this strategy was evidenced on February 26, 2021 when the Biden administration bombed Syria (a country the U.S. is in illegally and against the will of the Syrian people) in retaliation for, as stated in the official explanation, an Iranian bombing of a US military base in Iraq (another country the US is in illegally and against the will of the Iraqi people), an action that the Iranians said was in retaliation for the illegal assassination of General Soliemani of Iran while he was in Iraq.
From the War on Terror to the New Cold War
For all its overt focus on the Middle East counterterrorism wars, the Bush Administration also quietly went about needling newly Putin-controlled Russia. In 2002, it unilaterally withdrew from the landmark Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to act upon a reinvigorated Reagan-era interest in extravagant (albeit operationally dubious) missile defense concepts, markedly increasing spending in this area. The claim that this new missile defense program, with installations in former Soviet bloc nations, was directed at Iran and North Korea was but a thinly veiled challenge directed at Russia and China, which viewed these systems as a direct threat. Furthermore, the Administration indulged its appetite for (selective) democracy promotion, lavishing funds on movements in Georgia and Ukraine directed against pro-Russian leaders and floating the idea of possible North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership.
The Obama Administration picked right up where its predecessors left off, only this time in less discrete fashion with unabashed enthusiasm for pro-Western regime change in Ukraine and the proclaimed “pivot to Asia” policy. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was concluded in 2011, but President Obama’s Nobel Prize-wining “Prague Vision” for a world without nuclear weapons translated in practice into the introduction of a trillion dollar nuclear modernization program, contributing in no small measure to renewed nuclear tensions with Russia and China. The stated goal of this so-called modernization program is to create an arsenal both larger and more powerful than what existed at the height of the first Cold War, at a time when the world should be headed in the opposite direction. While loudly advertising the (unrealized) objective of winding down the post-9/11 wars, the Administration effectively cemented the foundation for a return to Cold War-like rivalry with Russia, and now China.
The Trump Administration then officially announced the paradigmatic shift with its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review boldly proclaiming the “return of major power competition.” Established arms control frameworks were liquidated and plans for arms racing in the old nuclear and new high tech domains was openly shared. Just two months into office, the Biden Administration is making clear its maintenance of the charted course toward increasingly adversarial relations with Russia and China. This was as predictable as it is dangerous. During the 2020 presidential campaign, candidate Biden criticized Donald Trump for not being tough enough on China. In addition, steady referral to alleged “Russian meddling in U.S. elections” obscures the fact that the US is the global champion in such matters and deliberately adds to the tension between the two countries. Biden’s calling Putin a “killer” without agreeing to any ensuing diplomatic discussions reflects poorly on his intentions and does nothing to de-escalate the tension.
A new Cold War with attendant arms racing in traditional and novel domains only needlessly increases the risk of confrontation (either intentional or inadvertent) involving the use of calamitous weapons capabilities (e.g., nuclear, large-scale cyber, etc.). It advances strategically suspect goals. War is not fightable between major powers without incursion of drastic costs. These costs far outweigh any possible benefits gained. Such an arms race also fails to yield durable strategic advantages – particularly between economically well-matched adversaries, like the US and China. It also results in tremendous economic waste (allocation of finite state resources to dangerous and useless means at a time when funding is desperately needed for provision of basic social services, infrastructure improvements, public health measures, and more).
In observing the impact of the US permanent war economy on the global and domestic population, the anti-war, pro-peace and justice movement in the United States proposes the following ways of stopping these endless wars:
- The US government can cut the military budget by 75% as proposed by the Green Party’s presidential candidate, Howie Hawkins. Even with such a cut in the budget, the U.S. would still spend more on its military budget than the next 8 countries combined. These cuts should include shutting down of many of the more than 800 U.S. military bases operating overseas. With a military budget currently at approximately $740 billion, such a cut would free up $555 billion to spend on programs to help our communities in such possible areas as public education, single-payer healthcare, fighting against climate change, rebuilding roads and bridges, tuition-free college, an end to student loan debt, and a continuation of the moratorium on rents and evictions, especially during the on-going pandemic.
