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Important update on our campaign to prevent a war with Iran
The peace movement won. Thanks to you.
The fight to defend the Iran deal in Congress is over – at least for now – and those of us who have been fighting for diplomacy over war won decisively.
We won despite a massive, coordinated effort to sabotage diplomacy and launch yet another war of choice in the Middle East.
There's nothing new with U.S. politicians fear mongering about a Middle East nation racing to develop weapons of mass destruction. We've seen this movie before, but with a very different ending. In 2003, diplomacy and our demand to let the inspections work in Iraq did not win the day. There was bipartisan support for bombing and with Democratic complicity George W. Bush and Dick Cheney led our nation into more than a decade of bloody, costly war and occupation.
This time it was different. Years of grassroots organizing, much of it aimed at holding Democrats accountable for supporting another war of choice in the Middle East, culminated in the Senate voting down legislation that would have blocked the Iran deal. Only four Democrats – Sens. Chuck Schumer (NY), Robert Menendez (NJ), Ben Cardin (MD), and Joe Manchin (WV) – joined with Republicans to oppose peace and diplomacy.
This won't be the last vote on the Iran deal. Like the Affordable Care Act, dead-on-arrival legislation to kill the deal will likely become another perennial protest vote for Republicans. Senator McConnell is already planning another vote on the bill next week, and the House will likely vote hold sham votes as well.
We need to remain vigilant and beat back future attempts to sabotage diplomacy. But we now clearly have the votes we need to defend the deal for the rest of President Obama's term.
The opposition spent millions to sabotage the agreement. And they would have been successful if it wasn't for grassroots activists like you who signed petitions, called their elected officials, attended rallies and packed town halls.
As reported in The Hill – a prominent news outlet based in Washington, D.C. read by the White House and lawmakers – in an article entitled "How Obama won on Iran" (emphasis ours):Obama also made an open plea for liberal groups to lend him a hand. "As big of a bully pulpit as I have, it's not enough," Obama told thousands of activists in July. "I can't carry it by myself."
They came through.
Groups including MoveOn and Credo Action made the nuclear deal their No. 1 issue of the summer. Supporters flooded voicemails, email inboxes and canvassed town halls across the country to get lawmakers to back the pact.1
It's crucial that we understand how and why we won this campaign for peace, because we know there are no permanent victories. We'll have to work hard in the future to defend diplomacy with Iran and push for peaceful resolution to foreign conflicts in the future whether a Democrat or a Republican wins the White House in 2016.
Five key lessons from our successful campaign to stop a war with Iran:
1) We have to fight on every front. This fight wasn't won simply by mounting a big push around the Congressional disapproval vote. It was won inch-by-inch as we flexed our muscles and built our movement, taking on warmongers every time they tried to make gains in Washington, D.C.
For years, even before negotiations over Iran's nuclear program began, CREDO activists have repeatedly mobilized to block new sanctions and defeat efforts by hawks to march us closer to war. Sometimes we won. Mostly we lost. But we built power and when the end game arrived for the historic Iran nuclear deal our millions of activists were more powerful than the right's millions of dollars. Here are a few of the campaigns you helped make happen.
- Every time a vote on Authorization for the Use of Military Force came up in Congress, CREDO members spoke out to oppose reauthorizing George W. Bush's blank check for war.
- When peace movement hero Rep. Barbara Lee wrote a bill to send a special envoy to engage in direct negotiations for peace with Iran, we lobbied members of Congress to cosponsor and support her bill.
- When 44 U.S. Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to consider abandoning further negotiations with Iran, over 70,000 CREDO members let Pres. Obama know we'd have his back if he pushed hard for diplomacy over war.
- When Sen. John McCain (who famously sang "bomb, bomb, Iran") attempted to hold a Veterans Administration funding bill hostage to tightening Iran sanctions to the point of sabotaging diplomacy efforts, CREDO members called him out.
- Tens of thousands of CREDO activists helped beat back repeated attempts by hawk Democrats – led by Sen. Robert Menendez and his Republican allies – to sabotage negotiations with Iran by passing new, stricter sanctions.
- 77,507 activists signed a petition to Democrats in Congress denouncing House Speaker John Boehner for secretly arranging for Prime Minister Netanyahu to attack President Obama's diplomacy with Iran in front of a joint session of Congress. We urged Democrats to skip the speech and many did.
- When 47 Republican senators, in a truly shocking attempt to derail American diplomatic efforts to limit Iran's nuclear program, wrote a letter to the government of Iran threatening to sabotage any deal from international negotiations, we pushed back. 150,000 CREDO members condemned the "Gang of 47."
- After some Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, allowing Congress 60 days to review and potentially "disapprove" and overturn our hard won Iran Nuclear deal, we worked with allies like MoveOn to build the firewall of 34 senators who could ensure we could sustain a presidential veto of any vote to disapprove.
- After the final deal was announced, we launched StopWarWithIran.com, where CREDO and our allies collected hundreds of thousands of petition signatures in support of the deal and drove over 50,000 calls to Congress. When we reached 34 senators willing to sustain a presidential veto of a congressional disapproval bill, we went on offense and built an even stronger firewall of 42 votes to block the resolution of disapproval from landing on President Obama's desk and definitively ending Republicans' ability to sabotage the deal.
