Working towards peace and sustainability

Pope Francis & the Imperative for Climate Action

Join Peaceworks and our Allies in a Climate Walk, Sunday, Sept. 20. Join with your neighbors to call attention to the urgent need for immediate action.

Pope Francis is coming to the U.S. More specifically, he is going to be addressing a joint session of Congress on Thursday, Sept. 24. In his encyclical, Laudato Si, the Pope has taken as clear a stance as possible regarding the moral imperative to take action now to address the climate crisis. He has called for recognition of the impact of our actions on future generations and on the poor and the marginalized, who are being most directly impacted today.

This has the potential to be a transformative moment. Those who’ve clung to denial for so long are now facing both an overwhelming scientific consensus and a call to moral action from religious and spiritual leaders from many traditions, including now the Catholic Church, the largest single religious institution in the world.

Many organizations, including Peaceworks, which has been a voice for climate action for decades, are heartened by the Pope’s stand, and we’d like to do all we can to assure that his message is heard as widely as possible. On Sunday, Sept. 20, therefore, we are holding a Climate Walk that we hope will bring together hundreds of mid-Missourians. This highly visible 5K (~3 miles) Walk will focus community attention on the climate just before the Pope arrives. Being visible we can amplify Pope Francis’ message and bring it home to our neighbors and colleagues.

The Walk is an awareness raiser. It’s also a fundraiser to help fund Peaceworks’ climate action advocacy and education efforts. Getting pledges and/or making a contribution yourself is encouraged, but optional. We hope you will participate in whatever ways work for you and help make this the largest, most impactful climate demonstration yet in our area.

For more info and a sponsor sheet click HERE. To access the Climate Walk Facebook event click HERE.  Please share this info. Invite friends. Participate!

This event is organized by Peaceworks and co-sponsored by Osage Group Sierra Club, Mizzou Energy Action Coalition and Renew Missouri.

Support the Iran Nuclear Accord!

Mid-Missouri Peaceworks supports the Iran Nuclear Agreement. We see it as a step away from the path to war; one that furthers the cause of nuclear non-proliferation. It even hints at the possibility of eventual normalization of relations. We encourage our members and supporters to learn more and to share your thoughts and concerns with your elected officials, especially with Sen. Claire McCaskill who has not made public her position. (Click HERE to contact Sen. McCaskill).

We are troubled by the fact that both Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Sen. Roy Blunt have already been outspoken in opposition to the accord. They, too, need to hear from constituents.

For a set of links to excellent background resources on the Iran Nuclear Agreement, please click HERE

Some key items in the accord include: shutting down most of Iran’s enrichment capabilities, eliminating 98 percent of their enriched uranium, keeping them from making weapons-grade plutonium, and enacting the most rigorous inspection regimen in history. These provisions and others mean that our government and the other members of the P5+1 have achieved a very strong non-proliferation agreement.

Opponents have offered no alternative to this agreement, and, it seems, their prescription is effectively to join Netanyahu in traveling the path to war. This would be a tragic mistake likely leading to enormous loss of life, limb and treasure. We’ve seen the consequences of a war of aggression launched ostensibly to counter a supposed threat of WMD. Millions of lives were torn asunder by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Launching a war against Iran, a nation approximately three times the size and population of Iraq, would be a tragedy of much greater proportions.

We find it hypocritical that opponents of the agreement are attempting to put the kibosh on an accord that dramatically reduces Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear capabilities, should they wish to. Yet keeping Iran from getting such weapons is the opponents’ ostensible goal. If one accepts their premise that Iran is seeking such weapons, putting this agreement into effect is a very real and effective hedge against them doing this.

Peaceworks is not in favor or Iran, or any other nation, acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities. This agreement is a serious step forward in assuring that they’ll not be able to. This said, we should note that there is a great deal of bipartisan hubris and hypocrisy involved in insisting that Iran eschew nuclear weapons.

The United States and the eight other nuclear weapons states, including Israel, maintain large arsenals and have no intention of eliminating them. This is in direct violation of binding obligations under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 1968 the U.S. and the other nuclear states agreed to “undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament . . . "

In the long-run, the only way to ensure that Iran and other non-nuclear states do not acquire such weapons is to negotiate mutual, verifiable and universal nuclear disarmament, and to establish the means of keeping all weapons-usable nuclear materials out of the hands of any state that might seek them for weapons purposes. In the meantime, we must move forward with this accord, supporting effective diplomacy rather than war. Engaged grassroots activism is needed now to assure that the agreement is not rejected. The alternative is likely war, so action is clearly needed and needed now.

