Thursday, December 17, 2009

Health-care bill wouldn't bring real reform

By Howard Dean
Thursday, December 17, 2009

from the Washington Post

If I were a senator, I would not vote for the current health-care bill. Any measure that expands private insurers' monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real health-care reform. Real reform would insert competition into insurance markets, force insurers to cut unnecessary administrative expenses and spend health-care dollars caring for people. Real reform would significantly lower costs, improve the delivery of health care and give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. The current Senate bill accomplishes none of these.

Real health-care reform is supposed to eliminate discrimination based on preexisting conditions. But the legislation allows insurance companies to charge older Americans up to three times as much as younger Americans, pricing them out of coverage. The bill was supposed to give Americans choices about what kind of system they wanted to enroll in. Instead, it fines Americans if they do not sign up with an insurance company, which may take up to 30 percent of your premium dollars and spend it on CEO salaries -- in the range of $20 million a year -- and on return on equity for the company's shareholders. Few Americans will see any benefit until 2014, by which time premiums are likely to have doubled. In short, the winners in this bill are insurance companies; the American taxpayer is about to be fleeced with a bailout in a situation that dwarfs even what happened at AIG.


From the very beginning of this debate, progressives have argued that a public option or a Medicare buy-in would restore competition and hold the private health insurance industry accountable. Progressives understood that a public plan would give Americans real choices about what kind of system they wanted to be in and how they wanted to spend their money. Yet Washington has decided, once again, that the American people cannot be trusted to choose for themselves. Your money goes to insurers, whether or not you want it to.

To be clear, I'm not giving up on health-care reform. The legislation does have some good points, such as expanding Medicaid and permanently increasing the federal government's contribution to it. It invests critical dollars in public health, wellness and prevention programs; extends the life of the Medicare trust fund; and allows young Americans to stay on their parents' health-care plans until they turn 27. Small businesses struggling with rising health-care costs will receive a tax credit, and primary-care physicians will see increases in their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates.

Improvements can still be made in the Senate, and I hope that Senate Democrats will work on this bill as it moves to conference. If lawmakers are interested in ensuring that government affordability credits are spent on health-care benefits rather than insurers' salaries, they need to require state-based exchanges, which act as prudent purchasers and select only the most efficient insurers. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) offered this amendment during the Finance Committee markup, and Democrats should include it in the final legislation. A stripped-down version of the current bill that included these provisions would be worth passing.

In Washington, when major bills near final passage, an inside-the-Beltway mentality takes hold. Any bill becomes a victory. Clear thinking is thrown out the window for political calculus. In the heat of battle, decisions are being made that set an irreversible course for how future health reform is done. The result is legislation that has been crafted to get votes, not to reform health care.

I have worked for health-care reform all my political life. In my home state of Vermont, we have accomplished universal health care for children younger than 18 and real insurance reform -- which not only bans discrimination against preexisting conditions but also prevents insurers from charging outrageous sums for policies as a way of keeping out high-risk people. I know health reform when I see it, and there isn't much left in the Senate bill. I reluctantly conclude that, as it stands, this bill would do more harm than good to the future of America.

The writer is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and was governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2002.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Obama's Nobel War Speech from John Dear, SJ

A great article:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Urge Secretary Clinton to ensure resolution in Honduras

Right now, we are witnessing the biggest political crisis to rock Central America in years1, but the U.S. has moved at, what amounts to politically as, a glacial pace.

Two months ago, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was removed from his home at gunpoint by 300 troops. He was forcibly put on a plane and has only managed to step foot in his home country for roughly two hours since.

In the meantime, a de facto government has assumed power, violently punishing all those who courageously speak out -- dealing a powerful blow to democracy and human rights.

Yesterday, President Zelaya arrived in Washington, DC to meet with Organization of American States (OAS) and U.S. State Department officials to discuss plans for resolution. Tomorrow he is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

While the U.S. is finally poised to cut off nearly $150 million in military assistance to Honduras2 and strengthen its restrictions on the country, there is still a major factor that has not yet been addressed.

The people of Honduras voted for a democratic government, but in the most undemocratic fashion possible, they are in danger of losing that right, among many others. The de facto government has used its unchecked power to conduct mass arrests and police and military-sanctioned beatings against any vocal oppositional figures. The U.S. must use President Zelaya's trip to Washington to send a clear message to coup leaders that abuse of human rights and democracy in Honduras will not be tolerated.

Tell Secretary Clinton to push for accountability for the human rights violations that have been committed by the de facto government.

Extreme instability and political unrest have forced the people of Honduras to take to the streets in protest. Amnesty International researchers have been on the ground since the coup took place and have documented widespread police beatings of students, reporters, political leaders and other activists. Women and media workers have been particularly vulnerable to the violence. We can only expect that the excessive use of police and military force will intensify unless order in soon restored.

In this instance where political implications are huge and the human rights impact is tremendous, there is no time to waste. While President Obama's words have added much-needed pressure to the debate -- labeling the overthrow as illegal and recognizing the "terrible precedent" it would set if unchallenged -- they have not been enough to end the ongoing crackdown on human rights.

Right now, the Obama administration must take decisive action in order to seek a negotiated solution and counter the damage that has already been done.

Tell Secretary Clinton that you want to see human rights returned to the people of Honduras.

The coup has already taken over political powers and human rights in Honduras -- if the U.S. hasn't taken bold action to push for urgent negotiations and a peaceful resolution of the crisis by now, then what more will it take?

Daniel, Kate, Zahir and the rest of the Central America Team

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Demand that President Obama ensures full accountability for torture and abuse.

Stories that Attorney General Eric Holder will soon appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate allegations of torture and abuse are spreading like wildfire.

This action could finally set the wheels of accountability in motion. It would prove that there are major consequences for those who ordered, authorized and allowed such horrific acts like waterboarding, stress positions, and other torture tactics to be used as justifiable methods in the fight against te rror.

All you have to do is take one look at the gruesome images of various people bound and gagged or read the reports that detail how U.S. officials played terrifying near-death games with detainees' lives to know that this is much bigger than a few 'bad apples' acting independently of a higher authority.

So why does it seem like Attorney General Holder may settle for investigating and prosecuting only lower level offenders?

Don't let high-level Bush administration officials get off scott-free. Demand a full investigation of torture crimes at all levels.

Under U.S. law, the government must fully investigate allegations of torture, prosecute all those responsible for torture, and provide remedy to victims. President Obama is responsible for upholding the nation's laws and ensuring full accountability for torture.

We haven't been pushing for an independent investigation for this long to see only mid-ranking government officials take the fall.

High-level government officials who authorized torture are not above the law.

If the Department of Justice moves forward with any form of investigation, it would be a very important first step in our fight against torture. But we must use this small window of opportunity to ensure that this first step is not their last.

It wasn't that long ago when a high-level investigation into torture seemed out of the question. But thanks to your continued activism, we're now close to seeing this action become a reality.

Getting an investigation is one thing. Getting a full investigation is quite another. Right now, we can act to determine the scope of this investigation.

Tell the Obama administration that the only way to deliver true justice is to seek full accountability.


