fcnl.org   Peace Is Possible   11 December 2016

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God..... You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons [and daughters] of your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:9, 43-46

Give the 115th Congress a Fresh Start

Rescind the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force

 

The 2001 AUMF was passed just three days after the attacks of 9/11.  Since then it has been used as a blanket authorization for war anywhere, anytime, and against anyone. 

This law has been invoked over 30 times by two Administrations since 2001.  AUMF, not the Patriot Act, is regularly cited as the legal justification for drone strikes and extrajudicial assassinations, the intelligence agencies’ warrantless wiretaps and digital spying which have caused a global uproar, the U.S. war in Afghanistan, attacks on Libya, continued use of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the Administration’s military and special forces actions from Yemen and Somalia to Pakistan and Mali, and recent new deployments and actions in Iraq and Syria. 

The AUMF also is used by well-financed defense industry lobbyists as justification for the ongoing production of ultra-expensive weapons systems the Pentagon admits it does not need, and the development of new systems our deficit-addicted country cannot afford.  Despite the fact that the US military spends more each year than the world’s next 15 largest militaries combined, the defense industry endlessly raises possible new threats, then proposes and markets expensive new weapons systems to counter them.

President Obama said three years ago that “the US cannot have war without end.”  In 2013, the House of Representatives almost approved the sunset and repeal of the 2001 AUMF but fell 33 votes short of the 218 needed to send the measure on to the Senate.  President Obama has again in the past year let it be known he thought there should be a new AUMF for US military actions against ISIS, but Congress apparently did not want that responsibility in an election year.   

Now the voting is over, and a new commander-in-chief will move into the White House on January 20.  By almost all admissions, he is untested, unpredictable, has no training in diplomacy, and has a penchant for speaking and acting before consulting.  With the 2001 AUMF still in force, he also will have the ability to deploy deadly American military force against essentially anyone he chooses, with no need for congressional debate or preapproval.

It is long past time for Congress to reclaim its constitutional authority for deciding when America goes to war.  Leaving the 2001 AUMF in effect for the new administration is an invitation for continued loss of US blood and treasure and the needless creation of new enemies.  Rescinding the 2001 AUMF can help restore the constitutional checks and balances that require the executive and legislative branches to debate and deliberate before waging war. 

 

Sample Letter

 

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.    Washington, DC  20510                             

   202-224-4814               senator_donnelly@donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

   202-224-5623                senator_coats@coats.senate.gov

Sen.-elect Todd Young      US Senate       Washington, DC 20510

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515

   202-225-3021                 IN06LMima@mail.house.gov

Sen. _________, Rep. Messer:

If possible before the 114th Congress ends, or else immediately upon the opening of the 115th, please use your influence and authority there to persuade your colleagues to rescind the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.  It is long past time for Congress to reclaim its constitutional authority over American war-making.

The 2001 AUMF has been used over 30 times since the 9/11 attacks to justify an ever-expanding war on terror.  It has harmfully militarized both our foreign policy and our economy by assuming legitimacy for our growing use of force around the world.  It has unnecessarily created new enemies, cost our nation thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, and impoverished most of us while defense contractors have prospered.  The authorization is a legal mirage that has allowed the U.S. government to wage war at any time, in any place, and on anyone deemed a threat to national security – with no debate and remarkably little evidence needed. 

At the earliest possible moment in the new year, I urge you to lead your colleagues in improving oversight and accountability for future military action around the world by fully repealing the 2001 AUMF. 

                                                    Sincerely,

 

After a year of studying Biblical peacemaking, the College and Career Class is now encouraged each month (on the second Sunday) to write a letter to a legislator concerning a peace issue currently before congress. 

Below is the current letter.  Scroll down for previous letters and topics.

 

fcnl.org       Peace Is Possible     14 August 2016

Whoever would love life and see good days.... must seek peace and pursue it.

I Peter 3:10,11

Rescind the Authorization for the Endless War

by Yasmine Taeb, FCNL           Aug 2, 2016 

On August 1, President Obama opened up a new front in the endless war by authorizing new airstrikes in Libya where US drones and manned aircraft attacked ISIS targets in the coastal port city of Sirte.  And, like so many times before, the president invoked the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) — the law behind the "War on Terror"— to do it.  It's the law that has given two presidents a blank check to justify military action around the world.  In January 2017, it will continue giving our next president the power to wage war anytime, anywhere -- unless Congress rescinds the 2001 AUMF.

It is long past time for Congress to take its power back, to debate and vote upon each and every war the U.S. undertakes, in keeping with the 1973 War Powers Act.  But for the past 15 years, Congress has let the president act unchecked.  When Congress actually has to vote on wars — when their constituents can hold them accountable for war-making — the U.S. is less likely to pursue military action.  We have seen what happens when a president can act alone: covert “special ops” in 150 countries, drone strikes with unthinkable civilian deaths, warrantless surveillance of Americans, and indefinite detention in Guantanamo Bay.

During this fall’s election campaign, it is important for Friends to ask their members of Congress and congressional candidates if they will act to recover Congress’ authority over war-making, or will they let the next president use a 15-year-old law to continue justifying a global battlefield?  Please contact your Senators, Representative, and candidates to ask them to commit to rescinding the 2001 AUMF in order to take back Congress’ constitutionally-mandated power to debate and vote on every U.S. war.

Sample Letter

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

            202-224-4814               www.donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

            202-224-5623               www.coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515

            202-225-3021                www.messer.house.gov

Rep. Messer, Sen. _____________:

For the past 15 years, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (the law behind the so-called War on Terror) has provided two presidents with a blank check for war.  It has justified military action around the world, indefinite detentions in Guantanamo Bay, drone strikes and civilian casualties in places that were not war zones, warrantless surveillance of Americans, and the recent airstrikes in Libya.

Before a new president takes office next January, Congress should take back its power to vote on every war in which the U.S. engages.  It is long past time to rescind the 2001 AUMF.  The next president should not have the authority to wage unlimited war.

As a follower of Christ, it is very important to me that the endless war be brought to an end.  It has deeply harmed America’s global relationships and has cost us thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.  Please declare your support for repealing the 2001 AUMF, or explain to me why you will not do so.

                              Sincerely,

 

November 2016 Candidates:

 

Barry Welsh, IN 6th District for US House

welshforcongress.wordpress.com/contact/

 

Evan Bayh, for US Senate

ebayh@mcguirewoods.com

 

Todd Young, for US Senate

contact@toddyoung.org

 

fcnl.org       Peace Is Possible      10 April 2016

Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A person (and maybe a society?) reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.     (Galatians 6:7-8)

You Pay Your Taxes -- Do You Care How They’re Spent?

FCNL, April 2016

The deadline for filing 2015 tax returns will be here a a few days.  Before it’s over, the federal government will collect over three trillion dollars from American workers and businesses.  That money could accomplish a lot for the common good of our nation and the world -- or it could do a lot of harm and destruction.  Our elected representatives in Congress ultimately control the spending plan for those public funds, but we taxpayers are responsible to make our priorities and expectations clear to them. 

