Climate Update: The Opposition We Face and Recommendations on The Path Forward

CAPA Climate Logo long

Last year the growing impacts of climate change hit the United States hard. Wildfires scorched California and storms pounded the East Coast. The South saw record heat and the Midwest unprecedented flooding.

2019 was the second warmest year on record and the last five years were the warmest five years ever recorded.

2020 is starting off even worse particularly for Australia. Australians are experiencing a humanitarian catastrophic. Wild fires have already scorched nineteen million acres, killed over one billion of their native animals, destroyed over 5,000 homes and killed 30 people.

This should be the moment when governments finally begin urgent efforts to stave off the climate crisis. Unfortunately, that is not the rational response we are getting. In fact, the Australian anti-environmental government seems utterly unmoved, as environmental nightmares become reality.

In the United States we are seeing a similar reality. Instead of President Trump declaring a global climate emergency and calling on Congress to work together to establish an effective national climate strategy to address this crisis, he has continued his destructive actions to weaken our environment regulations. In the past 90 days there are three more shameful examples of these actions:  

  • On November 4th 2019, President Trump notified the international community that the United States will officially withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. This move will leave the country that is world’s second largest overall emitter of greenhouse gasses abandoning global efforts to combat climate change instead of taking a leadership role to address this global climate crisis.
  • On January 9th 2020, President Trump announced his most brazen action yet to reduce environmental regulations on clean air, water and the environment by revising the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed revisions to this landmark legislation will impact nearly every major project that receives federal funding: pipelines, power plants, bridges and highways. The new rules would narrow the range of projects that require assessment and impose strict, new and shorter deadlines for completing these studies.

It is important to recall why this legislation was signed into law just over 50 years ago. Demands for greater oversight occurred when an oil tanker spilled three million gallons of crude oil off the coast of Santa Barbara California in 1969. We do not want to turn back the clock to pre-Santa Barbara.

  • On New Year’s eve, December 31st 2019 (a day when few people followed the news), President Trump directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to introduce place a new rule that will require renewable energy (solar, wind) and nuclear power to be priced higher in the wholesale electricity market and to be removed from the grid.  This decision will ensure that highly polluting energy sources such as coal and natural gas that can bid at a lower price will replace carbon free energy.

This decision will undermine state initiatives to increase renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind as well as nuclear power.  It will also result in a consumer rate increase of $2.4 billion dollars per year nationally and cost the utility customers of Illinois a 60% increase in their utility rates.

These actions to weaken environmental regulations, divert accessibility of renewables, and increase pricing on clean renewable energy are just the latest in nearly 100 environmental rollbacks that Trump has announced in the past three years. Some of these include weakening protection for endangered species, lowering limits on the release of the highly potent methane greenhouse gas, loosening offshore drilling safety rules and canceling the automobile emissions standards that were put in place by the Obama administration. Unfortunately, there are many others.

Let’s be honest, prospects for a clean energy future are not looking good currently. However, giving up is not an option. So, what must we do?  We must find a path forward. 

The Path Forward

As environmentally concerned citizens, we cannot realistically expect to meet the United Nations IPCC targets to reduce carbon emissions by a minimum of 45% by 2030 to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change as long as Donald Trump is president.  In November, we must elect a president who is a national and global champion of the environment to address this climate crisis. We must do whatever we can to achieve this objective.

  • While Trump has introduced over one hundred actions that would weaken our environmental regulations, it is important to note that 70 of these actions have been challenged with lawsuits in the courts. So far, the Trump Administration has won only four of them. 
    We fully expect a court challenge on Trump’s announcement to weaken regulations on the National Environmental Policy.  We must provide financial assistance whenever possible to the organizations or state agencies that are establishing these lawsuits. Some of these organizations include: Earth Justice, The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and League of Conservation Voters (LCV).
  • We have some good news for the people of Illinois on the Trump Administration’s decision to remove renewable energy and nuclear power from the federal grid and by so doing significantly increase renewable energy and nuclear power pricing. We expect the Legislature in Springfield to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act in the first quarter of this year. It contains a provision that allows Illinois to establish its own energy grid that will be run by the Illinois IPA. We will no longer be using the federal energy grid and will not be subject to the punitive price increases imposed by Trump on renewable energy and nuclear power.  We will not be increasing our energy costs by 60%. We will be reviewing plans to pass this legislation with our elected representatives in the weeks ahead.
  • We must continue to stay engaged in monitoring the actions of our national political leaders on environmental actions. We must encourage the development and support of a comprehensive national environmental strategy like “The Green New Deal”.

We also need to challenge our political leaders when they have failed to stand up to the bullying tactics of President Trump, Mitch McConnell and Senator Inhofe who recently rejected the efforts of democratic leaders to include two significant renewable energy initiatives in the National Budget/ Defense Authorization Act for 2020.

  • Our primary focus during the coming months will be to get a comprehensive energy strategy passed in Springfield Illinois. We must then work to implement this strategy in the North Suburban communities of Chicago. We have outlined the details of this holistic state environmental strategy in the attached open letter to Governor Pritzker. We will give you more detailed information on how we can all work together in the weeks ahead to make Illinois one of the leading states in making the transformation to clean renewable energy.
  • Lawrence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of Black Rock, a $7 trillion investment firm, recently stated that his firm would make investment decisions solely with environmental sustainability as a core goal. In our divestment discussions with large financial banks, such as J. P. Morgan Chase, we will emphasize this important directive from Mr. Fink, as we encourage Chase and other financial institutions to divest from fossil fuels.

If you are interested in becoming more active in working with the CAPA Climate Group on these issues please email Catherine Buntin (mbuntin@yahoo.com) or Jack Kelly (kellyjack@comcast.net) Thank you.     

CAPA Climate Group
Catherine Buntin and Jack Kelly
Co-chairs

TAKE ACTION – SOME ACTUAL, SANE LEGISLATION

From Peace Action National | By Jon Rainwater  Posted November 7, 2019 In CongressNuclear Weapons

Trump has plans to spend nearly $2 TRILLION over the next 30 years on unneeded and unnecessary nuclear weapons and delivery systems. This makes no sense. This is insane.

That’s nearly $100 million wasted every day for thirty years on weapons we are supposed to be getting rid of. To put that amount in perspective, you could instead spend that money to send nearly nine million people to a four-year university or hire 18 million teachers for a year!

Will you write Congress today? Ask them to stop this crazy spending on nuclear weapons.

Ask your members of Congress to support the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act from Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). The SANE Act is a bill that would save taxpayers approximately $100 billion over ten years by scaling down, delaying, or canceling a variety of obsolete nuclear weapons programs. By helping to focus our resources on the real threats of the 21st century instead of on Cold War relics, the SANE Act would help bolster our economic and national security.

Some of the targeted cuts include:

  • Cut the current fleet of nuclear submarines from 12 operational at sea to eight operational at sea ($3 billion savings)
  • Delay the purchase of new nuclear submarines ($17 billion savings)
  • Reduce the number of ICBMs ($6 billion savings)
  • End the nuclear missions of air bombers (up to $17 billion savings)
  • Delay the new bomber program ($18 billion savings)
  • Cancel new, wasteful nuclear weapons facilities ($15 billion savings)

Peace Action formed 62 years ago originally as The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy. The SANE Act’s name is a nod to all those years working for a world free from the scourge of nuclear weapons – and now we need to keep it going.