Njambi Good
Campaign Director
Counter Terror With Justice
Amnesty International USA

Thursday, July 23, 2009

How Serial War Became an American Way of Life

On July 16, in a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the "central question" for the defense of the United States was how the military should be "organized, equipped - and funded - in the years ahead, to win the wars we are in while being prepared for threats on or beyond the horizon." The phrase beyond the horizon ought to sound ominous. Was Gates telling his audience of civic-minded business leaders to spend more money on defense in order to counter threats whose very existence no one could answer for? Given the public acceptance of American militarism, he could speak in the knowledge that the awkward challenge would never be posed. We have begun to talk casually about our wars; and this should be surprising for several reasons. To begin with, in the history of the United States war has never been considered the normal state of things. For two centuries, Americans were taught to think war itself an aberration, and "wars" in the plural could only have seemed doubly aberrant. Younger generations of Americans, however, are now being taught to expect no end of war - and no end of wars. For anyone born during World War II, or in the early years of the Cold War, the hope of international progress toward the reduction of armed conflict remains a palpable memory. After all, the menace of the Axis powers, whose state apparatus was fed by wars, had been stopped definitively by the concerted action of Soviet Russia, Great Britain, and the United States. The founding of the United Nations extended a larger hope for a general peace. Organizations like the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and the Union of Concerned Scientists reminded people in the West, as well as in the Communist bloc, of a truth that everyone knew already: the world had to advance beyond war. The French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut called this brief interval "the Second Enlightenment" partly because of the unity of desire for a world at peace. And the name Second Enlightenment is far from absurd. The years after the worst of wars were marked by a sentiment of universal disgust with the very idea of war. In the 1950s, the only possible war between the great powers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, would have been a nuclear war; and the horror of assured destruction was so monstrous, the prospect of the aftermath so unforgivable, that the only alternative appeared to be a design for peace. John F. Kennedy saw this plainly when he pressed for ratification of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty - the greatest achievement of his administration. He signed it on October 7, 1963, six weeks before he was killed, and it marked the first great step away from war in a generation. Who could have predicted that the next step would take 23 years, until the imagination of Ronald Reagan took fire from the imagination of Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik? The delay after Reykjavik has now lasted almost another quarter-century; and though Barack Obama speaks the language of progress, it is not yet clear whether he has the courage of Kennedy or the imagination of Gorbachev and Reagan. Forgetting Vietnam In the twentieth century, as in the nineteenth, smaller wars have "locked in" a mentality for wars that last a decade or longer. The Korean War put Americans in the necessary state of fear to permit the conduct of the Cold War - one of whose shibboleths, the identification of the island of Formosa as the real China, was developed by the pro-war lobby around the Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek. Yet the Korean War took place in some measure under U.N. auspices, and neither it nor the Vietnam War, fierce and destructive as they were, altered the view that war as such was a relic of the barbarous past. Vietnam was the by-product of a "containment" policy against the Soviet Union that spun out of control: a small counterinsurgency that grew to the scale of almost unlimited war. Even so, persistent talk of peace - of a kind we do not hear these days - formed a counterpoint to the last six years of Vietnam, and there was never a suggestion that another such war would naturally follow because we had enemies everywhere on the planet and the way you dealt with enemies was to invade and bomb. America's failure of moral awareness when it came to Vietnam had little to do with an enchantment with war as such. In a sense the opposite was true. The failure lay, in large part, in a tendency to treat the war as a singular "nightmare," beyond the reach of history; something that happened to us, not something we did. A belief was shared by opponents and supporters of the war that nothing like this must ever be allowed to happen to us again. So the lesson of Vietnam came to be: never start a war without knowing what you want to accomplish and when you intend to leave. Colin Powell gave his name to the new doctrine; and by converting the violence of any war into a cost-benefit equation, he helped to erase the consciousness of the evil we had done in Vietnam. Powell's symptomatic and oddly heartless warning to George W. Bush about invading Iraq - "You break it, you own it" - expresses the military pragmatism of this state of mind. For more than a generation now, two illusions have dominated American thinking about Vietnam. On the right, there has been the idea that we "fought with one hand tied behind our back." (In fact the only weapons the U.S. did not use in Indochina were nuclear.) Within the liberal establishment, on the other hand, a lone-assassin theory is preferred: as with the Iraq War, where the blame is placed on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, so with Vietnam the culprit of choice has become Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. This convenient narrowing of the responsibility for Vietnam became, if anything, more pronounced after the death of McNamara on July 6th. Even an honest and unsparing obituary like Tim Weiner's in the New York Times peeled away from the central story relevant actors like Secretary of State Dean Rusk and General William Westmoreland. Meanwhile, President Richard Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger seem to have dematerialized entirely - as if they did nothing more than "inherit" the war. The truth is that Kissinger and Nixon extended the Vietnam War and compounded its crimes. One need only recall the transmission of a startling presidential command in a phone call by Kissinger to his deputy Alexander Haig. The U.S. would commence, said Kissinger, "a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia [using] anything that flies on anything that moves." No more than Iraq was Vietnam a war with a single architect or in the interest of a single party. The whole American political establishment - and for as long as possible, the public culture as well - rallied to the war and questioned the loyalty of its opponents and resisters. Public opinion was asked to admire, and did not fail to support, the Vietnam War through five years under President Lyndon Johnson; and Nixon, elected in 1968 on a promise to end it with honor, was not held to account when he carried it beyond his first term and added an atrocious auxiliary war in Cambodia. Yet ever since Senator Joe McCarthy accused the Democrats of "twenty years of treason" - the charge that, under presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman, the U.S. had lost a war against Communist agents at home we did not even realize we were fighting - it has become a folk truth of American politics that the Republican Party is the party that knows about wars: how to bring them on and how to end them. Practically, this means that Democrats must be at pains to show themselves more willing to fight than they may feel is either prudent or just. As the legacy of Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton attests, and as the first half year of Obama has confirmed, Democratic presidents feel obliged either to start or to widen wars in order to prove themselves worthy of every kind of trust. Obama indicated his grasp of the logic of the Democratic candidate in time of war as early as the primary campaign of 2007, when he assured the military and political establishments that withdrawal from Iraq would be compensated for by a larger war in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We are now close to codifying a pattern by which a new president is expected never to give up one war without taking on another. From Humanitarian Intervention to Wars of Choice Our confidence that our selection of wars will be warranted and our killings pardoned by the relevant beneficiaries comes chiefly from the popular idea of what happened in Kosovo. Yet the eleven weeks of NATO bombings from March through June 1999 - an apparent exertion of humanity (in which not a single plane was shot down) in the cause of a beleaguered people - was also a test of strategy and weapons. Kosovo, in this sense, was a larger specimen of the sort of test war launched in 1983 by Ronald Reagan in Grenada (where an invasion ostensibly to protect resident Americans also served as aggressive cover for the president's retreat from Lebanon), and in 1989 by George H.W. Bush in Panama (where an attack on an unpopular dictator served as a trial run for the weapons and propaganda of the First Gulf War a year later). The NATO attack on the former Yugoslavia in defense of Kosovo was also a public war - legal, happy, and just, as far as the mainstream media could see - a war, indeed, organized in the open and waged with a glow of conscience. The goodness of the bombing was radiant on the face of Tony Blair. It was Kosovo more than any other engagement of the past 50 years that prepared an American military-political consensus in favor of serial wars against transnational enemies of whatever sort. An antidote to the humanitarian legend of the Kosovo war has been offered in a recent article by David Gibbs, drawn from his book First Do No Harm. Gibbs shows that it was not the Serbs but the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) that, in 1998, broke the terms of the peace agreement negotiated by Richard Holbrooke and thus made a war inevitable. Nor was it unreasonable for Serbia later to object to the American and European demand that NATO peacekeepers enjoy "unrestricted passage and unimpeded access" throughout Yugoslavia - in effect, that it consent to be an occupied country. Americans were told that the Serbs in that war were oppressors while Albanians were victims: a mythology that bears a strong resemblance to later American reports of the guilty Sunnis and innocent Shiites of Iraq. But the KLA, Gibbs recounts, "had a record of viciousness and racism that differed little from that of [Serbian leader Slobodan] Milosevic's forces." And far from preventing mass killings, the "surgical strikes" by NATO only increased them. The total number killed on both sides before the war was about 2,000. After the bombing and in revenge for it, about 10,000 people were killed by Serb security forces. Thus, the more closely one inquires the less tenable Kosovo seems as a precedent for future humanitarian interventions. Clinton and Kosovo rather than Bush and Iraq opened the period we are now living in. Behind the legitimation of both wars, however, lies a broad ideological investment in the idea of "just wars" - chiefly, in practice, wars fought by the commercial democracies in the name of democracy, to advance their own interests without an unseemly overbalance of conspicuous selfishness. Michael Ignatieff, a just-war theorist who supported both the Kosovo and Iraq wars, published an influential article on the invasion of Iraq, "The American Empire: The Burden," in New York Times Magazine on January 5, 2003, only weeks before the onset of "shock and awe." Ignatieff asked whether the American people were generous enough to fight the war our president intended to start against Iraq. For this was, he wrote,"a defining moment in America's long debate with itself about whether its overseas role as an empire threatens or strengthens its existence as a republic. The American electorate, while still supporting the president, wonders whether his proclamation of a war without end against terrorists and tyrants may only increase its vulnerability while endangering its liberties and its economic health at home. A nation that rarely counts the cost of what it really values now must ask what the 'liberation' of Iraq is worth." A Canadian living in the U.S., Ignatieff went on to endorse the war as a matter of American civic duty, with an indulgent irony for its opponents:"Regime change is an imperial task par excellence, since it assumes that the empire's interest has a right to trump the sovereignty of a state... Regime change also raises the difficult question for Americans of whether