Unbalanced federal spending has consequences.  Especially since the September 2001 terror attacks on the US, the Pentagon and security  services of the US have had a virtual blank check, while conflict prevention and basic human needs have gone begging.  From cuts in programs that reduce income inequality to missed opportunities to address climate change, overspending on the Pentagon takes away from our priorities as a country.  Unless Congress is persuaded to change it, your 2015 taxes will be used as follows:

37.5% for current & past wars:  includes the Department of Defense budget and related military programs, such as nuclear weapons production in the Department of Energy, the military portion of the Overseas Contingency Operations fund (OCO), and foreign military assistance (25%); the share of interest on the public debt that is due to past war spending (6%); and veterans’ benefits and other costs of past wars (6%).

28% for health care:  This includes health care for children, elders and families through the Medicaid program, Indian Health, public health services and other programs. It also includes some spending for the Medicare program, although the majority of that program is supported by a separate payroll tax and by premiums paid by participants. (Veterans’ health benefits and medical care for troops and other employees of the Department of Defense are included in the costs of war and past wars.)

14% income assistance:  This includes spending on programs available to eligible people based on income guidelines. These programs provide food assistance, housing subsidies, unemployment insurance, temporary income supports and energy assistance in order to mitigate some of the enormous income gap between the richest and poorest in our country.

12% general government:  This includes spending on the legislative and judicial branches and agencies that serve an all-government purpose, such as the Departments of the Treasury and Justice and the General Services Administration (3%). This also includes the interest on the public debt not due to spending on past wars (9%).

5% social programs & supports for the economy:  This includes spending on programs that make commerce possible, including investments in rural and urban development, transportation and agriculture, along with employment, education, child care assistance and community programs.

2.5% energy, science & the environment:  This includes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, National Aeronautic and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the non-nuclear part of the Department of Energy, most of the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

2% preventing war:  This includes the entire State Department (including the diplomatic corps and the U.S. Agency for International Development), support for the United Nations and other international institutions and non-military aid to other countries.

This FCNL analysis covers the $2,674,290,000,000 “federal fund” budget, which is the spending supported by income taxes, estate taxes, and other general revenues. Not included are trust funds, such as Social Security, Medicare and highway trust funds, which are supported by dedicated revenues.

Sample Letter

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510  

           202-224-4814               www.donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

           202-224-5623               www.coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515

           202-225-3021                www.messer.house.gov

Rep. Messer, Sen. _____________:

As I pay my 2015 taxes, and as Congress’ budgeting and appropriations process continues, please cut the Pentagon's Overseas Contingency Operations account.  We're foolishly spending nearly 20 times more on making war than on preventing it, and we’re reaping what we’re sowing.

The $1.2 million it costs to deploy a soldier to Afghanistan for a year could instead provide 514 low-income children with health care for one year, or provide 116 military veterans one year of VA medical care.  Eliminating the Overseas Contingency Operations account is an essential step to correct overspending on the Department of Defense.

Instead, I ask that you support increased funding for diplomacy, foreign assistance, and peace building accounts (like the Complex Crises Fund), and reinvest in human needs at home.

                            Sincerely,

 

fcnl.org       Peace Is Possible      13 March 2016

You who turn justice into bitterness, and cast righteousness to the ground...., who hate the one who reproves in court and despise him who tells the truth..., you trample on the poor.... and deprive them of justice in the courts.... Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Micah 5:7,10,12,24

Sentencing: A Major Driver of Mass Incarceration

adapted from Mavis Britwum, FCNL, 22 Feb 2016

From March 12-14, around 400 young adult Friends and friends committed to peace and justice will gather in Washington, DC, to learn about mass incarceration and hone their advocacy skills.  On March 15, they will move over to Capitol Hill to ask their members of Congress to pass S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.

Mass incarceration is a system of over-criminalization and hyper- imprisonment of entire racial, social, and economic groups. Since Pres. Nixon’s declaration of the “War on Drugs” in 1971, America’s prison and jail population has increased sevenfold, from some 300,000 in the mid-1970s to 2.2 million people today. This means that the U.S. locks up more of its population than any other developed nation in the world.

One of the most significant drivers of mass incarceration is mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes. These minimums depend primarily on the particular drug (most notably crack cocaine) and the amount of it an individual possesses at the time of arrest. 

By the time the crack epidemic peaked in the 1980s, it had already destroyed countless lives and plagued several racial minority communities in the U.S.  Powdered cocaine was the higher-end form of the drug (a half- gram bag cost roughly $50) and therefore appealed most to users who could afford it.   Crack cocaine, however, was less expensive to pro-duce. Drug dealers could cut cocaine with other cheap chemical agents like baking soda, doubling the product and significantly reducing its cost.  At $5 or $10 a gram, even people in poor black communities could afford to get high.  Crack became known as an inner-city “street-corner” drug.

In 1986, the federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act formalized sentencing disparity by considering users of crack cocaine worse offenders than users of powder cocaine and imposing 100-times harsher sentences on crack users.  It soon became clear that the disparate sentencing is inextricably linked to racial discrimination. Today, African Americans make up 85 percent of the 12,000 people in federal prisons for crack cocaine crimes.  After years of protests, Congress in 2010 passed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) which reduced the crack/powder sentencing disparity from 100:1 down to 18:1, but it unfortunately did not apply to people whose crimes predated 2010.  So while the epidemic of drugs negatively affected all Americans, the law continued unfairly to punish the same essential crime with unjustly different penalties.

Mandatory minimums were intended to help the government prosecute high-level drug offenders, but top traffickers rarely if ever carry the amount of drugs that result in the mandatory minimum sentence.  The minimums mostly ensnared low-level, nonviolent, even first-time drug offenders.  And these mandatory minimums have historically been far more detrimental to minority groups, who currently make up over 60% of both state and federal prison populations.

S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (SRCA), was introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley with eleven bipartisan cosponsors last October.  It is the product of negotiations among Senate Judiciary Committee members and several other concerned senators.  S. 2123 includes retroactivity of the Fair Sentencing Act, which would reduce the mandatory sentence for crack cocaine related crimes of people already serving long sentences since the 1980s.  The bill does not entirely fix the system of mass incarceration, but reducing sentences, restoring judging authority to judges, and lowering federal prison populations are good first steps in the right direction of tackling this major issue.

Sample Letter

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

                202-224-4814               www.donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

                202-224-5623               www.coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515

                202-225-3021                www.messer.house.gov

Rep. Messer, Sen. _____________:

I am writing to add my voice to those of young Quakers who likely will visit your office in mid-March to request your support and help in passing  S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.  This bill would reduce the unjustly long pre-2010 sentences of some crack cocaine offenders, lower federal prison populations, and let judges judge again.

