Americans Don't Want A War in Syria—And They're Working Hard to Prevent One
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Elena Schweitzer
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While there is a lot going on, this week our primary focus is on stopping the war with Syria. In the last paragraph we provide links to other active issues in the resistance movement – there is a lot going on.
A few days ago it looked like the United States would already be bombing Syria by now, but enough hurdles have been put in front of the Obama administration and the United Kingdom that the war has not yet started. People are organizing to stop the mad dash to another unnecessary war that will have unpredictable and dangerous repercussions. Here is a list of protests planned this weekend to stop the war.
US public opposes war despite media propaganda
The war is not popular with Americans. In fact, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that only nine percent of Americans support a military attack on Syria. This makes a war on Syria even less popular than Congress. The poll was taken while reports of the chemical attack were in the news. There has been consistent propaganda for war on all the networks for months now, but the people are not buying it.
The corporate media is showing itself as a propaganda tool for the security state with its coverage of Syria. (Americans today are more aware of the long history of collusion between government and media.) The media rarely asks obvious questions about why Assad would use chemical weapons while UN inspectors were in the country or what advantage the use of such chemical weapons would have? On CNN’s new “Crossfire,” a program supposedly showing right and left political views, the two debaters both urged war with Syria. Commentator Van Jones, supposedly from the left, was particularly bad urging people to support Obama’s plans to go to war and describing the 1953 coup of Mohammed Mossadegh as one that removed a dictator – when the CIA-led coup in fact ended Iran’s move toward secular democracy.
Protests against the war are already beginning in the US and around the world. In London, where the Parliament was scheduled to vote on military action in Syria two days ago, the process has slowed and they will not debate the issue until after the UN acts. Hundreds hastily gathered to protest outside of the Prime Minister’s residence, and this Saturday the protests are expected to grow to thousands. The UK is seen as a critical partner for the Obama administration.
Popular Resistance called for people across the United States to self-organize protests. Multiple peace groups called for protests as well. We’ve seen reports of protests throughout the country and emergency protests against a military attack on Syria are planned for this Saturday. People are organizing on Facebook. