How can peace groups take advantage of the opportunity presented by a national referendum in 2012 for millions of Americans to vote to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and/or to cut the military budget?
The peace movement has been the most prominent part of the progressive movement to use ballot initiatives and referenda, and resolutions by cities and states, to gain support for our causes. This was true of the nuclear weapons freeze in 1982, and of the resolutions and votes against the Iraq war that continued through 2008 after hundreds of cities passed resolutions against the impending war in early 2003.
We have almost no way to seek redress for illegal wars through the courts, and given the long history of Democratic Party support for U.S. wars, nuclear weapons, and huge military budgets in general, very few ways to convince the U.S. Congress to bring U.S. wars to an end.
Peace groups’ concerns have been more thoroughly shut out by the Obama administration than almost any other progressive sector since his election in 2008. This sense of betrayal was a large cause of the now abandoned calls to primary challenge Obama.
Yet the inevitability of Obama being the nominee does not end the possibility of calls for peace being an important presence in this election year. While the national referendum is mainly focused on solutions to the economic crisis, ballot propositions to get out of Afghanistan and cut the military budget are essential to realizing these economic and budgetary goals. When millions of people vote for peace in November 2012, we will have a strong basis to carry out a successful fight in 2013 to implement what people have voted for.
What we are
putting forward is essentially a 3-year plan; a foundation this year; much
broader organizing and education in 2013; and a very large referendum in 2014
in many states, more like the nuclear weapons freeze of 1982.
referendum will be in two stages: a summer vote on June 5, and November votes
on the same day as the general election. The summer vote will focus on economic
votes will be placed on the ballot by Democratic-controlled state and local
governments, as in the June 5 vote, and by petition. If Democratic governments
do not want to put antiwar measures on the November ballot, then petitioning is
an option. Likely, most antiwar ballot
measures will be put on by sympathetic Democratic legislatures and city council
members, under pressure from peace groups and the wider progressive movement.
Most such governments have until sometime in July to make a final decision on
what goes on the November ballot.
referendum will focus on economic issues and democratic issues like Citizens
United. If the June referendum is to
happen it will require intense coalition building and action in February and
March, just to come to agreement on whether to hold the referendum and what to
put on the ballot, and then implementing those decisions.
independents are much more for swift withdrawal from Afghanistan. Republican
opinion is what keeps it down below 2/3 nationally. But in states where
Democrats control, it is above 2/3, which is the threshold needed to almost
definitely win an initiative or ballot question/proposition. And few if any
polls ask about ending the wars and using the money here at home, which will
poll much higher.
PEACE GROUPS CAN DECIDE
referendum gives peace groups, if they start organizing for this in March, 4-5
months to make decisions about what they want on the November ballot and to
organize support for it to happen.
Over the last
ten years peace groups have focused much more on anti-war resolutions passed
primarily by city councils rather than putting steps toward peace to a vote of
the people. Certainly, given the small size of most peace groups, resolutions
are easier. But, if the same city council members or legislators will pass a
resolution, why not go for the ballot?
A key step is
showing broad coalitions in local areas how these budget cuts and transfers to
human needs can concretely help people; second is using that opening to show
what can and must be cut from the military, and why these expenditures are
wasteful, do nothing to enhance our security, actually endanger our security,
are thoroughly immoral, and illegal, and block solutions to much more desperate
problems like climate change and jobs.
progressive groups join together in February and March, there will be an
initial national referendum vote on June 5, the date of the presidential
primary in California, the largest state in the nation. The presidential
nominations for both parties will largely be decided by February or March at
the latest—Romney will be the Republican nominee and Obama’s nomination was
effectively decided before the primaries began. Thus, unlike 2008, progressives
will have the next four months largely to ourselves to organize, and have
unusual media attention on the independent vote we are planning.
referendum date will be on the general election day, November 6.
are suggesting that peace groups focus on the November ballot. In most places,
ballot measures to withdraw from Afghanistan and cut the military budget can go
on the ballot as late as July, through Democratic-controlled city councils and
perhaps some state legislatures. Thus, peace groups could agree among
themselves first what they want to see on the ballot, and do this in meetings,
from February through April or May.
It may be
difficult to get Democratic elected officials, except in the most liberal
cities, to place measures on the ballot to get out of Afghanistan quickly or to
cut the military budget substantially when these positions contradict, or go
further, than what the Obama administration wants. Therefore, petitioning is also
important. Given the small memberships of peace groups, it will be easier if
these petitions are circulated by a broader progressive coalition. These
petitions will demonstrate, along with the polls, that there is widespread
public support for them, encouraging a few Democratic states to put them on the
ballot, especially when framed as we need to bring the money home to meet needs
here. Petitioning will also help prevent the Democrats from watering down the
measures. In a few places with initiative rights, it may be possible to get on
the ballot that way, either for November (if deadlines can be met, which is
doubtful in most places), or for a March 2013 special election that we will be
calling on Democratic states, cities, and counties to hold.
It will be
essential, in this decision-making process, to base decisions on polling what
we would like to see on the ballot; to test what is the best language, and to
find out where these measures for peace will pass.
peace groups can get support in May and June from the coalitions working on the
referendum; and get it on the ballot in June or July with this wider support.
Thus, in the campaign to pass the referendum in November, these ballot measures
for peace will be part of a package, or slate, that all progressive groups
involved will be asking people to vote for.
In this way, the peace movement need not rely on its own, relatively
limited resources, to make this majority vote for peace happen.
