ICJ Order to Halt the Invasion of Rafah Must Be Respected by All

In response to the International Court of Justice ruling ordering Israel to halt its Rafah offensive, Center for International Policy executive vice president Matt Duss issued the following statement:

“We call on all governments to respect and abide by the International Court of Justice’s order requiring a halt to the invasion of Rafah and to reopen the Rafah border crossing. We specifically call on the United States government to help enforce the order, which is consistent with its own stated position in support of a ceasefire and release of hostages, by halting the transfers of US arms that Israel is using in Rafah.

This historic step to uphold international law and the rights of civilians in conflict is unfortunately necessary in light of the failure of previous appeals to Israel to prevent mass civilian casualties and stop the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. As the Court issues its order, hundreds of thousands of people – many of them already displaced from other parts of the territory – are being driven from Rafah without a plan to ensure they receive the food, shelter and other basic necessities they need to survive.

We also reject all attempts to delegitimize, intimidate or penalize the ICJ or its officers. The security and rights of people around the world hang in the balance as the institutions tasked with upholding international humanitarian law perform their duties. Disagreements with ICJ or International Criminal Court actions may be expressed appropriately and challenged through the established processes, but attempting to undermine or criminalize the multilateral legal bodies that are a core part of the rules-based international system threatens essential US and global security interests.”

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Compassionate migration policies are also the right call politically

Catherine Ellis is a freelance journalist based in Colombia who focuses on migration and human rights. She also worked for an NGO assisting Venezuelan migrants near the Colombia-Venezuela border.

More than 7.7 million Venezuelans have left Venezuela over the last decade – a quarter of the population. The vast majority of those who have left, around 84 percent, have settled in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile. But difficulties in finding jobs, poor salaries and high costs of living have pushed some to pack their bags and set off once again, this time northwards towards the southern border of the United States. Politicians responding to these arrivals should resist the temptation to invoke overly restrictive measures, not only because they trample on the human rights of Venezuelans in desperate situations, but because compassionate migration policies can reduce the political salience of border arrivals, and benefit the U.S. both economically and morally.

Migration is as old as humanity, but the arrival of migrants to the southern border of the United States has been treated as a political crisis. A large wave of Venezuelan migrants arriving at the southern border over the past three years has fanned the flames – and been treated as a national crisis. In part, this is because the Republican governor of Texas has adopted a policy of shipping migrants further into the interior of the country, explicitly to burden social services in Democratic states far from the border.  As the Migration Policy Institute notes, in fiscal year 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered Venezuelans 266,000 times in the Mexico-US border, a more than five-fold increase in encounters from 2021. 

President Biden, after saying in 2020 he would restore the U.S.’ ‘historic role as a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers,’ has introduced some progressive policies. Yet immigration has become more of a political headache than he envisaged. At a campaign stop in Michigan on April 2nd, former President Donald Trump called migrants ‘animals.’ At a stop in Wisconsin later that day, former Trump called Venezuelans criminals, before promising to unleash a mass deportation programme of undocumented migrants if he wins reelection in November. According to a February 2024 Gallup poll, immigration is the US electorate’s number one concern, with 28 percent of Americans saying it was the issue most important to them, and Biden has been steadily peeling back his open-arms rhetoric.

President Biden has reportedly been mulling various options for temporary border closures to stem high numbers of migrants entering the country, after a bipartisan border deal collapsed in Congress in February. Republicans didn’t think the measures, which included proposals to give the President the power to shut down the border, went far enough.

On May 9, Biden announced new proposals to assess migrants at an initial asylum screening stage, instead of during the interview stage. This would allow some percentage of asylum seekers to be turned away by officers at the border much faster than under current rules, so long as the officers deem the asylum seeker a national security or public safety risk. As Maanvi Singh wrote in The Guardian, “The proposed rule that was released on Thursday would only affect about 2 to 3% of asylum seekers, by the administration’s estimation, based on historical data. It also aims to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist.”

While this change might reduce wait times at the border on the margin, it undermines long standing asylum norms, and is also unlikely to satisfy anyone in Washington, including some in the Democratic Party, who want more stringent action, including executive action to fix what they call a ‘broken immigration system.’

 

Waiting outside asylum

Curiously, border encounters have already been dropping this year, mildly appeasing those even within his own party who want stronger deterrence measures. In December 2023, there were 46,919 border encounters of Venezuelans but only 16,492 in March 2024, according to CBP figures. Before border hawks celebrate a slow rate of arrival as the result of punitive policies, it’s important to understand that at least some of the slowed arrival rate is because migrants haven’t stopped trying to get to the US, they’re simply stuck elsewhere.

When migrants do get to the U.S./Mexico border, they are stuck waiting for slow processing at legal entry points. Should the migrants get caught up immigration enforcement in Mexico, they may end up deported south, out of the country. Venezuelans bottlenecked in Mexico are stuck navigating the slow waiting times to secure an appointment via the CBP One app. This initiative, designed to incentivize entry at legal ports of entry along the US-Mexico border rather than crossing the border illegally, needs to process arrivals faster to more compassionately usher asylum seekers and migrants into the legal immigration process. When it works properly, the scheme allows migrants to enter the US while they wait for their immigration cases to be heard. When it does not, it leaves people vulnerable.

According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, this wait “impermissibly limits the right to seek asylum for many people and compels them to wait in foreseeably dangerous and inhumane conditions in Mexico.” Appointments can sometimes take weeks or months to get. Many Venezuelans, often with few financial resources, often sleep in the streets or rely on overflowing migrant shelters, becoming easy targets for criminal groups. There have been disturbing tales of kidnappings, robberies and sex trafficking by criminal groups using the migration crisis for lucrative financial gains. The Washington Office on Latin America, a group that promotes human rights in the region, has recommended ramping up the number of CBP appointments and ‘urgent walk ups,’ at ports of entry as well as more asylum officers immigration judges.

