Move the Money!

Annual Peace Conference Speaker Urges
Cuts in Military Spending to Fund Domestic Needs

Peace Action Executive Director Kevin Martin was the featured speaker at the 2011 Annual Peace Conference this past October 15 in Lincoln. Martin, who has headed up Peace Action’s Washington, D.C.-based national office since 2001, made this visit to Nebraska in part to personally welcome NFP as an affiliate member to what is the largest peace organization in the U.S. with 100,000 members nationwide.

The following article, written by Martin specifically for the Nebraska Report, touches on the main points of his annual conference address, and Peace Action’s timely new campaign during the federal deficit debate to “Move the Money!”

Peace Action’s “Move the Money!” campaign aims to take advantage of the best chance we’ve had in a generation to seriously cut the military budget. The campaign, both at the local as well as the national level, is a concerted coalition- and alliance-building effort to create strong relationships with unions, human needs and economic and racial justice advocates, environmental and consumer groups, and local elected officials—all of which have had to deal with the harm our out-of-control military spending has wreaked on the national economy, state and local budgets and at-risk constituencies.

Veteran peace activist Tom Hayden has developed a very good analytical tool he calls the “Pillars of War” which looks at the role specific sectors of society have played in perpetuating this military spending binge over the last decade. The news media, general public opinion, Republicans, Democrats (which need to be further divided into the party elite, those in Congress, and the party’s base) and corporate interests are all key pillars for examination, particularly with regards to the ‘leverage’ the peace movement might be able to exert in moving them.

We’ve clearly made significant headway pushing on some of these pillars (certainly public opinion and the Democratic base are now solidly anti-war, and we’ve made progress with Congressional Democrats, and even the media to lesser degrees). The biggest obstacle to reversing this wasteful and deadly spending trend, however—corporate power (or the good old Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex)—remains firmly in place.

A recent example is the reaction of Lockheed Martin, the planet’s largest weapons contractor, to a proposed non-binding resolution in the Montgomery County, Maryland Council (just outside Washington, D.C., where Lockheed’s national office is located). The resolution, pushed by our local Peace Action chapter, is simple: calling for an end to the wars and cutting military spending in order to fund jobs and human, community and environmental needs… A position, incidentally, supported by an overwhelming majority of the U.S. public.

Lockheed apparently felt so threatened by this non-binding county resolution that it called the governor, the district’s congressman (Rep. Chris Van Hollen, to whom it had contributed $10,000 in the last campaign cycle) and the county council president to scuttle the resolution. The trio succeeded in getting the resolution withdrawn (temporarily), but got a black-eye in the local media—including the usually reliably war-mongering Washington Post.

Truth be told, Lockheed did us a favor in exposing the lengths to which it will go to stifle the democratic process. (If the resolution had passed, we would have of course celebrated—but its adoption wouldn’t have gotten an iota of the media coverage Lockheed Martin’s strong-arm tactics generated.)

In this exciting year of the ‘Arab Spring,’ the Wisconsin and other state budget showdowns, and ‘Occupy Wall Street’ (and Omaha and Lincoln and Kansas City and Chicago and everywhere!), opportunities abound for peace activists to make common cause with allies demanding a more peaceful, just, democratic society.

In addition to the ongoing ‘Occupy Movement,’ there is still time before Congress’s self-imposed December 23 deficit-reduction deadline to demand that the House and Senate preserve Social Security, Medicare and human needs programs and find their budget savings in the gargantuan, $1.2 trillion per year national security budget. (Check out the Peace Action home page at http://www.peace-action.org/ for what you can do.)

Two other important opportunities to publicly make the case for ‘moving the money’ will be coming up next year. The first will be the joint ‘NATO/G-8 Summit’ in Chicago, where the international ‘military-industrial-political complex’ has already linked the issues of both militarism and the economy for us! Peace Action, along with local, national and international allies, will organize an educational conference and street actions demanding an end to NATO and U.S. war-making and a more just, equitable global economy.

Finally, next year’s election campaign will present us with a prime opportunity to press candidates for all levels of government to move the money from war and militarism to jobs, human and environmental needs. Our ‘Peace Voter’ campaign will help give activists the tools to make the most of this chance—from candidate briefings and endorsements and bird-dogging to voter guides, voter registration, education and Get out the Vote (GOTV) efforts. President Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s vulnerability (over 80 percent of registered Democrats want to end the wars) matches up very well with our strength in the peace movement’s grassroots base… Not that we are all Democrats—we certainly are not… But we have many connections with grassroots Democratic activists and structures.

Ending the wars, cutting military spending, abolishing nuclear weapons and creating a more just society are all central to Peace Action’s mission. But so is recognizing and framing a larger vision of the historic moment we inhabit—and the opportunities it provides. I like the framework Norwegian Peace Studies expert Johann Galtung uses: the Decline of the U.S. Empire, and the Flowering of the U.S. Republic.

All empires have ended. All of them. It’s our job to help end the U.S. Empire as quickly and nonviolently as possible, and to use the resources freed up (a ‘Peace Dividend’ if you will) to help empower people to create the flowering republic—peaceful, equitable, sustainable and just—that comes in the Empire’s demise.

A few years ago, a dinner table conversation with my children (now aged 17 and 13) revealed that they thought the United States is always at war. And why wouldn’t they think that, as it’s certainly been the case for nearly all their lives (and frankly for the majority of our country’s history)? It’s unacceptable to me that children in this country, or in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Congo, Somalia or anywhere, should have to live with that expectation—or even worse, that daily reality. For their futures, we cannot continue on the unsustainable path we are currently on.

As the great nonviolent activist A.J. Muste taught us, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” Let’s jump at this opportunity and get a move on.

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