their own freedom entails a duty to defend the freedom of others beyond their borders... Yet it remains a fact - as disagreeable to those left wingers who regard American imperialism as the root of all evil as it is to the right-wing isolationists, who believe that the world beyond our shores is none of our business - that there are many peoples who owe their freedom to an exercise of American military power... There are the Bosnians, whose nation survived because American air power and diplomacy forced an end to a war the Europeans couldn't stop. There are the Kosovars, who would still be imprisoned in Serbia if not for Gen. Wesley Clark and the Air Force. The list of people whose freedom depends on American air and ground power also includes the Afghans and, most inconveniently of all, the Iraqis." And why stop there? To Ignatieff, the example of Kosovo was central and persuasive. The people who could not see the point were "those left wingers" and "isolationists." By contrast, the strategists and soldiers willing to bear the "burden" of empire were not only the party of the far-seeing and the humane, they were also the realists, those who knew that nothing good can come without a cost - and that nothing so marks a people for greatness as a succession of triumphs in a series of just wars. The Wars Beyond the Horizon Couple the casualty-free air war that NATO conducted over Yugoslavia with the Powell doctrine of multiple wars and safe exits, and you arrive somewhere close to the terrain of the Af-Pak war of the present moment. A war in one country may now cross the border into a second with hardly a pause for public discussion or a missed step in appropriations. When wars were regarded as, at best, a necessary evil, one asked about a given war whether it was strictly necessary. Now that wars are a way of life, one asks rather how strong a foothold a war plants in its region as we prepare for the war to follow. A new-modeled usage has been brought into English to ease the change of view. In the language of think-tank papers and journalistic profiles over the past two years, one finds a strange conceit beginning to be presented as matter-of-fact: namely the plausibility of the U.S. mapping with forethought a string of wars. Robert Gates put the latest thinking into conventional form, once again, on 60 Minutes in May. Speaking of the Pentagon's need to focus on the war in Afghanistan, Gates said: "I wanted a department that frankly could walk and chew gum at the same time, that could wage war as we are doing now, at the same time we plan and prepare for tomorrow's wars." The weird prospect that this usage - "tomorrow's wars" - renders routine is that we anticipate a good many wars in the near future. We are the ascendant democracy, the exceptional nation in the world of nations. To fight wars is our destiny and our duty. Thus the word "wars" - increasingly in the plural - is becoming the common way we identify not just the wars we are fighting now but all the wars we expect to fight. A striking instance of journalistic adaptation to the new language appeared in Elisabeth Bumiller's recent New York Times profile of a key policymaker in the Obama administration, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy. Unlike her best-known predecessor in that position, Douglas Feith - a neoconservative evangelist for war who defined out of existence the rights of prisoners-of-war - Flournoy is not an ideologue. The article celebrates that fact. But how much comfort should we take from the knowledge that a calm careerist today naturally inclines to a plural acceptance of "our wars"? Flournoy's job, writes Bumiller, "boils down to this: assess the threats against the United States, propose the strategy to counter them, then put it into effect by allocating resources within the four branches of the armed services. A major question for the Q.D.R. [Quadrennial Defense Review], as it is called within the Pentagon, is how to balance preparations for future counterinsurgency wars, like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, with plans for conventional conflicts against well-equipped potential adversaries, like North Korea, China or Iran. "Another quandary, given that the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan have lasted far longer than the American involvement in World War II, is how to prepare for conflicts that could tie up American forces for decades." Notice the progression of the nouns in this passage: threats, wars, conflicts, decades. Our choice of wars for a century may be varied with as much cunning as our choice of cars once was. The article goes on to admire the coolness of Flournoy's manner in an idiom of aesthetic appreciation:"Already Ms. Flournoy is a driving force behind a new military strategy that will be a central premise of the Q.D.R., the concept of 'hybrid' war, which envisions the conflicts of tomorrow as a complex mix of conventional battles, insurgencies and cyber threats. 'We're trying to recognize that warfare may come in a lot of different flavors in the future,' Ms. Flournoy said." Between the reporter's description of a "complex mix" and the planner's talk of "a lot of different flavors," it is hard to know whether we are sitting in a bunker or at the kitchen table. But that is the point. We are coming to look on our wars as a trial of ingenuity and an exercise of taste. Why the Constitution Says Little About Wars A very different view of war was taken by America's founders. One of their steadiest hopes - manifest in the scores of pamphlets they wrote against the British Empire and the checks against war powers built into the Constitution itself - was that a democracy like the United States would lead irresistibly away from the conduct of wars. They supposed that wars were an affair of kings, waged in the interest of aggrandizement, and also an affair of the hereditary landed aristocracy in the interest of augmented privilege and unaccountable wealth. In no respect could wars ever serve the interest of the people. Machiavelli, an analyst of power whom the founders read with care, had noticed that "the people desire to be neither commanded nor oppressed," whereas "the powerful desire to command and oppress." Only an appetite for command and oppression could lead someone to adopt an ethic of continuous wars. In the third of the Federalist Papers, written to persuade the former colonists to ratify the Constitution, John Jay argued that, in the absence of a constitutional union, the multiplication of states would have the same unhappy effect as a proliferation of hostile countries. One cause of the wars of Europe in the eighteenth century, as the founders saw it, had been the sheer number of states, each with its own separate selfish appetites; so, too, in America, the states, as they increased in number, would draw external jealousies and heighten the divisions among themselves. "The Union," wrote Jay, "tends most to preserve the people in a state of peace with other nations." A democratic and constitutional union, he went on to say in Federalist 4, would act more wisely than absolute monarchs in the knowledge that "there are pretended as well as just causes of war." Among the pretended causes favored by the monarchs of Europe, Jay numbered:"a thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts; ambition or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families, or partisans. These and a variety of motives, which affect only the mind of the Sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice, or the voice and interests of his people." When, thought Jay, the people are shorn of their slavish dependence, so that they no longer look to a sovereign outside themselves and count themselves as "his people," the motives for war will be proportionately weakened. This was not a passing theme for the Federalist writers. Alexander Hamilton took it up again in Federalist 6, when he spoke of "the causes of hostility among nations," and ranked above all other causes "the love of power or the desire of preeminence and dominion": the desire, in short, to sustain a reputation as the first of powers and to control an empire. Pursuing, in Federalist 7, the same subject of insurance against "the wars that have desolated the earth," Hamilton proposed that the federal government could serve as an impartial umpire in the Western territory, which might otherwise become "an ample theatre for hostile pretensions." Consider the prominence of these views. Four of the first seven Federalist Papers offer, as a prime reason for the founding of the United States, the belief that, by doing so, America will more easily avert the infection of the multiple wars that have desolated Europe. This was the implicit consensus of the founders. Not only Jay and Hamilton, but also George Washington in his Farewell Address, and James Madison and Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams as well as John Quincy Adams. It was so much part of the idealism that swept the country in the 1780s that Thomas Paine could allude to the sentiment in a passing sentence of The Rights of Man. Paine there asserted what Jay and Hamilton in the Federalist Papers took for granted: "Europe is too thickly planted with kingdoms to be long at peace." Have we now grown too used to the employment of our army, navy, and air force to be long at peace, or even to contemplate peace? To speak of a perpetual war against "threats" beyond the horizon, as the Bush Pentagon did, and now the Obama Pentagon does, is to evade the question whether any of the wars is, properly speaking, a war of self-defense. At the bottom of that evasion lies the idea of the United States as a nation destined for serial wars. The very idea suggests that we now have a need for an enemy at all times that exceeds the citable evidence of danger at any given time. In The Sorrows of Empire, Chalmers Johnson gave a convincing account of the economic rationale of the American national security state, its industrial and military base, and its manufacturing outworks. It is not only the vast extent and power of our standing army that stares down every motion toward reform. Nor is the cause entirely traceable to our pursuit of refined weapons and lethal technology, or the military bases with which the U.S. has encircled the globe, or the financial interests, the Halliburtons and Raytheons, the DynCorps and Blackwaters that combine against peace with demands in excess of the British East India Company at the height of its influence. There is a deeper puzzle in the relationship of the military itself to the rest of American society. For the American military now encompasses an officer class with the character and privileges of a native aristocracy, and a rank-and-file for whom the best possibilities of socialism have been realized. Barack Obama has compared the change he aims to accomplish in foreign policy to the turning of a very large ship at sea. The truth is that, in Obama's hands, "force projection" by the U.S. has turned already, but in more than one direction. He has set internal rhetorical limits on our provocations to war by declining to speak, as his predecessor did, of the spread of democracy by force or the feasibility of regime change as a remedy for grievances against hostile countries. And yet we may be certain that none of the wars the new undersecretary of defense for policy is preparing will be a war of pure self-defense - the only kind of war the American founders would have countenanced. None of the current plans, to judge by Bumiller's article, is aimed at guarding the U.S. against a power that could overwhelm us at home. To find such a power, we would have to search far beyond the horizon. The future wars of choice for the Defense Department appear to be wars of heavy bombing and light-to-medium occupation. The weapons will be drones in the sky and the soldiers will be, as far as possible, special forces operatives charged with executing "black ops" from village to village and tribe to tribe. It seems improbable that such wars - which will require free passage over sovereign states for the Army, Marines, and Air Force, and the suppression of native resistance to occupation - can long be pursued without de facto reliance on regime change. Only a puppet government can be thoroughly trusted to act against its own people in support of a foreign power. Such are the wars designed and fought today in the name of American safety and security. They embody a policy altogether opposed to an idealism of liberty that persisted from the founding of the U.S. far into the twentieth century. It is easy to dismiss the contrast that Washington, Paine, and others drew between the morals of a republic and the appetites of an empire. Yet the point of that contrast was simple, literal, and in no way elusive. It captured a permanent truth about citizenship in a democracy. You cannot, it said, continue a free people while accepting the fruits of conquest and domination. The passive beneficiaries of masters are also slaves.