Beyond issues with processing, current US policy also depends on Mexico to help the crackdown on migration, with disturbing results. Checkpoints and patrols have surged throughout the country, and police are sending migrants on buses heading southwards, or demanding exorbitant bribes for letting them pass. Mexico and the US have also recently agreed on further steps to crackdown on illegal migration, including stricter measures at railways, buses and airports. “The teamwork is paying off,” John Kirby, the White House’s national security spokesman, told the press in April. Migrants now say it’s Mexico, not the Darien Gap, a notoriously dangerous stretch of jungle spanning the Colombia-Panama border, that they fear most.

 

Through the sky legally

Expanding legal pathways to enter the US could help reduce the risks for Venezuelans considering traversing the Darien and then Mexico. A humanitarian parole program, where Venezuelans – and Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans – are eligible for entry to the US if they find a sponsor and arrive by air, offered hope for many Venezuelans when it was introduced in 2022. By the end of February 2024, 94,000 Venezuelans had arrived in the US through this scheme. But for those with no links to the US, finding sponsors is a challenge.

For those already in the US, ensuring they can be financially independent helps them live more dignified lives. The Temporary Protection Status (TPS) policy, which was offered to some Venezuelans in 2021 and extended to almost half a million in September 2023, enables Venezuelans to support themselves while waiting for their immigration cases to be heard. Although it doesn’t give full residency or citizenship, it enables migrants to be self-sufficient, alleviating the squeeze on overflowing migrant shelters, reducing the financial strain on cities, and helping fill vacancies in sectors such as healthcare and construction.

Extending TPS even further would provide a way for more migrants to become financially independent and contribute to the US economy. A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office, estimated that the labor force is projected to grow by 5.2 million by 2033, mostly due to higher net migration. Because of this it estimates GDP will grow by about $7 trillion.

TPS has long been criticized by Donald Trump, saying it attracts more migrants. But past experience shows this is not the case. A 2022 study analyzing TPS designated countries of El Salvador and Honduras found it did not lead to increased unauthorized migration and actually reduced pressure on factors driving US-bound migration.

The study’s authors say money sent home in the form of remittances helps stem further migration flows. People receiving the money in Venezuela, or other South American countries where they are settled, can buy food, medicine and other basic necessities, disincentivizing them to leave. The study found remittances sent to TPS designated countries were substantially higher compared with those countries who didn’t have TPS and the scheme reduced both irregular migration, and asylum claims.

Migration is a story of humans uprooted from their lives, gambling that a long journey to somewhere else will be reward them with a more stable future than living in the precarious conditions that have come to mark their daily lives. The majority of Venezuelans aren’t arriving at the border because of ‘the American Dream,’ but due to an economic, political and humanitarian crisis in their home country that has propelled them to leave their homes, and in many cases their families. A compassionate approach to migration will let them arrive in the United States with a warm welcome, rather than razorwire.

Leading Environmental and Allied Organizations Champion New Climate Guidelines for Federal Purchases

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, environmental and allied organizations announced public support for the finalization of two proposed federal contracting rules: the Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule and the Sustainable Products Procurement Rule.

The Supplier Climate Risk and Resilience Proposal would mandate contractors with $50 million or more in annual contract obligations to disclose comprehensive greenhouse gas inventories and emissions reduction targets, while the Sustainable Products Procurement Proposal would require federal agencies to prioritize sustainable products unless justified otherwise in writing. These amendments signal a commitment to transparency, sustainability, and environmental stewardship within federal procurement practices.

Following the delivery of the letter, the White House announced that updates to the Federal Sustainable Products Procurement rule have been finalized. This is a welcome and positive development that enables sensible policies that leverage public purchasing power to address climate change. It represents a vehicle without which the government cannot fulfill its commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship in its fullest. Building on this development, we continue to urge the administration to finalize the proposed Federal Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule to improve and standardize greenhouse gas emissions reporting requirements for federal contractors.

Organizations issued the following statements:

“With greenhouse gas emissions not falling fast enough to meet U.S. commitments under the Paris Agreement, public policy will be essential to accelerating the decarbonization of our economy. There are many creative and ambitious policies being studied by both federal and state-level agencies – but all require better data to implement. The new proposed rules with the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council offer a way of gathering that data,” said Yong Kwon, Senior Policy Advisor at the Sierra Club.

“Contractors who seek profitable deals with government agencies should advance our climate goals and national security – not undermine them. We join in urging the DoD, GSA, and NASA administrators to finalize their proposed procurement rules and move us towards a more secure and resilient future,” said Hanna Homestead, Director of the Climate and Militarism Program at the Center for International Policy.

“Federal procurement policy must urgently address the climate crisis. The Sustainable Products Procurement Rule marks an important step, but it is vital the Biden administration finalizes the Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule as well. Disclosure is essential for the federal government and taxpayers to fully understand federal climate-related risks and opportunities. Pressure to abandon this rule must not prevail— the profits of large contractors and the fossil fuel industry cannot be prioritized over science-based climate policy,” said Elyse Schupak, climate and financial regulation policy advocate with Public Citizen’s Climate Program.