I am deeply concerned about the problem of mass incarceration in our country, especially about its obvious roots in racial and socioeconomic injustice.  It is disgraceful that legal justice in the US depends upon the color of one’s skin or the quantity of one’s money.  S. 2123 is an important step in the right direction toward a more just criminal justice system.

As your constituent, and as a follower of Christ, I ask that you show Hoosier compassion and leadership by supporting and helping to pass S. 2123, or explain to me why you will not do so.

                                                      Sincerely,

 

fcnl.org     Peace Is Possible    14 February 2016

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.... Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.  ....They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain....  (Isaiah 2:4; ll:9)

How Much is $583 Billion?  Too Much....

adapted from Jim Cason and Amelia Kegan, FCNL, 10 Feb 2016

We were delighted that the FY2017 budget President Obama sent to Congress on 9 February included programs that would lift half a million people out of poverty, reduce child hunger, and provide funding to begin addressing the impacts of harmful climate change.  But there’s much more we could do as a nation to address those concerns and to protect genuine security -- if Congress rejected the president’s proposals to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the Pentagon. 

Military spending still overshadows everything else in this budget.  The biggest item in the discretionary budget is a base amount of about $524 billion for the Pentagon -- enough to feed every child at risk of hunger in the US three meals a day for 20 years.  And above and beyond that $524 billion, the president adds an “Overseas Contingency Operations” fund of another $59 billion dedicated to Pentagon spending (enough to keep feeding those children for another 2.3 years) -- and some in Congress are arguing that the Pentagon should get even more. 

There is much to like in the president’s FY17 federal spending proposals, particularly ones that would provide greater economic opportunity for millions of low-income working families. His budget provides $12 billion over ten years in supplemental food benefits for low-income families with children during the summer when school is not in session.  It funds a new Emergency Aid and Service Connection Grants initiative for states to help families deal with emergency crises without spiraling into poverty.  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is up for reauthorization this year; Congress could include it in that legislation.  The president’s budget expands the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless adults, non-custodial parents, and low-wage workers between the ages of 21 and 25. The EITC lifts more people out of poverty than any US program except Social Security.  Expanding EITC to reach those groups would lift about half a million people out of poverty and make over 10 million people less poor.  The Obama budget proposes at least $750 million in startup funding for the global Green Climate Fund next year to provide climate disruption adaptation and green energy solutions in poor countries around the world.  And it proposes significantly increased funding for tribally-operated schools and to address the interrelated issues of poverty, violence, and substance abuse in Native communities.

Unfortunately, the president’s budget with its $583 billion for Pentagon spending seeks less than a tenth of that ($53 billion) for the State Department, the agency tasked with diplomacy and prevention of wars.  As a statement of our shared priorities, the FY17 budget is badly out of balance.  Every dollar the Pentagon spends is a dollar not available for early childhood education, nutrition assistance, health care, or diplomacy and international development to address the root causes of conflicts. 

To rebalance revenues with America’s priorities, Congress could eliminate funding for the “Overseas Contingency Operations” account.  Created because the Pentagon couldn’t estimate the cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, this slush fund has grown into a monster budget item that overshadows the spending of other entire government agencies.  Congress should stop funding development of the new, nuclear-capable cruise missile and halt plans for a 30-year, $1 trillion modernization program for our nuclear weapons.  Cutting the Pentagon’s core budget would enable investment of the savings in global peacebuilding efforts.  Fourteen years of wars and military actions have not brought peace to the Middle East, yet the US continues to give over 90 percent of our budget for international engagement to the military.  Those years have shown clearly that war is not the answer.  Reorienting our government toward long-term peacebuilding would save lives and money by preventing wars.  It’s time to pivot to peace.

 Sample Letter

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

           202-224-4814               www.donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

           202-224-5623               www.coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515

           202-225-3021                www.messer.house.gov

 

Rep. Messer, Sen. _____________:

 As the FY17 federal budget debate begins, please use your influence in Congress to direct my tax dollars towards lifegiving uses and away from lethal, destructive ones. 

Specifically, I ask that you support the president’s call for stronger funding for summer nutrition programs for low-income families with school-age kids, the Emergency Aid and Service Connection Grants initiative, full funding for reauthorization of TANF and for expanding the EITC, robust funding for the Green Climate Fund, increased money for education and social struggles in Native American communities, and significantly more funding for State Department diplomacy and war prevention.

Money for those needs can best be freed up by scaling back the bloated budget request for the Pentagon.  The Overseas Contingency Operations account, the development of a new nuclear-capable cruise missile, and the trillion-dollar modernization of US nukes should be eliminated outright.

Please tell me how you will offer leadership for investing in genuine human security and for ending wasteful spending on death and destruction.

 

                              Sincerely,

 

fcnl.org     Peace Is Possible    13 September 2015

If anyone....sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love [merely] with words...., but with actions and in truth.

I John 3:17,18

 

Let's PREPARE for Extreme Weather

                         adapted from Jose Aguto, FCNL, 23 July 2015

 

With record-breaking droughts, heat waves, blizzards and floods now the norm, it's clear that extreme weather is here to stay. Now is the time for Congress to work across party lines and help people and communities across America adapt to the “new abnormal.”

On July 23, Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) introduced the PREPARE (Preparedness and Risk management for Extreme weather Patterns Assuring Resilience and Effectiveness) Act,  a commonsense bill that will enhance the federal government’s ability to plan and prepare for the risks associated with extreme weather incidents.  The legislation was first introduced during the 113th Congress.

FCNL has long supported the PREPARE Act as an important starting point for addressing the damages people and communities across the nation are experiencing because of extreme weather events.  And we know that many of these events are exacerbated or caused by climate disruption.  This bipartisan bill's focus on "extreme weather" can spark much-needed conversation and action in Congress on global warming, its consequences, and more solutions.

There have been 42 extreme weather events in the last four years that have each inflicted at least $1 billion in damage, totaling $227 billion in economic losses across 44 states, and have taken a total of 1,286 lives.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recognized these risks and added severe weather threats to its 2013 and 2015 High Risk Lists, which outline the most pressing fiscal exposures faced by the federal government.  To confront this issue nationwide, the zero-cost PREPARE Act requires the federal government to better coordinate their efforts and form comprehensive plans to address the threats posed to life and property by extreme weather events.  This legislation will ensure government agencies are properly sharing information, lessons learned, and best practices for responding to disasters across the nation.

While federal coordination efforts have been improving over the past two years since the PREPARE Act was first introduced, there is still a long way to go to adequately prepare for the threats posed by extreme weather.  As the planet warms, more and more people will be impacted by extreme weather events.  As a nation, we must work together to prepare for that.  Friends’ advocacy can help Congress be a pivotal part of the solutions.

