As we wait anxiously for the new administration to take office and finally begin dealing with the economic meltdown, Americans should not lose sight of our no less fragile military and foreign policy situations — and the connection between the two.
Despite his stirring pre-nomination statements, President-elect Obama's appointment of Hillary Clinton, Gen. James Jones and Robert Gates to the key foreign policy and defense positions disturbingly suggests very little "change" and more of the same old muscle-flexing that has poisoned much of the world against us. Moreover, this team can be counted on to continue ignoring the root causes of terrorism in the world today.
Moreover, one of the remarkable ironies of the current recession is that no one in the outgoing or incoming administrations has the courage to link it with the outlandish military expenditures of the last seven years. Accordingly, members of the Huntington Woods Peace, Citizenship and Education Project have accepted President-elect Obama's repeated invitations to the American people to fuel change "from the bottom up" by developing the following "Citizens' Peace Platform," spelling out what a genuinely new direction in foreign policy would look like.
Basic Principles. A first step should be a "Declaration of Interdependence" that lets the rest of the world know the United States understands that our collective fates are inexorably intertwined. We must look directly at the real threats to national and international security — by working to resolve the issues of global economic inequality, unequal consumption of our earth's resources, disruptive globalization and global warming.
We should reject the United States' current role as the world's military superpower dominating other nations and peoples for reasons of our own self-interest (and corporate interest). Instead we should seek to transform the United States into the world's greatest humanitarian superpower.
The cornerstone of foreign policy should be actual, not just rhetorical support for human rights and social, economic and legal justice across the globe. This means rejecting unilateral and pre-emptive military action, and allowing our military actions abroad to be guided by the United Nations and international laws, treaties and conventions.
We should vigorously move to abolish nuclear weapons, phase out our 700-plus military bases abroad, and greatly reduce our military budget. Funds could be redirected to vital domestic social and economic needs.
We should stand solidly for legal and social justice. This includes restoring habeas corpus (the constitutional right to contest one's detention), repealing the U.S. Patriot Act (allowing police to break into homes without notification or justification), repealing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (allowing for nameless pro forma warrants), eliminating torture, and opening war crimes hearings.
Iraq, Afghanistan and the "War on Terror." The war against Iraq has not benefited the Iraqi or American people. The occupation must be ended as soon as possible — but not to help expand the war in Afghanistan. That war was and continues to be the wrong response to the 9/11 terrorist acts.
We believed in 2001 and continue to believe today that 9/11 was a criminal enterprise that requires that those responsible be brought to justice. Instead, the United States has declared an endless "war on terror," beginning by imposing a kind of collective punishment on Afghanistan's and then Iraq's people by one invasion after another. This war has not made our own citizens safer and more secure, but rather led to increased Islamic anger while undermining stability in several countries.
We should not escalate the war in Afghanistan and become involved in neighboring Pakistan. Instead, we call for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region in the context of an internationally negotiated solution.
Iran and Nuclear Proliferation. The authors reject the United States' and Israel's threats to go to war over Iran's nuclear weapons program — which our own intelligence agencies have confirmed is dismantled. We deplore the fact that the real issue — worldwide nuclear weapon production and proliferation — is ignored in the clamor about Iran's possible nuclear weapons program. The United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan all possess nuclear weapons and little, if anything, is being done to eliminate these. It is irresponsible to avoid this issue, to maintain the current nuclear monopoly by a handful of countries, and to raise alarms about Iran.
The Obama administration should call for a national discussion about the overall nuclear threat, the urgent need for reduction and abolition of these weapons, and whether the very existence of nuclear technology stimulates their production.
Israel-Palestine. The authors deplore the fact that extremists on the Israeli side have continued to build and expand settlements, and that their government has supported them by building a vast infrastructure to make these settlements part of Israel and separate them from Palestinians. We condemn extremists on the Palestinian side, who, supported or tolerated by their authorities, continue to attack Israelis.
We call for a resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem that is consistent with international law and equity. But given the U.S. government's historical, diplomatic, financial and military support for the Israeli government, it cannot and should not be expected to broker a peace agreement between the antagonists. A resolution depends on involvement of the international community and must be decided by the Israeli and Palestinian people themselves.
Although we welcome the Obama administration after eight years of the Bush administration's arrogance, unilateralism, narrow national self-interest and reckless domestic and foreign policies, we know that active citizenship requires unremitting pressure on government.
It is clear that meaningful change leading to global peace and justice will only come about when it is demanded by an aroused and articulate citizenry. We call upon our fellow citizens to join us in making our voices heard.
During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, residents of Huntington Woods and surrounding communities came together in an effort to promote peace. The group can be contacted at [email protected]. The group's website is www.hwpeace.org.