“The federal government has tremendous purchasing power, and thus a tremendous ability to shape the adoption of cleaner materials. These rules will help solidify emissions data transparency and Buy Clean principles for much of the government’s purchasing. The government cannot ignore this critical tool to align markets toward climate mitigation and help set the curve on the innovation and opportunities that will come from setting up cleaner markets and industries,” said Christina Theodoridi, Policy Director for Industry at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

READ THE LETTER:

Continue reading “Leading Environmental and Allied Organizations Champion New Climate Guidelines for Federal Purchases”

Letter from 101 NGOs Urging U.S. to Restore UNRWA Funding

President Joseph R. Biden
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

The Honorable Michael Johnson
Speaker of the House
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
Senate Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear President Biden, Speaker Johnson, and Leader Schumer, 

We, the undersigned 101 immigrant, refugee, human rights and humanitarian organizations, write to express our alarm and deep disappointment following Congress’s decision to reinforce and codify the Biden Administration’s suspension of U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the principal aid provider for millions of Palestinian refugees in Gaza and in the surrounding region. Suspending funding during a humanitarian catastrophe, widespread starvation and looming famine is a moral and strategic failure that abandons nearly two million displaced Palestinians during a period of extreme need. We call on Congress to urgently introduce and pass legislation and for the President to support reinstating funding to UNRWA.

For over six decades, the United States has been one of the strongest supporters of UNRWA, including its largest bilateral donor. Without U.S. support, UNRWA cannot effectively carry out its role as the largest humanitarian agency in the region. Currently, UNRWA is working to provide life-saving assistance to Palestinians in Gaza who are facing extreme malnutrition, starvation, and an outbreak of deadly diseases due to Israel’s ongoing bombing campaign and deprivation of aid. To date, over 34,000 Palestinians have been killed and tens of thousands more injured without access to functioning hospitals or appropriate medical care. The situation in Gaza is extraordinarily dire, and the need to ensure civilian protection and humanitarian relief is crucial. 

Cutting off funding to UNRWA completely erodes the international community’s ability to respond to one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. International NGOs and other UN organizations have repeatedly stated that they do not have the personnel, resources, or infrastructure to respond to the humanitarian needs in Gaza appropriately. Continuing UNRWA operations is imperative to address and alleviate the ongoing crisis. There is no debate that UNRWA’s ability to provide services, including food, water, medical assistance, and protection, is irreplaceable and essential to the survival of Palestinians in Gaza, especially now as famine is imminent. 

Furthermore, prohibiting funding to UNRWA not only affects Palestinians in Gaza, but also harms over three million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria who depend on its services for shelter, education, financial assistance, access to healthcare, and more. Palestinian refugees are excluded from receiving any protection or other assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is mandated to provide aid to all other refugees globally. Thus, UNRWA is the primary entity serving this population and has effectively been doing so since its establishment over 75 years ago. UNRWA’s unique experience, knowledge, and expertise within the region and with the Palestinian refugee population is indispensable.

Following allegations by Israeli officials that 12 members of UNWRA’s staff in Gaza had taken part in the October 7 attack against Israel, 16 countries–including the United States–halted their funding of the critical organization. UNRWA took immediate action in investigating the allegations and removed the accused staff. A newly released report following an independent review for the UN reveals that Israel has yet to provide any evidence to substantiate the initial claims. While investigations continue, Australia, Canada, Japan, the European Commission, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland France, and Germany have all recognized that UNRWA remains the only entity with capacity to ensure safe and effective delivery of aid and services in Gaza on the scale the current situation requires, and have resumed their funding.

UNRWA employees have risked their lives to fulfill their mission of providing aid during Israel’s continued bombardment in Gaza. As of April 24, 180 UNRWA staff members have been killed which is “the highest number of aid workers killed in the history of [the] organization in such a short time,” according to the Director-General of the U.N. office in Geneva. Due to the near-impossible circumstances, the Agency has struggled to provide food, medicine, and clean water to the approximately one million displaced Palestinians seeking refuge in or around 154 UNRWA shelters. Now, with the loss of vital funding from the United States, UNRWA’s humanitarian aid operations will inevitably collapse, and Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere will continue to suffer grave consequences. 

The United States should uphold its commitment to the human rights of the Palestinian people and resume its role as a strong supporter of UNRWA by passing legislation to reinstate funding to the humanitarian agency immediately. Failing to do so would be a moral stain on this Administration and Congress’s legacy.

 

Signed,

18 Million Rising
Acacia Center for Justice
ACCESS of WNY
African Communities Together
Al Otro Lado
Alliance of Baptists
American Baptist Churches USA, Bright Stars of Bethlehem
American Friends Service Committee
American Muslim Bar Association
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Americans for Peace Now
Amnesty International USA
Arab American Civic Council
Arab American Institute (AAI)
Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC)
Avaaz
Black Alliance For Just Immigration
Boat People SOS (BPSOS)
Border Butterflies Project
Bridges Faith Initiative
Carolina Peace Center
CASA
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies
Center for International Policy
Center for Security, Race and Rights
Center for Victims of Torture
Charity & Security Network
Church World Service
Civic Ark
Climate Refugees
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)
CommonDefense.us
Communities United for Status & Protection (CUSP)
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Demand Progress Action
Detention Watch Network
Disciples Center for Public Witness
Disciples Peace Fellowship
Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Washington DC
Emgage Action
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Every Campus A Refuge
Faith in Texas
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Haitian Bridge Alliance
Hindus for Human Rights
Hope Border Institute
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Immigrant Legal Resources Center
Immigrants Act Now
Immigration Law & Justice Network
Innovation Law Lab
International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)
Islamophobia Studies Center
Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Middle East Democracy Center
Minnesota Peace Project
MoveOn
MPower Change Action Fund
Muslim Advocates
Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC)
Muslim Justice League
Naser Immigration Law, LLC
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Iranian American Council Action
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
National Partnership for New Americans
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Nonviolent Peaceforce
Oasis Legal Services
Oxfam America
Palestine Legal
Peace Action
People’s Action
Presbyterian Church (USA), Office of Public Witness
Project ANAR
Project South
Refugee Congress
Refugees International
ReThinking Foreign Policy
RootsAction.org
South Asian SOAR
Tahirih Justice Center
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
United Church of Christ
Utah Health & Human Rights
We Are All America (WAAA)
Welcoming America
Win Without War
Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center
Witness at the Border
Women’s Refugee Commission

New Insensitive Munitions may pose lingering toxic threat

Hanna Homestead is the Director of the Climate and Militarism Program at the Center for International Policy.