- The US government and the Russian government should lead the rest of the nuclear weapons possessing countries toward signing and ratifying the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which became law at the end of January 2021. Over 120 countries initially supported conclusion of the Treaty and 52 have now signed and ratified it, leading to its entry into legal force. There is no good reason for the US to reject this Treaty. It works in conjunction with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to accomplish abolition of nuclear weapons, something the majority of the world’s population understands is a threat to all humanity and life on earth.
- The US needs to honor the wishes of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and withdraw its troops from both countries immediately.
- The US must not only stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, but it must make sure that the Saudi government stops the bombing of Yemen, which many international humanitarian organizations consider to be the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Additionally, the U.S. and its proxies, including Saudi Arabia, must withdraw their troops from Syria, where the troops are neither wanted nor needed.
- The US must also withdraw its support for the Israeli government until their brutal occupation of Palestine is ended and the practice of continuing to annex more Palestinian land ends. In addition, the creation of a nuclear weapons free Middle East could help, as it would subject Israeli nuclear weapons to international scrutiny.
In conclusion, the post-9/11 world is in dire need of redirection away from increased militarization and confrontation and more toward peace and recovery from a global pandemic. The expenditure of trillions of dollars on war and preparation for war, not only by the US, but by all who are at risk due to heightened tensions and US unilateral imposition of economic sanctions, needs to stop. Funds need to be removed from weapons development and other aggressive ends and instead used to reclaim that long-lost and much needed “peace dividend.”
For more information about these and other issues, please view the UN Green Party Peace Action Committee’s March 18th webinar titled “Post-9/11: A Twenty Year Retrospective” (the video begins at about 2 minutes in).
Madelyn Hoffman is co-chair of the Green Party USA’s Peace Action Committee and was the Green Party of New Jersey’s candidate for U.S. Senate in 2018 and 2020. She was the director of NJ Peace Action (formerly NJ SANE founded in 1957) from 2000 to 2018.
Ryan R. Swan serves as California Representative on the Peace Action Committee of the Green Party of the United States. He holds a J.D. from the UCLA School of Law and an M.Phil. in international relations and politics from Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He is an incoming researcher in arms control and emerging technologies at the Bonn International Center for Conversion in Germany.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)
The TPNW, enters into force Jan. 22, 2021 for the first 50 countries that ratified it. Some countries/organizations (namely, the U.S.) have criticized the TPNW saying that it detracts/counteracts the NPT. This resource guide will show that this is definitely not the case – that the TPNW is a natural result of the NPT and that both treaties play important roles in achieving nuclear disarmament.
This short guide is broken up into 5 sections – each section centered and bolded. A bonus/necessity of the compactness of this guide is listing on-line sources for more complete information.
Origins and UN endorsement of the NPT and the TPNW
By 1960, nuclear weapons technology had the potential to become widespread although only three countries had them – the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union. A ban on the distribution of nuclear technology was first proposed by Ireland in a meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1961. In June, 1968, the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) endorsed the NPT with a vote of 95 to 4 with 21 abstentions. Basic info including text of the NPT: https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/npt/. Under the treaty, all states-parties commit to pursue general and complete disarmament, and the non–nuclear weapon states (NNWS) agree to forgo developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. These are the first two “pillars” of the treaty. The third pillar ensures that states-parties can access and develop nuclear technology for peaceful applications.
The TPNW is the product of the past fifty years of politics regarding the NPT – the dissatisfaction of the NNWS of the lack of disarmament of the nuclear-weapon states (NWS) and the reasonable fear that the NNWS will suffer due to the NWS. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), launched in 2007 seeks to shift the disarmament debate to focus on the humanitarian threat posed by nuclear weapons drawing attention to their unique destructive capacity, their catastrophic health and environmental consequences, their indiscriminate targeting, the debilitating impact of a detonation on medical infrastructure and relief measures, and the long-lasting effects of radiation on the surrounding area The road to a world free of nuclear weapons (https://www.icanw.org/history_of_the_tpnw) has pictures and text of the history of the TPNW starting with the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that have been outlawed. The General Assembly decided to convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. The conference adopted the TPNW on 7/7/2017 with 122 states in favor. Basic info including text of the TPNW: https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/tpnw/
Signatories and Entry In to Force (EIF) of the NPT and the TPNW
On July 1, 1968, the NPT opened for signature and was signed by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Article IX of the treaty established that entry into force would require the treaty’s ratification by those three countries (the treaty’s depositories) and 40 additional states. In 1970 the NPT entered into force with 46 states-parties.