David Bromwich, the editor of a selection of Edmund Burke's speeches, On Empire, Liberty, and Reform, has written on the Constitution and America's wars for The New York Review of Books and The Huffington Post.

Friday, July 10, 2009

No GMO's on Our Watch!

The world's population is growing, the climate is changing, and global hunger is on a terrifying rise. Last year, food riots rocked India, Indonesia, Haiti, and other countries, and this year may prove to be no different.

There is some good news, however: the G8 — a group of the world's eight wealthiest nations — has committed to helping farmers produce and distribute their own food, rather than relying on handouts from rich countries.

Unfortunately, members of Congress are using this moment to help their friends in giant U.S. agribusiness companies, like Monsanto. In fact, Senators Casey (D-PA) and Lugar (R-IN) have already passed a bill out of committee that would require Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) technology to be pushed on other countries.

Tell your senators: using our tax dollars to fund distribution of Monsanto's products is no way to end poverty.

Worse yet, there is no evidence- no evidence- that Monsanto's Frankenfoods boost productivity, will grow in places like Africa, or will protect crops other than corn, soy, and cotton. In addition, giving these funds away to giant agribusiness companies takes money directly away from proven systems that are more appropriate for small and limited-resource producers.

Will you take action today to ask your senators to to oppose Casey-Lugar and any development aid bill that promotes GMO technology?

Thank you for working to build a better world.

Adam Klaus,
Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Tell JPMorgan Chase to Stop the Strip Mining!

Together, you and I are going to stop mountaintop removal coal mining this year. That's right, we are. It is time to end the human and environmental tragedy that is mountaintop removal by getting our powerful banks and our political leaders to take action.

Today, the most powerful thing you can do is target the big Wall Street money behind mountaintop removal. Tell Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, it is time for Chase to end its enormous financing of the brutal practice of mountaintop removal.

Add your name to the petition to Jamie Dimon and tell him to stop funding mountaintop removal now. We will deliver your petitions in person. Together we can show the CEO just how big the opposition to mountaintop removal has become.

We know we can end the financing of mountaintop removal because the banks are already listening to you.

Citi and Bank of America, two other large financiers of mountaintop removal coal mining, have already bowed to your pressure and started to move. Thanks to your activism, Citi confirmed last week that it has developed a policy to more closely scrutinize MTR companies seeking financing. They haven't released a public version yet, so we can't give it much credence, but it demonstrates how your action has turned the tide on this issue. And, Bank of America, last December, also announced a policy to phase out financing for some of the most egregious companies that practice mountaintop removal coal mining.

Your pressure gets noticed and gets results. Together, we can end the worst form of strip mining on earth, happening right here at home in Appalachia. Let's keep turning up the heat on the bankers and political backers to make an end to this destructive practice a reality.

Thank you,

Bill Barclay
Global Finance Campaign Director
Rainforest Action Network

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Urge Iranian Officials to Spare Activists of Death Penalty!

Four prominent politicians are being held in the notorious section 209 of Evin prison, where incommunicado detention and torture are routine and deaths in custody have occurred. The men face indefinite detention all because they publicly supported either Mir Hossein Mousavi – who according to the Guardian Council lost the disputed election – or the other "reformist" presidential candidate, Mehdi Karroubi.

Powerful Iranian government officials want to make an example out of well-known opposition leaders by charging them with serious offenses, where if found guilty, they could be sentenced to death.

These four opposition leaders are at risk of facing this senseless and brutal punishment unless we show Iran's leaders that even the harshest of sentences will not silence the Iranian people's calls for justice and human rights.

