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The Path We Should Follow after Syria Crosses the Red Line

FreedomHouse/Flickr

President Barack Obama's recent announcement that he believes Syria has used a small amount of chemical weapons ignited a debate. Has the Assad regime crossed the "red line" the White House laid down?

U.S. intelligence reports "varying degrees of confidence" that Syria used chemical weapons. "We have to act prudently," Obama said. "But I think all of us...recognize how we cannot stand by and permit the systematic use of weapons like chemical weapons on civilian populations."

The situation in Syria is clearly dire, with more than 70,000 deaths. Over 2.5 million Syrian refugees (including 600,000 children) have overwhelmed the ability of the United Nations and neighboring countries to provide adequate care. Another 2 million kids are internally displaced within Syria.

But politicians seem more concerned about U.S. credibility than suffering Syrians. So what's next for Washington?

If I were president, I'd try to carefully navigate between two horrendous mistakes my predecessors made:

A Treaty is Born

What do Iran, Syria, North Korea and the NRA have in common? They are all on the losing side of trying to block the creation of a new Arms Trade Treaty. This landmark agreement has been in the making since 2006 and will be the first international treaty to regulate the conventional arms trade. The most powerful way the United Nations can agree to a treaty is by "consensus", where all nations agree to the text. But these three rouge nations blocked agreement. It was a sad sight to witness.

But fortunately, the treaty’s sponsors did the next best thing and brought it to the General Assembly where it was agreed to by an overwhelming majority: 154 to 3, with the U.S. voting in favor. A treaty is born!

The Arms Trade Treaty is a great step forward in dealing with the unregulated and illicit global trade in conventional weapons and ammunition, which fuels wars and human rights abuses worldwide

The United States played a positive role in negotiating the Treaty which is designed to help prevent the more than 500,000 deaths worldwide that happen as a result of armed violence. Firearms are used in armed conflicts and to carry out human rights violations, including genocide and gang rapes. More than 250,000 children have been forced into combat as under-aged child soldiers.

The Treaty will address these heinous crimes by bringing foreign governments up to U.S. export standards and moving black markets out of the shadows. This is a legacy issue for President Obama, who has made genocide and atrocity prevention a priority. The Arms Trade Treaty explicitly prohibits arms transfers when a country "has the knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity...."

Global Arms Trade: Time to End the Violence

Next week, from March 18th to 28th, negotiators should finalize text for the Arms Trade Treaty to set uniform standards for international arms sales that will bring foreign governments up to U.S. export standards. This international treaty is years in the making-the lack of accountability for the global sale and trade of arms is appalling. War lords, terrorists, and those who commit haneous human rights violations benefit from the current system -- it is simply too easy for these people to obtain weapons. Worldwide, one person dies every minute of armed violence. That's 500,000 people a year. But don't let the statistics sway you. Here are some personal stories of women who have experienced violence at the hands of those with illegal arms.1

Marren Akatsa-Bukachi: "One man with a gun can rape a whole village"

Marren Akatsa-Bukachi is the Executive Director of the Eastern African sub Regional Support Initiative for Advancement of Women (EASSI). They work with women survivors of violence.

"Men and women are affected differently by arms.

"In Africa, guns are used to rape women, disempower them. Women are also affected when their husbands die or become incapacitated by small arms as they become head of the household.

"I myself, have been affected by the misuse of small arms. I'm from Kenya and twice, people came into my home with guns and robbed my family. It was four hours each time. They tied us up, face on the carpet, terrorized us, threatened us with their guns. They took everything I had ever worked for.

"I was lucky because I was not sexually molested but I'm still traumatized. Now I live in Uganda and even though it is very hot, every night before I go to sleep, I lock all the doors and windows, even the bedroom door. Who wants to live like that?

"We really need to control the flow of arms. In Africa, we don't even know where the arms come from.

Ds and Rs on Energy, the Environment, and Foreign Policy: Party Platforms 2012

Now that both the Democrats and the Republicans have released their official party platforms for 2012, they can be compared side-by-side.  We've done all of the legwork for you and have summarized their main stances on a number of issues. Hyperlinks are included and they will take you to the pertinent section of that party's platform if you want to read the actual text.  

Update September 6: Changes made on the floor of the Democratic Convention have resulted in the platform stating that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the status of Jerusalem as an Israeli holding is a condition for any peace talks.

The Future of the Arms Trade Treaty

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will not pass this year and sources suggest the United States was central to its failure.  The US showed little dissatisfaction throughout the month-long conference, but raised major concerns in the final hours of negotiations that ultimately killed the treaty.

The potential treaty would have been a historic advancement for international peace and security.  It sought tougher regulation of the international sale of arms and the transfer of arms to perpetrators and potential perpetrators of atrocities.

GlobalSolutions.org remains committed to passing a meaningful arms treaty.  We highlighted the broad significance of the treaty by sending the names of over 5,000 supporters to Secretary Clinton and other top diplomats.  The Control Arms coalition also presented negotiators with several hundred thousand petition signatures supporting more regulation.