The TPNW opened for signature in September 2017. In celebration of the International Day of the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a global conference on generating intergenerational support for the TPNW and its EIF was held in September 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7C3Gu3kq00&t=1s. This conference had twelve guest speakers and discussed the inclusiveness of nations, genders and indigenous peoples in creating this treaty. The TPNW got the needed 50 countries ratifications Oct. 24, 2020 so the EIF – 90 days later – is Jan. 22, 2021. WILPF’s own Ray Acheson, director of Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament program of WILPF, wrote in the Oct. 27, 2020 Nation Nuclear Weapons Have Always Been Immoral. Now They’re Illegalhttps://www.thenation.com/article/world/tpnw-nuclear-ban/.
Comparison of the NPT and TPNW
The first five articles in the NPT differentiate between the NWS and the NNWS. A good discussion of the NPT’s first ten Articles is https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/nptfact.
The TPNW does not differentiate between NWS and NNWS – a sign of its inclusiveness but a reason that no NWS has signed it. The TPNW is about twice the length of the NPT as it lists a greater number of reasons for its being and has more specifications for those countries that ratify it. Article 1 prohibits each state party to develop, test, produce, manufacture, transfer, station, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons – and also makes it illegal to assist, encourage, or induce anyone else to do any of those things.
Post-EIF of the NPT and TPNW
Regret about the lack of progress towards nuclear disarmament was expressed at all the NPT review conferences starting in 1975 even as more countries became parties to the Treaty: https://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/npt/history-of-the-npt-1975-1995 . The NPT was indefinitely extended in 1995 and calls for a continuation of a review conference every five years. The latest conference was scheduled for last April (twelve WILPFers were planning on attending) but was delayed due to Covid. The NPT now has the widest adherence of any arms control agreement, with 191 parties to the treaty – this alone makes the NPT an important tool in nuclear disarmament.
Regarding the TPNW, the wonderful Dec, 16, 2020 webinar by Timmon Wallis, Executive Director of NuclearBan.US, is a must-see. NuclearBan.US also put out a fact sheet that has some of the info that https://www.icanw.org/here_are_five_examples_of_the_type_of_activities_that_will_be_illegal_under_international_law_on_22_january_2021has.
ICAN has more than 500 partner organizations in over 100 countries.The Executive Director of ICAN, Beatrice Fihn,is interviewed in the Dec. 7, 2020 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists https://thebulletin.org/premium/2020-12/beatrice-fihn-how-to-implement-the-nuclear-weapons-ban-treaty/. Fihn lays out a possible future in which nuclear weapons countries are persuaded to decide that it is best to give up the most fearsome weapons ever created—in those countries’ own interests.
An article written by two members of the Green Party’s Peace Action Committee (GPAX) was published on Jan. 05, 2021 in Common Dreams. https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/01/05/treaty-prohibition-nuclear-weapons-road-there-and-road-ahead encourages us to seize this moment of the EIF of the TPNW to push for greater TPNW awareness and apply pressure on NWS.
The NPT, signed and ratified by most of the world’s countries, has not lessened the threat of nuclear war as hoped as evidenced by the Doomsday Clock now closer to midnight than ever before. The TPNW strengthens and supports the NPT and is now perhaps our best hope to decrease the threat of nuclear catastrophe although the NPT is still an important tool in this effort.
By Rusty Tomlinson
During the fall semester of 2007, I was in Gallup, New Mexico, teaching a reading program to the teachers in the two high schools in the Gallup, McKinley County School District, geographically, the largest school district in the nation. At some 6000 feet, Gallup is in a beautiful high desert. It was a favorite location for western movies. Extremely culturally diverse, Gallup is 44% Native, mostly Navajo, with quite a few Zuni, 34% Hispanic and 21% Caucasian. Some 15 miles west of Gallup is the Arizona line. Somewhere before that, is the border of the Navajo Reservation, the largest in the nation. The Navajo call themselves Dine’ and their rez Dinetah. Less than five miles east of Gallup is Red Rock State Park, with some beautiful sandstone formations, the highest of which is the steeple shaped Church Rock. East of there is the Dine’ town of Churchrock, New Mexico. Red Rock State Park was a favorite playground of ours. We often went there to hike and climb.