Remind the Iranian government that the world is still watching. Demand the release of opposition leaders from Tehran's infamous Evin prison.

We have strong reasons to fear that these four men – Ali Abtahi, Mostafa Tajzadeh, Mohsen Aminzadeh and Abdollah Ramazanzadeh – are already experiencing Evin prison's infamous practices of severe torture first-hand.

For over three weeks now, these four men have been locked away without any official charges. Since being taken from their homes, they have had no contact with family members or lawyers. If the Iranian government thinks that it can coerce genuine confessions from these men using these disdainful tactics, then they are sorely mistaken.

But there are signs that Iran's wall is penetrable. Just last week, Mohammed Mostafaei, a lawyer mostly known for his work in defending juvenile defenders in death penalty cases, was released from Evin prison. While he must still face charges in court, he is at least free from the immediate threat of torture.

Call on Iranian authorities to release opposition leaders from Evin prison immediately.

Almost one month has passed since a flood of activism was unleashed on the streets of Iran. Over 2,200 people were arrested in the post-election unrest. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad most recently gave a speech on state television1 insisting that the meddling of Western nations was the cause of the violence.

But as the fight shifts from off the streets and into the courtroom, it is imperative that all eyes stay fixed on those who stood up in opposition.

Since the post-election violence broke out, nearly 30,000 Amnesty activists have put the pressure on Iranian authorities by sending a firestorm of emails and letters to their offices. We've got to keep up this intensity if we want to get through to them that the responsibility for protecting human rights cannot be deflected, nor will it be forgotten.

This is an opportunity for the leaders in Iran to prove to the world that they are ready to embrace change. Until they do, we cannot lose sight of what continues to be the driving force for so many in Iran – an unrelenting need to protect human rights.

In Solidarity --
Elise, Zahir, Christoph and the rest of the Iran crisis response team
Amnesty International

Tell President Obama to Transform Global Nuclear Weapons Policy

Nuclear weapons are a liability, not an asset.

Not only do they not protect us from current threats like terrorism, but with some 20,000 warheads around the globe, there is enormous risk for accidents or for them to fall into the wrong hands.

President Obama’s compelling speech in Prague in April calling for “an end to Cold War thinking” and this week’s initial agreement with Russian President Medvedev on nuclear arsenal reductions are positive steps toward reducing the nuclear threat.

However, much more must happen to truly transform U.S. nuclear weapons policy, and those who are stuck in a Cold War mindset will fight against the necessary changes every step of the way.

Right now, the Department of Defense is conducting a comprehensive “Nuclear Posture Review” that will determine whether we will have more Cold War thinking or truly transformational change.

Write to President Obama, as well as key administration officials, urging him to take advantage of this opportunity to set a new, safer direction for U.S. nuclear weapons policy.


Sean MeyerNational
Field Organizer
Global Security Program
Union of Concerned Scientists Action Network

Thank (or express disappointment in) Your Elected Official for Supporting Clean Energy Legislation...

Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives took the first meaningful steps on the long path toward transforming our energy economy and curbing global warming. The American Clean Energy and Security Act passed the House by a vote of 219-211.

Clean Water Action applauds every member of Congress who voted for the legislation, and is disappointed in those who voted against this first step toward a clean energy future.

Please take a moment to tell your Representative what you think about his or her vote.

End Unecessary Spending on Weapons!

Ending production of the F-22 fighter jet should be common sense.

The plane's a Cold War relic built to win dogfights with the Soviet Union.1

But despite never having flown in combat, we've already bought 187 F-22s at a cost of more than $351 million each.2

These planes don't make us any safer, but companies like Boeing and Lockheed make a fortune building them. And so far those same corporations have spent enough on lobbyists and campaign donations to scare Congress into keeping the weapons contracts alive, even in this recession.3

President Obama is FINALLY standing up to the weapons builders and calling for an end to the F-22. 4

So far, Congress has been too scared to follow suit - but we've just learned that there will be an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that could end the F-22 program for good. That amendment gives us a chance, but we need to act fast - the vote on the F-22 could come as early as next week.

Help convince YOUR Senators that we've got better things to do with $351 million dollars by signing our petition and sending them one of our F-22 hologram cards.

Our F-22 hologram card shows that for the cost of one F-22 we could rebuild and renew 60 American schools serving more than 36,000 kids. This succinct and effective tool has already convinced thousands of friends and relatives. And the President, the Secretary of Defense, and other leaders who support cutting the F-22 have used the same arguments in their speeches and testimony.5

But the weapons builders know that if the Congress gets up the courage to end this one plane, they might start cutting other weapons and investing in things like education or healthcare instead. So they've brought out their big guns to oppose Obama's plan. And under that storm of corporate pressure, Congress already chickened out twice.6

The Senate amendment gives Congress another chance to stop wasting our money on airplanes we don't need, and start investing in things that make us truly strong. By signing our petition and sending your Senators an F-22 card, you'll show them where you stand, and also provide the facts and maybe even the courage they need to do the right thing.

Sign now and we'll gift-wrap a F-22 card in the signatures of you and other TrueMajority members from PA and send it to your Senators with your compliments.

- MattMatt Holland
Online Director
TrueMajority / USAction

1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 -

Friday, June 19, 2009

Save the Rain Forests! Free the People!

Peru's rainforests and the people who depend on them continue to need your help.

Last week, thousands upon thousands of you joined me to demand that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to demand an end to Peru's violent crackdown on Indigenous protestors who have been blockading roads in order to defend their lands from oil, gas, mining and logging interests.

But still, so far the US has been silent.

Join me today as we amplify our voices and demand action from those who have a responsibility to speak out: the key congressional leaders who ignored the concerns of RAN and the Indigenous groups and supported the Peru Free Trade Agreement.

President Garcia has defended opening up the Peruvian Amazon to industry as necessary to allow Peru to meet its Free Trade Agreement responsibilities with the United States.
Secretary Clinton and the State Department have the power to stop the violence in Peru by formally demanding that Peru's President Garcia stop using the US as an excuse for trampling human rights.

But our voices alone have not been enough. That's why we urgently need to tell US Representatives Sander Levin, Earl Blumenauer, Lloyd Doggett and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to tell Secretary Clinton to formally renounce violence against Peru's peaceful Indigenous peoples in the name of free trade with the United States.

The US Government must take a stand and formally demand that Peru recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples, repeal the questionable laws, and institute a democratic process to ensure that rights are respected and safety is restored.

Thank you,
Jennifer Krill
Program Director
Rainforest Action Network

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An FYI for anyone who is in town 6/24

Pax Christi members and friends,

As I know you are all aware the G20 will be meeting in Pittsburgh in September. Local peace and justice groups including Pax Christi have been meeting to discuss how to respond. There will be a meeting of interfaith groups on Wednesday June 24th at 6:30PM at the Church of the Redeemer, 5700 Forbes Ave. Squirrel Hill 15217. That is the time of our regular meeting so we will be joining together with others instead of having our own separate meeting. The religious community is planning some powerful prayerful activities both before and during the G-20 meetings to lift up the voices of those who have been left out of the political and economic discussions of the "powerful". Please join us. If you cannot attend we will keep you informed.

Mimi Darragh for Pittsburgh Area Pax Christi

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Get Your Rep. on the Public Health Option!!

Ted Kennedy and his allies in the Senate have put forward America's first bill to guarantee quality, affordable healthcare for everyone1. But Republicans and some Democrats are already threatening to kill the bill because it would allow Americans one thing: CHOICE.

