Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A quick evaluation of the various costs of current US wars

While our economy limps haltingly on (on its misled imperialist legs), we are still engaged in two wars. The US-led coalition occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are killing human beings on both sides every day, and will eventually cost our children and grandchildren well over a trillion dollars. Check out nationalpriorities.org.

First, we must address the human costs.

There have been between 89,533 and 97,743 documented civilian deaths in Iraq alone (iraqbodycount.org).

4,516 men and women of the US-led coalition have been killed in Iraq, 4,202 of them US soldiers. In addition, two Australians, one Azerbaijani, 176 Britons, 13 Bulgarians, one Czech, seven Danes, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Fijian, five Georgians, one Hungarian, 33 Italians, one Kazakh, one Korean, three Latvians, 22 Poles, three Romanians, five Salvadoran, four Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians” have died (CNN US & Coalition casualties).

In Afghanistan, "there have been 1,003 coalition deaths -- 623 Americans, six Australians, 124 Britons, 97 Canadians, three Czech, 16 Danes, 17 Dutch, three Estonians, one Finn, 22 French, 25 Germans, two Hungarians, 12 Italians, one Latvian, one Lithuanian, one NATO/ISAF, three Norwegians, eight Poles, two Portuguese, eight Romanians, one South Korean, 25 Spaniards, [and] two Swedes" (CNN US & Coalition casualties).

I was not able to find a reliable source of statistics on Afghan civilian casualties, but it can be safely assumed to be in excess of 10,000 if both direct and indirect deaths are included.

All this death must be for a good reason, right? We're fighting for freedom and democracy, right? I urge you to check out the timeline on the war in Iraq provided on the Mother Jones website (Bush War Timeline), which sheds light on the real motivations behind our invasions of these countries. Or just google "Wolfowitz Doctrine" (1992).

Next, we must address the financial costs of these wars, and of the overblown militarism of the United States. We must acknowledge that we are borrowing from our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What will we offer in exchange?

In a CRS Report to Congress, updated October 15, 2008 and entitled "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," Amy Belasco (Specialist in U.S. Defense Policy and Budget, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division) stated:

“Congress has approved a total of about $864 billion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan and other counter terror
operations; Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

This $864 billion total covers all war-related appropriations from FY2001 through part of FY2009 in supplementals, regular appropriations, and continuing resolutions.

Of that total, CRS estimates that Iraq will receive about $657 billion (76%), OEF about $173 billion (20%), and enhanced base security about $28 billion (3%), with about $5 billion that CRS cannot allocate (1%).

About 94% of the funds are for DOD, 6% for foreign aid programs and embassy operations, and less than 1% for medical care for veterans.

As of July 2008, DOD’s monthly obligations for contracts and pay averaged about $12.3 billion, including $9.9 billion for Iraq, and $2.4 billion for Afghanistan.

The recently enacted FY2008 Supplemental (H.R. 2642/P.L. 110-252) includes a total of about $160 billion for war costs for the Department of Defense (DOD) for the rest of FY2008 and part of FY2009. Funds are expected to last until June or July 2009 well into a new Administration. The Administration did not submit a request to cover all of FY2009.

While Congress provided a total of $188 billion for war costs in FY2008 — $17 billion more than the prior year — this total was a cut of about $14 billion to the Administration’s request, including both reductions in DOD’s investment accounts and substitutions of almost $6 billion in non-war funding. CRS figures exclude nonwar funding.

Congress also cut funding for foreign aid and diplomatic operations for Iraq and Afghanistan by $1.4 billion, providing a total of $4.5 billion. For FY2009, Congress provided $67 billion, close to the request. Earlier, to tide DOD over until passage of the supplemental, the House and Senate appropriations committees approved part of a DOD request to transfer funds from its regular accounts.

In an August 2008 update, the Congressional Budget Office projected that additional war costs for the next ten years from FY2009 through FY2018 could range from $440 billion, if troop levels fell to 30,000 by 2010 to $865 billion, if troop levels fell to 75,000 by about 2013. Under these CBO projections, funding for Iraq, Afghanistan and the GWOT could total about $1.3 trillion or about $1.7 trillion for
FY2001-FY2018" (Congressional Research Service Report).