By Haig Hovaness
The government of Saudi Arabia is using munitions sold by U.S. weapons makers to prosecute a brutal campaign against a faction in the Yemen civil war. The weapons in question are laser-guided bombs manufactured by a subsidiary of Raytheon, one of the top weapons makers in the U.S.
GBU-12 Paveway II bomb
The precision guidance capabilities of these bombs are irrelevant to the destruction they wreak on civilians if they are used indiscriminately. The bomb does not choose its aim point. It will accurately strike a school bus, a hospital, or an apartment building if that is where it is aimed, The Saudi military and its Gulf allies have used such high-tech weaponry indiscriminately to inflict death and injury on thousands of innocent Yemeni civilians.
The Saudi government is an oil-rich tyranny heavily influenced by the fundamentalist Wahabi sect of Islam. Saudi Arabia is a nation in which women’s rights activists are arrested and tortured. It is a country with no national elections and no synagogues. Its authoritarian absolute monarchy and intolerant clergy are anathema to American values, yet the U.S. eagerly sells weapons to this regime. We sell them because weapons makers like Raytheon welcome profits from blood money.
The prime directive motivating Raytheon, and all other corporate weapons merchants, is maximizing shareholder value. They have no interest in promoting peace or minimizing human suffering. Indeed, the more their weapons are consumed with devastating effects, the greater their profits. Their corporate hands are stained with the blood of countless victims of the indiscriminate use of their weapons. Maximizing weapons sales is accomplished by influencing the U.S. and foreign governments to adopt policies resulting in stockpiling and use of weapons of war.
There is a clear chain of political influence reaching from the boardrooms of companies like Raytheon through the well-paid lobbying firms of the Washington beltway into the campaign financing of powerful congressional representatives and the career advancement of government officials who authorize arms purchases. This primary mechanism of influence is augmented by extensive subsidies to supposedly independent defense experts at numerous think tanks and academic institutions. These experts provide intellectual respectability to the feeding frenzy of the weapons makers at the enormous trough of the U.S. defense budget.
Raytheon, like other arms makers, publicly asserts that it has no role in shaping foreign policy. Meanwhile its lobbyists privately tie crucial votes in Congress to the promise of large campaign contributions and participate in revolving door career maneuvers that place industry advocates in powerful government positions. This duplicity is so common that it has been normalized as a permanent feature of the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex. The improper influence has become so egregious that a Raytheon lobbyist, Mark Esper, was appointed Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, and Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, sits on the Raytheon board of directors. With control of both houses of Congress and the Executive branch, Raytheon has nothing to fear from U.S. government oversight over its lavish funding. But there is something that Raytheon would fear: investor activism.
Senior corporate executives are increasingly compensated by stock grants and stock options. Thus, anything that depresses the stock price of their companies directly affects their earnings. This explains the widespread practice of companies buying back their own stock to boost stock prices instead of reinvesting their profits in productive business capabilities. In the past, investors were reluctant to punish companies for socially irresponsible behavior because the conventional economic wisdom was that nothing should interfere with market forces. Motivated only by profit, weapons makers have used campaign contributions to engineer steady increases in U.S. defense spending for decades, with utter indifference to the damage inflicted by the ill-advised use of their weaponry. But the winds of change are reshaping the priorities of investors.
After the sharp recession of 2008, the magic of the marketplace was partially discredited because unchecked exploitation of deregulated mortgage markets had led to a global financial collapse. Moreover, the looming danger of climate change led economists and investors to add consideration of “externalities,” factors not directly reflected on a corporation’s income statement, to the evaluation of investments. The result has been the growth of socially responsible investing, a practice that balances the profitability of an investment with the associated impacts on society. Initially, the focus of this movement has been on hydrocarbon and mining companies, but there is no reason why this new calculus of investment valuation could not be extended to the arms makers.
I submit that a divestment campaign targeting Raytheon Corporation would be the most direct and efficient means of halting this company’s improper manipulation of U.S. foreign policy and reducing the carnage caused by the indiscriminate use of its weapons in war zones like Yemen. The divestiture of large amounts of Raytheon stock by major public pension funds, academic endowments, and mutual funds, would significantly depress the company’s stock price and lead Raytheon management to heed the following demands:
- Halt all campaign contributions to elected officials.