Insurance companies and their lackeys in Congress claim that if we let Americans choose a public health insurance option, it will cut into their profits. After years of building an American health care system that's like a house on fire, their only strategy is to block the exits when help is near.The good news is, they might be right. States across the country are already using public plans to drive down costs and expand access to healthcare2.

TOMORROW, a coalition of legislators from those states will meet with the President and Congress to ask them to unify these local efforts into a national public option.

Ask your state legislators to endorse the public option before the deadline, and demand health care for all NOW!

Senator Kennedy and President Obama want to allow Americans to pick a public health insurance plan if we want it3.

It's a great idea, but it's not a new one. States from Vermont to California are already using their own versions of a public option. But only the US government is big enough to make insurance companies negotiate, and lower costs for all of us. Which is why the insurance industry's lackeys in Congress will say or do anything to lock us out of choosing a public option4. And that's why getting state legislators on board is such a great first step: State legislators can attest that choice works, and they can deliver the call for reform with extra legitimacy and power because they are also elected leaders. Most important, they can speak with authority because states already implement lots of public health care options - like children's health insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare.Kennedy's bill could give us a real choice in health care - but we need a 50-state strategy to deliver it to the President.

Tell your state legislator to get on board by signing the letter for a public plan and real health care reform.

- DrewDrew Hudson

1 - POLITICS/06/09/
2 -
4 -

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tell Sen. Kerry to Help Save Darfur!

Sudan's Bashir doesn't think there are consequences for not committing to peace—and so he's growing bolder by the day, even scuttling a peace conference for Darfuri civilian leaders earlier this month.

But the people of Darfur can't wait for peace. We have to make sure the President takes the lead in creating an opportunity for peace.

Two weeks ago, I met with Senator John Kerry to discuss his recent trip to Sudan. Today, we need his help.

Ask Senator Kerry to hold a hearing on Sudan and make sure the administration sets forth a bold agenda for bringing peace to Darfur and all of Sudan.

The path to progress for peace is clear. It lies in offering Khartoum a choice: behind Door One, restoring aid groups and committing to the peace process which would lead to improved relations. Behind Door Two: continued obstruction which would lead to real and meaningful consequences.

Months after Sudan expelled 13 vital aid groups from the country, the government of Sudan has still not been confronted with this choice.

That's where the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee comes in. The committee should call on the Obama administration to adopt a policy that combines incentives for peace with consequences for continued obstruction and violence.

We've set a goal of sending at least 50,000 messages to Senator Kerry and Ranking Member Richard Lugar by June 13—one month since my May 13 meeting with Senator Kerry, and with plenty of time for him to schedule hearings in June. Please act today.

Tell Sens. Kerry and Lugar to demand the Obama administration outline its blueprint for peace in Sudan.

Don't wait to send a message to Sens. Kerry and Lugar—they need to hear from you today. Thanks for your hard work.

My best,
Jerry FowlerSave Darfur Coalition

Donate to Help Save DarfurHelp build the political pressure needed to end the crisis in Darfur by supporting the Save Darfur Coalition's crucial awareness and advocacy programs. Click here now to make a secure, tax-deductible online donation.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Stop the Go on GITMO!!!

This past week has been disastrous for our efforts to close Guantanamo and restore our nation's credibility and moral authority.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 90 - 6 against closing Guantanamo. The bill would have transferred 240 detainees to U.S. soil. Opponents of the bill argued that to do so would jeopardize our national security.But the thing is, we're already detaining countless convicted terrorists there; terrorists like Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker of the 9/11 attacks, and Ramzi Yusef, one of those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.Fear is winning.

President Obama's major speech today on national security made it clear that he knows it too.Fierce political winds are pushing even our champions in Congress to wonder whether or not we really can close Guantanamo. And once these doubts start taking root, we may lose not only the recent ground we've gained, but perhaps even see the mistakes of the past further entrenched.

Can you send a letter today to show Congress and the President that we resoundingly reject any proposals that would sacrifice our values, the rule of law, and even our security to the forces of fear?

The President echoed in his speech today what you and I have known all along: That torture doesn't work. That Guantanamo has been a massive liability. That justice and security come by respecting the rule of law.And yet, Obama's administration keeps defending illegal, immoral and ineffective policies. Policies like the Justice Department's continued use of the "state secrets" argument to withhold even basic information from defendants. Or re-vamping the widely discredited military commissions to try suspects.This week's events provide the clearest reason yet why we need an independent, 9/11 style, commission of inquiry.

We cannot risk letting politics get in the way of the truth. And as these events play out, politics will dominate until a fully-funded, independent and credible body is authorized to carefully review the horrors of the past eight years.

Send a letter now and show them that our values — the soul of our nation — cannot be sacrificed to petty politics.

This is about much more than just today and the people involved now, but about the future of our nation and even the world.

Thanks for standing with us,
Njambi, Zeke, Tom, Geneve and Steve
on the Counter Terror with Justice Campaign team

Monday, May 18, 2009

Support a New Way Forward to Fight Abortion!

Many think what we're doing is impossible. But we have faith.

Yesterday, during a highly anticipated speech at Notre Dame, President Obama outlined a strategy for people on all sides of the issue to work together to reduce the number abortions in America through decreasing unintended pregnancies and increasing support for women and families.[1]

Many, like the hard-line protesters at Notre Dame's commencement, believe such "common ground" can't exist, but President Obama believes it can, and we do, too.

Sign the petition: support Obama's new way forward on abortion.

We know we have both people who identify as pro-choice and who identify as pro-life in our Faithful America community, but we think we can all come together, as President Obama asked us to, with "open hearts, open minds and fair-minded words" to address this complicated issue that has been dividing our nation for decades.

We would never ask you to put aside or minimize your deeply-held beliefs on this issue, but we are asking you to join us in supporting the new approach President Obama outlined in his speech.

Our petition states:

President Obama, we support your call for civility and "fair-minded words" in the abortion debate and join you in seeking the common ground you outlined in your speech at Notre Dame: working together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, making adoption more available and providing care and support for women who do carry their pregnancies to term.

Sign the petition: common ground is possible.

Does this approach magically erase all the divisions on this issue? Of course not. But, it is a crucial step forward. It is a model for common ground without compromise and, if enacted into law, would mean real improvements in for the lives and health of women and families.
This is not the end of debate on this issue. But we are hopeful about this new direction. Back in January, we surveyed Faithful America members about your values and priorities and 83 percent of you said you would be excited about this new approach on abortion. [2]
We're excited too. Join us in supporting President Obama's new way forward on abortion.

Click here to sign the petition.

Thank you for all you do,
Beth, Katie, Dan, Kristin and Jennifer
The Faithful America team

[1] Video and transcript of President Obama's speech:
[2] In Faithful America's 2009 member survey, we asked the multiple-choice question: "Some people are taking a new approach to the issue of abortion. Legislation has been proposed to reduce the number of abortions in America by both preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting pregnant women and new parents through sex education, access to contraception, improved health care options, and expanding adoption. This bill enables pro-life and pro-choice advocates to find common ground to reduce the number of abortions without criminalizing the procedure. If Faithful America were to make supporting this approach to the issue of abortion a priority, how would you feel?"
Forty-five percent (553) responded "very excited," 37.6% (457) responded "somewhat excited," 13.1% (159) responded "neutral," 2.6% (32) responded "disappointed" and 1.2% (15) responded "very disappointed"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ask your Rep. to Sign Letter in Support of Strong American Peacemaking Leadership

President Barack Obama is preparing for a flurry of Middle East diplomacy in the coming weeks, including a series of White House meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders followed by a major speech to the Muslim world in Egypt on June 4. At this critical time, three House Members have begun circulating a sign-on letter in support of "strong American leadership to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian and broader Arab-Israeli conflicts."