As acknowledged above, these figures DO NOT INCLUDE the Department of Defense's budget. The White House Office of Management and Budget's figures show “$481.4 billion for the Department of Defense’s base budget—a 62-percent increase over 2001” plus “an additional $93.4 billion in supplemental funds for 2007 and $141.7 billion for 2008” for the “Global War on Terror” (Office of Management and Budget).

When will we realize that nobody wins wars, not to mention occupations?

You get what you pay for.

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Economic trouble means good news for recruiters

Here's good article on the link between economic difficulties and military enrollment.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 5, Geneva (sorry)

Yesterday, we discussed program, and heard reports from the various committees and working groups. During lunch YWILPF met to discuss the way forward. We determined that becoming a sub-committee of the Organizational Development Committee would allow us access to their expertise while allowing for an autonomous, respected, and integral role in WILPF development. The international board on a whole is very supportive of this.

Later we were able to present the proposals that emerged from meetings of the Pan-African and Diaspora Women's Issue Committee (PADWIC) to the board.

Finally, we had a fishbowl discussion on the situation in Afghanistan.

Then we had a social gathering, with wine and dancing and other loveliness.

We spent most of today going over financial matters and working committee matters, and in the afternoon we split off into two groups to discuss the wars in Iraq and the DRC in greater depth. Monika and I stayed with the majority of the group to discuss the conflict in the DRC, which was heated at times but educational.

Unfortunately, that is all we can offer you at this time. We will be posting more specifics for a good long time upon our return, but right now we need to sleep and recharge so that we can begin again in the morning!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 3, Geneva

Fun fact: the menu at the top of this page is in German... ;)

So, Monika and I separated this evening, so I'm posting this one alone. But she will probably want to add a bit of her own later, and most of what I have to write we did together.

We woke up early to get through security at the UN before the panels began at 9:30. The welcome was done by Tim Caughley, director of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, followed by a talk by Cynthia Cockburn on Women, Peace work and WILPF. This was especially exciting for me because she is the reason I came to WILPF in the first place. Her research has been an invaluable resource for me. Afterwards I was able to speak with her for a few minutes, which was very exciting.

The next panel was entitled "Resolution 1325 & Human Security: Limiting or Expanding our Political Horizon?" and included Christiane Agboton Johnson of UNIDIR (UN Disarmament Research Institute), International Vice President Felicity Hill, PeaceWomen Project Associate Sam Cook, and Eugenia Piza-Lopes of the UN Development Programme. They spoke about UNSCR 1325 in the context of how it can be used to serve "human security" as an alternative to the current focus on "national security." They stressed that the full implementation of this resolution does not mean adding more women to the ranks of the military, but rather the inclusion of women at all levels and in all arenas of conflict resolution and prevention, recognizing that all areas of security (economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community, and political security) are interconnected.

Did you know that the global military expenditures in 2007 amounted to 202 dollars per capita? That is, the world spent $1339 BILLION on militarism in the last year alone. Just to get a feel for what a billion means...one billion seconds ago was 1961...one billion minutes ago Jesus was walking around telling us to be nice to each other...one billion hours ago was the stone age...and one billion days ago the world was populated by only a few small squishy things. That is ONE billion. Last year this world spent ONE THOUSAND, THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY NINE billion dollars on war.

To meet the millenium development goal of gender parity in education globally would cost approximately three billion dollars. That's how much it costs to occupy Iraq for nine days. How will our grandchildren see us?

After lunch, we heard Kerstin Greback (WILPF International President), Madeline Rees (head of the Women's Rights and Gender Unit at the OHCHR), Maha Muna (currently UNFPA, formerly in UN mission in Sudan) and Annie Matundu Mbambi (WILPF DRC group) speak on the topic of peacekeeping and enforcement. This is a very sticky topic for many peace activists, and it was fascinating to hear the different stories and opinions of so many people, including those who spoke afterwards during the question and answer period. One characterization of the "festival of ad-hockery" that is peacekeeping that stuck with me is this: Peacekeeping missions are in effect putting men with guns between two groups of men with guns. The type of mandate they have determines whether or not they are allowed to use them.