2) We have to hold Democrats accountable and stop them from giving Republicans the power to drag us into war. The cast of characters pushing for war with Iran – from Republicans Dick Cheney and John McCain to Democrats Steve Israel and Chuck Schumer – is largely the same one that led the country to war with Iraq over a decade ago. Most of them have yet to face real accountability, even though it's now clear that the Iraq War was a catastrophic mistake built on a foundation of manipulated intelligence and downright lies. As progressives, we have more leverage with Democrats, because they depend on us for votes. We have to be tough with them when they do the wrong thing, even if we work together on other issues. Politics is a rough game. The other side plays to win and we need to play to win, too.
- Earlier this year, after Senator Robert Menendez tried to push legislation to undermine negotiations with Iran, almost 100,000 CREDO activists signed a petition telling him to stop warmongering on Iran. Under pressure from progressive activists – including nearly 100,000 CREDO activists who signed petition telling Menendez to stop warmongering on Iran, hundreds of tweets, and great press coverage in New Jersey's paper of record and the Huffington Post – Sen. Menendez and his caucus of warmongering Democrats blinked, shelving their diplomacy-killing sanctions bill.
- After Sen. Chuck Schumer announced his opposition to the Iran deal, CREDO pushed back hard. More than 100,000 CREDO activists signed a petition saying Sen. Schumer was wrong on Iraq and wrong on Iran, and that the Democratic caucus shouldn't be led by a warmonger. There was extensive press coverage of this campaign and Schumer backpedalled on his plans to whip votes against the deal in the Democratic caucus.
- When we were a handful of votes shy of a 34 vote firewall in the Senate, more than 65,000 CREDO activists signed a petition telling Democratic presidential candidates to pledge not to pick a running mate who opposed the Iran deal. The petition specifically called our Sens. Booker and Warner, who at the time were undecided. Ultimately, they came out in public support of the deal and despite waffling also cast the key votes during the definitive cloture roll call in the Senate.
3) We're stronger together. It took a lot work to get where we are today. Grassroots organizing by CREDO, MoveOn, Daily Kos, Democracy for America, CodePink, VoteVets, Peace Action West, Peace Action and many others succeeded spectacularly, despite opposition groups spending tens of millions of dollars to derail the deal. Policy focused groups like J Street, Win Without War, the National Iranian American Council, American Friends Service Committee, Women's Action for New Directions and the Friends Committee on National Legislation did tremendous work in Washington, D.C.
Together we poured hundreds of thousands of calls into Congress, partnered with the Congressional Progressive Caucus to deliver hundreds of thousands of petition signatures on Capitol Hill, and mobilized by the thousands during the August recess to attend hundreds of rallies, town halls and meetings with members of Congress.
4) Money matters. Especially when it goes directly to the grassroots. CREDO customers have helped fund the peace movement at the ground level. Since 2000, CREDO has donated more than $5 million to peace groups including to groups key to this fight like J Street and Ploughshares Fund. And right before the August recess, we donated nearly $30,000 to 22 local anti-war groups in strategically critical states and congressional districts to help ensure that grassroots activists had the resources they needed to pressure their elected officials to support diplomacy.
5) Support for endless war is finally flagging. That creates an opportunity for the peace movement to use this victory as a springboard and begin to repair some of the damage done by American foreign policy since 9/11. We have to finally end our ongoing wars and extrajudicial drone killings in the Middle East and North Africa. We have to restore civil liberties stripped away since the passage of the PATRIOT Act. We have to stop weapons of war from being deployed against peaceful protesters at home. We have to cut our bloated military budget. And, if Democrats win the White House in 2016, we have to make sure they don't staff their administration with the same hawks who tried to derail the Iran nuclear deal.
None of this has been easy, but we have done it. It's been a long road to get to this point. In the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, CREDO, then called Working Assets, organized opposition to the war. We funded mass demonstrations. We supported Barbara Lee. We put up billboards across the nation calling for George W. Bush to bring the troops home that were already being deployed to the Persian Gulf in anticipation of war. We marched, we called, we met with our elected representatives. When we invaded anyway despite intense opposition across the U.S. some of us were arrested (including CREDO Political Director Becky Bond). We fought escalation. We fought to limit the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. We registered over a million voters in advance of the 2004 presidential election, but George W. Bush managed to win reelection. We opposed out-of-control military budgets. We challenged the Obama administration on killer drones. We've fought the war machine at every opportunity.
Winning is rare, but when peace wins, we know we've saved lives. We need a peace movement that's nimble, fearless and committed because the forces that back war are powerful and moneyed. This victory shows that it's possible for peace to win over war, when we fight back.
Thank you for your activism.
Becky, Zack, Murshed, Josh, Heidi, Jordan, Jin, Mark, and Elijah
CREDO Action from Working Assets
- Julian Hattem, "How Obama won on Iran," The Hill, September 5, 2015
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