Please contact your members of Congress today to cosponsor the SANE Act.

The SANE Act has been introduced at a critical time for the nuclear budget issue in Congress. As the government struggles to balance the national budget, the necessity of Cold War-era nuclear programs needs to come into question. Just think what we could do with the $100 billion we could cut from nuclear weapons. Our communities desperately need those resources to invest in jobs, infrastructure, and education.

Help us take the next step on the road to a safer, saner future. Please write to your members of Congress today and urge them to support the SANE Act.

Join the Fight for a Green New Deal!

By: Jacopo De Marinis, CAPA Climate Fellow, Summer 2019

You might have heard about the 2018 report on climate change released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It found that, if we do not keep warming of global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees celsius above pre industrial temperatures, the worst effects of climate change will not be averted. This will cause a massive loss of human life, severely damage the biodiversity of our ecosystems, and damage vital economic infrastructure, costing the United States and other countries trillions of dollars annually.

These disastrous events induced by climate change will spark humanitarian disasters, forcing the dislocation of millions who will live in constant fear of the next climatic disaster. Undoubtedly, the upheaval caused by the impending climate crisis will generate immense social and political unrest as existing patterns of social and economic inequality are exacerbated by the devastating environmental changes that will grip the world. This future will soon be irreversible. 

But we must not lose hope. 

In February of 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced a resolution, an idea, that has the power to change everything. An idea that would even the playing field for millions of people by enhancing economic and social equality while ensuring that Earth will still sustain life for our children and grandchildren. An idea that would strengthen democracy and freedom for all citizens of the United States, no long held down by the wealthy elite and corrupt politicians. An idea that is exactly what we need: a Green New Deal (GND). And yes, it is a bold vision of a better world. Bold, but not unrealizable… 

The GND consists of three parts: 1) Ending the United States’ economy’s reliance on fossil fuel based energy sources, 2) transitioning to a renewable energy source based economy by 2050, and 3) using this transformational shift as an opportunity to enhance social and economic equality for everyone, especially the poor, people of color, and indigenous communities to ensure a just transition, led by those most affected. It is a bold vision, but many citizens of the United States have already stepped to spearhead the fight, including me. 

In Summer 2019, I participated in an advocacy internship program organized by Chicago Area Peace Action (CAPA). CAPA’s main goals are centered on foreign policy (such as ending the endless wars in the Middle East and throughout the world) and climate justice. This particular summer, the CAPA climate justice team was focused on promoting the GND. We, like many, were alarmed by the doomsday predictions put forth by the IPCC and were determined to do something about it. 

So, we drafted a letter to the Illinois Congressional Delegation urging our representatives to support the GND. And, to illustrate the strong societal support behind the GND, we started building a coalition of concerned organizations that had a stake in the GND. These organizations ranged from places of faith to refugee organizations to environmental advocacy groups… a diverse group reflective of the intersectional nature of this progressive, transformative initiative. 

While we recruited the majority of these organizations via computer, building a coalition for what might turn out to be the most significant push for a long-awaited change wasn’t as easy as just pushing a button and hoping for a signature; it required active campaigning. We went to networking events, attended by business owners, climate scientists, politicians, and social activists, always with a petition in hand, urging congressional leaders like Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi and Representative Sean Casten to cosponsor the GND. We made constituents aware of their representatives’ lack of support of the GND at town hall meetings, growing more knowledgeable about the urgent need for a GND. We met with experts and coalitions working for the same goal, and as a united front, attended forums on climate change. Leaders like Tom Skilling and Dick Durbin were there, but their support was still omitted for the comprehensive Green New Deal resolution. 

I would say that the most exciting event was a forum for Economic Development held in a local pizzeria. Aside from eating amazing Italian food, I was excited to get Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Commissioner for District 12 Bridget Degnen’s signatures in support of the Green New Deal! 

But it wasn’t easy. Some politicians, yes, even Democrats, were reluctant to lend their support to the GND due to concerns about the cost, as well as hesitancy to support such a “radical” resolution. And telling them that we DO have the money to finance a GND (after diverting some funds currently flowing into the pockets of defense contractors and the US’s oversized war machine) didn’t seem to make much a difference. One politician, Rodney Davis, representative of Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, still hasn’t responded to me about setting up a meeting, even with my having repeatedly contacted his office. 

Despite some disappointments, our perseverance bore fruit; we successfully compiled a list of 50 progressive organizations eager to sign onto our coalition letter which we will present to our Illinois Congressional Delegation. 

But there is still much to be done. 

The urgency of the problem is apparent in Greta Thunberg’s voice as she begs world leaders at the past UN Conference on Climate Change to treat the impending climate crisis as it is: a catastrophe. The world admires her boldness and courage for several days, and then it’s back to business as usual. While her determination helps motivate protests for environmental reform, nobody realizes how important it is that we all fight as Greta Thunberg is for environmental justice. She cannot bear the burden of saving the planet alone, and we all must find that inner courage to sacrifice for the common good as Greta has. 

All of us must take an active stance to force radical, but vital, climate reform, in any way possible. I believe that the GND is one of the best proposals yet put forth to combat climate change as its comprehensive goals tackle the underlying cause of climate change: the divisive, profit driven nature of the current economic system that has left so many behind. But in any way we choose to fight, we must fight like our lives depend on it. Because they do.

14 Group Coalition Letter Urging Congress Prevent War with Iran

Thanks to the 14 advocacy groups that signed this letter urging Congress prevent unauthorized war with Iran! It was delivered to Sens Durbin and Duckworth on June 24th, 2019.

Help us spread the word by doing the following:

  1. Download the letter and send it to your Rep and two Senators
  2. Call your to Rep and two Senators and urge they cosponsor S1039 and HR 2354 to prevent war with Iran
  3. Share this page on social media and your local paper
  4. If you are interested in leading a local sign on letter to your Rep and Senators, please email me directly at hassan@chipeaceaction.org

Thank you for helping us create a more sane foreign policy.

Hassan El-Tayyab, Policy and Organizing Director at Chicago Area Peace Action

June 24th, 2019

Dear Members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation,  

We write to request your support for S.1039/H.R.2354, the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2019, introduced by Senator Udall and Representative Eshoo. These resolutions would prevent funding from being appropriated in the event of an unauthorized U.S. military intervention in Iran.

Congressional opposition to U.S. military intervention in Iran could not come at a more urgent time. The Trump administration has moved the U.S. into a war posture with Iran through increased hostile rhetoric, crippling economic sanctions, and by using the routine deployment of a battleship in the region to threaten “unrelenting force”. Recently, National Security Advisor John Bolton was reported to be overseeing the revision of war plans to send upwards of 120,000 troops and 120 additional warships to the Middle East with the intention of provoking war with Iran.

Congress must not be idle witnesses in a repetition of the playbook for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Trump Administration must be reminded that it is constrained by a lack of Congressional authorization for war, and the fact that the 2001 AUMF can’t be twisted to give a green light for launching military action against Iran.

As tensions continue to rise, it is vital that Congress preemptively assert its constitutional war authority and stop the Administration from launching a disastrous war against Iran. We urge you to cosponsor S.1039 and H.R.2354 before it’s too late.

