MLK: A Peace and Justice AdvocateThe country celebrated Martin Luther King Day earlier this week. Americans were treated to various media biographies on the life of MLK and his influence on the civil rights movement in the United States. Throughout the course of his life, MLK earned a well-deserved reputation as a key figure who fought for a racially integrated society – something we eventually achieved – but his thoughts and actions went well beyond the realm of civil rights. Politically, MLK considered himself a democratic socialist. Here is a portion of a speech MLK gave to his staff in Frogmore S.C., in November 1966: "You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry.... Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong... with capitalism.... There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism." One of MLK’s last acts of courage was supporting a group of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn. right before his assassination in April 1968. He told the workers: “We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through.” King believed the struggle in Memphis exposed the need for economic equality and social justice that he hoped his Poor People’s Campaign would highlight. MLK also served as a voice for the cause of peace. The 2015 book “The Radical King,” edited by writer and social critic Cornel West, covers MLK’s dedication to this cause. Mr. King idolized India independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi and “Radical King” speaks of a sermon he delivered on Gandhi’s life. MLK gave the Indian leader credit for lifting the domination of the British Empire over India without the help of an army or military might. In this sermon, he credited Gandhi for living a life filled with love and nonviolence and absent of hatred. King used similar peaceful tactics to free our country from segregation. During the latter part of his life, MLK became an opponent of our country’s controversial war in Vietnam, ignoring the advice of those who thought civil rights and the question of Vietnam don’t mix. In a sermon at Riverside Church in New York City in the spring of 1967, MLK talked of how the war was draining funds from President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s War on Poverty. Dr. King felt that the war in Vietnam threatened our country’s reputation for revolution, democracy and freedom and that we were spreading images of violence and militarism. In the same sermon, MLK talked about values, a common issue with today’s political leaders. He wanted the U.S. to make a transformation from a “thing oriented society” to a “people oriented society.” MLK said that when machines and profit become more important than people, that “the giant triplets of racism, materialism and racism are incapable of being conquered.” MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Trump-Style Diplomacy and International LawFormer Senator J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.), former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had a definite idea of what our country should stand for in the world: “Law is the essential foundation of stability and order both within societies and in international relations. As a conservative power, the United States has a vital interest in upholding and expanding the reign of law in international relations.” Fulbright’s vision certainly isn’t recognizable in President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. Trump certainly doesn’t see our country as a conservative power, as his foreign policy is hoisting a new state of disorder on the world. Polls suggest the United States has become less respected under Trump and our allies seem to be looking in the other direction for leadership. Former State Department negotiator Aaron Miller, who served presidents of both parties, has called Trump’s foreign policy a “galactic disaster.” Harvard University International Affairs President Stephen Walt pointed out the biggest difference between Trump and prior presidents is his disregard for American values such as freedom, democracy and equal rights and also his fondness for dictators such as Putin and Duterte. On a similar note, Trump-style diplomacy is leading to an arms race that could cost our country and other countries lots and lots of money out of their respective treasuries. Trump has exited the Paris Climate Accords, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and threatened to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal, angering our European allies in the process. He’s also sent mixed messages about the New START Treaty with Russia. In addition, the Trump administration has fully embraced the nuclear force modernization that started under President Barack Obama. All of these actions place our country on the edge of an arms race. Just days after Donald Trump became president, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of its doomsday clock to two and half minutes to midnight. Reasons cited for the move included North Korea's testing of nuclear weapons, tensions between the United States and Russia and "a rise in strident nationalism worldwide … including in a U.S. presidential campaign." Are there any cases of our country working in a multi-lateral fashion to solve international problems? Is this only a utopian dream? The answer is no. US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, at a summit in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1986, came close to eliminating both countries’ nuclear arsenals. This didn’t happen, but they did agree to eliminate all intermediate-range missiles under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). The treaty eliminated all nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges of 500 to 1,000 and 1,000 to 5,500 kilometers. Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, concluded the first strategic arms reduction agreement with the Soviets, known as START I, in 1991, and unilaterally dismantled many of the United States’ deployed tactical weapons. The treaty barred both the United States and Soviet Russia from deploying more than 6,000 nuclear warheads on top of 1,600 intercontinental ballistic missiles. In 1993, George H.W. Bush signed START II with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. This treaty banned the use of multiple entry targetable reentry vehicles on ICBM’s METRV’s contain several thermonuclear warheads, each capable of hitting a different target. US President George W. Bush concluded the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) with President Vladimir Putin in 2003. SORT limited the nuclear arsenal of both countries to 1,700 to 2,200 operationally deployed warheads. The treaty expired in 2012 and President Barack Obama not only signed New START with Putin in 2011. The treaty expires in 2021. It limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550. These agreements eliminated one entire class of nuclear weapons and also reduced the number of deployed nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia. This accounted for 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal! We went from tens of thousands to approximately 3,000! These agreements attest to the success of the concept on international law. On that note, we need embrace Fulbright’s ideas about law and the United States as a conservative power now more than ever.
United Nations Celebrates BirthdayAlthough few Americans recognize Oct. 24 as a holiday, it is celebrated by many in the U.S. and around the world as United Nations Day. The United Nations treaty was signed on Oct. 24, 1945 and three years later (1948) the UN General Assembly declared the signing day as a holiday and said the day "shall be devoted to making known to the people of the world the aims and achievements of the United Nations and to gaining their support for its work.” UN General Secretary António Guterres delivered a speech on UN Day where he addressed the challenges the world faces. He said: “our world faces many grave challenges: widening conflicts and inequality, extreme weather and deadly intolerance, security threats – including nuclear weapons. We have the tools and wealth to overcome these challenges. All we need is the will. The world’s problems transcend borders. We have to transcend our differences to transform our future. When we achieve human rights and human dignity for all people – they will build a peaceful, sustainable and just world. On United Nations Day, let us, ‘We the Peoples’, make this vision a reality.” All the member states of the UN help finance the operations of the organization. Aside from world peace, its role has grown to protecting human rights, promoting social and economic development, and providing aid around the world in cases of famine, natural disaster and armed conflict. The UN started with just 51 members but now has 193. It marks humanity’s second attempt to build a world body to maintain peace. The first body, the League of Nations, lasted a little more than a decade. The UN has stood the test of time. What type of work does the UN do? Each year the body helps 38 million refugees fleeing war, conflicts, famine and persecution. The UN also saves lives through agencies like the World Food Program, which feeds 90 million people in 80 countries every year. In addition, the UN vaccinates 58 percent of the world’s children, this saves 3 million lives a year.
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/
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…)
MLK: A Peace and Justice Advocate
January 18, 2018
Trump’s Unproductive Iran Policy
January 15, 2018
Trump-Style Diplomacy and International Law
January 3, 2018
Trump’s Embassy Move and International Law
December 26, 2017
The Impacts of Nuclear War
December 21, 2017
Arms Control in the Age of Trump
December 14, 2017