In February, the Washington Post reported the story of Hind Rajab, a six year old Palestinian child who spent the last three hours of her life trapped in a car with seven dead members of her family, pleading for help. The family was following evacuation orders from the Israeli military when their car was targeted. An ambulance was then dispatched to rescue Hind with permission from Israeli authorities. Despite being clearly marked as a medical transport vehicle, radioing its location, and following the approved route provided by the Israeli military, the paramedics came under heavy fire. Further investigation by the Post found the destruction of the ambulance was “consistent with the use of a round fired by Israeli tanks, according to six munitions experts.” The fragment of a US-made 120mm tank-fired round was reportedly found near the charred vehicle, which had a visible foot-wide hole consistent with the exit of a tank projectile.

Given nearly two weeks had elapsed before it was safe to investigate the scene, experts could not definitively verify the fragment was directly involved in the strike. However, satellite imagery proved that Israeli tanks capable of firing 120mm rounds were in the area when the attack on the ambulance occurred. In December, the Biden Administration bypassed Congress – a highly controversial move – to approve the transfer of nearly 14,000 anti-tank 120mm MPAT rounds to Israel despite evidence of ongoing, indiscriminate, and systematic targeting of civilians.

The transfer of US-made explosive weapons, including 120mm MPAT rounds, 155mm artillery shells, and Mark-84 unguided bombs are playing a central role in the Israeli government’s genocidal efforts to “make Gaza uninhabitable,” resulting in Hind’s death as well as more than 30,000 civilians over the last six months. Even spent, the remains of the round poses a toxic risk. Explosive weapons contain chemicals and heavy metals that contaminate water and soil for generations, fueling displacement and food and economic insecurity that threatens regional and geopolitical stability. Both the detonation and production of explosive weapons contribute to severe and long-lasting-environmental contamination, resulting in direct deaths and civilian harm that continues long after the explosions occur. Recent Pentagon efforts to make munitions “safer” for military personnel not only downplay, but threaten to exacerbate these widespread toxic legacies.

Munitions, made in America

Within the US, the production of explosive weapons has resulted in massive amounts of pollution and ecological destruction. There are currently more than 40,000 military sites across US states and territories that are contaminated with toxic military waste and legacy explosives, creating significant and cascading public health challenges. The DoD has already spent more than $40 billion attempting to clean them up, and recent estimates by the Government Accountability Office found the DoD faces at least $91 billion in future environmental liability costs. Historically-marginalized populations are particularly at risk of harm from toxic contamination. Superfund sites are more likely to exist in low-income areas, and are correlated with lower life expectancy in the surrounding communities.

The US is currently in the process of ramping up explosive munitions production to continue arms transfers and to replenish depleted domestic weapons stockpiles after significant amounts of defense equipment were transferred to Ukraine and Israel over the last two years. Not only are production rates increasing significantly, but the DoD is transitioning from producing larger-caliber munitions containing legacy energetic materials (explosives, nominally TNT and RDX) to those made with “insensitive” high explosives (IHE), also referred to as insensitive munitions (IM). Insensitive munitions are designed to be less reactive to stimuli and therefore safer to transport and store, an understandable goal when stockpiling explosives. This function is perceived to be both necessary and advantageous by the DoD and members of Congress interested in producing a larger war reserve to avoid future stockpile depletion.

In December 2023, defense giant BAE Systems was awarded a DoD contract worth $8.8 billion to produce the insensitive high explosive IMX-101 to be used as a “safe and effective” replacement for TNT in new artillery rounds. IMX-101 is the main explosive fill used in new 155mm M795 projectile production – currently one of the most highly sought-after munitions – replacing the legacy 155mm M107 projectile. While the development of IMX-101 has been in the pipeline for decades, the increased demand for ammunition from Ukraine and Israel, as well as competition to modernize vis a vis China, has spurred Congress to “expedite” testing and oversight to hasten the production of weapons made with IHE.

While offering functional advantages, the full impact of insensitive munitions on human and ecological health is not yet known, and what data is available raises concerns. Experts infer that some of the chemical compositions of IHE are likely to differ considerably from legacy explosives in their properties, and “therefore, also in their effect and behavior in the environment.” Yet, the DoD maintains there is limited information in the literature regarding human toxicity and adverse health effects due to exposure to insensitive explosives, including IMX-101. It is also unclear how environmental assessments and data on IHE that do exist are evaluated or incorporated into ongoing IM manufacturing, training, and operational planning. While IM weapons have been described as a way the military can “have [its] cake and eat it, too,” a closer look at the development of the 155mm M795 projectile made with IMX-101 raises a number of concerns.

IMX-101 appeared on the scene in 2010, after being named one of “The 50 Best Inventions of 2010” by TIME Magazine for its promise to replace TNT as a “less dangerous explosive.” Early testing of IMX-101 weapons was fast-tracked from what’s typically a five-year test period to two, and did not include comprehensive assessments of the ecological toxicology of the compound or its residues resulting from its production or operational use. Qualification testing of 155mm projectiles made with IMX-101 generally focused on the weapon’s performance, showcasing how IM projectiles can withstand various catalysts while maintaining lethality when deployed as intended. The results were published along with DoD assurances that “IMX-101 and its ingredients were found to be less toxic than RDX and the IMX-101 detonation products were calculated to be benign.” However, research conducted at the DoD’s Picatinny Arsenal used to certify the low-risk profile of IMX-101 shells has since been retracted due to inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the data. The original DoD 2009 study (no longer publicly available) indicated over 99.99% of all energetic material was destroyed during detonation, signifying the munition did not pose a contamination risk.