Sincerely,

Addie Wyatt Center for Nonviolence Training

Anti War and Racism Effort

American Friends Service Committee – Chicago

CAPA DePaul

CAPA Loyola

Chicago Area Peace Action

Chicago Committee Against War and Racism (CCAWR)

Just Foreign Policy

Neighbors for Peace

RootsAction

The Poor Peoples Campaign

Veterans Against the War & Iraq Veterans Against the War

Voices for Creative Non-Violence

World Beyond War


15 Group Coalition letter Urging Congress to Prevent War With Venezuela

Thanks to the 15 advocacy groups that signed this letter urging Congress prevent unauthorized war with Venezuela! It was delivered to Sens Durbin and Duckworth on June 24th, 2019.

Help us spread the word by doing the following:

  1. Download the letter and send it to your Rep and two Senators
  2. Call your to Rep and two Senators and urge they cosponsor SJRes11 and HR1004 to prevent war with Venezuela
  3. Share this page on social media and your local paper
  4. If you are interested in leading a local sign on letter to your Rep and Senators, please email me directly at hassan@chipeaceaction.org

Thank you for helping us create a more sane foreign policy.

Hassan El-Tayyab, Policy and Organizing Director at Chicago Area Peace Action

June 24, 2019

Dear Members of the Illinois Delegation,

We write to request your support for S.J.Res.11 and H.R.1004 – Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela Resolution of 2019 – introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Representative Cicilline of Rhode Island.

Congress’s adoption of S.JRes.11 and H.R.1004 could not come at a more urgent time. U.S. officials in charge of policy toward Venezuela, such as Elliott Abrams, have pursued a strategy provocation and confrontation. In violation of the Charter of the Organization of the American States, and the Charter of the United Nations, and therefore treaty obligations of the United States, President Trump has publicly declared that all options, including U.S. military force, are on the table. Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe recounted that in 2017 President Trump privately argued that Venezuela is the “country we should be going to war with. They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door.”

National Security Advisor John Bolton has publicly stated that “in this administration, we’re not afraid to use the word Monroe Doctrine,” has clutched documents referring to a proposal to deploy “5,000 troops to Colombia,” and has argued that “it will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” Meanwhile, Secretary Pompeo explicitly endorsed U.S. military action recently stating: “Military action is possible.  If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do” in Venezuela.

We applaud Congress for voting to reassert its sole authority over war and peace under Article I of the Constitution and working to bring an end to the unauthorized U.S.-Saudi military campaign in Yemen with the historic passage of the Yemen War Powers Resolution. S.J.Res.11 and H.R.1004 both invoke the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

We call on you to again ensure that Congressional war powers be exercised in the case of Venezuela through Congress’s adoption of S.J.Res.11 and H.R.1004. Administration officials and members of Congress who seek to involve the United States military in a regime change effort in Venezuela have a constitutional obligation to present their case to both chambers of Congress and have the people’s duly elected representatives carefully debate and vote on whether to authorize any such proposal.

Sincerely,

About Face: Veterans Against the War & Iraq Veterans Against the War (Chicago)

Addie Wyatt Center for Nonviolence Training

American Friends Service Committee – Chicago

AWARE of Champaign Urbana

CAPA DePaul

CAPA Loyola

Chicago Committee Against War and Racism

Chicago Committee for Justice in Ayotzinapa

Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America – CRLN

Clean Count Cook County

Just Foreign Policy

Neighbors For Peace, Evanston/Chicago

Students for Justice in Palestine

Veterans For Peace – Chicago Chapter

Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Congress Can End the Yemen War This Summer, Despite Trump

By Hassan El-Tayyab, Policy and Organizing Director at Chicago Area Peace Action

Published in Truthout June 8th, 2019

On April 16, President Trump vetoed one of the most historically significant pieces of legislation to emerge from Congress during his presidency: S.J.Res.7, the Yemen War Powers Resolution. This bill would end U.S. military involvement in the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) disastrous war on Yemen. A veto override vote in the Senate a few weeks later passed with a simple majority of 53-45, but did not achieve the 67 vote supermajority needed to overturn the veto. Though the effort failed, we learned something important in the process: We now know in unequivocal terms that a bipartisan majority in Congress wants to end the U.S. military role in a war that has already claimed the lives of 85,000 children under the age of five due to hunger and disease.

Congress has another chance to end the war this summer during consideration of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and Defense Appropriations bills. These annual military spending bills offer Congress one of the quickest and most straightforward ways to defund the war and condemn this military campaign.

Through the NDAA and Defense Appropriations, Congress can prohibit intelligence sharing and logistics support activities for the war in Yemen; suspend direct commercial sales licenses for the maintenance and sustainment of fighter aircraft used in Saudi-UAE offensive operations in Yemen; and even stop domestic training of Saudi and UAE fighter jet mechanics. Importantly, they could suspend the transfer and sale of weapons ― something many experts believe could be the best chance for creating the leverage needed for lasting peace in Yemen.

Scott Paul, Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy lead stated, “The people of Yemen and the parties to the conflict are watching closely and the messages US leaders send have the power to save lives… Congress must act to keep up the pressure, and not let President Trump’s cynical, transactional and heartless brand of politics define America’s role in the world. Now Congress must act to end arms sales to all parties fighting in this brutal conflict.”

Consideration of our national defense budget comes at a critical time for Yemen. In its fifth year, the war has helped create the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with roughly 14 million people at risk of famine. Aid agencies have described Yemen as the worst place in the world to be a child; a child under the age of five dies every 12 minutes as a result of the conflict. More than one million people in Yemen have been infected with cholera, with an alarming 10,000 new cases each week. Why is this? The Saudi-UAE coalition has imposed a de facto blockade on Yemen, impeding the flow of food, fuel and medicine, pushing the prices of essential goods out of reach for millions. An estimated 230,000 people will die as a result of the war if conditions don’t change by the end of 2019.

There is precedent for Congress successfully using the NDAA and Defense Appropriations bills to defund and end wars. During the Vietnam War, members of Congress expressed their dissent through several defunding bills, including the 1971 Congress Cooper-Church Amendment, which prohibited the use of funds to send troops into Cambodia and the 1973 Case-Church Amendment on a State Department appropriations bill, which prevented funds from being used in Southeast Asia.

Last year, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) introduced an amendment to the 2019 Defense Appropriations bill that would have cut off military aid for the Saudi-UAE coalition. Unfortunately, it never came up for a vote, but a majority may support a similar effort this time around after several successful bipartisan votes in 2018 and 2019 on Yemen war powers resolutions that would have achieved similar policy objectives.   

The Trump administration recently announced plans to use emergency powers embedded in the Arms Export Control Act to push through an $8.1 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia without congressional authorization. This move suggests Trump fears a lack of votes necessary to approve these transfers.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would “pursue all appropriate legislative and other means to nullify these and any planned ongoing sales should the administration move forward in this manner.”

Yemen-born activist and In These Times contributor Shireen Al-Adeimi commented, “Trump has shown a complete disregard for the Constitution by vetoing Congress’ bill to end the war and now attempting to bypass Congress for additional weapons sales. He has continued to prioritize profit over human lives and US laws, and Congress has the responsibility and the legal authority to take control.”