I personally struggle with the ethical dilemma of the reality of peacekeeping troops. On the one hand, I believe strongly in the rights of all people to deal with their own internal problems, without foreign interference. On the other hand, I want human rights to be implemented and enforced. So I am left with a difficult contradiction, which I resolve (like most things) with a metaphor. If you will forgive the well-worn comparison of national structure and family, we can see the government as the parent and its citizens as the children. Different parenting styles are fine, and not my business even if I may not agree with everything. However, if the parent is at all abusive (by, in this case, denying the citizen any of the factors of human security addressed above) the child can not remain in this condition and it is the responsibility of all to either re-educate the parent or provide for a better living situation for this child. A bit of a strained metaphor, I know. But it works for me when I get bogged down in technicalities and the intricacies of human rights law...:). Thus, the international community has a responsibility to our common humanity to intervene. But perhaps it is not taking the proper approach when women are trafficked into the country in conflict for the express purpose of serving the peacekeeping troops. I still strongly believe that solutions can only come from within the community/country/region concerned. But we must help facilitate this process. AHHH!

From there Monika and I went to a meeting of PADWIC, the committee freshly formed to deal specifically with African and Diaspora issues. We spoke for only a few hours, although I'm sure there is much more to come. We came away with a plan for action (which is currently in Monika's notebook, away from me), specifically concerning the conflict in the DRC and the mineral coltan (used in cell phones and many other electronic devices), the mining of which is at the heart of the conflict. More to come on that.

Sorry to write so much. This is only a small slice of what I have learned today. I realize I say this every time, but I never cease to be amazed and honored to be here with so many amazing women. Each and every one of them is a wonder, and posesses an endless wealth of knowledge and experience in everything that I care about! I can't wait to start again tomorrow!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 2, Geneva

So, I will begin by saying WILPF international has some of the friendliest, most lovely and diverse people you could ever want to meet. To honor this, we had a diversity training today. We had workshops all day, with small, intimate group work as well as plenary discussions.

In the morning, we broke off into small groups and discussed our own experiences with racism. This provided a platform for genuine and truthful sharing in confidence, and also helped to bond members who perhaps otherwise wouldn't have interacted. It's hard for us to condense an entire day's worth of deep conversation on sometimes difficult subjects into one small post, but we will try to get more of our detailed notes up at a later date (when we have more time).

After lunch, we broke off into different small groups, to discuss positive ways to address the subject of diversity. We covered subject areas such as self care, recognizing differences, multiple identities, religious pluralism, and more. Afterwards we had the chance to present what we had learned to the whole group.

Later we watched Making Whiteness Visible, a film that was also shown at the US section congress last summer, followed by discussion on our own personal reactions to the theme of white privilege.

Finally, we broke off into issue committee groups, to discuss the work that needs to be done between now and the next international meeting.

Overall, a very productive day. We are tired and looking forward to tomorrow, when we get to go in the UN and hear a talk on 1325! Yippee! Now we're going to sleep.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 1, Geneva (partial)

We began today with the Gertrud Baer seminar, with a number of young members as well as both new and experienced older members. It was quite a large group, actually, but we made a big amoeboid shape (not exactly circular) and listened to presentations on the structure and history of WILPF, followed by discussion and questions.

After a brief break, we split off and YWILPF was able to meet and do some concrete planning. I would love to share it with you but I'm afraid this will have to wait, as Ella Page was the notetaker, and we don't have her here.... :)

Many interesting facts emerged in the discussion today of which we were not previously aware. For example, Susi has a photo (which we will acquire for US use) of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at a WILPF rally. Seriously. Also, before the UN charter was adopted, when WILPF had first begun to work in Geneva with the League of Nations, Gandhi came to speak to the countries assembled. He was refused entry, so the lovely women of our organisation set up a conference for him in Victoria hall and within 24 hours he was speaking to an overflow crowd. NOW the UN recognizes him. There's a statue of him outside. In the clothing they found so inappropriate at the time.

Another example of when we were right was during the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. WILPF actually had to meet in Switzerland, and phone in its consensus to representatives in France, because our German members were not allowed to enter the country, and the others refused to meet without them. WILPF denounced the treaty, claiming that it laid the foundation of a renewed conflict, that it was revenge rather than peacemaking. Then, unfortunately, World War II proved them correct.