View the full text of the letter here.

Urge your Representative to sign the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter to President Obama in support of strong American leadership on Middle East peace. As the President lays out his Administration's Middle East peace policy in more detail in the coming weeks, it is vital that Congress support serious U.S. diplomatic engagement. A new bi-partisan House letter, lead by Reps. Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Charles Boustany (R-LA) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO), states clearly that "American leadership is essential to achieving meaningful progress."

The letter stresses the importance of implementing a two-state solution for American interests in the Middle East and cites "demographic trends, continued violence, settlements, escalating tensions in Jerusalem, and other changes on the ground" as all threatening "the window of opportunity" for a two-state peace.

Send an email to your Representative today in support of robust diplomacy to establish a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel as an urgent imperative for the United States.

Supporters of the status quo continue to advocate an incremental peace process with a limited U.S. role. In contrast, this Congressional letter rightly points out that an "American helping hand" is needed now and emphasizes that while building Palestinian capacity is an important goal it "should not be a precondition for negotiating a final status agreement..."

The letter also recognizes the importance of a regional, comprehensive approach, citing the Arab Peace Initiative as guaranteeing "normal relations between Israel and the Arab and Muslim countries - from Indonesia to Morocco..."

Tell your Representative that the status quo is unsustainable. A just and lasting two-state peace is needed now for the sake of the U.S., Israel, the Palestinians and the broader region!


View the full text of House letter here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Petition for Clean Energy

Bank of America received almost $200 billion in bailout money — and now that money is leveraging the construction of new coal plants. Coal is the single biggest cause of global warming and Bank of America is one of the leading funders in the industry.

Coal is the absolute wrong answer to our energy challenges. Burning coal is about the dirtiest way to make electricity. Coal-fired power plants currently account for 40% of our nation's carbon dioxide emissions, the leading cause of global warming. Coal-fired power plants release millions of tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, as well as close to 100,000 pounds of mercury (a very dangerous neurotoxin), every year.

Now that taxpayers own a stake in Bank of America, we must stop the investment in dirty energy that is destroying our climate. We have joined with our friends at Rainforest Action Network to tell Bank of America no more investment in coal power.

Tell Bank of America to stop financing coal-fired power and invest in clean energy instead.

Thank you for working to build a better world.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

An FYI: Iran Releases Roxana Saberi

U.S.-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, whose imprisonment in Iran on charges of spying set off an international outcry, was released after Iranian judicial authorities essentially reversed her sentence. Though she was given an eight-year sentence for alleged espionage, that sentence was reduced to a two-year suspended sentence and a prohibition from practicing journalism in Iran for five years. The original charge carried the harshest penalty that Iran has ever dealt to a dual national. BBC (5/11) , The Washington Post (5/11)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

PDEC's David Rosenberg Recalls April 19 Day of Witness

You can't do enough, but you've got to do something!

Can we stop genocide in Darfur from Pittsburgh? Certainly not singlehandedly. But if enough of us combine forces and keep at it, as the participants in the DC-Metro Event and in the more than 300 other events around the country are doing during "Genocide Prevention Month," we may be able to accomplish something! Leaders of the Darfuri diaspora, like Niemat Ahmadi and Mohamed Yahya, and national advocacy leaders like Jerry Fowler, the Rev. Gloria White Hammond, and John Prendergast assure with passion that we have already helped save lives in Darfur. We know we must continue. But, we know there is a lot more work to do before Darfur will be brought into the framework of a political settlement and a Sudan-wide peace and before 2.7 million IDP's and refugees can return home and rebuild.

Can we stop genocide merely by boarding a bus from Pittsburgh, even if we include a courageous 89 year old Holocaust survivor, a half dozen members of the Pittsburgh South Sudanese community and a half dozen Rwandan students, as well as college and high school groups and post-graduate "retirees?" No, surely not. This small army cannot achieve miracles by ourselves. But can we afford to do nothing?

Our three busloads of travelers visited the US Holocaust Museum on Sunday before the Testimony and Advocacy Event in Lafayette Park. Our visit to the Holocaust Museum won't immediately stop President Bashir in his tracks or drive recalcitrant rebel groups to the table. But the power of what we learned there and felt there will drive us, and the transmission belt of determination will reach President Obama and his administration and will by and by reach the Sudanese government. We placed objects on the remarkable memorial created for the Testimony and Advocacy event. And we held up signs of Darfur's destroyed villages against the backdrop of the White House and invited others to join with us. "Hey, folks, these are some of the more than 2,751 villages that have been identified as destroyed or damaged in Darfur since 2004, on "our watch." Add these to the funeral pyres of the genocides that are part of "history!"

When we took five buses to Washington D.C. from Pittsburgh in April 2006, we had an opportunity to draw strength from the huge throng on the Capitol Mall; when we traveled to NYC in September 2006, we had a chance to visit the British representative on the UN Security Council and draw inspiration from the crowd of blue bereted activists in Central Park demanding deployment of a robust peacekeeping force. When we bused the five hours to DC for the Torch Relay finale,we had a chance to hear Olympic athletes and send a message to the Chinese embassy. When we traveled to D.C. to see the hundreds or magnificently painted tents on the mall (12 of them from our city), we drew further inspiration. And when we sent three more buses to Washington for the Inauguration and gathered more than 4,700 signatures as part of the postcard campaign asking President Obama to prioritize peace, protection and accountability in Darfur, we were moved by our attendance at a historic moment and inspired to do still more.

Sunday's gathering in Lafayette Park was not a throng, but the words continue to burn in our hearts. In the face of crying evil, can one possibly do enougn? Can one possibly do nothing?

David Rosenberg

Thursday, May 7, 2009

No More Funding for the Iraq/Afghan Wars! Sign Now!

Remember when we said last month that this year could be our chance to finally cut Pentagon waste and focus the budget on things we want — like healthcare, education and jobs? Well the real fight over that vision starts today. It's time to get busy.

The full Pentagon budget hasn't even been drafted yet. But some members of Congress are already trying to slip billions of dollars of pork-barrel weapons projects into the supplemental budget request for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tell Congress not to slip pork-barrel contracts into the Iraq/Afghan funding bill.

We're not happy about the continuing costs of the wars, but what's worse is this attempt to slip in even more money for C-17 transport planes we don't need. The Air Force doesn't want these planes, and the Secretary of Defense explicitly asked to *cut* them from the budget. The only people who still want the planes are the contractors who make money even if the finished planes sit idle, and the members of Congress who get campaign money from the contractors.

This type of thing has been going on for so long, we've forgotten how to be shocked by it, but we need to remember.

This budget is supposed to be about what troops in the field need to keep fighting — and Congress wants to stuff it full of billion-dollar planes we don't need. If we can't stop them now, imagine what it will be like when we actually get to the budget for planes and bombs.

But if we can hold the line, and keep this supplemental vote clear of pork-barrel spending, we've got a chance to change America's priorities for good.

Tell Congress to keep Pentagon pork OUT of the President's supplemental and focus on True Security.

— Matt

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Save Darfur: Send this E-Letter to Obama!

Click the link and send!!!!

Urge U.S. Action on Palestinian Christian Issues on Eve of Pope's Visit

Urge U.S. Action on Palestinian Christian Issues on Eve of Pope's Visit

Churches for Middle East Peace sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton yesterday, on the occasion this week of the Papal visit to the Holy Land, highlighting the rapid decline of the Palestinian Christian community there. The letter was also sent to President Obama, Special Envoy Mitchell and other key contacts in the Administration and Congress.

Click here to view the full text of the letter.

Help amplify CMEP's message!