Despite what Trump thinks, Congress has the power to end U.S. participation in the Yemen war in the coming weeks. Through consideration of NDAA and Defense Appropriations, and even legal action, Congress can end our complicity in war crimes and send a clear signal to the executive branch that unconstitutional U.S. participation in the Saudi-UAE coalition’s military campaign in Yemen must end. The question is, will they?

Hassan’s Aug 2018 Japan Trip Report Back

Repost from August 2018

73 years ago, with the ok from President Harry Truman, two silver rockets were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a flash of light Japan and the world changed forever. 

Hibakushais the Japanese name for people who lived through the blast and they are the only people on Earth from whom this story can be told as a first hand account. Audiences in Japan and all over the world sit silent as Hibakshua retell their first hand accounts of the attack to serve as a warning and a prayer for peace.

 For more than two decades, Gensuiken has been organizing a conference in Japan marking the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasak. The conference this year had about 1,800 people in attendance made up of activists, international delegates, engaged citizens, and members of Japan’s trade unions. Their motto is that nuclear weapons and humans cannot coexist.

One of the things that make Gensuiken so trusted by the nuclear abolitionist community is that Kouichi Kawano, a world famous Hibakshua chairs the non-profit. He is a local legend and has been an outspoken critic of nuclear weapons for decades. As a small boy he was only a few kilometers from the hypocenter during the attack at Nagasaki, which killed many of his relatives.

Peace Action has been represented at this conference in the past by national staff including Executive Director Jon Rainwater, President Kevin Martin, and Senior Policy Director Paul Martin. This was the first year that Peace Action was represented at Gensuiken by a staff member from an affiliate.

Travel Timeline: 

On July 30th, I took 14-hour Asiana Airlines flight into Seoul. It was a nice surprise to see Michelle Cuna, MAPA’s Assistant Director on the plane from O’Hare to Seoul. She was attending another conference happening in Japan put on by Gensuiken’s sister org Gensukio. Michelle told me Gensuiken and Gensukio used to hold the conference together but there was a split many years back due to ideological differences. Later in the trip I learned that this year was the first time in quite a while that collaboration happened between the two organizations, as they came together at the peace march in Hiroshima and did a photo-op. This is a good sign for the anti nuclear weapons movement in Japan.

On August 1st I landed in Shin-Osaka airport and took the JR (high-speed rail) to downtown Osaka. Waiting for me at the train station in Osaka was a 5’2’ woman named Michio and her friend Olive. They both were smiling wide and carrying a sign with my name on it with the word welcome written in black sharpie underneath. “Welcome Hassan.” Michio said with a bow. Her smile was contagious.

The three of us walked to Michio’s house a few blocks away from the station. As I walked in the front door, I was instructed to take off my shoes and exchange them for a pair of “Japan style” slippers. After a quick nap in my room, I came down stairs and joined them for a meal of traditional Japanese feast of raw fish, tofu, veggies, and white rice. With some pointers from Michio I learned the proper way to use chopsticks during dinner, which became an invaluable skill for the rest of my time in Japan. Michio’s living room also served as a teashop open for business during the day from 10am-4pm. 

2 days later I took the JR line down to Hiroshima to make it in time for Gensuiken’s conference orientation. I was impressed at the efficiency of the high-speed rail, as well as its smoothness, speed, and cleanliness. I thought to myself, “Why can’t we have one of those in America? Oh yeah! Our bloated war economy! It’s time to fix that.”

 At Hiroshima station I was met by a middle aged man named Takashi who assisted me with translation during the trip. Soon after we were in the lobby of the Ark Hotel in Hiroshima where Takashi gave myself and the other international delegates of the conference the schedule for the week and when to meet for lunch later that day. 

 In the afternoon, Takashi and I went to the Hiroshima Peace Museum. What stuck out to me were the garments of many children who died in the attack. “How could we have committed this atrocity?” I asked myself with a knot in my stomach staring at the blood stained fabric of a child’s tunic behind 2-inch glass.

On August 4th I gave a 40-minute workshop on American nuclear policy to a crowd of about 100 people at a conference room near our hotel. My speech was well received and covered the US 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, ICAN, the escalation of America’s nuclear stockpile and an update on America’s peace movement. Many of the questions the audience asked during the Q/A were directed at me. I think this was due to the fact many of the audience members wanted to better understand American foreign policy from an American’s perspective. I tried my best to find a balance between realism (given the fact hawkish conservatives control all branches of government) and optimism. 

At the International Symposium held at the Ark Hotel later in the day Gregory, the representative from the Union of Concerned scientists talked about how Obama was about to declare a policy of no first use with nuclear weapons at his infamous speech in Hiroshima, but decided against it after being lobbied hard by Japan’s government not to. Gregory told us that Abe and members of his cabinet wanted America to keep that military option for Japan’s self-defense from other regional actors including China, North Korea, and Russia. He also discussed new efforts to build storage capacity for nuclear weapons on Okinawa. After listening to all the panelists, I began appreciate on an even deeper level that we can only truly stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons by working in coalition across borders.

On the morning of August 6th we got up at 6am to attend the Hiroshima commemoration ceremony.  We took our seats and at 8:15am a loud bell rang as we sat in silence remembering the dead and everyone who has suffered from the nuclear attack 73 years prior in Hiroshima. I felt a chill run down my spine feeling the vibration of the gong chimes all through my body.

 After the speeches commenced I opened up my program. A blue piece of paper fell out with instructions on it on how to make a paper crane. My new friend Komiko helped me turn the paper into something resembling a paper crane. She giggled at my clumsy folding skills but stuck with me till I finished it. 

Prime Minister Abe took the stage and we all got quiet. “The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be repeated. As the only country to have experienced the horror of nuclear devastation in war, Japan has a mission of persistently working to bring about “a world free of nuclear weapons…  it is essential to gain the cooperation of both nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, taking an accurate understanding of the tragic realities of the atomic bombings as a starting point. Japan, firmly upholding the “Three Non-Nuclear Principles,” is determined to serve tenaciously as a mediator bridging the gap between the two and lead the efforts put forth by the international community.” 

Many of the members of Gensuiken rolled their eyes for Prime Minister Abe’s speech due to the hypocrisy of him calling out the danger of nuclear weapons while lobbying America’s elected officials behind the scenes to escalate its nuclear stockpile and keep a policy of first use. 

After Abe’s speech, two 6th grade child representatives from Hiroshima gave touching remarks where they said, “Peace is being able to smile naturally. Peace is everyone and yourself being happy. Peace is a future with hopes and dreams.” Their words were met with raucous applause. 

Later on that evening our team went to a lantern ceremony on the river that runs right past the Hiroshima peace museum. I was mesmerized by the thousands of candles lighting up the river, each one representing a soul who died in the blast. Time slowed as I watched the hundreds of tiny lights shimmer on the water surface.

On August 7th the Gensuiken crew took the JR south to Nagasaki and caught the opening ceremony there. The hall was packed with nearly 1,800 people in attendance. This rally featured many speakers, a testimony from a local Hibakshua, and a multi generational chorus. On August 8thI woke up early to give another workshop and spent the rest of the day napping at the hotel. This was one of the only moments for down time I had during the whole trip and I reveled in this chance for deep rest. I used the evening to reflect on my Japan journey thus far, do some journaling, practice my guitar, and to prepare for my speech that I was asked to give the following day at Gensuiken’s closing ceremony. 

On August 9th I took the stage around 10am and looked out onto the crowd of 2,000 people. My heart pounded as I gave my speech auditorium.

