It’s Time for the Demilitarization of America

June 13th, 2020 - by Paul Kawika Martin / Peace Action & Richard Blumenthal / US Senate

Demilitarization: Abroad and at Home

Paul Kawika Martin / Peace Action

(June 11, 2020) — Congress has begun taking up the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The NDAA is a massive, nearly three-quarter trillion dollar spending bill that authorizes an outrageous and wasteful amount of money for the Pentagon. At the same time, it is also seen by most in Congress as a “must-pass” bill. That status means we have a huge opportunity to have positive amendments attached to it, which could mean real progress on issues that may otherwise never receive a vote.

In light of the current upheaval over police violence in our society, this year there will be ways to make real progress in both demilitarizing our foreign policy, and taking up domestic opportunities. COVID-19, domestic police brutality, and racial inequality have shown us that it’s beyond time to reduce funding for militarism and move it into programs that provide our communities with true security.

Some examples include:

  • Ending the 1033 Program, which authorizes the Defense Department to send military equipment and weapons to local police departments. The militarization of local police forces has been on full display as heavily armed cops and armored vehicles patrol the streets and crack down on protests over police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and far too many others to name. Julián Castro, former Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, stated it best when he said that “as long as our police arm up like a combat force, they’ll act like it.” 
  • ACTION: Will you contact your members of Congress today and urge them to support this crucial reform?
  • Blocking funding for the use of US military force against racial justice protests. This should be a no-brainer, but the best way to escalate violence is to deploy troops trained for just that. Trump has already threatened to send “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers” into protests and even had soldiers deploy chemical weapons on protesters in DC. Congress must stand up and put an end to these dangerous threats.
  • ACTION:  Please write to your members of Congress today to rein Trump in from deploying military forces in our communities!
  • Significantly reducing the overall size of the Pentagon budget. We could easily cut at least $200 billion dollars by ending unnecessary wars and eliminating wasteful and unnecessary weapon spending. As former US Defense Secretary Bob Gates once said, “If the Department of Defense can’t figure out a way to defend the United States on a budget of more than half a trillion dollars a year, then our problems are much bigger than anything that can be cured by a few more ships and planes.”
  • Indeed, he turned out to be more prescient than intended, the world’s most pressing problems — COVID-19 and future pandemic diseases, climate change, the risk of nuclear war, the global burden of poverty, systemic racism, and inequality — won’t be solved militarily. Each of these will take significant investments to address properly, and the money is there. 
  • ACTION: Please write to your members of Congress today to urge them to fund programs that will provide us true security from the threats we face today.

There will be many other opportunities in this year’s NDAA, and this is likely not the last time you’ll hear from us about it. As always, I promise to let you know whenever you’ll be needed to take action and help make the world a safer, more peaceful place.

Paul Kawika Martin is Senior Director of Policy and Political Affairs for Peace Action. PO Box 8637, Silver Spring, MD 20907

How We Stop Trump from Weaponizing the US Military

Richard Blumenthal / US Senate

 (June 11, 2020) — Donald Trump’s threats to “dominate” protestors using military force under the Insurrection Act are a clear and present danger to our most fundamental constitutional rights. 

This law has been invoked by past presidents to advance and support desegregation — a necessary use of this authority. But Trump is attempting the exact opposite — manipulating this law in order to silence calls for justice from Americans as they unite to protest centuries of systemic racism.

I fully and proudly support those peacefully demanding change — and the constitutional right of all Americans to make their voices heard. That’s why I just introduced the CIVIL Act in the Senate — a bill that would impose congressional oversight and accountability on the President’s broad, virtually unrestricted Insurrection Act power.

Senator Blumenthal.

If you agree that no President should be able to deploy US troops against American citizens on American soil without oversight and accountability, I need you to join me in calling on Congress to pass the CIVIL Act right now:

Here’s What the CIVIL Act Would Do: 

•  Clarify that the Insurrection Act can be used only to protect — not restrict — Americans’ civil rights

•  Require the President to get permission from Congress before invoking the Insurrection Act

•  Limit the use of the Insurrection Act to 14 days unless Congress votes to extend it

•  Establish an expedited procedure for judicial review if the President misuses or abuses the Insurrection Act

•  Require the President, Secretary of Defense, and Attorney General to provide joint certification that the Insurrection Act is necessary for a state to enforce federal law

•  Prohibit US troops from participating in search, seizure, arrest, or other law enforcement activities unless specifically granted that authority under the law

If this dangerous President uses military force against Americans at home, Congress should demand at least the same checks that apply to his use of force against adversaries abroad. In the face of Trump’s dangerous abuse of this authority, it’s critical that these checks are established immediately. 

That’s why I’m counting on you to add your voice to this fight by signing my petition today. Too much is on the line for our country and our democracy not to take action.

ACTION: Click here to sign my petition now demanding Congress pass the CIVIL Act to establish checks on the President’s use of the US military against Americans — and full accountability for the misuse and abuse of this power.