Eight years later, subsequent field experiments funded by the DoD Environmental Restoration Program demonstrated that in fact, over 30% of some energetic compounds remain after detonation – meaning the IM shell poses a significantly higher risk of environmental contamination than originally reported. Further DoD research has shown IM munitions deposit more residues than legacy explosives. These residues can persist in the environment for long periods of time following detonation, as research has indicated “the half-life of munition particles was estimated to range between 66 and 228 years for IMX-101.” A revised 2019 toxicology assessment of IMX-101 released by the US Army Public Health Center also points to a number of primary adverse health and reproductive effects on animal and plant life following exposure to IMX-101 compounds and recommends further testing, noting the DoD’s lack of comprehensive and long-term studies on IMX’s human and ecological toxicity. Numerous researchers have since published findings on the toxic effects of IMX-101 and its degraded residues – including their potential to have greater contamination risks than TNT or RDX.

Additionally, while research shows the “dud” rates for IM munitions do not differ significantly from legacy explosives, the DoD’s Defense Systems Analysis Center has indicated the disposal of unexploded ordnance (UXO) made with IHE, like IMX-101, may require up to 400% more explosives than legacy munitions given their “insensitive” characteristic. This carries significant implications for post-conflict remediation of unexploded ordnance and pollution of military testing sites. UXO must be removed and detonated, otherwise they degrade and leak poison indefinitely, irreversibly contaminating soil and groundwater.

The challenge of UXO removal is of particular concern in Gaza due Israel’s excessive bombing in urban settings, where munitions experts say there is a higher rate of failed detonation. The use of IMX-101 munitions, including the thousands of 155mm M795 projectiles the US is currently supplying to Israel, has the potential to significantly increase the cost of environmental remediation which is already expected to require tens of billions of dollars and take many years to complete. Environmental justice, including the remediation of ecological damage caused by Israel’s heavy bombardment and ongoing siege, will be critical to the safe return of displaced Palestinians to Gaza and to lasting regional peace.

Despite mounting evidence of the need for greater oversight over insensitive munitions modernization, Congress has continued to loosen the reins. The FY 2024 NDAA passed in December established a new Joint Energetics Transition Office within the DoD to “expedite testing, evaluation, and acquisition” of “new” energetic materials. Military personnel in charge of procurement report they have “a lot of freedom to maneuver now” due to the new programs Congress has authorized.

Aftermathematics

The expedited approval and production of new insensitive munitions without adequate understanding, transparency, or planning in regard to their toxicity or long-term contamination risks comes as research is revealing the extensive impact of legacy RDX and TNT contamination on human health and the environment. For decades, the DoD fought against environmental oversight, claiming “environmental cleanups would come at the expense of the safety of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

According to ProPublica reporting, when the US went to war in Iraq in 2003, top Pentagon officials led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attempted to shield the DoD from nearly all environmental oversight measures to preserve “readiness.” Though these efforts failed, throughout the following years the Pentagon sought to undermine accountability for pollution caused by weapons production, including funding and publishing studies downplaying the health and ecological risks of producing legacy explosives. Today’s focus on weapon’s modernization at the expense of adequate environmental testing sounds eerily familiar. In addition to expediting IMX-101 production, the FY2024 NDAA included authorization for the Pentagon to test warheads and propellants using the insensitive energetic material CL20, despite a 2007 DoD study indicating CL-20 residues likely pose a significant toxic ecological risk.

Efforts to clean up contamination caused by legacy weapon’s production and testing are currently underway within the United States, thanks to the persistent organizing of frontline communities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced an additional $1 billion in new Superfund program funding, which includes military sites. Other types of military-related pollution such as radiation exposure due to nuclear weapons development and testing and PFAS contamination are also being recognized as serious public health concerns. Veterans who were exposed to toxic substances from burn pits, which include UXO disposal, are finally being provided with health benefits after decades of denied claims. While much more still needs to be done domestically, there are currently no legal requirements to address toxic legacies of war abroad caused by US weapons that are deployed directly by US troops or transferred abroad. Americans rarely have insights into the devastating and destabilizing long-term effects these weapons have on foreign populations.

The DoD procurement decisions being made today will have long-term, global impacts. Congress must realistically assess the risks of IM procurement and deployment in order to make an accurate judgment on if the marginal tactical advantages outweigh the human, moral, geopolitical, and financial costs of ecological destruction. Further, Congress should take proactive steps to ensure the comprehensive health effects are accurately assessed and publicly disclosed. The production of IM munitions must not continue the destructive history of legacy explosive contaminants – which will impact affected communities in the US and internationally for decades, and potentially permanently. Congressional oversight is especially important now as the Supreme Court is likely to overturn Chevron deference this year, limiting the EPA’s ability to regulate and mitigate pollution harms.

The US also has a terrible track record in regard to remediating environmental war contamination.

Given that available data show that insensitive munitions may be more difficult, expensive, and environmentally harmful to dispose of (potentially requiring 400% more explosives to detonate), Congress should ensure this information is incorporated and budgeted for in post-conflict remediation planning. Considering the US Army’s poor history with UXO disposal via burn pits in the past, Congress should ensure that the Pentagon plans for IMX UXOs before deployment and adopts principles for assisting victims of toxic remnants of war into their operating policies. This matters immediately, from the first responders making perilous rescue runs the moment the guns are silenced. And it matters long term, as bomb disposal crews clean up and people return to make a life out of the rubble.