“Hello everyone. My name is Hassan El-Tayyab and I’m the policy and organizing director of Chicago Area Peace Action.73 years ago, with the ok from Harry Truman 2 silver rockets were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a flash of light Japan and the world changed forever. On behalf of the 200,000 members of Peace Action in America, I want to say we are deeply sorry that our country committed this atrocity and we are sorry for the hundred of thousands that died and for those that still. I’m the grandson of a US Air force Vet who was on active duty during WW2 training for a mission to invade Japan. I learned much from Grandpa growing up. Some things were true and some things I would later learn were myths. The biggest myth he ever told me was that these nuclear attacks were justified. He once told me, “A million people would have died if we invaded and that bomb is the reason why our family is alive today.”

 This myth still lives inside the minds of many Americans and serves as a legitimating force for continuing U.S. preparations for nuclear war and US first strike threats. Our job in the peace movement is to correct false narratives and tell the truth about history so nuclear weapons are never used again. I promise to never stop working for this goal.

 When looking at history, it’s easy to see how much fear drives people to do terrible things. The forces of hate, fear, and xenophobia are on the rise today in a way they haven’t been in my lifetime but looking around, seeing everyone’s faces, knowing that we share a commitment to a common goal — this gives me hope. You all give me hope. Together we must continue to strive for a world that prioritizes peace and our shared humanity over profit and war. We must work towards a world that embraces love and kindness over fear and hate. Being here has inspired me to my core and strengthened my resolve to keep going. No more Nagasaki, No more Hiroshima, No more Fukishima!  Thank you all.”

Next I sang a song I wrote called In the Folds. I told the crowd “This one is about how we grow in our hearts in the spaces in between the moments of our lives. And when we do that we can grow our movement.” In my song there is a line that says, “When raindrops turn to rust and make our gardens grow.” It reminded me how soon plants and animals began to come back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. The estimates were that it might take over 70 years but it ended up taking only about 3. Life and love always seems to find a way to grow even in the hardest circumstances. 

 Many of the attendees at the rally came up and thanked me for my words, my song, and my hope for a better world. A Chernobyl survivor told me that she had never heard an American apologize for this attack. This surprised me but I was glad that she at least heard some one say it. One of the high school boys in the audience came up and told me he was an aspiring singer and that he loved my music. He asked for my CD, which I happily gave him. Takashi later told me that boys in Japan are not encouraged to sing so I was glad to have been there to show him that music making regardless of your gender should be embraced! 

On August 10th I flew out of Shin-Osaka to Seoul for a 24-hour layover before my flight to Chicago. Flying into South Korea’s Incheon Airport the second time around gave me a chance to see this expansive high-tech cityscape in the light of day. I passed through customs with ease and exchanged some of my remaining Yen for Won, the South Korean currency. I made a reservation at the Seoul Royal Hotel and took a bus downtown for a much needed night’s rest. 

The following morning I explored the capitol with Wong-Young, one of the international panelists I had met at the Gensuiken conference that lived in South Korea. She acted as my tour guide for the day and took me to President Moon’s residence (the Blue House), Gyeongbok Palace (the ancient capitol of Korea), and the street where the candle light revolution took place. It was awe inspiring to walk down the same street that millions of Koreans occupied for months in their fight to free themselves from the corrupt regime of disgraced president Pak Un Hey. Being there in person allowed me to feel the power of the South Korean democratic movement that has literally changed the world and given peace with North Korea a legitimate chance.

By 6pm on August 12th I felt the wheels of my Asiana Airline plane touch down on American soil. I was finally back in the USA after 2 weeks of globetrotting in Asia. I got choked up on the Uber ride home underneath looking outside my window at a glowing orange-red sun hanging over my Midwest City. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I reflected about the trip, my new friends from new parts of the globe, the weight of the stories of the Hibakshua, the devastation of nuclear weapons, and of course jet lag. I was sad to leave Japan, but very glad to be home ready to double down on my fight for a more peaceful and just planet. 

 Speech Content:

I’ve included some text from my speeches for you all to check out. I did my best to give Gensuiken the most up to date snapshot of American nuclear policy, our recently released Nuclear Posture Review, ICAN, the Korea peace process, and the state of the American peace movement.

 Nuclear Posture Review

We are in a very dangerous moment in history regarding the threat of nuclear weapons. The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture review, a regular review of U.S. nuclear weapons policies have added to the list of scenarios in which nuclear weapons can be used. Now, the US maintains that it could launch nuclear attacks in response to cyber-attacks that substantially degrade our national infrastructure, as well as in response to any chemical or biological weapons attacks. This is a dangerous return to Cold War era thinking.

Escalation of our Nuclear Weapons stockpile:

The NPR also calls for the proliferation and escalation of the United State’s nuclear weapons stockpile. This modernization program started under the Obama administration and has continued under Trump. Over the next 30 years, the US plans to spend about 1.2 trillion dollars (1.7 adjusted for inflation) modernizing our stockpile, delivery systems, and creating a new arsenal of low yield nuclear weapons designed to be “more usable”. One of these low-yield weapons comes in the form of a warhead for the existing stockpile of Trident submarine missiles. Another is a sea-launched cruise missile that would use an existing warhead. Both options would add to the available array of low-yield nuclear options in the U.S. arsenal, supplementing the bomber-deliverable gravity bombs and air-launched cruise missiles. The word “low yield” is a bit of a misnomer as some of these weapons could do as much damage as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Other new weapons include a stand off air launched cruise missile which can be used in first strike attacks against Russia and China, with the latter more important as China is developing access denial in the Western Pacific. Many critics of this plan including Former Defense Secretary General William Perry think these upgrades add little value to our current capabilities and are too expensive considering all the investments America needs to make on its crumbling infrastructure, healthcare, and education for its citizens.

 Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons:

Since Trump took office, more Americans are concerned about the danger of nuclear weapons then any time since the end of the Cold War. There is a reason for that. Nuclear threats coming from Trump’s White House seem to be lobbed casually and come in the form of “fire and fury” comments at press conferences, off the cuff 3am tweets, and unscripted insults from a lectern in front of the UN. It seems as if it’s a daily occurrence to find Trump’s top advisors caught off guard and in a situation where they are forced to smooth over his reckless and undisciplined approach to foreign policy. At first it was North Korea and now it seems as if Iran is our next target with the pulling out of the Iran Nuclear deal. As Trump’s recklessness on the world stage grows more apparent to the American public, efforts to rethink our nuclear command and control structure are picking up steam.

 The law of the land in America since the dawn of the nuclear weapons age has been that the President has unilateral authority to order a first strike nuclear attack. Of course, that poses a grave threat no matter who is president. But right now there is a person in that role who shows very little understanding and respect for nuclear deterrence strategy.

 In response to the growing national security threat that is America’s current commander in chief, there are bipartisan bills pending in the House and Senate that could prevent a worst-case scenario by requiring an official declaration of war from Congress to do a first strike with a nuclear weapon. S.200 or H.R.669 — The Restricting First Use with a Nuclear Weapon Act  — would force a robust debate on this potentially civilization ending decision and reassure other leaders around the world that our nuclear stockpile was only for deterrence and not aggression. We currently have an unprecedented 81 cosponsors for the House bill.