Sample Letter

 

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

                202-224-4814               www.donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

                202-224-5623               www.coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515

                202-225-3021                www.messer.house.gov

 

Rep. Messer:

 

I am writing to urge you to cosponsor the bipartisan PREPARE Act introduced by Reps. Lance and Cartright in July.  This legislation would help our nation, our state, and our communities prepare for the dangerous effects of extreme weather that is almost certain to increase as the planet continues to warm in the next several years.

Forty-two extreme weather events over just the past four years have cost our nation a total of 1,286 lives and $227 billion.  The zero-cost PREPARE Act would require the federal government to better prepare and better coordinate efforts to respond to storms, floods, and other devastating weather events, with a view towards protecting lives and property in order to reduce those loss figures.

It is very likely that during Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Washington, he will speak of humankind’s moral duty to protect both our planetary home and its inhabitants who are most vulnerable to the destructive impacts of climate change.  The PREPARE Act can be one important tool for owning up to that spiritual responsibility.

Please help the US to demonstrate global leadership in getting ahead of the grave risks of extreme weather events.  Please cosponsor the PREPARE Act soon, or explain to me why you will not do so.

 

                                                    Sincerely,

 

fcnl.org     Peace Is Possible     14 June 2015

There is.... joy for those who promote peace.  (Proverbs 12:20)

 Nothing is so strong as gentleness; nothing is so gentle as real strength.

(St. Francis de Sales)

 Congress Having Second Thoughts on Endless War?

--adapted from Jim Cason, Elizabeth Beavers  - FCNL - 11-12 June 2015

 For 14 years, two presidents have waged the so-called "war on terror" without limits.  They've bombed, droned, and detained possible combatants in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and elsewhere around the globe.  And Congress has stayed largely silent -- even with recent news that the president will likely send 450 more military personnel into the war on ISIS.

But after months of inaction, Congress is starting to push back on the president's use yet again of a 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force to justify the war against ISIS and the ongoing, broader war on terror.  On June 11, 157 Representatives voted for an amendment to a military spending bill that would repeal the 2001 AUMF.  Even more -- 196 members -- voted for an amendment to defund the war against ISIS unless Congress passes a specific authorization for that war.  Neither measure passed, but both votes are evidence that lawmakers are having second thoughts about the “endless war.”

 In the Senate in early June, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin (MD) introduced an amendment to a military policy bill that would sunset the 2001 AUMF after 3 years.  Other Senators (Kaine of VA, Flake of AZ) have proposed legislation that would authorize the president's war against ISIS for only 3 years and states that the 2001 AUMF cannot be used to justify the war against ISIS.  Debate will likely begin in July.

 The Constitution grants Congress the power to make war.  Yet since 2001, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed just days after 9/11 has given two presidents the power to make war anytime, anyplace, and for any duration.  As a Quaker organization committed to Christ’s way of peace, FCNL in 2001 opposed authorizing a new war after 9/11.  Fourteen years later, we continue to believe that war is not the answer, and that it is time for Congress to repeal the 2001 AUMF.

 There is no question that the world needs to act against violence, but the sweeping war on terror that encompasses military action, government surveillance, and long-term detention without trial has not worked. Fortunately, many members of Congress finally seem to be ready to have that debate. 

The House Representatives will have another chance to cast votes on the US war against ISIS later in June.  Representatives Jim McGovern (MA), Barbara Lee (CA), and Walter Jones (NC) have introduced H. Con. Res. 55, legislation that would end American troop and defense contractor involvement in military operations in Iraq after the end of 2015.  Resolution 55 will force a debate on the merits of the Administration’s latest escalation of its war effort there.  Congress could vote on this legislation later this month.

 Congress has the power to wage — or prevent — war.  It's time for them to go on record as to which they choose.  FCNL asks Friends to urge your Representative and Senators to take a public stand against the war on ISIS and to begin working instead towards creative regional political solutions to the difficult problem of sectarian violence in the Middle East.

 Sample Letter

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510              202-224-4814               www.donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510             202-224-5623               www.coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515              202-225-3021                www.messer.house.gov

 Sen. ________________, Rep. Messer:

 I am writing out of spiritual conviction and deep concern over the sending of new US troops to Iraq in the war against ISIS.  After twelve years, with the situation there as violent as ever and no end in sight, how can we possibly believe that more US-funded violence and destruction will resolve it?

 I ask that you publicly support efforts such as H.Con.Res.55, which would direct the president to remove US troops from the war on ISIS by the end of 2015, and also the current work of Senators Cardin, Flake, and Kaine to return the authority for waging war to the Congress.

 I oppose the war on ISIS, especially because it is based on the 2001 AUMF and Congress has not meaningfully debated it.  I am convinced that an American military solution has no hope of success and is counterproductive.  Our troops should come home as soon as possible, and the US should invest instead in humanitarian and regional political solutions to this pressing problem.

 Please advise me of how you will work to prevent further US entanglement in Middle East wars, and will join the search for nonviolent ways of helping the people there.

                                                 Sincerely,

fcnl.org     Peace Is Possible     10 May 2015

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.... Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.  ....They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain....  (Isaiah 2:4; ll:9) 

US-Supplied Cluster Bombs Dropped on Yemen

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, 6 May ’15

Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy, 8 May ‘15 

Human Rights Watch is accusing the Saudi Arabia-led coalition of dropping banned cluster bombs manufactured and supplied by the U.S. on civilian areas in Yemen.  Cluster bombs contain dozens or even hundreds of smaller munitions designed to fan out over a wide area, often the size of a football field. They are banned under a 2008 treaty for the high civilian toll they can cause. The treaty was adopted by 116 countries -- but unfortunately, not by Saudi Arabia, Yemen or the United States.  According to Human Rights Watch, since fighting started in late March 2015, the U.S.-supplied cluster bombs have landed near rebel-held villages in northern Yemen, putting residents in danger.  On 4 May, the State Department said it is "looking into" the report’s allegations, adding that it takes "all accounts of civilian deaths in the ongoing hostilities in Yemen very seriously."  

According to Just Foreign Policy, even before the current conflict, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East.  Over 10 million people were going hungry, including 1 million acutely malnourished children. That number has increased by nearly 2 million since the conflict began.  There was a moment of hope when the coalition announced that airstrikes would stop, but they have since resumed.  Violence has damaged homes, schools and even hospitals.  Food and diesel (which is needed to pump clean water) are increasingly in short supply and their prices are rising – putting these basic necessities out of reach for ordinary families.  And at a time when people desperately need them, vital supplies can't enter the country -- disastrous because Yemen relies on imports for 90% of its food.


More than a thousand people have died since the Saudi-led bombing campaign began in late March.  More than half the victims are civilian, including 115 children. The precise toll from the airstrikes is not known, because many areas are hard to reach.  But the U.N. and several major human rights groups have raised the possibility of war crimes in the scores of documented bombings so far, most recently on 17 and 27 April. The U.S. has played a key role in the campaign, expediting weapons shipments and providing intelligence to Saudi Arabia, including "direct targeting support" for the coalition’s strikes.