THAT COULD TAKE PART
Some of the
national peace groups that could join together to decide on ballot measures for
peace for the November 2012 ballot, and then campaign to get them on the ballot
and pass them, include (this is not an exhaustive list): Peace Action,
American Friends Service Committee, United for Peace and Justice (and the
numerous local groups that are a part of this network), Fellowship of
Reconciliation, War Resisters League, Women’s International League for Peace
and Freedom, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Code Pink, Pax Christi, Progressive
Democrats of America, Win Without War, Institute for Policy Studies,
Afghanistan Study Group, New America Foundation, Brave New Films, Military
Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, the Buddhist
Peace Fellowship, Abolition 2000, the denominationally based peace groups, and
the national and local groups with campaigns to cut the military budget and
fund human needs, such as the National Priorities Project, Bay Area Campaign
for National Priorities, New Priorities Network, and others.
Combined, these groups have mailing and email lists of hundreds of thousands, with thousands of activists. Other progressive groups and unions, whose members also overwhelmingly support ending the war in Afghanistan and cutting the military budget, have tens of millions of members combined. The peace movement can win by working together with the broader progressive movement.
DEMONSTRATIONS AT WHICH GETTING
OUT OF AFGHANISTAN AND CUTTING THE
BUDGET COULD BE PROMINENT THEMES
crisis will be the main theme of the regular election, of the referendum
itself, and of protests this year. Thanks to Occupy Wall Street, the 1% of the
wealthy, banks, and corporations are finally being targeted directly for
promoting two demonstrations this year where peace groups can help make cutting
the military budget and getting out of Afghanistan prominent issues.
June 12, 2012
is the 30th anniversary of one the largest demonstrations for peace in U.S.
history, the June 12, 1982 demonstration for nuclear disarmament of one million
people in New York City. This
demonstration took place in the middle of the nationwide nuclear weapons freeze
initiative campaign. The nuclear freeze is the inspiration for this year’s
proposing a major demonstration in New York City for either Saturday, June 9,
or Saturday, June 10, to march on Wall Street and demand that the reforms that
tens of millions voted for in the referendum on June 5 be implemented, with a
special focus on taxing the rich and taxing Wall Street.
fact that this is close to the 30th anniversary of the June 1982
demonstration, peace could be a major theme of this demonstration as well. June 12 is on a Tuesday this year, but there
could be a demonstration in New York City that day focused not only on
Afghanistan and cutting the military budget, but on abolition of nuclear
weapons as well, perhaps with a march to the UN.
after the national election and November referendum, we are proposing a major
demonstration in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, November 10, followed by lobby
days at the Capitol the following week, again to demand that what the people
have voted for be implemented. Since millions hopefully will have voted to get
out of Afghanistan and cut the military budget, this would be a focus of this demonstration
Stand With the Majority of Americans:
Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed
Statement by Occupy Washington, D.C.
End the Wars, Bring the Troops Home, Cut Military Spending
Pentagon has a very effective propaganda program to protect its budget, so
polls find Americans greatly underestimate how much we spend. According to a Rasmussen poll, only 25% of voters believe
the United States should always spend at least three times as much on defense
as any other nation. Forty percent (40%) do not think the country needs to
spend this much, while 35% are not sure. Interestingly, if the government were
to actually spend only three times as much as any other nation, it would imply
a significant cut in U.S. defense spending since in fact, the U.S. spends as
much as the whole world combined on weapons and war. Earlier polling showed that
just 58% recognize that the United States spends more on defense than any other
nation in the world. I could not find any corporate media outlet that
asked Americans if the U.S. should spend as much as the whole world combined on
Program on International Policy Attitudes University of Maryland did a detailed
examination of public opinion on military spending that
was published in 2005. They provided Americans with the overall federal
budget and asked them to modify it. They report: “Defense spending received the
deepest cut, being cut on average 31%—equivalent to $133.8 billion—with 65% of
respondents cutting. The second largest area to be cut was the supplemental for
Iraq and Afghanistan, which suffered an average cut of $29.6 billion or 35%,
with two out of three respondents cutting.” Further “clear majorities favored
increases (education 57%, job training 67%, medical research 57%, veteran’s
benefits 63%), though only 43% of respondents favored increases for housing.”
recent deficit debate, polls showed a majority of Americans preferred cutting
military spending to reduce the federal deficit rather than taking money from
public retirement and health programs. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released in March 2011
found 51% of Americans support reducing “defense” spending, and only 28% want
to cut Medicare and Medicaid health programs for the elderly and poor and only
18% back cuts in Social Security. A July 2011 Rasmussen poll found that a plurality of
Americans believe the United States can make major cuts in military spending without
sacrificing security and nearly 80% said the U.S. spends too much protecting
January 2011 CNN poll found that more than six in ten
Americans oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan. A February 2011 USA Today/Gallup poll found Americans
favored more rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan by 75% to 25%.
Iraq Angus Reid Public Opinion reports in 2011
that half of Americans (52%) believe their government made a mistake in
launching military action against Iraq in 2003. Large majorities of respondents
in the U.S. (63%) and Britain (70%) believe that the Iraq War negatively
affected the position and image of their respective countries in the world.
(This article by Occupy Washington, D.C. can be found: here).
from a 1997 study of polls about cutting
propose cutting military 10% to 20%, majorities of Americans approve. If the
funds that are cut are redirected to popular domestic programs, such as
education, cutting crime rates, and cutting the deficit, “overwhelming