For too long, the true human and ecological costs of war have been excluded from foreign policy discourse. Weapons are ultimately made for one purpose: to kill. “Insensitive” munitions are no different; their use inevitably contributes to the destruction of each other’s children, our communities, and the biodiversity of our earth on which all life depends. The toxic ecological effects of these weapons must not be regarded as externalities or secondary to their battlefield functionality; environmental contamination negatively impacts conditions for long-term peace and global security and should be included in a realistic accounting of the costs of war. Ultimately, the best way to avoid these horrors – from mass death to environmental degradation to unexploded ordnance – is for policymakers to abide by and uphold human rights, and commit to resolving political disputes through diplomatic means.

CIP Analysis of New Congressional Ukraine and Israel Aid Proposals

We are hopeful that Congress will finally provide long overdue aid to help the people of Ukraine repel Russia’s illegal invasion. With Ukraine’s financial and critical military resources nearly exhausted, this US assistance is vital to preventing Vladimir Putin from achieving his goal of destroying Ukrainian independence and democracy.

In contrast to Ukraine’s demonstrated need for funds to counter conquest and occupation by an expansionist nuclear power, the effort to provide billions of dollars in new American taxpayer funding for weapons to Israel to use in its devastating campaign in Gaza is not militarily, financially or strategically justified.

While Israel has the right and responsibility to defend its people and take military action in response to Hamas’ horrific October 7, 2023 attack, Israel’s campaign in Gaza is failing to achieve its own stated objectives of rescuing the Israelis taken hostage or “eliminating” Hamas from the territory. Instead, Israel’s disproportionate bombardment and siege of the territory with US weapons has resulted in more than 30,000 deaths – two-thirds of which Israel itself estimates are civilians – nearly half of them children.

Despite calls by American lawmakers for meaningful conditions on US military assistance to prevent Israel’s continued use of US arms in a manner that President Biden himself has twice called “indiscriminate,” the stand-alone Israel aid bill being considered by the House of Representatives not only fails to include any such safeguards, but would reduce already insufficient opportunities for Congressional oversight of weapons sales to Israel under federal law. The White House’s issuance of National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM-20) requiring foreign military aid recipients like Israel to adhere to relevant international humanitarian and US law was a step in the right direction, but not a sufficient replacement for durable, statutorily binding safeguards – especially in light of the Biden administration’s resistance to enforcing either existing law or, thus far, NSM-20 with regard to Israel.

With a per capita GDP greater than that of the UK, Canada and Japan – and more than twelve times that of Ukraine — Israel has not made the case to Congress or American taxpayers that it will be unable to carry out essential, legitimate defense activities without the level of financial assistance specified in the bill. Such extraordinary additional subsidization is especially inappropriate in light of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government continuing to spend Israel’s own funds in connection with accelerating efforts to seize and permanently control territory in the occupied West Bank, including the largest expropriation of Palestinian land in the 30 years since the Oslo Accords. Helping Israel finance missile and air defense systems if it was unable to pay for them itself would be entirely reasonable. But providing ever-increasing amounts to fund the deadly munitions and other weapons Israel is deploying in Gaza is not. While Israel openly rejects US requests to use such arms appropriately, desist from violations of Palestinian rights in the West Bank, and refrain from further escalations with Iran, increasing US financing rewards rather than disincentivizes such Israeli actions that run counter to American interests.

Additionally, as Gaza’s civilian population faces a crisis of starvation and disease, the Israel aid bill unconscionably reinforces the recently legislated prohibition on US contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – the main provider of lifesaving aid and services in the territory — even as it provides a welcome increase in global humanitarian aid. UNRWA has already fired the 12 low-level staff alleged to have participated in the October 7 attacks and has committed to helping hold them fully accountable if the ongoing investigation confirms the allegations. Lawmakers should work urgently to reverse the funding cutoff as nearly all US partner countries have, rather than continuing to collectively punish millions of Palestinians who rely on UNRWA services, including the hundreds of thousands on the brink of famine in Gaza.

Far from addressing the growing threat to American and regional security that the war and humanitarian crisis in Gaza represent, the stand-alone Israel aid bill would cruelly exacerbate it at the very moment further Israeli escalation with Iran risks drawing the United States even deeper into another costly and avoidable quagmire in the Middle East. At this dangerous moment, lawmakers could best keep Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region — including US personnel — safe by pushing for a Gaza ceasefire that allows for massive humanitarian relief and the release of all hostages, while emphasizing the need for de-escalation in tensions with Iran.

Broad-Based Coalition Urges Federal Contractor Climate Disclosure Requirements To Close the Military Emissions Reporting Gap

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Center for International Policy joined 22 foreign policy, climate and grassroots organizations calling on Biden administration officials to urgently finalize the proposed Federal Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule to establish standardized greenhouse gas and climate-risk reporting regulations for federal contractors, including military contractors.

“Improving emissions reporting is widely supported – the Department of Defense itself is one of the three federal agencies who proposed the new requirements,” said CIP’s Climate and Militarism Program Director Hanna Homestead. “While more must be done to decarbonize and demilitarize US foreign policy, the proposed rule is an important first step towards accounting for and mitigating the military’s climate impact.”

Amid growing concerns about the unfolding climate crisis from the public, frontline communities, and cross-cutting experts, significant gaps in information about how US government contractors contribute to the problem prevent accountability and actionable solutions.

“A key way the US government can protect national security is to stop funding corporations driving the climate crisis without accountability,” added Homestead. We cannot address climate change – our greatest collective global threat — as long as defense contractors are allowed to pollute with impunity, contributing to the very instability we say we wish to solve.” 

The United States has contributed the largest share of global greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change today. While military contractors receive the bulk of federal procurement spending and emit more carbon pollution than the Pentagon, they are not currently required to comprehensively report on their carbon footprints.  