 Saudi Arabia has, in fact, acknowledged that they are using cluster weapons, but they claim they are only using them against armored vehicles.  The cluster munitions the U.S. has supplied to the Saudis and to coalition member United Arab Emirates are CBU-105 sensor-fused bombs, an advanced type of cluster munition touted for its lower failure rate than previous types had.  They are nevertheless banned under the 2008 treaty because the signatories — including most of the U.S.'s closest military and NATO allies -- agreed that these weapons in all circumstances pose unacceptable dangers to civilians.  Human Rights Watch has documented that many of the munitions in fact do not explode when first dropped, and they end up lying on the ground like landmines.

 HRW’s Stephen Goose reports that U.S. response to this news has been muted thus far.  U.S. law bans the export of almost all cluster munitions, but it allows sale of the CBU-105 because of its reportedly lower failure rate.  HRW is calling upon the U.S. to close this loophole in its export prohibition.

 Just Foreign Policy and Oxfam are calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Yemen and for reopening air and sea routes to ensure access to essential food, fuel and medical supplies. 

Sample Letter

 

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510         202-224-4814               www.donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510         202-224-5623               www.coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515         202-225-3021                www.messer.house.gov

 Sen. ________________, Rep. Messer:

 I am writing to ask you to take action in Congress to help halt the US export of CBU-105 cluster bombs, to urge an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, and to move our government towards finally signing the 2008 treaty banning the manufacture, use, or sale of cluster munitions.

 According to Human Rights Watch, our government has supplied those weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their bombing campaign in Yemen that began last March.  Over 500 civilians reportedly have died thus far in that bombing, at least 115 of them children.  A growing humanitarian disaster is unfolding there as the bombing cuts supply lines for food, medicine, and fuel.

 I find it shameful that the US has refused to sign and ratify the cluster munitions treaty when most of the civilized nations of the world have done so.  As a follower of Christ, and as your constituent, I strongly disapprove of the use of my tax dollars for US trafficking in those weapons or for their use on Yemeni civilians.  Please advise me of what you will do to help end the needless bloodshed and suffering there.

                               Sincerely,

fcnl.org    Peace Is Possible    14 December 2014

...an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  “Get up,” he said, “and take the child Jesus and his mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Matthew 2:13

                                                                                                          Welcoming the Stranger

Sojourners Immigration Team, 12 Dec ‘14

        Congress has already begun wasting precious time pushing back against the President’s executive action on immigration instead of working toward a long-term, sustainable solution that fixes our broken system.  In early December, the House passed H.R. 5759, a bill introduced by Rep. Ted Yoho (FL) that seeks to reverse the President’s efforts.  The bill is not likely to be taken up by the Senate, but it demonstrates how disconnected many members of Congress are from immigrants’ struggles, fears, and hopes.

        The President’s directives do not offer legal status to undocumented people, but they do provide the opportunity for up to five million immigrants to come out of the shadows.  Ultimately, only Congress can solve our broken immigration system.  For now, the President has merely provided millions of people with a little more hope, which is one more thing to be thankful for during this season of celebrating the hope God has given to the world.

                                                                          Five Facts About the Executive Action on Immigration

Vanessa Cardenas, Center for American Progress, 21 Nov ‘14

The new program announced on November 20 provides temporary administrative relief and work permits to undocumented immigrants who pass a background check, have lived in the United States for a minimum of five years, and have a child who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR).  The President’s actions mean that law-abiding immigrants with strong ties to the United States will no longer live under the threat of deportation. This program is modeled after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that benefits young people who came to the United States as children. The new executive action also broadens the DACA program by expanding coverage to children who entered the country before January 1, 2010, regardless of their age today.  This temporary action.... paves the way for broader immigration reform when Congress finally decides to act.

Five facts for assessing the potential impact of this executive action:

1. President Obama has the legal authority to act.  While Congress makes the laws, the President decides how to enforce those laws.  In the immigration context, a decision to focus resources on those who have criminal offenses, finding and deporting serious criminals and national security threats instead of separating families, is completely consistent with executive authority.  Moreover, 136 immigration law scholars published a letter earlier this year arguing that President Obama has broad legal authority “to protect individuals or groups from deportation” and that the Constitution backs this authority.

 2. Executive action will bring economic benefits to states and the nation and give immigrants the opportunity to take care of themselves.  Economic research shows that nationally, there will be an increase in payroll taxes of $22.6 billion over five years. States will also see significant benefits.  Equally important, lifting the threat of deportation and providing work permits to those who qualify will allow immigrants to access better jobs and opportunities to better take care of themselves and their families. 

3. Immigrants will pay fines covering administrative costs in order to apply to this program.  Those who apply will have to pay about $500 per person to be able to process their request.  And while gaining this status will allow them to live freer lives, they will not be able to access public benefits such as subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, or food stamps — similar to the current DACA recipients. 

4. Status is not automatic.  Like the DACA program for young people, there will be an application process. Applicants will have to prove that they have lived at least five years in the United States, have U.S. citizen or legally permanent resident children, and can pass a background check.  And this program is not automatic or permanent; immigrants who qualify will have to reapply for an extension after three years. 

5. This action is a first step but not a permanent solution.  Almost half of the undocumented immigrant population will be left out — most notably, people who have no U.S. citizen or LPR immediate children.  It does not provide permanent status and can be undone with the stroke of the President’s pen.  It is a first step that sets the table for broader immigration reform by bringing millions of people out of the shadows and into the legal system as they are vetted during the application process. 

Sample Letter 

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510    202-224-4814               www.donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510    202-224-5623               www.coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515        202-225-3021                www.messer.house.gov

 Rep. Messer, Sen. ______________:

         I cannot celebrate Christmas without remembering that the baby whose birth we commemorate was an immigrant refugee.  His history, coupled with his adult teaching on how every human being is to be treated, is why fair and compassionate immigration policy matters deeply to me.

        Rather than wasting time debating or critiquing the President's executive action on this issue, please work in Congress to repair the broken system and provide genuine solutions for immigrants.  Many workers and neighbors who contribute to our Indiana communities and support our local economies -- some for decades -- have been treated as non-humans.  At the same time, children and families fleeing from violence are turned away at the U.S. border. Congress must find solutions for these workers and families.

        It is both impractical and immoral to continue thoughtlessly deporting them, tearing apart families and returning people to violence.   Please advise me how you will honor that long-ago refugee baby from Bethlehem in your 2015 immigration reform work.

                                                Sincerely,

 

fcnl.org     Peace Is Possible     12 October 2014

 Live in harmony with one another.... As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.... Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.... Love does no harm to its neighbor.

Romans 12:16,18; 13:8,10

                                                                                                               October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

--from sojourners@sojo.net

 What kind of society allows known domestic abusers to buy handguns? Unfortunately, the answer is “ours.” 

