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Preventing Genocide and Mass Atrocities: What More Can Be Done?

February 28, 2011

Sandy Robson/FCNL

Last Thursday, the Prevention and Protection Working Group (convened by FCNL) and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill called “Preventing Genocide and Mass Atrocities: What More Can Be Done?”.  The briefing featured a panel discussion comprised of U.S. government officials from the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Michael Gerson, a columnist for the Washington Post and contributor to the Genocide Prevention Task Force, also participated in the briefing.  The panelists described the work they are currently engaged in to prevent genocide and identified tools and capacities that would enable the U.S. to halt violence before it starts.

The briefing room was packed with House and Senate staffers (representing both sides of the aisle), officials from the Department of Defense and State Department, and many of our friends from the NGO community.

This off-the-record discussion commemorated a historic anniversary; twenty-five years ago this month, the U.S. Senate gave its consent to ratify the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.  Despite the Convention’s aspirations, the past quarter century has born witness to horrific violence in Rwanda, the Balkans, and Sudan.  Clearly, much work remains.  Fortunately, the Prevention and Protection Working Group stands ready to work with Congress to enact practical policy solutions to prevent future genocides.

Peace Lobbyists Must Be Doing Something Right

February 24, 2011

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in “psychological operations” to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war…

[Read the whole article in Rolling Stone]

It seems some military leaders have decided that, in addition to the swarms of lobbyists on the Hill that work for defense contractors, they need to employ PSY-OPs to convince congress to spend more money on the Pentagon.

Sounds to me like the Our Nation’s Checkbook campaign is having an impact.

Prevention Funding Slashed – Take Action!

February 23, 2011

Despite broad bipartisan recognition that investing in an ounce of prevention to avert wars is much wiser and less costly than paying a pound (or a few billion pounds) of cure after international crises erupt, the 112th Congress appears ready to pour billions more into war while slashing away at the few small investments in peaceful prevention of deadly conflict that FCNL and others have lobbied hard for in recent years. We have our work cut out for us.

House Slashes Funds to Prevent War: Last week the House passed a Continuing Resolution for FY2011 which cuts all of FCNL’s priority prevention accounts, and even zeros out funding for the United States Institute of Peace.  The House cut the Civilian Response Corps budget down t0 just $47 million in 2011 (the budget was $150 million for 2010), completely terminates the Complex Crises Fund (it had been $50 million in 2010), and slashes international peacekeeping funding by $283 million.  In addition, the House approved an amendment that zeros out funding for the bipartisan, congressionally-mandated United States Institute of Peace.  Any potential short-term savings from cutting these accounts will amount to less than a day’s worth of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but these same determined budget cutters refused to include real cuts to military spending in the bill.

What’s next for 2011 funding? The Senate will now have to pass its own version of a Continuing Resolution for FY11 funding, and the two chambers will have to reconcile the two bills by March 4 to avoid a government shutdown.  The Senate is not pursuing all the draconian cuts that the House is pushing, but pressure is on to cut anywhere possible.  FCNL is lobbying Senate appropriators to maintain funding for key prevention accounts, particularly the Complex Crises Fund, and funding for USIP.  Given how far the two chambers are from each others’ approaches, many are predicting the government will come to a standstill in March.

What about the 2012 budget? In the meantime, the President sent his FY2012 budget to Congress last week as well, and appropriators need to begin work on legislation for next year even while the FY11 budget is unsettled.  The White House has proposed continuing key accounts to help prevent wars in FY2012 at quite reasonable levels:  $92 million for the Civilian Response Corps; $75 million for the Complex Crises Fund; and meeting US contributions to the UN and for UN peacekeeping.  The Obama administration seems to understand that these relatively small investments can generate great savings by helping avert humanitarian crises and military operations.  We will be lobbying Congress to support the President’s budget for these accounts in 2012.

What can you do? Please write your senators and urge them to maintain funding for the Complex Crises Fund and US Institute of Peace in 2011.  If these programs are zeroed out or deeply cut it will be very hard to restore their funding in the future.  Sign up for our Prevent War emails to get future updates on investing in an ounce of prevention to avoid a pound of war.

Simple Question

February 21, 2011

Solving the world's problems


Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

February 15, 2011

The political debate in Washington this week reminds me of  the Wizard of Oz. On Monday, President Barack Obama unveiled his plan to freeze domestic spending for the next 5 years just as the House began debating legislation that would cut back federal spending by $58 billion just in the next seven months.

Neither of these budget proposals is going to become law, but both allow the authors to argue they are making a real effort to cut federal budget deficits. Meanwhile, behind a curtain off on the sidelines there is a man who is managing to make sure that all of these proposals keep his agency from facing big budget cuts. Who is that man? Here’s a hint: Although the people of Egypt have demonstrated to the world the power of nonviolence, our political leaders still believe the security of this nation depends on spending more on the Pentagon.

The challenge for everyone in this country, including those of us in the FCNL community, is how do we  help the nation see the man behind the curtain who is protecting the Pentagon from budget cuts? We need to build a political coalition to cut at least $1 trillion in Pentagon spending during the next decade. On Tuesday, several members of Congress will offer the first of what will no doubt be many proposals for cuts in Pentagon spending. Will you join us in urging your representative to reduce the Pentagon budget?

The good news is that the man behind the curtain isn’t really hiding.

Read more…

Obama Brings Home Disappointing Report Card on Arms Control Issues

February 11, 2011

Wondering how well the Obama White House is doing on helping rid the world of landmines, cluster bombs, and other conventional weapons of war?  Check out this disappointing report card compiled by our friends at the Arms Control Association.  My parents never would have let me get away with such poor grades!

Cluster Munitions: D   

 Read more at the Arms Control Now blog.

House Votes Down Cuts to UN Funding!

February 9, 2011

Congratulations and thank you!  Today Rep. Ros-Lehtinen and other UN opponents in the House made their first attempt to cut UN funding – and failed.  The House voted down a bill that would have tried to force the return of payments the US paid to the UN which will help increase security around UN Headquarters and help pay future dues for UN peacekeeping.  The bill was the introduced as part of Rep. Cantor’s online “You Cut”  campaign, which lets internet voters choose from proposals to cut spending, and was the first in what we expect will be a year-long campaign to cut UN funding in the House.  Its defeat marks an important victory in protecting UN funding and sets a precedent we hope will continue.

The bill and scheduled vote became public only this Monday, and FCNL joined with the Better World Campaign, Citizens for Global Solutions, and others in quickly mobilizing calls and letters to congressional offices urging members to vote no and to speak out against the bill on the floor.  The bill was originally expected to pass with an overwhelming majority, but a strong line up of members speaking out against it and, ultimately, a procedure in the House that required a 2/3 majority rather than a simple majority, ensured its defeat instead.

Thank you to everyone who wrote in to your representatives urging them to vote no on the bill!  You contributed to our first successful vote to protect UN funding in 2011!  Now, let’s get ready for the next one…