CODEPINK and a coalition of 67 supporting organizations are pleased to announce the launch of a new national campaign to reel in U.S. wars and militarism: Divest from the War Machine. This campaign is designed to pressure financial institutions and individual investors to divest from the arms merchants that are making billions of dollars from the spread of militarism at home and abroad.
To mark this launch, CODEPINK, the Black Alliance for Peace, the Institute for Policy Studies, Peace Action, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and many other organizations, convened for a two-day summit in Washington, DC this past weekend.
The summit brought together foreign policy experts, researchers, veterans, present and former government officials, and a range of divestment activists to shed light on the current state of the U.S. military apparatus and examine the power of divestment as a tool to educate and mobilize the public around the out-of-control U.S. war machine.
Attendees left having committed to pledge to personally divest from the war economy and to work to cut their communities’ financial ties to war profiteers.
“It’s really the war economy that we need to end. Weapons are at the core of that, and the one group making a killing on killing is the weapons industry,” said CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans. “We realize we are up against a Congress and a White House that are indifferent to the needs of people and the planet. So how do we bring the cost of war home? How do we build a movement that’s powerful enough to stop the White House and Congress from keeping us in a state of endless war? One way is to divest. This divestment campaign will give local communities the tools they need to cut their financial ties to the war machine.”
Many of the discussions focused on what stories must be told to garner public support. Foreign policy expert William Hartung stressed the importance of puncturing arms manufacturers’ ability to present themselves as corporate patriots or simply high technology companies. This movement must shed light on their role in the killing and repression of people around the world, and expose them as the true merchants of death that they are. Black Alliance for Peace founder Ajamu Baraka stressed the importance of bringing the political and historical roots of U.S. war culture to the forefront of this campaign. Rather than reducing the struggle to a technical one focused on the movement of money, this campaign should seek to educate people about the perils of U.S. global hegemony.
The Summit highlighted the need to confront the pervasive war culture in the United States. Historian Vijay Prashad stated that the nation’s militarized, genocidal birth has solidified an acceptance for war and death in the U.S. and said, “the only way to confront a war economy is to confront a culture of war.” Keynote Speaker Larry Wilkerson, veteran of three wars and former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, said the nation faces a truly profound moment where it must decide whether to continue as an empire and collapse or choose to scale down into a lesser power. Amidst this state of chaos, the country is in dire need of a long-term, focused anti-war effort like the Divest from the War Machine campaign.
The Summit also touched on the importance of shaping a strong call for reinvestment, and speakers explored what conversion from a war economy to a peace economy would look like. This campaign will seek to inspire people to imagine a demilitarized system in which our investments support clean energy and the needs of our communities, and where the arms industry workforce is transitioned to work that is beneficial to society.
Representatives of other campaigns, such as those targeting the nuclear weapons industry, the fossil fuel industry, and companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine, spoke to the power and mechanics of divestment. Divestment has long been a way to galvanize diverse groups of people to action and is a major catalyst for coalition-building. And, as Susi Snyder of PAX and producer of the Don’t Bank on the Bomb Report said, “divestment is a long-term commitment but you can have really powerful short-term wins. And winning is fun.”
This campaign comes at a time when the world is suffering from unfettered U.S. militarism. The U.S. is engaged in seven active conflicts. President Trump inches closer to war with Iran and North Korea. U.S. arms companies dominate the global arms trade, and U.S.-supplied weapons are being used to kill civilians and cause mass destruction in Yemen. Worse yet, the U.S. provides military support to 73% of the world’s dictatorships. And the war machine continues to spread into as our streets, while Trump is loosening restraints on the transfer of military-grade weapons and equipment to U.S. police forces.
In order to circumvent a war-obsessed federal government, divestment is a tactic to return power to the hands of the public in order to create lasting change. This divestment movement is a way for the public to revoke its consent for the war machine by demanding that our communities, our churches, our universities, and our pension funds stop making a killing on killing. Ultimately, this campaign aims to build the peace movement, reel in the war economy, and cut our nation’s cultural ties to violence by cutting our communities’ financial ties to war.