 Korea Peace Process:

One area of our political landscape that gives me hope is the relaxation of tensions with North Korea. Granted, this is a constantly shifting landscape but there is still much to be optimistic about. Led by the candlelight revolution, the people of South Korea elected the son of a North Korean refugees and advocate for “any time any where” diplomacy, President Moon.

 Peace Action is working in a coalition called the Korea Peace Network; a group comprised of over 100 activists and organizations all pushing for diplomacy not war on the Korean Peninsula. Coincidentally, we held our Korea Peace Network conference and advocacy days in DC simultaneously with the historic peace summit between the leaders of the US and North Korea on June 12. Our network had a chance to respond to skeptics of the peace process at the dawn of a new age in diplomatic relations on the Korean Peninsula. One thing is clear. The Korean people want peace and we as Americans and world citizens have a unique opportunity to support them in their desire for de-escalation of over seven decades of hostility and tension.

Our message to Congress was that this is a first-step in the right direction and that they as elected officials should take a lead role in supporting open dialogue. The summit built good personal relations between the leaders and kick-started a LONG process toward peace. North Korea has provided security assurances up to this point by halting missile and nuclear tests, releasing the detainees, and destroying a nuclear test site. Trump’s decision to halt the US-South Korea war games is an appropriate security guarantee for the America to provide that will significantly help grow trust.

The decision to recover and repatriate US service members is a point of real substance. This agreement will begin joint US-North Korean military collaboration that will bring closure to thousands of families and reduce the risk of military miscalculation, as the two sides will begin regular communication. The US must now pursue as many engagements like this as possible starting by providing protections for humanitarian operations, revoking the travel ban to allow for more people to people contacts, allowing aid into the country, and reuniting Korean families.

A big fight that the peace movement is facing is actually with members of the Democratic Party. Trump is such a polarizing figure that anything with his name on it is controversial to the left, including open dialogue with North Korea something we think progressives should support. We have a huge fight on our hands here. During our lobby visits with Congress, we found much opposition to these talks. Some lawmakers who normally side with peace even said that our war games on the DMZ should continue. One of the sources of Democratic opposition is a mirror image of what the Republicans did to Obama, not wanting him to have any achievements that can be used by Republicans in the mid-term elections. Complete North Korean denuclearization would take 15 years, and there is the possibility that it will not happen, especially as the U.S. resists the phased process that the North Korean government is understandably demanding.

 Our message to skeptical members of Congress is that we should follow the will of the Korean people and President Moon, possibly the most popular president on the planet. A challenge we face is that so many of these lawmakers really have a very limited knowledge of North Korea. A massive education campaign is necessary. To fill this gap, Chicago Area Peace Action is doing several speaking events with Korean Americans who have first hand knowledge of the conflict and can put people at ease about this process. We must remind people that North Korea is a country of 25 million people, not one dictator.

 ICAN (International Coalition Against Nuclear Weapons) and the Ban Treaty:

In a geopolitical landscape dominated by nuclear weapon states, there has been much to cause us all anxiety. Russia and America are escalating their nuclear stockpiles on a grand scale adding to their combined stockpile of roughly 14,000 warheads. Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. As you all know, a single nuclear bomb could kill millions of people.

 Amidst this unfortunate reality, there is finally reason for optimism regarding the abolition of nuclear weapons. After decades of organizing by the International Coalition Against Nuclear Weapons otherwise known as ICAN, the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons passed the United Nations by a vote of 122 to 1 providing a concrete vision for a safer world for everyone of us. This is truly a historic moment indeed worthy of the 2017 Nobel peace prize and public rebuke of the current nuclear weapons states that were missing in this ban effort.

 For too long, nuclear weapons holding states have prevented any forward movement on the abolition of nuclear weapons. But this vote in the UN was a bold step that declared on the world stage that global citizens everywhere are done waiting for leaders in a handful of countries to stop holding us all hostage. Nuclear weapons poison our water and precious earth and must be banned. This UN vote also sent a message that we are organized and able to hold accountable states that have not lived up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970. After the vote the US, UK, and France all made statements saying they don’t feel that this pact is binding. Nonetheless, this treaty sends an important message and puts real pressure on nuclear weapon holding states.

 Before the adoption of this treaty, nuclear weapons were the only WMDs not subject to a comprehensive ban. This treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.

 It also prohibits countries from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities. A nation that possesses nuclear weapons may join the treaty, so long as it agrees to destroy them in an agreed timeline.

 There are many ways we can all collectively support this growing international movement. I think the most powerful thing we can do is encourage our representatives and politicians to take the Parliamentary Pledge found on the ICAN website. ICANW.org. In addition, we must continue to speak out against the nuclear weapons in any forum we can large or small. We must keep demanding change and we must all keep chipping away at the strangle hold these weapons have on life as we know it. Lastly, we must stop all investments into nuclear weapons by our governments, our banks, and our own personal spending.

  State of the Peace Movement in America:

 Let me next tell you about what the peace movement and Peace Action is doing to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, push for diplomacy not war, and push back against runaway militarism and the war economy.

Our demands for Congress and the administration are to cut back on the obscene nuclear spending over the next 30 years for a whole new generation of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. We are also asking for a policy of “No First Use”. In other words the U.S. would promise to never be the first country to use nuclear weapons. We are also asking for all U.S. weapons to be taken off of hair-trigger, launch-on-warning status to prevent a catastrophic mistake from killing millions of innocents. We are asking for the elimination of the destabilizing Long Range Stand Off weapons, a new nuclear cruise missile that is especially destabilizing because the countries on the receiving end of the missile can’t tell whether it is a conventional cruise missile or a nuclear weapon. And we are asking for diplomacy not war with North Korea, Iran, and Yemen.

 The Peace Movement in America is not in the driver seat currently given our political climate. We are in defensive position with hawkish conservatives in control of all three branches of government. Because of this, we are not expecting major progress until after the 2018 midterm elections or in 2020 when Trump is faced with the challenge of reelection. The areas I think we have a chance to make a real impact are with our 2018 Peace Voter work, where we work to elect pro-peace advocates to Congress, diplomacy with North Korea, stopping the development of some Low Yield nuclear weapons, and hopefully electing a new president in 2020.

 One of the big challenges we have is in a fight to get peace issues the attention they deserve. Right now the peace movement is overshadowed by so many other progressive issues and not given the same level of energy. It is our job to get people to understand the intersectionality between militarism and our bloated war economy and struggles for immigration reform, environmental justice, health care, education, civil rights, and economic justice. Getting people to understand how this all is connected is essential for making progress toward our shared values.

 To do this, we are working hard to engage the next generation of peace activists at High Schools and colleges all over the country. This to me is one of the most exciting things the peace movement is doing. Chicago Area Peace Action’s goal is to mentor the next generation to most effectively use their voice, vote and creative energy to build a constituency for progressive and humane public policies. My call to action for Gensuiken was to connect their foreign exchange students in America to Peace Action.

 Personal Stories I shared with Gensuiken:

 One thing I wanted to share with Gensuiken was a bit of my personal background. At many of my speaking events I shared a story about my grandfather Harold T. Maccaferri, a US Air force Vet who was on active duty during WW2 as I wanted to give my audience an understanding about the false narratives Americans still believe about the bombings.