Call to Action: Put Nuclear Disarmament Back on the Agenda!

In early August we will observe the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese cities leveled, with hundreds of thousands of casualties, in the waning days of World War II. The bombs dropped there, while the most devastating weapons ever used in war, are dwarfed by those in today’s nuclear arsenals.

With nine nuclear weapons states and approximately 17,000 warheads deployed or readily deployable, many of these in a high-alert, launch-on-warning mode, nuclear war by miscalculation, miscommunication or accident remains a very present danger. More than 90 percent of these warheads are in the hands of two nations, the United States and Russia.

In many ways, the fact that we still face the threat of nuclear annihilation is a measure of the profound failing of humanity. To date, we have been unwilling or unable to deal with this enormous threat to our collective well-being and, indeed, our very survival.

Here in the U.S., the mainstream media, the politicians and their funders—those who dictate political agendas—have nearly defined away nuclear weapons as a non-issue. The sole exception seems to be nuclear proliferation to states that are official enemies, including Iran and North Korea. We in Peaceworks find it deeply troubling that the abolition of nuclear weapons through mutual, verifiable and universal nuclear disarmament, once an urgent issue that mobilized millions, is today not even on most citizens’ radar as an issue of concern.

Despite the ongoing, existential threat, we certainly have not heard any U.S. presidential candidate putting this forward as a concern for the voters in 2016. While not surprising, as this has been a fairly consistent pattern since the end of the Cold War, it is high time to insist that this very real threat is addressed.

In fact, despite our treaty commitments, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified in 1970, to pursue universal disarmament, it is the intention of our government to maintain a huge arsenal of these doomsday devices in perpetuity. This policy has bipartisan support and, according to conservative estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, our elected officials continue to spend in the neighborhood of $35 billion of our taxes annually on these weapons and their delivery systems. We, the American taxpayers, are spending more on nuclear weapons than all other nations combined.

The sad reality is that all these bombs and all the money we spend on them are not making us more secure. Rather, they are telegraphing a message to other nations that nuclear weapons are an acceptable component of a major power’s military establishment.

In fact, our government’s attachment to its nuclear weapons is sending a signal to the rest of the world that going nuclear—acquiring weapons capabilities—gives stature and legitimacy. The longer the United States insists on maintaining its current nuclear position, the more likely we are to see proliferation, regional nuclear arms races and ultimately the use of nuclear bombs somewhere in the world.

And that “somewhere” will lead to disaster virtually everywhere in the world. Even a modest sized nuclear war, say between third-tier nuclear powers, like India and Pakistan, would, in all likelihood, cause significant blockage of incoming sunlight for a number of years, and lead to widespread cooling, crop failures and mass starvation. (For more info on Nuclear Darkness click HERE.)  

While some argue that nuclear arsenals deter aggression, they lose sight of several factors. First, as nuclear delivery systems become more sophisticated, supposed nuclear deterrent systems become vulnerable to preemptive attack, and thus in crisis, nuclear-armed states face “use-it-or-lose-it” scenarios. As command and control systems age, it becomes more likely that there will be glitches that lead to accidental nuclear war. And the longer we delay nuclear abolition, the more nuclear-armed nations there will be in the world, not to mention the prospect of sub-national groups acquiring these weapons. The more fingers on the trigger, the more likely nuclear war will be a reality.

In truth, nuclear bombs are not an effective instrument of foreign policy. The consequences of their use are so horrific that it would be absolutely insane to use them in any confrontation. And the resources currently being squandered on arms are sorely needed to address very real threats to our security, including the climate crisis.

Now, as the world marks the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is time for as many of us as possible to speak out, with one voice, insisting upon mutual, verifiable and universal nuclear disarmament. It is time, once again, to take up the cause of nuclear abolition.
 You can access contact info for elected officials by clicking HERE.

Thank a Veteran for Your Freedom?

We hear messages like this so often, starting in childhood, that most of us hardly give it a thought when we hear this said, or see a message like this on a billboard. After all, on Memorial Day, July 4th, Veterans Day and many other times throughout the year, virtually every politician across the spectrum will genuflectively spout this or other, similarly clich├ęd, homages to veterans.

While respecting the good intentions of most of our fellow citizens who’ve been in the military, if we hope to see our country embrace foreign and military policies that enhance our real security, we need to pursue a more thoughtful understanding of the role that the U.S. military plays in the world. We also need to look closely at the nature of our precious “freedom,” as well as identifying the real threats thereof.