Each month, nearly 50 women in the US are shot to death by a partner or former partner. If we don’t close the loophole that allows people to buy guns without a background check, our society will continue aiding and abetting those deaths by giving domestic abusers easy access to handguns.

 During this Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we could begin the process of closing the loophole that lets domestic abusers buy guns with no questions asked.  A stronger federal background check system could prevent domestic abusers from easily buying guns online, at gun shows, or across state lines.  In states where such background checks are required for most gun sales, the number of women shot to death by a partner goes down by 38%. That isn’t just a number—it represents real lives we can help save.

 If domestic abusers can purchase a handgun online or pick up a rifle at a gun show—all without a background check—then their partners are not safe.  Domestic abusers simply should not have easy access to guns.   

Unfortunately, a small group of senators continue to block sensible background check laws supported by both Republicans and Democrats.  People of faith must act to let them know this is unacceptable. 

America has a Problem with Gun Violence

bradycampaign.org

      On average, 32 Americans are murdered with guns every day, and 140 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.

      The U.S. firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.

      A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.

      An average of eight children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.

      American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.

      Youth (ages 0 to 19) in the most rural U.S. counties are as likely to die from a gunshot as those living in the most urban counties.

      Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S.

      Medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life due to gun violence are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.

     The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with half the costs borne by taxpayers.

Americans Support Universal Background Checks

      Nine out of 10 Americans agree that we should have universal background checks, including three out of four NRA members.  Since the Brady Law was initially passed, about 2 million attempts to purchase firearms have been blocked due to a background check.  About half of these blocked attempts were by felons.  Unfortunately, our current  back- ground check system only applies to about 60% of gun sales, leaving 40% (online sales, purchases at gun shows, etc.) without a background check.

 Sample Letter

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510         202-224-4814       senator_donnelly@donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510         202-224-5623      senator_coats@coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515         202-225-3021    IN06LMima@mail.house.gov

 

Rep. Messer, Sen. ______________:

 October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  I am writing to remind you that right now, there is nothing to stop known domestic abusers from buying a gun online or at a gun show without a background check.

My Christian faith compels me to speak out for those who are vulnerable--and right now, women across the country are not safe.  NFL players’ wives and partners get a lot of attention, but the fact is that outside the national media spotlight, nearly 50 women are shot and killed every month by a current or former partner.  Some of those are undoubtedly your constituents.

We need an expanded federal background check system, something already supported by Republicans, Democrats, and a majority of Americans.  I urge you to stand up for vulnerable women by working to implement a stronger background check system across the country.

 

                                                Sincerely,

 

fcnl.org      Peace Is Possible      10 August 2014 

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone..... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:18,21

Please, Not Again

--FCNL staffer Matt Southworth, Iraq war veteran; 8 Aug ’14 

Take a deep breath.....  The sobering news of the day is that the United States military has begun a bombing campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  These first strikes were conducted against ISIL artillery sites in the disputed territories of Northern Iraq, but where will the next bombs land?

 The dynamics of this campaign are different from those of the past, to be sure. But how will these bombings produce a more positive outcome—or even peace, the ultimate objective—than did hundreds of thousands of U.S. bombs in 1990-1991 and 2003-2011?  From patriot missiles and bunker busters to cluster bombs and depleted uranium, there is not a single shred of evidence that these bombs improved the situation in Iraq by any measure. So why are we doing it again?

 ISIL is complicated with many faces and loyalties. Iraqi participation in the broader movement has been tied to dissatisfaction with the U.S.-backed central Iraqi government. Historically, foreign military intervention is one of the few things that has united those with such divergent interests. Without a long term strategy that includes the objective of diminishing violence and increasing stability, the world may be looking at another long, intractable conflict in the Middle East.

 Global and regional powers—most notably the U.S., Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran—have been playing the dangerous game of proxy war in the Middle East for decades. It doesn’t matter whether the original goal was to achieve geopolitical superiority or to capture resources, because these proxies cannot be contained or controlled by those who created, supported, armed and trained them.....

 FCNL has cautioned time and time again that U.S. military intervention in Iraq is counterproductive and will undermine long term peace and stability and even jeopardize U.S. safety. It is also worth noting that the House is now more in agreement with FCNL’s cautions than it has ever been before. Just two weeks ago, the House approved H. Con Res. 105, calling on President Obama to seek explicit authorization before engaging in “sustained combat” in Iraq. The vote was 370-40.

 The U.S. and international community are to be commended for addressing the growing humanitarian crisis by providing food, water and other essentials.  The U.S. and others should also figure out how to absorb refugees of the growing conflict. But these are short-term solutions with little chance of providing long-term stability for the region. 

The U.S. and international community also must immediately stop arming and funding all sides of the region’s conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Israel. We should take swift action to diminish the violence by working with regional powers on an immediate arms embargo and by closing ISIL resupply channels. The U.S. should support U.N. efforts to address the humanitarian crisis and to broker a broader regional ceasefire. Lastly, the international community should work to get all regional players to the table to broker a long term peace agreement—which will inevitably require a decades-long reconciliation effort.  Without these longer term efforts, it’s hard to see how this very volatile part of the world will ever gain peace and stability.

 The world seems full of tragedy today. Everywhere we turn there is news of more death, more destruction and deepening tensions. The U.S. need not contribute to the chaos and destruction.

Sample Letter

 Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510   202-224-4814               senator_donnelly@donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510   202-224-5623                     senator_coats@coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515    202-225-3021                    IN06LMima@mail.house.gov

 

Rep. Messer, Sen. ______________:  

From the basis of my faith, I write to seek your support for dropping food, not more bombs, on Iraq. Decades of U.S. military intervention in Iraq played a large role in fomenting the violence that still ravages Iraq today. More bombs will only mean more bloodshed and instability.

 The U.S. can help stop the violence in Iraq by taking the following five steps:  (1) Stop U.S. bombing of Iraq, which will only increase the bloodshed and instability; (2) Coordinate with the United Nations to evacuate U.S. personnel from Erbil, and Iraq's trapped Yazidi population from Sinjar mountain; (3) Support an immediate arms embargo in Iraq and Syria; (4) Engage with United Nations to reinvigorate efforts for a lasting political solution for Iraq and Syria; and (5) Increase humanitarian aid.

 Please advise me of how you will help stop U.S. bombing in Iraq, and how you will support peaceful efforts to help save lives.

 

                                                Sincerely,

 

fcnl.org      Peace Is Possible      13 July 2014

 Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.... He will teach us His ways so that we may walk in His paths..... He will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.  They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.  Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

Micah 4:2-4

 Begin a Ceasefire in Israel/Palestine

Staffers at FCNL have watched with heavy hearts as violence has once again broken out in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel in catastrophic proportions.  We grieve over the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost.   We lift up in prayer those who have been injured, and the thousands living in fear for their own safety and the safety of those they love. 

