Dear President Obama,
Please accept our sincere congratulations on your recent victory in the United States presidential election. As US Citizens and members of various peace and justice groups in Europe, we take this opportunity to write to you with a list of measures which we think warrants your immediate attention. As Americans living abroad, we are in a unique position to see the damaging consequences of irrational international policy and blatant disregard for international commitments. As you are well aware, critical issues have been neglected and abused during the past 8 years, issues that have greatly concerned our organization. We ask that you give priority to the following matters:
1) Withdraw all US troops and contractors from Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. As has been tragically demonstrated, there is no military solution to either conflict and the continued occupation does nothing but prolong the bloodshed and destruction. In addition, this act will free up much-needed financial resources that could be spent strengthening our domestic infrastructure, and will also allow troops to return to the safety of their families rather than risking their lives defending two foundering and unjustified wars on terror. It will also be the first step in restoring US relations in the Middle East;
2) Call for an immediate end to rendition, torture and warrantless spying. Torture is morally indefensible and this single issue has caused the United States to lose considerable respect, credibility and legitimacy throughout the world. It has also served to further weaken pressures on other nations to banish torture for good;
3) Close Guantanamo Bay immediately and establish a truth and reconciliation commission that seeks to right all the injustices of Guantanamo, including uncovering unlawful detentions and renditions of its occupants;
4) Improve our international image and restore international confidence in our justice system by unambiguously supporting the international legitimacy of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Included in this arrangement would be the inevitable prosecution of Bush and Cheney for war crimes committed during their 8-year tenure;
5) Set our financial priorities straight by seriously reducing our exorbitant military spending. Please support Rep. Barney Frank's proposal to cut the Pentagon's budget by 25% and reconsider your plan to increase the military by 90,000 soldiers that will cost at least $50 billion over five years. Additionally, the $12 billion/month spent on the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq could instead be used to strengthen our public educational system, establish universal healthcare for all, raise the minimum wage to a living wage, rebuild our national infrastructure and invest in renewable energy;
6) Call for an immediate end to the siege of Gaza and make a serious commitment to advancing a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by endorsing the Arab Peace Initiative, which has provisions derived from U.S.-drafted UN resolutions (endorsed by Israel) that call for direct negotiations to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of land for peace. Such an initiative would also offer Israel not just acceptance from, but also full recognition and normalization of relations with the entire Arab world. As one of the leading causes of terror throughout the world, resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has the potential for going further than any war on terror could ever hope to go. In addition, we call on you to make substantial cuts to the massive foreign military aid afforded Israel and to apply the Arms Export Control Act in regards to Israel's illegal use of weapons supplied by the US;
7) Engage in immediate and direct negotiations with Iran, Syria and North Korea without any pre-conditions. Sanctions in past years have only fueled nationalism and strengthened the resolve of these countries to defend their countries' civilian nuclear programs;
8) Tackle global warming in such a way that the United States demonstrates its leadership and commitment to carbon emissions reductions to the world. While it may be too late to seriously commit to the targets set under the Kyoto Protocol, it's not too late to agree to tough targets on emissions reductions by creating innovative incentives, and by not letting Detroit automakers off the hook. Take advantage of the government's financial leverage in these tough economic times and demand that any sort of public assistance be tied to severe reductions in emissions from any and all of the cars they produce. Make the United States a model in this field by promoting a green economy thereby reducing our dependence on foreign oil and giving us a diplomatic advantage;
9) End the blatant misuse of signing statements, of which President Bush has taken great advantage over the past 8 years. These implicit challenges to acts of Congress have greatly undermined our democracy's system of checks and balances as well as Congress's mandate to legislate, with the consequence that Congress has not been able to regulate the government. The White House has been allowed to pick and choose the legislation they want to follow. This is a power that the writers of the Constitution never intended the president to have;
10) Reject the US National Missile Defense (NMD) program and recognize that it poses a threat to the European Union and unnecessarily increases tensions between the US and Russia. This is precisely the sort of initiative that will only serve to expand the arms race and create more global instability, not to mention its enormous price tag and highly uncertain efficacy;
11) Begin closing the network of US military bases around the world, and in particular, suspend the plans for putting a new military facility in the existing small airport, Tommaso Dal Molin, in Vicenza, Italy. Citizens of Vicenza have voted overwhelmingly against the new base at Dal Molin. Expansion of US military bases, like that in Vicenza, goes against the wishes of most local populations and puts countries in a dangerous position of serving as accomplice in many of the US campaigns in the Middle East.
We are relieved that the political tide is turning, and that change won in the face of "business as usual" and fear last November. However, we implore you to prioritize the above-mentioned issues and commit yourself to creating a world in which Americans living at home and abroad can be proud of their leadership and its policies. We look forward to experiencing these changes first-hand as American expatriates with our heads held high and our hearts wide open.
U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice - Rome
U.S. Citizens Against War - Florence
Americans Against the War - France
Americans for Peace and Justice - Montpellier
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