Download the letter here (with citations). Text of the letter is below.

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March 26, 2024

The Honorable Bill Nelson
Administrator
NASA
300 Hidden Figures Way SW
Washington, DC 20546

The Honorable Lloyd J. Austin III
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

The Honorable Robin Carnahan
Administrator
General Services Administration
1800 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20405

Dear Secretary Austin, Administrator Carnahan, and Administrator Nelson,

We write on behalf of a diverse coalition of foreign policy, peace, and grassroots organizations to express our strong support for finalizing the proposed Federal Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule in a timely manner. This rule will establish a solid foundation to inform and strengthen the federal government’s carbon emissions mitigation efforts in line with President Biden’s whole-of-government effort to combat the climate crisis. We applaud your efforts to improve federal contractor transparency, taxpayer oversight, and national and global security by prioritizing effective, publicly-supported action to address the climate crisis. In keeping with your proposal, we look forward to seeing this rule finalized expeditiously.

The adverse effects of climate change, which are already being felt, pose significant challenges to national and global security. According to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, “Today, no nation can find lasting security without addressing the climate crisis. We face all kinds of threats in our line of work, but few of them truly deserve to be called existential. The climate crisis does.” To avoid the worst effects of a warming planet, the consensus within scientific and security communities is clear: we must take urgent action to significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, the ultimate drivers of climate change.

The proposed Federal Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule would advance this goal by requiring the largest federal contractors to disclose their Scope 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas emissions, their climate-related risk assessments, and their science-based emissions reduction targets. Improved disclosure and standardization of greenhouse gas emissions reporting is critical to mitigating the federal government’s carbon footprint, and military emissions in particular. The Pentagon is the world’s largest oil consumer, accounting for approximately 80 percent of federal energy use. The top defense contractors, together, are estimated to emit even more carbon pollution than the Pentagon but are not currently required to comprehensively disclose their emissions. Defense contractors are also the largest recipients of federal procurement spending – totaling more than $466 billion in 2023., While greater action must be taken to reduce the military’s overall ecological impact, closing the gap in military emissions reporting is a critical first step to adopting a meaningful climate change mitigation strategy for a more secure and resilient future.

In addition to the Pentagon’s own interests in tracking and reducing greenhouse gas emissions among defense contractors, the American public overwhelmingly supports greater climate action. Two-thirds of adults say large businesses and corporations are doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change and 56 percent believe federal government action on climate change is insufficient. Accordingly, public comments on the Federal Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule were overwhelmingly positive. Diverse comments from the private and public sectors show that the proposed rule will help the federal government address informational gaps on climate-related financial risk and plan against threats to economic and national security posed by global warming. The comments highlight the rule’s long-run cost savings for taxpayers and the perils of ignoring the environmental transition risks of climate change in the federal procurement process. Attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia, as well as legal experts in academia and various non-governmental organizations, affirm the rule’s strong legal basis. In contrast, opposition to the rule is being driven primarily by corporations and trade associations representing carbon-intensive industries, including the American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, who face reputational risks from enhanced climate disclosure requirements. We must not allow these firms to further jeopardize our collective health and security in order to maintain their own short-sighted profitability.

The fossil fuel and defense industries should not overrule public interest, scientific consensus, and security expertise by dictating government policy. Contractors who seek lucrative deals with government agencies must advance our climate, economic, and national security interests – not undermine them. This rule signifies progress towards achieving President Biden’s goal of reaching a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, in keeping with the Paris Agreement, and the Administration’s commitment to “meeting the moment” by taking urgent action to address the climate crisis both at home and abroad., We therefore urge you to finalize and publish the Federal Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule in a timely manner.

Signed,

350.org
American Friends Service Committee
Center for International Policy
Climate Crisis & Militarism Project, Veterans For Peace
Climate Generation
Climate Hawks Vote
Common Defense
Elders Climate Action
Foreign Policy for America
Foreign Policy In Focus
Freedom Forward
Georgia WAND Education Fund, Inc.
MADRE
MPower Change
National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
Presente.org
RootsAction.org
Sierra Club
The People’s Justice Council
Union of Concerned Scientists
Veterans For Peace
Win Without War
Women for Weapons Trade Transparency

The threat of space war is already here

What will happen when war comes to the heavens? Orbit, the most immediately useful part of space, is already a military domain, housing constellations of satellites that relay communications, observing the earth below, and creating useful data on the whole of the world. These military satellites are joined by commercial and scientific satellites, connecting the world and offering a host of useful services to people and companies on the planet below.

Multiple nations have successfully destroyed their own de-orbiting satellites with missiles fired from earth, and the possibility persists that a nation may attack the satellites of another during wartime.

As Dr. Joanna Rozpedowski, senior non resident fellow at CIP, writes for the Geopolitical Monitor:

Every terrestrial war is now simultaneously a space and cyber war requiring identification and active monitoring of threats from space assets and threats to space assets from rival states. In the US Department of Defense assessment, China and Russia in particular pose significant risks to space assets through various means such as cyber warfare, electronic attacks, and ground-to-orbit missiles capable of destroying satellites and space-to-space orbital engagement systems, thus disrupting civilian infrastructure on earth. This has prompted the United States to allocate substantial resources to bolster its Space Forces, with budgetary allocations to the space domain doubling from $15.4 billion to $30.3 billion between 2021 and 2024.

Orbit is shared by commercial satellites alongside military ones, and many commercial satellite products, like images of earth from above, can be purchased by private individuals and organizations.Commercial satellites can, in a pinch, end up providing data used to military ends, as forces risk communication over a commercial network, or make plans based on satellite imagery bought for reconnaissance.