Before we go there, it should be noted that many who urge everyone to “Support our troops,” really mean “Support the wars they’ve been ordered to fight.” And many of these same politicians are actually not very good about supporting those who’ve come home from war physically and psychologically scarred. Our VA system is chronically underfunded and there are way too many veterans living on the streets, homeless, never having received the help they needed to recover from the traumas of war.

Do U.S. Wars Defend Our Freedom?

While we are taught from childhood that our military is in the business of defending our nation, the reality is quite different. All wars fought, at least for the past seven decades—and there have been many—have involved U.S. interventions in the affairs of other countries far from our shores. In fact, the last time the United States was invaded was fully 200 years ago, during the War of 1812. We are blessed with oceans to the east and west, friendly neighbors to the north and south and a general lack of enemies threatening military action against us.

Where the U.S. has involved itself militarily around the world, from Vietnam to Iraq, from Somalia to Colombia, from Panama to Pakistan and beyond, the troops or planes have not been sent to fight an aggressive power threatening our security or freedom. Rather, these invasions, coups, counter-insurgency wars and proxy wars have been fought for geopolitical advantage and in pursuit of the commercial interests and profits of influential transnational corporations.

To the extent that there is a dislike for the United States in places around the world, this is most likely the results of past aggressions by our government. or support for despotic regimes. Our wars create more enemies than they eliminate. There would be no ISIS right now if not for the American invasion of Iraq. Likewise, it was the U.S.-Saudi proxy intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s that led to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

U.S. taxpayers spend a pretty penny on what’s billed as “defense;” more than any other nation, in fact, more than the next nine biggest spenders, combined. What we are buying, however, is neither defense nor freedom. Rather, we are enriching the Military Industrial Complex and, in many parts of the world, helping maintain a status quo that is much more about entrenched wealth and power than it is about anything else.

Who Should We Thank for Our Freedom?

When this republic was founded, slavery was legal, women were virtually the property of their husbands or fathers, and, in many locations, only white males who owned real property were allowed to vote. The protections enshrined in the Bill of Rights were only applied at the Federal level.

We are indebted to many heroes who, over the course of these centuries, have struggled valiantly to protect and expand our freedom. This includes abolitionists, labor organizers, women’s rights activists and many other brands of “freedom fighters.”

There are countless organizations we must salute, with the list including the ACLU, the NAACP, NOW and numerous others. Many of these struggles continue to this day. LGBT rights are still not enshrined in Federal statute. Nor are they recognized in all states. The civil rights movement made great strides in the 1950s and 60s, but, as we all are painfully aware, there is still much work to be done to ensure equal rights for all citizens regardless of their skin color.

Another aspect of our freedom is the right to breathe clean air, to drink clean water and to live in an environment that does not make us sick. We must applaud those who struggle to protect our rights to a healthy environment. And clearly, there is still much work to be done to ensure our privacy, another area in which many good people and organizations deserve recognition for their work.

Freedom, if it is to be understood fully, is not simply a matter of ensuring a level playing field for all under the rule of law, as important as that is. Another critical freedom is the “Freedom from Want,” as articulated by President Roosevelt in his famous 1941 Four Freedoms Speech. Many have struggled long and hard to ensure workers receive adequate remuneration for their labor; that they have safe working conditions; and that there is a social safety net that provides a modicum to those who cannot work or cannot find work. These rights are still a work in progress.

Likewise, Roosevelt declared that we should all have the “Freedom from Fear.” He defined this as “a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.” He made this statement before nuclear weapons had emerged as the ultimate cause for fear, threatening omnicide. Clearly, though, the logic of his speech must be applied to these as well. Activists who have worked tirelessly for decades to promote disarmament in general and nuclear disarmament in particular should also be recognized for their contributions, although much more work remains to be done.

As we consider the origins of our freedom, it is important to be clear as to who is working to promote and expand that freedom, and also to recognize who is seeking to restrict it.

It seems that those who are boisterous cheerleaders for war, and want to give a virtual blank check to military spending, are often on the side of restricting freedom. From attacking workers’ rights to making voting more difficult, from opposing marriage equality to attacking reproductive rights, from cutting food stamps for the needy to opposing minimum wages we see constant attacks on our freedom coming from the Right.

Those who urge us to “Thank Veterans for your Freedom,” seem to believe that the biggest threats come from without and must be resisted with military force. Looking closer, far greater threats come from within our own society. So, we all can, and should, be freedom fighters. There is much heavy lifting to be done today. With much at stake, we are the ones who must each do our share.