- Halt all contributions to policy organizations advocating aggressive military action.
- Halt the marketing of weapons to regimes engaged in human rights violations
- Redirect lobbying funds to foreign aid efforts aimed at relief for war refugees
Although Raytheon is not the only weapons maker engaging in corrupt and harmful practices endangering lives and undermining peace, it is a prominent example of such misconduct, and effective concentrated action against it would send a powerful message to other corporate giants in the Military Industrial Complex, such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman. For too long, the invisible hand of marketplace power has kept the U.S. government on the path of war. It is time for investors to use their economic power to turn arms makers away from being political advocates and enablers of war and limit them to functioning as responsible guardians of peace.
By Rusty Tomlinson
In Truthout, Stephen Zunes examined some of the history of Anthony Blinken, President Elect Biden’s designee for Secretary of State.
Biden and Blinken have worked together for many years. In 2002, when W. went to Congress asking for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, Biden chaired the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Blinken was the Democratic staff director of that committee. Together, they limited the hearings on the authorization to a day and a half and ensured that all the testimony would come from hawks, allowing no Middle East experts or weapons inspectors to testify. Thus, we were thrust into an unnecessary, illegal and disastrous war.
The Authorization for the Use of Military Force has yet to be repealed, meaning that W., Obama and Trump all had absolute authority to determine the use and disposition of the military. So will Biden, until it is repealed.
Blinken complained that we didn’t send enough forces to the Syrian Civil War and he opposed withdrawing from Syria. He even went against Biden, when Biden opposed our involvement in the Libyan Civil War.
Along with Michele Flournoy. Biden’s choice for Secretary of Defense, Blinken founded West Exec Advisors, a consulting firm, whose client list is secret, but is thought to include military contractors and an Israeli artificial intelligence firm with close ties to the military.
Another position Blinken shares with Biden is a refusal to make billions in aid and arms to Israel dependent upon Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian laws. Both Blinken and Biden have often criticized the Palestinian Authority, but not Israel.
Israeli authorities are very happy with the choice of Blinken. Former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, said, “I can think of no finer choice.” Biden’s and Blinken’s opposition to making aid to Israel dependent upon Israel’s adherence to humanitarian international law draws into question whether they will insist upon such adherence from other allies.
In 2015, John Kerry made a Palestinian/Israeli peace proposal. Despite Palestine’s recognition of the Israeli State and Israel’s flat refusal to recognize the Palestinian State
The Nuclear Ban Treaty Will Enter Force
By Ryan Swan
In the United States, we regularly hear about the “threats” posed by Russia and China. The former is corrupting our elections and pursuing aggressive ambitions in the Baltics, while the latter is stealing our intellectual property and jeopardizing “our interests” in Asia. Both are committed to “challenging the liberal democratic world order.”
Behind this rhetoric, which at best is misleading, if not outright propagandistic, both the Republican and Democratic parties support astronomical military budgets (close to $750 billion for FY2020 – more than the next 11 highest military spending states combined) and the advancement of dangerous and morally questionable military capabilities (autonomous weapons, militarization of space, etc.).
Most dangerous and morally questionable is the overwhelming bipartisan support for continued maintenance of nuclear weapons with civilization-ending potential as a centerpiece of U.S. “deterrence policy.” The Obama Administration kicked off a $1 trillion renovation of the American nuclear arsenal, and the Trump Administration has picked up from there to further expand the initiative (which would certainly continue under a potential Biden Administration with hawks, like Michele Flournoy – a possible Biden Secretary of Defense pick, shaping administration policy).
In 2017, more than 120 countries came together in the United Nations to reject a continual life under the nuclear shadow. Tired of this status quo, they concluded the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The Treaty’s rationale was simple – the common interest of mankind in avoiding the calamitous consequences of nuclear weapons outweighs any strategic benefits such weapons confer upon specific states. Accordingly, nuclear weapons must be banned.
The TPNW provided that once 50 states actually ratify the treaty, it would enter into legal force 90 days thereafter. This past week, that noteworthy milestone was reached. With Honduras’ ratification, the Treaty will now become legally effective in January 2021.