Tell the White House the decline of Palestinian Christians makes the Administration's efforts to achieve a just and lasting two-state solution even more urgent.While recognizing that ultimately only a negotiated peace agreement can stem Palestinian Christian emigration, the letter cites several specific issues that can be acted on immediately, including: restrictive Israeli residency and family unification regulations in East Jerusalem; visa and permit restrictions that inhibit the movement of several hundred Arab clergy; and the need for further efforts to strengthen the rule of law in the West Bank and Gaza.

Send an email to President Obama urging the Administration to address the situation of Palestinian Christians as part of their comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace effort. The CMEP letter stresses that the prospect of a Holy Land devoid of its living Christian community is not just a tragedy for world Christianity but would have serious ramifications for a future Palestinian state, the interreligious nature of Jerusalem, and regional peace and security. It concludes with the hope that persistent U.S. diplomacy can provide a positive future for all the people of the Holy Land.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Watch: Last Issue Line-Up

Ok Bros:

Here's the deal:

James Farrell - Hunger
Me - Darfur Day of Advocacy, D.C.
Little Joyce - Film Review, Hotel Rwanda
Michael "Motivation" Noel - Elections in El Salvador
Brandon Niro - status of HIV/Aids crisis in Africa
Dan Pickle - human rights themed graffiti
Nick Durkin - human rights themed graffiti
Jack Devine - something, please, just SOMETHING!!!

Articles are due to by WEDNESDAY, May 6, 2009!!!!!!!

Let's finish the year with a nonviolent bang!!

Immigration Reform: Sign the Petition!

This Friday, May 1st, thousands around the country will call on Congress to do the right thing on immigration -- and to improve the treatment of all workers.Whether or not you can attend a march in your area, I'd like to invite you to participate in a virtual march for immigration reform this week! We need to show Congress that there is a growing movement that stands with the President to pass real immigration reform.

Please ask your representatives in Congress to work with President Obama to move on immigration reform by Thanksgiving:

This week also marks the end of President Obama's first 100 days in office and this Thursday, the U.S. Senate will take up its first hearing on immigration reform, featuring big names like Alan Greenspan.Now is our chance to get the ball rolling! Instead of a two-tiered workforce and costly raids, we can achieve real change for real families. But we need your help to move the campaign forward -- join the virtual march on Washington today!

Ask Congress to work with President Obama to move on real reform by Thanksgiving:

Movements like this wouldn't have happened without your voice pushing for change. Now help us take the campaign one step further.Thanks for joining the virtual march and for forwarding this message widely!

Adam Luna
America's Voice

P.S. Help us hold Congress accountable by signing up for text message alerts from the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) -- just text Justice (or Justicia, for Spanish) to 69866.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Journalist in Need: Sign the Petition!

Last Saturday, Iran sentenced journalist Roxana Saberi to eight years in prison on charges of espionage after a brief closed door trial. She had been living in Iran and working as a reporter, although the government claimed it had withdrawn her press credentials.

The harsh sentence handed down to the North Dakota native has generated a global outcry. Major media outlets and even President Obama have called for her release.

With pressure building on the Iranian government, now is the best time for us to send a message demanding that the flaws of the original trial be addressed and for Roxana to be released immediately on bail.

The Iranian government knows that all eyes are on them and there is mounting pressure for a fair trial. Both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Head of the Judiciary Shahroudi have urged Tehran's chief prosecutor to investigate the case. Shahroudi said, "a fair examination of the case, especially at the appeal stage, is the defendant's right." This case comes at a critical time; President Obama has offered to start a dialogue with Iran and break a 30 year diplomatic deadlock.

Let the Iranian government know that you are watching closely and that their actions now will show the world how sincere they are about a fair appeal process. Add your name to our letter and hold the Iranian government to their word.

The Iranian government has not released any evidence against Roxana and reports indicate she was pressured into making statements that were used against her in the legal proceedings. It seems she has become a pawn in the political maneuvering that is unfolding in Iran's relations with the United States.

Her harsh prison sentence is yet another example of the increasingly severe crackdown on those exercising their rights to peaceful freedom of expression and association in Iran. The government of Iran has recently imprisoned and persecuted numerous bloggers, journalists, labor activists, students and members of religious minorities.

Thanks for standing with Roxana,

Elise, Sarah, Zahir and the rest of the Iran rapid response team

No Accountability for War Crimes? Sign the Petition!

No accountability for war crimes?

The recently released "torture memos" provide evidence that the United States authorized brutal interrogation methods. Not only were these techniques particularly harsh, but they violate international standards. In fact, the memos authorized techniques that the US government itself has prosecuted other nations for practicing.[1]

President Obama has done the right thing in putting an end to these practices, but that is not enough. Torture is a crime, and no one, not even government officials, should be above the law.

Tell the Attorney General: We can't just look the other way on torture. We need a full investigation and accountability.

We are building a movement for accountability. Last week, Faithful America members took action, calling on their local newspapers to endorse accountability. This weekend, editorial boards across the nation -- from sources diverse as the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Cincinnati Inquirer and the Dallas Morning News -- condemned the "torture memos" and demanded justice for those who may have broken the law.

Earlier today, President Obama said that while he favors "looking forward" the decision to investigate US-sponsored torture will ultimately be up to Attorney General Holder, opening a door the White House had seemed to want kept shut. [2]

This is a welcome change of direction! We need to keep the momentum going. Our politicians won't act unless the American people demand they do so.

Sign the petition: Let Attorney General Eric Holder know the American people demand accountability.

We all want to turn the page on this dark chapter of our nation's history, but we know all too well that without consequences for our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them.
Standing for human rights is one of the central tenants of all faiths. That's why Faithful America is proud to join diverse human rights activists, from the United Nations to the ACLU, in calling for accountability for torture.

Our partners will deliver petition signatures from Faithful America and a broad coalition of other human rights organizations and activists to Attorney General Holder later this week.

Click here to add your name to the petition.

Thank you for all you do,

Beth, Katie, Dan Kristin and Jennifer
The Faithful America Team



Monday, April 20, 2009

Demand Accountability for U.S. Sponsored Torture!!!

The Department of Justice "torture memos" released yesterday are horrific. They define in graphic detail how the U.S. tortured and how it was justified. They are proof the U.S. government authorized torture.

So now...what are you going to do about it?

Click here to demand accountability.

Concerned citizens, many of them people of faith, have been shocked by the brutality and twisted logic flowing through the "torture memos." While the Obama administration did the right thing by releasing these memos, it's not enough. We need accountability. To get it, we need to show politicians we demand it. Let's reach them through sources they pay attention to: the papers in their home states and districts.

Tell your local paper: endorse an investigation today.

This is a moral issue. As the National Religious Campaign Against Torture says, "nothing less than the soul of our nation is at stake."

To make sure we never torture again, we need more than an anti-torture president. At a minimum, we need a Commission of Inquiry to uncover ALL the facts, so we can institute the right safeguards. The Attorney General should also appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether criminal charges are warranted.

President Obama has not ruled out investigations and prosecutions for the Department of Justice lawyers who created this policy, and neither should we.

Tell your newspaper: people of faith demand accountability, so should you.

It's going to be a tough fight. Politicians who take a stand for justice may face accusations of partisanship and divisiveness. But the truth is not partisan. Our political leaders will need to know they'll have backup if they join our cause for truth and accountability. An editorial endorsing accountability from their local paper can give them the support, or the prodding, they need to do the right thing.

Build the political will for accountability: write your paper today.

Thanks for all you do,
Beth, Katie, Dan, Kristin and Jennifer
The Faithful America Team