Continues Rozpedowski:

Private actors must thus increasingly reckon with the unintended consequences of detailed satellite ad hoc data sharing in active conflict zones in high-demand data environments. Navigating these complexities will require international cooperation, technological innovation, and a careful consideration of ethical and political implications as well as the provision of legal guardrails to avoid the appearance of bias and undue politicization.

The existing international treaties governing space date to the middle of last century, in effect but out of date regarding present realities. Read more from Rozpedowski about the challenges of potential armed conflict in orbit.

CIP Response to the 2024 State of the Union

Matt Duss is the Executive Vice President of the Center for International Policy

On foreign policy, President Biden’s State of the Union last night didn’t give us too much to work with. He did come right out of the gate strong, talking about Ukraine. I can’t remember the last time a president opened the State of the Union talking about foreign policy, but it really served to underline the urgency of the need to pass the Ukraine aid package which has been stalled in Congress for months.

The section on the Gaza war was unfortunately as expected. Yesterday’s announcement of the building of a Gaza port to facilitate humanitarian aid shouldn’t be dismissed  – more aid for Palestinians on the brink of starvation is obviously good. But as with the airdropping of aid it just reveals the incoherence of U.S. policy right now, in which we’re trying to ease Palestinian suffering while continuing to unconditionally arm and support the government that is intentionally inflicting that suffering.

The president seems to recognize that ultimately this conflict will require a political solution, but is still unwilling to bring the full weight of America’s considerable leverage to that goal. Biden’s potted history of the conflict didn’t help. Hamas’ atrocities on October 7 were obviously the precipitating event, but this war did not begin on October 7. It has been waged against the Palestinians every day for years in the form of a violent and humiliating military occupation. Any effort to bring this conflict to a just resolution will need to confront that reality, and Biden seems unprepared to do that.

On the bright side, Biden took what I think is exactly the right approach on his administration’s biggest foreign policy priority: China. He basically told everybody to chill out about it, he’s got this. This isn’t dismissing the challenge, he hasn’t done that, but I think taking a less hysterical approach is something that will lead to a more rational discussion and better, more effective policy.

On immigration, a key goal must be tackling root causes, such as corruption and violence, in US-Latin America policy. The president unfortunately allowed himself to be drawn into a back and forth with Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green over the murder of Laken Riley, a 22 year old Georgia nursing student who was murdered by an undocumented migrant who had been released into the country after being detained. Biden’s statement that Riley had been “killed by an illegal” was a misstep that plays right into the right’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, which is unfortunately in keeping with his general approach to immigration lately, where he’s been willing to tack right and offer some pretty dangerous concessions to try and save the Ukraine aid package. But many of the principles and values at stake at our border are the same ones at stake in Ukraine: human safety and dignity, a commitment to international law. It’s wrong to think we can promote one while selling out the other.

But the bottom line is there just wasn’t much foreign policy in it at all. A few paragraphs in a nearly 90 minute speech. And that reflects his administration’s approach: they would like to talk about foreign policy as little as possible. President Biden has a strong case to make in terms of his administration’s domestic accomplishments. They’ve been able to get important things done that are showing huge benefits to the American people. He has a similar opportunity to advance a foreign policy agenda that improves the lives of Americans and global populations alike. Given that foreign policy is clearly going to be a much bigger issue in this election than anyone expected, I think it was a missed opportunity to stake out a bolder vision.

 

What we’d love to hear President Biden say on Foreign Policy in his State of the Union address

In February 2021, in his first major foreign policy address as president, Biden declared the US must engage with the world “with diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.”

Since then, the President has made some significant progress: restoring alliances, leading a strong and calibrated response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ending the US war in Afghanistan, attacking the corruption and violence in Latin America fueling the migration crisis. But he must finish the job.

In his State of the Union address tonight, here are five (of many) opportunities for what President Joe Biden could say if he wants to show Congress, the American people and the world that he is serious about advancing true US interests and global human security:

 

  1. There must be a ceasefire, return of all Israeli hostages and massive emergency humanitarian aid effort in Gaza. Furthermore, this administration can and must fully enforce relevant US and international law to ensure protection of civilians from indiscriminate bombardment, starvation and disease.
  2. The US response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine offers a positive case study for US engagement with the world in a way that honors our principles and advances security – but universality and consistency are necessary to safeguard the benefits. President Biden will be right to call on right-wing extremists in Congress to end their obstruction of aid to Ukraine – desperately needed aid, replete with the transparency and accountability mechanisms necessary to ensure the American public and the world can scrutinize its rightful use. Consistent adherence to international law will only strengthen his case.
  3. China and our allies in Asia alike must know that Americans’ highest aspirations for the Pacific are that the world’s most populous region be one of peace, prosperity and unlimited potential. The US-China relationship is not zero-sum. Tensions are inevitable, but escalation and war are a choice. While we will never shy away from defending the democratic and human rights of all in the region, our priority is to coexist and cooperate on our many areas of shared interest.
  4. The man-made climate crisis is here. The only reasonable discussion to have is how to minimize and mitigate it effectively and fairly – that means we and international partners must commitment to aggressive multilateral carbon reduction goals, massive public investment in a just and sustainable transition away from fossil fuels – including breaking the harmful feedback loop between militarism and climate change – and the equitable sharing of burdens of climate and other ecological change impacts.
  5. We must make clear that the survival of not only democracy around the globe, but the American experiment itself depends on whether we succeed in countering rising ultranationalism, autocracy, kleptocracy, oligarchy and corruption – as well as the inherent inequality, discrimination, repression and economic precarity that comes with them.

The President has an opportunity tonight to demonstrate that he is the leader that the people of this and other nations want and deserve – the leader that earned him praise and support in years past. To do that, we must stop repeating the failures of the past, especially when it comes to foreign policy.