Both the Republicans and Democrats have summarily dismissed the TPNW and supported the practice of pressuring allies into not signing it. Their refrain is that the Treaty runs counter to U.S. national interests. However, an important and rarely asked question should be just what exactly are U.S. national interests and do they include the desires and best interest of the American people, or simply advance an agenda favorable to the powerful military-industrial complex?
What do the American people – those who have thought about this existentially important issue – want? Well, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that a full 87% of respondents to a 2019 survey desired that the government conclude an agreement with Russia to limit nuclear arms. Approximately two-thirds of surveyed Americans favored remaining a party to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and 80% called for extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction (New START) Treaty. Furthermore, the majority of respondents to a 2019 YouGov opinion survey thought the U.S. “should work with the other nuclear armed countries to eliminate all nuclear weapons from all countries, in line with the [(TPNW)].”
Instead, the Trump Administration has rejected arms control wholesale, unilaterally withdrawing the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal), the INF Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty, while denouncing the TPNW and refusing to take up negotiations on New START extension (the last remaining bilateral nuclear treaty between the U.S. and Russia). For their part, the Democrats continue to support enormous military budgets. Disappointingly, Democratic members of the House recently voted to kill the Lee-Pocan Amendment, calling for a paltry 10% reduction in military spending and redirection of those funds to health and human services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In contrast to the two major parties continually subjected to heavy special interest lobbying, the Green Party refuses all corporate campaign contributions and, accordingly, is uniquely situated to genuinely pursue what most Americans want – a more peaceful and cooperative world. To this end, the Green Party advocates for concrete steps, including adoption of a no-first-use of nuclear weapons policy, considerable cuts to the nuclear arsenal to the minimum point required for effective deterrence, large cuts to military spending, and implementation of a broader foreign policy that is based on principles of international law, not rooted in the brute force of might-makes-right egoism. All of these steps are actively opposed by Republicans and Democrats alike.
For this reason, and many others, I support the Green Party and its presidential ticket of Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker. I encourage those interested in peace – as well as real democracy, sustainable environmental policy, social and economic justice, racial and gender equality, election and campaign finance reform, and more – to check out the national Green Party platform, as increasing numbers of Americans are now doing. I invite you to consider joining us in our effort to make the world a better and more peaceful place for all its inhabitants.
Ryan Swan is a California Representative on the Peace Action Committee of the Green Party of the United States. He holds a J.D. from the UCLA School of Law and a Master’s in international relations and politics from the University of Cambridge (Trinity Hall).
#NoWar2020 is going online this May 28-30, 2020! Due to the cancellation of CANSEC and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we’re turning #NoWar2020, World BEYOND War’s 5th annual global conference, into a series of online sessions.
On Day 1 on May 28 at 12pm-2pm Eastern Time, Mary-Wynne Ashford will lead a virtual workshop on “Nonviolence Strategies – 101 Solutions to Violence, Terror, and War”. Click here to register for the workshop!
Day 2 on May 29 will include 2 online panel presentations. From 3pm-4:30pm Eastern Time, Te Ao Pritchard, Siana Bangura, Richard Sanders, and Colin Stuart will speak about how to shut down a weapons expo. Then from 4:30pm-6pm Eastern Time, we’ll hear from Tamara Lorincz, Brent Patterson, and Simon Black about conversion from a war to peace economy. Click here to register for Day 2!
Day 3 on May 30 from 3pm-5pm Eastern Time will be a virtual anti-war activists open mic session. We’ll hear live music from the Ottawa Raging Grannies and Sandy Greenberg, along with reports from World BEYOND War chapter coordinators around the world. Come to listen and to share your music, poetry, activism, and more. Click here to register for the open mic session!
Then join us in-person next year from June 1-6, 2021 in Ottawa for #NoWar2021 to protest CANSEC 2021 and participate in World BEYOND War’s 6th annual global conference!
The Great Pandemic Awakening:
How the Coronavirus Epidemic Should Reorder National Priorities
Historians may record the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 as a turning point in the ordering of priorities of the world’s nations. The stark reality of a global epidemic that sickens millions and kills tens of thousands may jolt the people of all nations into awakening to the difference between real and imaginary threats to their safety. This may lead to a long-overdue retreat from militarism and xenophobia, social maladies that have caused the squandering of vast resources better applied to legitimate human needs.