So basically, WILPF is amazing. More to come.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day 0, Geneva

Tomorrow the International Board meeting begins here in Geneva, Switzerland. On that day, Monika and I will participate in the Gertrud Baer seminar, a meeting designated for young members, as well as those new to the organization. We've had time these past couple days to do some sightseeing on foot and by bus (the public transit system here is extensive, lovely, and free for us). We're pretty much in love with Geneva. It's gorgeous and architectural marvels are everywhere.

This afternoon, we met with Susi to update her on the activities of US YWILPF and to get some valuable input on our activities. We also had a wonderful lunch with the interns in the Geneva office, who are very busy and very friendly.

The hostel we're staying in is wonderful (and clean and safe). We'd recommend it. A ton of WILPFers are also staying here--it's completely booked for the week.

That's all the news we have for now, but look forward to a much longer post tomorrow!

Au revoir,

Robin and Monika

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Last night there was dancing in the street in my hometown of Olympia, WA. Obama T-shirts were everywhere, and my friends and I watched the speeches in a standing-room-only packed bar. There was much screaming and hugging of strangers.

Now it's time for reality. Certainly, Obama was the major candidate who called for an end to the war in Iraq. However, he is not our savior. We are our own saviors. And we must not lose this momentum. The nation has arisen to demand change. We must work incessantly, now more than ever, to channel that historic energy and consciousness into an effective and cohesive peace movement, never forgetting that the President-elect continues to spout the rhetoric of "winning" in Afghanistan.

I believe in his core motivations. I do not think he intends to betray those who facilitated his rise to the White House. But without CONSTANT pressure from activists he will be pummeled into submission by corporate greed, militarism, and their lobbyists and money that saturate DC. We must fight for the future we believe in (non-violently, of course). And we must not stop.

So enjoy this victory. It is truly significant. And it is the first step on a long, long road.

Lets begin.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ok.. so now what ?

Bowoto v. Chevron

I recognize that on this historic day most of us are having difficulty thinking about anything outside of the election, but lets give it a try. :)

On May 25, 1998 a group of more than a hundred local Ilaje tribe members boarded a Chevron barge nine miles offshore in the oil-rich Niger Delta, demanding jobs and more environmental responsibility from the multinational. On the fourth day of the protest, with negotiation apparently ongoing, management called in the notorious Nigerian Navy, who arrived in company helicopters. They then opened fire, killing two and injuring others, including Larry Bowoto who was shot multiple times. Along with eighteen other plaintiffs, Bowoto has brought the case to a United States district court in San Francisco, near Chevron headquarters in San Ramon, California. The suit was made possible under the Alient Torts Claims Act (ATCA), passed in 1789, which allows foreign nationals to file charges in the US court system for human rights abuses perpetrated on foreign soil. Recent use of the ATCA has raised the possibility that multinational corporations and other entities that abuse the rights of people in other countries could be held accountable here at home.

Testimony kicked off on Monday, October 27, with starkly contrasting claims coming from plaintiff and defendant. While Chevron insists that the protesters were armed and taking hostages (despite a contradicting message sent to the US embassy by a company official on the third day of the protest), and that they simply notified the authorities of the unrest, the plaintiffs paint a very different story. This should prove to be a landmark precedent-setting case in the struggle to hold corporations accountable for their actions and abuses overseas, vindicating all people's right to justice. The case is being heard by Judge Susan Illston.

More information is available at:

(This is a good blog following the daily arguments)

(This blog focuses Chevron abuses around the world, including the current Bowoto case)

(Founded by Laura Livoti, this organization was a major driving force behind bringing this case to trial)

(Website run by Nigerian human rights activist Sowore Omoyele)

(Democracy Now previously released a documentary entitled Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship – you can read the full transcript online at http://www.democracynow.org/2003/7/11/transcript_of_drilling_and_killing_documentary)

(A very good article summarizing the opening arguments in San Francisco)

Also, Daniel Firger and Andrew Woods are blogging from the courtroom for the Huffington Post. See his updates at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-firger or http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-woods

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election thoughts on the eve of a new page in history for the US...