Unsurprisingly, regressive right-wing groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) continued their relentless assault against the treaty until the closing bell.  Its fear campaign began months ago as the initial meetings began before the four weeks of marathon negotiations this month in New York.  A belief that the treaty would violate the Second Amendment and a wholesale rejection of international institutions is the basis of their opposition.  The ATT seeks greater regulation of the weapons trade between international actors only.  Thus, it would have no impact on a US citizen's ability to participate in any activity protected by the Second Amendment.

Arms Trade: Lives, Lies, & the NRA

    • The United States was the largest exporter of weapons 9 out of the last 10 years
    • In 2010, the top five largest arms exporters made $19.4 billion
    • Nearly 1 million of the 7-8 million firearms produced every year are lost or stolen
    • Africa loses approximately $18 billion per year due to armed violence
    • In the nine years leading up to the Syrian crisis, import of major weapons increased by 580%

    *Provided by Oxfam and Howard Friedman
    A letter, signed by 130 Representatives urging President Obama and Secretary Clinton to oppose the United Nations Conference of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was released today as negotiations got underway in New York.

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee Follows Up On New START

    The offices of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    Last Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), seeking to gauge the treaty's performance in the time since February 2011, when it first came into effect. Witnesses brought before the committee included the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Thomas P. D'Agostino; the Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department, Rose Gottemoeller; and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs,  Madelyn R. Creedon.

    Each of the witnesses offered positive assessments of New START's effectiveness, highlighting the ways in which the agreement has helped to make nuclear relations between the US and Russia more stable and transparent. In her testimony, Gottemoeller remarked that New START has helped to improve the flow of nuclear weapons-related information between the two countries. In particular, she cited the treaty's verification mechanisms, including exhibitions of strategic arms and guaranteed on-site inspections, as concrete examples of provisions that have helped to improve the aforementioned information flow.

    Meanwhile, in his testimony, D'Agostino sought to dispel the notion that signing New START revealed the Obama administration as being insufficiently committed to preserving the efficacy of the US nuclear arsenal. Insisting that the President Obama recognizes the need to maintain a secure and modernized nuclear force, D'Agostino went on to highlight specific actions that the Administration has taken to ensure this reality. To that end, he cited the Obama Administration's commitment to extending the life of 80% of the active US nuclear stockpile, as well as its request for an increase in funding for the weapons activities account, for the purposes of nuclear modernization.

    Mother's Day: The Origin Story

    Mother’s Day was originally founded as a Women’s Day for peace.

    This Sunday, we honor the women in our lives that gave us life and shaped us into the people we are today.  Daughters, mothers, and grandmothers, will receive flowers, candy, or breakfast in bed prepared by the kids.

    But did you know that Mother’s Day was originally founded as a Women’s Day for peace and disarmament? In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, the author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” advocated for the creation of Mother’s Day, dedicated to promoting “the amicable settlement of international questions, and the great and general interests of peace.”

    We can cherish the women who nurtured, protected, and cared for us by sending a Mother’s Day card that honors the original spirit of the holiday. Click here to choose a free e-card that celebrates the special women in your life and commemorates women working for peace around the globe.

    To women who work hard for peace around the world, around the house, around their communities and around their country -- thanks for all that you do!


    Feel free to share our eCard or post it on a facebook wall (just right-click to save the image or the url):

    Breakthrough Agreement with North Korea

    The United States and North Korea announced a breakthrough agreement earlier this week, with North Korea agreeing to suspend nuclear weapons testing and halt the enrichment of uranium in return for more than 200,000 metric tons of food aid. This food aid is crucial to the famine-stricken nation that has been subject to heavy sanctions, mostly due to its unbending commitment to a nuclear program.

    The announcement is the first true sign of how North Korea's young, new leader Kim Jong-un, who took office last December following the unexpected death of his father Kim Jong-il, will approach international negotiations. While the negotiations began before his father's death, the announcement of an agreement highlights Kim's willingness to engage in negotiations to secure aid that helps solidify support at home.

    While the announcement is a positive sign of North Korea's willingness to engage, it is far from a true end to North Korea's nuclear program. North Korea has struck similar deals before without following through. North Korea's state-run media announced the deal with the notable stipulation that they would hold to their end of the deal only "while productive dialogue continues," implying that their cooperation could end at any point. However, the agreement is certainly a step in the right direction.

    "Apocalypse Never" Author Tad Daley on C-SPAN

    Apocalypse Never

    Longtime CGS activist Tad Daley will appear on C-SPAN BOOK TV at 3 AM, 8:30 AM, and 4 PM EDT Sunday, October 9th. He'll be talking about his book APOCALYPSE NEVER: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon Free World, and laying out his plan for abolishing nuclear weapons before they abolish us. Tad spoke at Busboys and Poets in Washington DC on August 9th, 2011, the 66th anniversary of the atomic obliteration of Nagasaki, in an event sponsored by GlobalSolutions.org, Peace Action, and Progressive Democrats of America.