 The biggest myth I learned from Papa was that dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was terrible but completely necessary. He once told me, “A million people would have died if we invaded and that bomb is the reason why we are alive today Hassan.” He was training for a mission to fly a glider plane into Japan and he was weeks away being deployed. If the mission happened, Papa would have flown a glider plane packed with infantry troops and military equipment into Japan. If he survived the flight in, he would have grabbed a rifle and joined the troops on the battlefield. It’s true the chances that he would have survived were slim. Up to my grandfather’s last days on this Earth he always believed the Truman lie. My whole family bought into the lie, that this was a horrible but necessary decision by our President. For a long time I’m ashamed to say, I believed them too.

 It wasn’t until I was a college student studying political science that I dug deeper and learned that Japan had attempted to surrender well before Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I learned that we dropped the bomb so that the Soviets would fear American military strength during the Cold War era and so the US would not have to share influence with the Soviet Union in Northern China, Manchuria, and Korea. I learned that our military leaders including President Eisenhower thought that Japan had already been defeated and there was no strategic reason to drop this bomb. I also learned about how much racism played a role. But this disastrous lie about the reason we launched these attacks is still alive and well inside the American psyche. The myth that the A-bombs were used legitimately to end the war serves as a legitimating force for continuing U.S. preparations for nuclear war and US first strike threats.

 A big part of our job in the peace movement is working to correct false narratives about history. We must all keep educating the American people on what really happened and why. Because when people know the truth they’ll be able to make the correction in thinking, in culture and then in our politics so we never use nuclear weapons again.

 Connecting Racism to the Bombings:

 As we look to the future, we must learn from our past because history repeats. When I look back into the pages of history, I see just how much fear drives human beings to do terrible things. Having grown up with a Muslim name in America, I know first hand how damaging it can be both on a personal level, and on the world stage. Hassan translated in Arabic literally means beautiful. Unfortunately it also meant I’d be targeted for racism and hate growing up. I’m used to having to get to airports a little early, or having people mispronounce my name, or having people assume things about me that are not true. The instances are too many to address here, but this one story sums up what it was like growing up in America with my heritage. In my sophomore year social studies class I sat behind a kid named Mike Keo. That kid called me racial slurs to my face every day and the teacher just sat there in silence. In fact, most of the adults whose job it was to protect me, sat in silence while this hate was happening.

 My freshman year I saw the tragic events of 9/11 unfold from a TV in my college dorm room. I was horrified by that tragedy and by stupid, racist, greedy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was angry at how our military was being used against people in the Middle East. People that look and speak like my family from Jordan. I saw first hand how racism fueled public support for war and I felt totally hopeless, alone, and afraid to speak out these events unfold like a slow moving train wreck.

 It’s with that personal background that I think about the decision to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the decision to create internment camps to imprison innocent Japanese Americans during WW2. These decisions were based on false narratives and fear too. And these same forces of hate, fear, and xenophobia are on the rise today in a way they haven’t been in my lifetime. Again it’s our job in the peace movement to fight against false narratives, fear and hate and make people remember what connects us all as human beings.  

 Media:  

 This was a good trip for CAPA in the media department. Gabe Murphy, Peace Action’s Communications Director asked me for a quote for their press release and put me on the list as a media contact for US papers covering the anniversary. I’ve included PA’s entire press release below. In addition, a reporter from an Osaka newspaper interviewed me.  

Peace Action: 73 Years After First Nuclear Attack, The Nuclear Threat Persists

Washington, D.C. — August 3, 2018 — Seventy-three years ago, on August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped the first nuclear bomb ever used in war on the city of Hiroshima, killing an estimated 80,000 people instantly. On August 9, the U.S. dropped a second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, killing another 70,000, mostly civilians. By December of 1945, most estimates put the death toll at more than 200,000, though some believe that number is low.

Ahead of the anniversaries, Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs at Peace Action, spoke to the importance of marking these anniversaries. “Besides paying respect and commemorating the lives lost in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, marking the anniversaries offers the world an opportunity to reflect on the threat still posed by nuclear weapons, and more importantly, an opportunity to organize for their reduction and elimination.”

Addressing tensions with Iran and North Korea, Martin commented, “From President Trump’s repeated threats of nuclear war, to his reckless and unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, the nuclear threat under this presidency is the highest it’s been since the Cold War. Diplomacy with North Korea on the other hand, which Trump deserves some credit for pursuing, is one of the few causes for hope for reducing the nuclear threat during this presidency. But for talks to succeed, the administration needs to adopt a more patient, concrete and reciprocal approach to negotiations.”

“As the only country to ever use nuclear weapons in war,” Martin continued, “and as a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty, the United States has both a moral and legal obligation to negotiate in good faith with other nuclear-armed nations for the reduction and elimination of the world’s nuclear arsenals, including our own. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is instead moving forward with plans to spend $1.7 trillion adjusted for inflation on nuclear weapons over the next three decades.”

Speaking to current efforts in the U.S. and internationally to reduce the nuclear threat, Martin added, “from organizing around the nuclear weapons ban treaty that the United Nations adopted last year, to supporting legislation like Senator Ed Markey’s (D-MA) Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, which would prevent the president from launching a nuclear first strike without congressional approval, activists the world over are working tirelessly to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again.”

Emily Rubino, the Grassroots Campaigns Coordinator for Peace Action New York State, is one such activist, and is in Japan representing Peace Action at events commemorating the bombings. Sharing her thoughts on the anniversaries, she remarked, “This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the 60th anniversary of the Japan Peace March, spanning from Tokyo to Hiroshima over a period of three months. As I march through the Hiroshima prefecture, I feel more than ever that it is important for the U.S. to reconcile our horrible past. The average age of the Hibakusha, a survivor of nuclear disaster is over 80 years old, and the history of the horrors they faced at the hands of the United States is being forgotten by younger generations in Japan and in the United States. For the United States to even consider ever using nuclear weapons again is an insult to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who know the horrors of these weapons all too well.”

Hassan El-Tayyab, the Policy and Organizing Director for Chicago Area Peace Action, is also in Japan to commemorate the anniversaries. Pointing to polling on nuclear weapons in the Trump era, El-Tayyab noted, “With a staggering 88 percent of the American public worried about the possibility of nuclear war under the Trump administration, and with the 2018 midterms fast approaching, the time is right for concerned citizens to double down on our collective political engagement to advance the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

 Conclusion:

Meeting the staff at Gensuiken, learning from our international delegation, seeing thousands of new faces at the conference, and knowing that we all share a commitment to a common goal — that gave much hope. Knowing that people around the globe share this deep commitment to a more peaceful world gives me hope. Together we must work across our borders and continue to strive for a world that prioritizes peace and our shared humanity over profit and war. We must work towards a world that embraces love and kindness over fear and hate. I look forward to working with people in America and all across the planet to achieve this aim. Thanks again for your support in getting me to Japan for this conference.

 Hassan El-Tayyab

Policy and Organizing Director

Dear CAPA Members,

Repost from Summer 2018

As I’m sure you know, 73 years ago, with the ok from Harry Truman 2 silver rockets were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a flash of light Japan and the world changed forever. With your support, we are sending our Policy and Organizing Director Hassan El-Tayyab to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to represent CAPA and Peace Action. He has been asked to give speeches at Gensuiken’s International Symposium happening 8/1 through 8/9.

