America’s largest anti-nuclear and anti-war organization, Peace Action Network (PAN) is a fusion of two archaic Cold War peace groups: (a) the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE); and (b) the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign (FREEZE), initiated by Randall Forsberg‘s call to “freeze and reverse the nuclear arms race” in the early 1980s. In 1987, SANE and FREEZE merged to form SANE/FREEZE. Six years later the organization changed its name to Peace Action Network. PAN’s current Executive Director is Kevin Martin, who calls the United States “the world’s number-one weapons dealer” and demands that America “end its shameful status as arms merchant to the world.”
Together with its sister organizations — the Peace Action Education Fund and the Student Peace Action Network (SPAN) — Peace Action Network claims to have 100,000 members, 27 state affiliates, and more than 100 local chapters. “We organize our grassroots network to place pressure on Congress and the Administration through write-in campaigns, [I]nternet actions, citizens lobbying and direct action,” says PAN. “Through a close relationship with progressive members of Congress, we play a key role in devising strategies to move forward peace legislation …” Each year since 1996, PAN has produced a Congressional Voter Guide advising people on who they ought to support with their ballots.
In 1999 Peace Action Network helped establish the National Coalition for Peace and Justice, an umbrella uniting most of the major peace groups in the United States. That same year, PAN commemorated the 54th anniversary of America’s atomic attack on Nagasaki by staging the largest anti-nuclear demonstration in the history of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The rally was led by actor Martin Sheen.
Seven days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rania Masri, a National Board Member of Peace Action Network, wrote that any U.S. military action against Iraq would be unjustified because during the 1991 Gulf War American troops had “massacre[d]” more than 200,000 Iraqis. “And the massacre continues,” said Masri. “… Every day, approximately 150 Iraqi children under the age of five die due to the effects of sanctions.”
Less than three weeks later, on October 7, 2001, PAN issued this statement regarding America’s military retaliation against Afghanistan: “We urge the president … instead to seek an end to terrorism through international legal cooperation. Treating the heinous acts of September 11 as an act of war, and waging war in response, will only escalate the violence and loss of life. The terrorist attacks … were criminal acts. The perpetrators of the crimes should be brought to justice through the international legal system. … Terrorism will only be defeated by a long-term commitment to building democracy, respect for human rights, and economic and social development in impoverished areas of the world.” In summation, PAN exhorted Americans to seek “justice, not vengeance.”
Peace Action Network is a member of the Abolition 2000, After Downing Street, United for Peace and Justice, and Win Without War anti-war coalitions. As in its FREEZE / SANE days, PAN’s objective remains “the abolition of nuclear weapons” (i.e., American unilateral disarmament) and the establishment of a “peace-oriented economy”; PAN strongly favors a collectivist economic model.
To help spread its message, PAN has traditionally relied on the help of likeminded public figures. Honorees and guest speakers at PAN events over the years have included such notables as Jane Alexander, Ed Asner, Harry Belafonte, the late William Sloane Coffin, Judy Collins, Randall Forsberg, Tom Harkin, Jesse Jackson, Cynthia McKinney, and Peter Yarrow — to name just a few.
Peace Action recently initiated a Campaign for a New Foreign Policy, which exhorts the U.S. to cease its allegedly aggressive stance against the rest of the world, and to instead “support human rights and democracy,” “reduce the threat from weapons of mass destruction,” and “cooperate with the world community.” Among the organizations to endorse this campaign are: Action LA; American Friends Service Committee; Code Pink; the Feminist Majority Foundation; Friends for a Non-Violent World; Iraq Action Coalition; the League of United Latin American Citizens; the NACCP; the National Organization for Women; the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation; Pax Christi USA; Physicians for Social Responsibility; the Service Employees International Union; United for Peace and Justice; Veterans for Peace; Women Against Military Madness; Women Against War; Women’s Action for New Directions; and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Peace Action lists as its “Friends and Allies” the following organizations: Americans for Democratic Action, Democracy Rising, Department of Peace Campaign, Education for Peace in Iraq Center, Friends Committee for National Legislation, International Peace Bureau, National Priorities Project, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Ploughshares Fund, Progressive Democrats of America, Save Darfur Coalition, Traprock Peace Center, Union of Concerned Scientists, Win Without War, and Women’s Action for New Directions.
Peace Action’s advisory board includes such notables as Medea Benjamin, Phyllis Bennis, Julian Bond, David Cortright, Daniel Ellsberg, Thomas Gumbleton, Frances Fox Piven, Pete Seeger, and Cornel West.