Ever since the invention of nuclear weapons at the end of WWII, large-scale warfare between advanced nations has been a political impossibility. The response to any large conventional attack would entail the use of devastating nuclear weapons in an exchange that could culminate in a global catastrophe. No regime could survive, politically or physically, such an outcome. Nevertheless, most large nations have persisted in building up enormously costly military establishments in anticipation of a fantasy of large-scale conventional warfare. This fantasy presumes that combatants would limit their hostilities to bloody conventional warfare and never resort to their most powerful weaponry. Post WWII History has repeatedly proven that nuclear-armed nations will not fight large conventional wars, but the irrational preparations for such fighting persist.
Although nuclear weapons have rendered large-scale conventional war infeasible, they have also become the object of irrational expenditure. Ill-founded theories of nuclear war strategy have resulted in grossly excessive spending on weapons that can never be used. The pernicious phenomenon of an arms race, once limited to competitive accumulation of guns, tanks, planes, and ships has taken hold in the development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Perversely, the more nuclear weapons are designed and deployed, the less secure the world becomes. Not content with devising ever more deadly and accurate offensive nuclear weapons, major nations are expending huge sums on developing and deploying missile defense systems, a futile undertaking that continues because of an irrational belief that enough spending can overcome intractable technical problems.
How much spending for military fantasies are we talking about in in the United States?
The current annual allocation in the US government budget for all defense-related expenditures is over one trillion dollars. This is over half of the discretionary budget. The cost of a single F35 jet fighter ($110 million) could buy 2,200 hospital ventilators, desperately needed in the Coronavirus pandemic. By comparison, the US government’s discretionary spending on Federal health institutions for the same period amounted to about $90 billion, a tenth of what is spent for “national security.” In short, the US is spending 10 times more to defend against imaginary threats than it is to contend with real threats to public safety.
Consider the clear and present danger of COVID-19. There is nothing imaginary or speculative about the mounting toll of this pandemic virus. Apart from the terrible spread of infections and fatalities, the economic damage inflicted on the world is staggering, leading some economists to predict a worldwide depression. Current projections anticipate over 100,000 fatalities in the US resulting from COVID-19. This is more than all US deaths caused by military action since WWII. Yet because of grossly misallocated resources, many of these pandemic victims will die needlessly. They will have perished because a nation obsessed by fantasies of endless warfare did not address the real dangers facing the country. There will be more pandemics after COVID-19 because evolution of viruses never stops, and it is just a matter of time before the next wave comes. Even if all viruses are defeated by medical science, the global danger of climate change is worsening inexorably and posing an even more challenging test of rational allocation of national resources.
We must awaken from a nightmare of imaginary military threats and horrific war plans to the grim reality of our neglected protections from the true global dangers of disease, climate disruption, poverty, and xenophobia. Such an awakening will be an ample recompense for the suffering endured by the world’s people in the Coronovirus pandemic of 2020.
The Green Party of the US has consistently advocated the redirection of US national resources away from excessive military spending and toward social needs. Citizens who wish to restore sanity to the allocation of our government’s resources and reorder national priorities to serve the common good should vote for Green Party candidates for local and national office. The Green Party is the party of peace and social justice. It is the party that is ready to serve an American public awakened to our true national priorities.
The Green Party Peace Action Committee has endorsed the call of the United National Antiwar Coalition(UNAC) to take a stand for peace and hold local antiwar actions on the weekend of July 13th, demanding:
No War on Iran!
No U.S. Coup in Venezuela!
End Sanctions Now!
Bring all U.S. Troops home now!
There are at least three actions taking place in Illinois: In Chicago, Champaign-Urbana, and Carbondale. (Details below.)
The weekend of July 13th was selected in part because Sunday, July 14th, is the anniversary of the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran, the United States and other nations, also known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal.”
It was bad enough that the Trump administration reneged on this agreement. Now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others in the administration are engaging in dangerous acts of provocation against Iran, in a misguided effort to destabilize that country, promote so-called “regime change,” and perhaps deliberately incite a war. Even if a full-blown war is not intended, its acts of economic warfare against Iran and Venezuela already violate international law, and its reckless acts of brinksmanship and daily barrage of unsubstantiated accusations against Iran demonstrate that it is pushing toward some type of military aggression against that nation – which could easily escalate into a full-blown war.