       The United States can help save both Israeli and Palestinian lives by speaking out in support of a lasting ceasefire, lifting Israel’s blockade on Gaza, ending unconditional U.S. military aid to Israel, holding all sides accountable for human rights violations , and engaging with all Palestinian factions, including Hamas.

                                                                                                                              __________________

 (Friends teach that all wars and fighting are contrary to the example and message of Christ, and thus Friends do not espouse the “just war theory.”)

        In a July 11 Truthout essay, Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy writes, “Suppose one believes that there are just wars and unjust wars, as many people do.  Is the current war on Hamas in Gaza a just war?  A just war must have a just end, and the just end must be sufficiently good to more than compensate for all injustices caused by the war. The just end must not be reachable by peaceful means, and attempts to use peaceful means to achieve the just end must have been exhausted.  There is no plausible story this war is a just war.” 

        Naiman bases that conclusion on the work of investigative journalists J.J. Goldberg and Max Blumenthal.  Their reporting in Israel’s Daily Forward newspaper has shown that Israeli leaders knew within hours after the mid-June kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers that the boys had been killed, but those leaders suppressed that information to justify a two-week army house-to-house “search and rescue mission” in the West Bank as a way to disrupt recent Hamas cooperation with Palestinian Authority leaders in peace negotiations with Israel. 

        During those weeks of not knowing what their government already knew, the Israeli population’s frustration, grief, and anger grew into widespread calls for revenge.  Reports then surfaced of the brutal revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager by Israeli extremists; Hamas’ missiles began flying for the first time in over two years; and the Israeli Air Force began around-the-clock attacks on Gaza as ground forces massed close to the border.  Unlike the Israelis, citizens in Gaza have no air raid sirens, no bomb shelters.  The toll of death and destruction has mounted steadily, and all-out war has looked closer each day.

        The United States government has many levers of influence on Israel. The US gives Israel billions of taxpayers' dollars a year, but it would be politically nearly impossible to deeply cut US military aid.  The administration could, however, raise the volume of its public criticism of Israel’s offensive, and warn that it might refrain from vetoing a UN resolution that condemned the attacks.  The administration also could quietly let Israel know that it is deepening efforts to engage Hamas politically, especially since civilians in Gaza have increasingly indicated they do not want war with Israel, and they want the violence to end. 

        The US administration knows it has these levers and more. All it lacks is sufficient public political pressure to use them to help end the killing.  From past experience, we know how this ends.  It ends with a new ceasefire.  The key question is how many human beings will be killed and injured in the meantime.

Sample Letter

 Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510         202-224-4814      senator_donnelly@donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510         202-224-5623       senator_coats@coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515        202-225-3021   IN06LMima@mail.house.gov

 Rep. Messer, Sen. ______________:

 I am deeply concerned about the recent devastating violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.  Please do everything in your power to urge all parties there to agree to an immediate ceasefire. 

To prevent future outbreaks of violence and to move towards a long-term peace, the US should (1) call for the Israeli government to lift the blockade on Gaza to allow the flow of aid and commerce; (2) hold all sides accountable for human rights violations; and (3) end unconditional US military aid to Israel.  I do not approve of my tax dollars being used to enable what is being done to Gaza. 

 For diplomacy to actually work, we also must engage with all Palestinian factions, including Hamas.

 Please advise me of the steps you are taking to help prevent more devastating violence on all sides of the tragedy in Israel and Palestine.

                                                 Sincerely,

 

fcnl.org      Peace Is Possible      8 June 2014

                                                                                Whoever would love life and see good days....must seek peace and pursue it.

I Peter 3:10,11 

Dear Congress: Take Your Power Back

May 29, 2014

adapted from FCNL’s Michael Shank and Elizabeth Beavers in US News & World Report  

Congress finally appears to be realizing that it has been providing neither checks nor balances to the president’s war powers for the last 13 years. While Senate debate was heating up in late May on how and why America wages war, 191 Representatives -- 27 short of passage -- voted to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that serves as the legal foundation for American counterterrorism policy and has come to allow America essentially unbridled freedom to wage war on anyone, at any time, and anywhere.  The strong, bipartisan vote in the House demonstrated the growing frustration that legislators and their constituents feel toward America’s longest war and the troubling practices that accompany it. 

The House vote came almost exactly one year after President Barack Obama promised to work toward sunsetting the law as part of a scaled-back foreign policy. In his May 2013 speech at the National Defense University, the president also promised to end the war in Afghanistan, close Guantanamo Bay, and constrain drone policy – all policies enabled by the authorization.  Yet, one year later, the president’s promises appear hollow. 

American drones continue to terrorize people around the globe, striking relentlessly and often arbitrarily. The secrecy of America’s drones operations continues, with the U.S. government refusing to acknowledge strikes, investigate civilian deaths or compensate victims after horrific errors like the Yemeni wedding party destroyed by a drone strike last December.

In Guantanamo, the situation remains equally grim..... 77 men cleared for transfer remain imprisoned, only 12 have left the prison since the presi- dent’s speech, and 154 total detainees are still held extrajudicially. 

The most troubling sign, however, ....was visible in last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to reexamine and rethink the wide-ranging scope of the AUMF....  To no avail, senators from both sides of the aisle attempted to elicit answers from administration attorneys on Congress’ role in war making, the scope of American military power, and the future of the AUMF.  Administration answers were elusive and unclear, sparking visible irritation and alarm in the Senate. 

....Had the president pursued a sounder policy as promised, we would be witnessing less conflict overseas, not more. Indiscriminate drone strikes are creating more enemies than they are destroying. Flagrant contraventions of the rule of law – by locking up men for over a decade without reason – suggest that American interests are in spreading fear, not freedom, throughout the world. The AUMF’s limitless application, which has become a blank check for wars for two presidents, is eroding American values of separation of powers, accountability and morality, and is fundamentally transforming the way the United States engages with the world.  

Rather than operate in a perpetual state of war fueled by fear, we must invest in policy which incentivizes any adversary to join, not reject, international norms – something that can only be done through development and diplomacy, and compliance with the rule of law...., the only true way to [confront] global lawless terror.  As the president said one year ago, “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us.”  How true. 

Before U.S. militarism expands even further, before another drone strike kills dozens of civilians or another man gets locked up indefinitely without due process, it is time for Congress to take the power back while they are still able. It is time to sunset the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. 

Sample Letter 

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510      202-224-4814      senator_donnelly@donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510      202-224-5623        senator_coats@coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515       202-225-3021            IN06LMima@mail.house.gov

 Rep. Messer:

 I am writing to ask you to support Rep. Adam Schiff’s amendment to the upcoming Defense appropriation bill, a measure which would sunset the 2001 AUMF.   I was very disappointed to see that you voted against HR 2324, his similar amendment to the recent Defense Authorization Act. 

