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Remembering Benjamin RushSome ideas live well beyond their originators. This month marks 204 years since the death of Benjamin Rush, the man who first proposed the idea of a Department of Peace in the federal government. Rush ended his journey on the earth on Apr. 19, 1813. Although he’s not talked about as much as the other founding fathers, Rush earned a reputation as a Renaissance man, as he was a psychiatrist, a doctor, an elected official, the founder of Dickenson College, a signee to the Declaration of Independence and a professor of chemistry. In addition, he also made his mark on the world of social reform in opposing slavery, advocating for free public schools, education for women and a more enlightened prison system. Like most of the founding fathers, he feared the emergence of militarism and its consequences for the republic. Tragedy struck his family at a young age and Rush’s father died in his early childhood. But he went on to graduate from the College of New Jersey, now Princeton, at the age of 14 and later apprenticed under a physician, earned a Doctorate in Medicine and started practicing medicine on his own. He later served as a doctor in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Rush is considered the “Father of American Psychiatry,” as he published a book Medical Enquiries and Observations on Diseases of the Mind.” A relative of William Penn (1644-1818), the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, Rush published an essay in “A Plan for a Peace-Office of the United States” in 1793. In this essay, he suggested a Peace Department to promote perpetual peace in the United States. He envisioned the department as being on equal footing with the War Department, the forerunner of today’s Department of Defense. He saw the Department of Peace as an entity that would ensure free schools for children all around the United States. He thought the department would celebrate life and discourage the horror of bloodshed. In addition, he thought militia laws should be repealed. Militias were state based military units that supplemented the regular military in Rush’s time. As the years went by they were increasingly replaced by the National Guard. The idea that wouldn’t die, a Department of Peace would continue to be discussed throughout the history of our country. In 1925, Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League of Women Voters, suggested a Department of Peace at a Cause and Cure for War Conference. Just a year later in 1926, Disciples of Christ Minister Kirby Page, author of “A National Peace Department,” wrote and distributed a pamphlet advocating a Department of Peace. Activity on the issue continued throughout the next four decades, with Sen. Matthew Neeley (D-WV) introducing legislation (1935) and Sen. Alexander Wiley (R-Wisc.) speaking on the Senate floor about a department (1943). In 1947, Rep. Evert Dirksen (R-Ill.) introduced a bill for a peace division in the State Department. From 1955 to 1968, 85 bills were introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate for a Department of Peace. In 2001, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced another Department of Peace bill. The bill was reintroduced in each session from 2001 to 2009. The Kucinich bill held national and international dimensions. It included items such as: prison rehabilitation, grants for domestic and gang violence, monitoring military and non-military domestic weapons production, recommendations on diplomacy and mediation, monitoring human rights and the development of educational media to promote non-violence. Although legislation on establishing a Peace Department always ended in failure, national non-profit organizations such as the Student Peace Alliance and Peace Alliance, two separate organizations that work on their own, advocate a department. The movement lobbies congressional leaders and has sought and received a number of endorsements from city councils. Link: http://peacealliance.org/
Sacrificing Diplomacy for War–The Trump BudgetWhile increasing the U.S. military budget by $54 billion, President Trump’s new budget proposes cuts to the international development budget by 37%. These major cuts to the Secretary of State will severely hamper U.S. foreign relation efforts. Trump’s budget proposal demonstrates where his priorities lie, and it is not with diplomacy or international development. Americans should also expect to see cuts to the Public Broadcasting Service, the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities and the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump’s budget proposal is a boon for the defense industry as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Huntington Ingalls have each seen stock increases since the President’s budget proposal (Investor’s Business Daily) was released. The defense contractors further receive benefits in the form of subsidies and tax credits. The Fiscal Times provides a list of defense contractors and the amount in grants and tax credits each of the contractors receive. General Electric alone receives more than $800 million in tax credits. This new administration has made it clear that it prioritizes its war-based capacity over a peace-based economy. Even military leaders are questioning the President’s proposed cuts to the State Department budget. In a joint letter, 100 generals defended the importance of supporting diplomacy. They quoted Defense Secretary James Mattis who said, “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition” (CBSNews). In quoting Mattis, these generals are saying that the country is essentially at risk with these cuts to diplomacy. The President’s proposed budget is unacceptable. It puts our country at risk and endangers the lives of military personnel at home and abroad. It is our personal responsibility to contact our congressional representatives every day and let them know that we do not support these cuts to valuable resources like the State Department, PBS, NEA and EPA. Contact your representative today! References Investor’s Business Daily: http://www.investors.com/news/a-fiscal-hawk-is-in-charge-of-the-budget-but-trump-will-raise-defense-spending/ The Fiscal Times: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/03/20/How-Big-Contractors-Mooch-Federal-Subsidies CBSNews: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/more-than-100-generals-sign-letter-warning-against-budget-cuts/ United States House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
End Pentagon Waste: Donate to the Peace Economy Project TodayThank you for your continued support in 2016. Because of you, the Peace Economy Project remained a strong voice for peace and justice. Over the last 40 years, PEP has emphasized the importance of converting swords into plowshares and we hope to continue to do so in 2017 and onward. To assist us in this work, we are asking you for your help in reaching our end of year goal. This holiday season, we hope to raise $5,000 from generous supporters such as you. (more…)
An Escalating Arms Race: Is A New Cold War Inevitable?
Over the last year or so, it has seemed increasingly so. Consider the evidence:
- NATO has agreed to have combat brigades rotate through eastern European countries that formerly were under the domain of the Soviet Union. This follows the announcement of a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) that would enable the U.S. and its NATO allies to respond rapidly to a security crisis with Russia. The administration has asked for $3.4 billion in the FY-2017 budget (versus the current $789 million) to be used for “prepositioning war fighting gear,” training and exercises.
- Russia and the U.S. each charge the other with violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Leader Michael Gorbachev, the treaty stated that neither country would “possess, produce or flight test ground launched cruise missiles with a range of 3000 – 3400 miles."
U.S. Military Aid and Human Rights Violations Around the WorldLast year, the Peace Economy Project presented at Amnesty International's Midwest Regional Conference in Detroit, Mich. The session,"Blank Check: U.S. Military Aid and Human Rights Violations Around the World," featured facts and figures about human rights, the federal budget, foreign aid and the countries impacted by the U.S.' budgeting priorities. More than 30 people attended the fun-filled trivia session. (more…)
Drone Free STL Shifts Focus Toward City-Wide Surveillance and PrivacyBy Allison Reilly PEP Executive Director This article was originally published in the 2016 edition of the Peace Economy News. Drone Free STL was a coalition the Peace Economy Project formed in 2014 to stop police drones in the St. Louis region. St. Louis Chief of Police Sam Dotson is still awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to purchase a drone for the city. Early on, Drone Free broadened its focus toward other surveillance issues, such as body cameras and the Real Time Intelligence Center (RTIC), as the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department looks for ways to put citizens under surveillance besides unmanned drones. (more…)