While some members of Congress are making noise about trying to rein in the Trump administration’s ability to start another disastrous war in the Middle East, most Democratic and Republican members alike have laid the groundwork for such a war. For decades, they have abdicated their constitutional authority to declare war to the executive branch, allowing president after president to commit acts of war with little or no resistance. In addition, most Democratic leaders in Congress go along with their Republican colleagues (and the corporate news media) in proclaiming that Iran is the “world’s leading State sponsor of terrorism,” “the main source of instability in the Middle East,” etc.
These claims are constantly repeated but rarely examined, as if sheer repetition is an acceptable substitute for truth. Whatever one thinks of Iran’s actions towards its neighbors, there is little or no substance to these charges. Cheerleaders for war are using the “terrorism” charge, grainy videos and other dubious “evidence” in an attempt to manipulate the public into believing that future U.S. military attacks on Iran may be justified. Yet there can be no justification for U.S. military aggression against a nation that has not attacked the United States. Any such action would be illegal under well-settled international law, illegal under the U.S. Constitution, and without a shred of moral justification.
Such claims are also monstrously hypocritical, coming as they do from a nation that has literally rained tens of thousands of bombs and missiles against seven different Middle East and African nations in recent years, driving much of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria into the hell of persistent war, political chaos and economic ruin, with no end in sight. Not only has the United States directly supplied terrorist groups in Syria, its efforts at “regime change” generally have fostered an increase in terrorist activity in the region. Americans must wake up to the fact that the world’s leading “State sponsor of terrorism” is their own government.
As UNAC well points out: “In modern history, Iran has never attacked another country, something the U.S. has done continuously. Iran has not threatened to attack the U.S. or other countries, only maintaining its right to defend itself. On the other hand, the U.S. has threatened to annihilate Iran if it interferes with U.S. ‘interests.’ While the U.S. has around 20 times the number of foreign military bases as all other countries combined, Iran only has foreign bases in Syria, a country that asked for Iran’s support in its war against jihadist forces, most supported by the U.S. and its allies, as well as direct attacks from Israel, the U.S. and its NATO allies.”
As it is, the economic warfare (sanctions) against both Iran and Venezuela (another target for so-called “regime change” via blatant U.S. attempts to orchestrate a coup) are already killing people, an estimated 40,000 in Venezuela alone.
It is time for the American people to say: “Enough! No More War!” Democrats and Republicans in Congress are currently debating, not over whether to increase military spending next year, but over how much to raise it. The parameters of the debate are whether to increase the military budget from $716 billion to $750 billion, or “only” $733 billion. Even those colossal sums don’t include the tens of billions of dollars that go into the “overseas contingency operations budget,” where a lot of current war spending is hidden from public view. They also don’t include funding for Homeland Security, the payment of interest on past wars, or the additional health-care costs caused by physical or mental injuries to the veterans, whom all politicians claim to care so much about. Meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans languish in poverty, debt and little or no health care, our infrastructure continues to crumble, and not nearly enough is being done to address climate catastrophe and the collapse of our ecosystem — a major cause of which is militarism and war.
The Green Party is the Peace Party. With only rare individual exceptions, neither Democrats nor Republicans can legitimately claim to be a “lesser evil” on the issues of militarism and war. Just as “nonviolence” is one of our key values, militarism and war must be one of our foremost issues as Greens. We have a responsibility to strongly raise our voices for peace, as we are the leading political expression of the peace movement in the U.S. today.
Accordingly, we call upon all Greens to please join us, and others in UNAC and the broader peace movement, in local actions around the above four demands, on or about July 13th.
In Chicago: Friday, July 12, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., 190 N. State St., Chicago, IL 60601. Join the Facebook event.
In Champaign: Saturday, July 13, 5 p.m., Southwest corner of West Side Park, Champaign Illinois. Short rally followed by march to downtown Champaign.
In Carbondale: Saturday, July 13, noon – 1 p.m., Corner of Main and Illinois Ave., Carbondale, Illinois, VIGIL TO STOP WAR BEFORE IT STARTS, END SANCTIONS, AND BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW. Join the Facebook event.
Illinois Green Party Outreach