 With the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, it is time also to end the “global war on terror.”  I and others in my faith community in east-central Indiana share a deep concern over the excessive power that the 2001 AUMF has given to the Executive branch of our government.  It served as precedent for US misadventures in Iraq, and it has been used to justify drone attacks on multiple continents, indefinite extrajudicial detentions, warrantless surveillance, and other unjust actions that have created countless new adversaries.

 191 of your colleagues see the unsustainable costs of blood and treasure in the current “endless war,” and thus voted for HR 2324 in May.  Please join them in helping to end the 2001 AUMF and put the US on a path to genuine peace when Rep. Schiff’s amendment comes up for a vote as part of the Defense appropriation.

                                                 Sincerely,

 

fcnl.org     Peace Is Possible     11 May 2014

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.  A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength, it cannot save.    (Psalm 33:16,17)

                                                                                                                         Time to REIN-IN Nuclear Weapons

The United States plans to spend at least $355 billion this decade to refurbish the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.  Submarines, intercontinental missiles, long-range bomber planes, and the warheads they carry will be modernized.  Unfortunately, $355 billion merely starts the job; it won’t come close to finishing what is planned.  The total  project cost could top $1 trillion.  Is that how we want $1 trillion of our tax dollars to be spent?

 In early 2014, the Air Force was rocked by a scandal of intercontinental missile silo officers cheating on proficiency tests.  An April 2014 CBS 60 Minutes program highlighted the aging infrastructure of the silos themselves and their outdated communications and computer equipment.  Some of the proposed new expenditure undoubtedly is intended to address those safety concerns, but the huge amount proposed in the stockpile stewardship request is indicative of modernization for increased destructive capacities. 

Thankfully, some in Congress are taking action. This year Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR) introduced REIN-IN, the Reduce Expenditures in Nuclear Infrastructure Now Act (H.R. 4107).  The Act would reduce nuclear spending by $100 billion and scale back modernization programs.  This important first step could help Congress realize nuclear weapons do not make the country safer but instead destabilize the world.   

H.R. 4107 currently rests with the Armed Services Committee.  Congress must be asked to stop wasting tax dollars on unneeded nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.  We cannot afford them -- not financially, not morally. 

            H.R.4107 - REIN-IN Act  (official description)

To reduce the number of nuclear-armed submarines operated by the Navy, to prohibit the development of a new long-range penetrating bomber aircraft, to prohibit the procurement of new intercontinental ballistic missiles, and for other purposes.

Sample Letter 

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510          202-224-4814               senator_donnelly@donnelly.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510         202-224-5623                 senator_coats@coats.senate.gov

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB         Washington, DC  20515         202-225-3021                 IN06LMima@mail.house.gov

 Rep. Messer:  

As a matter of fiscal stewardship, I am writing to ask that you cosponsor H.R. 4107, the Reduce Expenditures in Nuclear Infrastructure Now Act (REIN-IN).   

The administration's FY ’15 budget would increase spending on nuclear weapons by $8.3 billion.  Spending is expected to continually increase over the next decade and beyond.  The proposed total cost of nuclear modernization could top $1 trillion.   

The world does not need more nuclear weapons, but our country certainly needs a lot of constructive things that trillion dollars could buy.  Some members in Congress have introduced H.R. 4107 that would reduce wasteful spending on unnecessary nuclear weapons by $100 billion over ten years. 

Given the U.S. debt and people struggling for basic necessities, it is disheartening that we would waste so much taxpayer money to extend the life of weapons that are one of the biggest threats to our survival.  I do not want my tax dollars to be spent maintaining the nuclear stockpile for another 30+ years.  I ask you to oppose such spending. 

Please cosponsor H.R. 4107 to help rein in wasteful weapons spending and make the world safer, or explain to me why you will not do so. 

                                                Sincerely,

 

fcnl.org     Peace Is Possible     13 April 2014

As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace.....”   (Luke 19:41,42)

According to research recently released by Friends Committee on National Legislation, each dollar of federal income tax paid on 2013 earnings will be spent as follows:

 Current and Past Wars - 40 cents      This includes the Pentagon budget and related programs with a military function, such as nuclear weapons production in the Department of Energy, and foreign military assistance (28%); interest on the federal debt accumulated from past Pentagon spending (7%); and care and benefits for veterans plus other costs and obligations from past wars (5%).

 Health Care, Health Financing, Health Research - 23 cents

This includes Medicaid, public health programs, Indian Health, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. (Most of the money for Medicare comes from a dedicated payroll tax, not from income taxes, so the Medicare Trust Fund, with its separate income, is not considered part of the “federal funds budget” and is not included here.)

 Assisting Low-Income Households - 16 cents        This category includes programs such as housing, income, education, and food assistance that are available to people who meet certain income guidelines. Some help to alleviate poverty (food assistance, income supplements) while others provide a firm foundation and ladders out of poverty (such as housing, health care and education.)

 General Government Operations - 11 cents           This includes interest on the rest of the federal debt—the part that is not attributable to past military spending (10%)—and other government operations such as Congress, the judiciary, most of the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, Treasury, etc. (1%)

 Community and Economic Development - 6 cents       Includes supports for trade and commerce, agriculture support, urban and rural development, employment and education programs, plus child care assistance and community programs.

 Energy, Science, and the Environment -  3 cents       Includes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, National Aeronautic and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, most of the Department of the Interior, plus the Forest Service and Natural Resource Conservation Service.

 Development, Diplomacy, and War Prevention - 1-2 cents     This tiniest category includes funding for all the ways we relate to the rest of the world that do not engage our military capacities—the entire State Department, including the diplomatic corps and the Agency for International Development, support for the United Nations and other international institutions and nonmilitary aid to other countries.

 Sample Letter

 

Sen. Joe Donnelly    720 Hart Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510                          

   202-224-4814           senator_donnelly@donnelly.senate.gov

 

Sen. Dan Coats    493 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

     202-224-5623             senator_coats@coats.senate.gov

 

Rep. Luke Messer      508 Cannon HOB       Washington, DC  20515

     202-225-3021                    IN06LMima@mail.house.gov

 

Rep. Messer, Sen. ____________:

                As I completed my 2013 tax return, I was sad to learn from Friends Committee on National Legislation that 40 cents of each of my 2013 federal income tax dollars went to fund current and past wars, while less than two cents will be spent on diplomacy and the prevention of wars.  It is my conviction that less spending on the means to wage war, and more spending on diplomatic and compassionate tools to prevent conflict, will make the USA more secure.

                 We also face critical concerns as a country -- responding to the effects of climate change, repairing our crumbling transportation infrastructure, reducing the divide between rich and poor.  I want more of my tax dollars going to these priorities, not to the Pentagon.

                 I am writing to ask that you use your influence in Congress to help correct this spending imbalance in the FY2015 budget.  A good place to start would be eliminating the $100+ billion of documented waste, fraud and abuse found in the Pentagon's budget every year.  Please advise me on how you will work to make the US more secure by directing resources to constructive priorities rather than destructive ones.

                                                                 Sincerely,