On behalf of CAPA’s members and the members of Peace Action all over the country, Hassan will say what President Obama did not when he had the chance two years ago at Hiroshima. We are sorry for the terrible choices that led to this humanitarian disaster. We are sorry for the hundred of thousands that died and for those that still suffer. We are sorry our country has never formally apologized for this tragedy. In his speech Hassan will also give the attendees at the conference an update about the American political landscape, American nuclear policy, our 2018 nuclear posture review, denuclearization in North East Asia, and what the peace movement in America is doing. Check our social media pages and our website for updates on his trip and a live stream of his speech.

Our work as peace activists is to make sure that nuclear weapons are never used in force again. CAPA will never stop working at it as long as our doors are open. If you could, please support our nuclear abolition work and Hassan’s trip to Japan by becoming a monthly sustainer at $20.18 per month or by making a one-time donation of $218.Thanks so much for the time and thanks for helping us make the world a safer and more peaceful place!

  • The CAPA Board

CAPA and Korea Peace Network Advocates Cheer Diplomacy with North Korea!

Repost from from June 12, 2018

Dear CAPA Members,

I write this from the United Methodist Building across the street from Capitol Hill after a full day of lobby visits with the Illinois Congressional delegation on behalf of CAPA and the Korea Peace Network. By sheer coincidence, the KPN’s June 11th and 12th Washington D.C. conference and advocacy days happened simultaneously with the historic peace summit between the leaders of the US and North Korea. Our network had a chance to respond immediately to skeptics of the peace process at the dawn of a new age in diplomatic relations on the Korean Peninsula. One thing is clear. The Korean people want peace and we as Americans have a unique opportunity to support them in their desire for de-escalation of over seven decades of hostility and tension.

Our message to Congress was that this is a first-step in the right direction and that they as elected officials should take a lead role in supporting open dialogue. The summit built good personal relations between the leaders and kick-started a LONG process toward peace. The real work begins now. What gives us hope is that North Korea has unilaterally provided all the security assurances up to this point by halting missile and nuclear tests, releasing the detainees, and destroying a nuclear test site. We feel that the administration’s decision to halt the US military games is an appropriate security guarantee for the US to provide at this point and the decision completes the first cycle of reciprocal security guarantees and trust building.

The decision to recover and repatriate US service member’s is a point of real substance. This commitment will begin joint US-North Korean military operations that will bring closure to thousands of families who lost loved ones in the Korean war while also reducing the risk of military miscalculation. This is the perfect first step in trust building and the US must now pursue as many engagements like this as possible starting by providing protections for humanitarian operations and reuniting Korean and Korean American families.

On the news of a successful first meeting between sitting leaders of the U.S. and North Korea at the summit in Singapore, with a statement in which the countries agreed to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and security guarantees for North Korea, leaders of the Korea Peace Network, released the following statements:

Kevin Martin, President of Peace Action and Coordinator of the Korea Peace Network, noted, “There will likely be many steps along the way, but we are on the path to peace on the Korean peninsula, toward resolving one of the world’s thorniest conflicts. The summit would have been unimaginable just a few short months ago, when threats of nuclear war were hurled about. While understandably lean on details, the Singapore summit statement commits North Korea to denuclearization, with corresponding, as yet unspecified security guarantees for North Korea, returning the remains of U.S. soldiers, and a new relationship between the U.S. and North Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and the people power ‘candlelight revolution’ movement that helped put him in office, deserve a lot of the credit for the historic breakthrough. As our activists — peace, faith, veterans and Korean-American leaders from around the country — meet with House and Senate offices today, we will press them to support this hopeful beginning for peace.”

Christine Ahn, Founder and International Coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, who was in South Korea recently to lead a women’s peace delegation, remarked, “Although the document signed by Trump and Kim is thin, it is bold in its direction of re-orienting relations between historic adversaries. The fact that the first two points start with a commitment to establish new relations and to build a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula demonstrates Trump’s pragmatism and understanding that peace and security assurances are paramount to North Korea’s concerns and pursuit of nuclear weapons. The fact that Trump said that the U.S. would end the ‘provocative’ joint US-ROK war drills is significant, not to mention the fact that this was the first time a standing U.S. president met with a North Korean leader. The compass has been set, now it is time to ensure that these principles are followed through with concrete action, and this is where it is crucial for civil society, especially women’s groups, step in.”

Hyun Lee, Editor of Zoom in Korea, said, “Last night’s summit was a historic breakthrough in U.S.-North Korea relations. It signaled a final end to seven decades of hostility and tension and a commitment to establishing normal relations between the two countries. In tandem with steps toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the two countries should move toward complete and irreversible normalization.”

Dan Jasper, the Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator for Asia at American Friends Services Committee (AFSC), stated, “The agreement by the two leaders to recover and repatriate U.S. service member remains is a point of real substance that should not be overlooked. This is a significant victory for the families of these service members who have been hoping for the return of their loved ones for over 65 years. These operations address human security needs that lay at the heart of this conflict. It’s engagements like these that will ultimately transform this conflict and reconcile the wounds of this war.” Jasper recently published a report for AFSC entitled Engaging North Korea: A Toolkit for Protecting Humanitarian Channels Amid “Maximum Pressure”.

In closing, thanks for all the support that YOU, our CAPA members do in assisting our peace advocacy on the Korean Peninsula and all around the world. We couldn’t do this work without you.

In solidarity,

Hassan El-Tayyab

Policy and Organizing Director at Chicago Area Peace Action

CAPA is going to Japan for Hiroshima Day!

Some Good News on Climate Change as We Go Forward.

By: Jack Kelly

On Earth Day, April 22nd, the Pew Research Center published the results of a recent global survey on climate change. Pew surveyed a total of 26 countries. Thirteen of the 26 countries believe that climate change is a major threat to their nation. 

The United States, is in the group of thirteen with 59% of the people surveyed, also believes that climate change is a major threat to our nation. However, there is a wide partisan gap in belief about climate change in the U.S. among Democrats and Democratic- leaning Independents, 83% believe that climate change is a major threat to our country. This is an increase of 25 percentage points in the last five years from 58% to the current 83%. 

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents, only 27% believe that climate change is a major threat to our nation. This is an increase of just two percentage points over the past five years. This low concern about climate change among Republicans is fully embraced by President Trump, who is not only a climate change denier but also a strong proponent of taking actions that accelerate the devastating impacts of climate change. 

So where do we go from here? In spite of destructive actions by the Trump Administration over the past 28 months, there is strong support among Democratic and Democratic-leaning Independent voters to take aggressive action to address the global climate crisis ASAP. The good news is that this group also represents the majority of American voters. In addition, recent surveys indicate that climate change is the number one issue of Democratic voters as we move toward the 2020 presidential election. 

On a national level there are limited actions on climate change we can take until after the 2020 election because the Republican controlled Senate and our Denier and Chief in the White House. But there are some specific areas we will be encouraging our Democratic senators and representatives to take action on in the weeks ahead. In addition, there are a number of nationally organized efforts like the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the Global Student Strike efforts that we will be supporting.

Our biggest opportunities to make progress in addressing climate change are at the state and local levels. We will be strongly supporting the new Illinois Bill: CEJA the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

We will be sending you specific actions in each of these areas that we will be asking you to support. In the meanwhile, we hope you find the above global and national voter attitudes on climate change promising and motivating as we go forward.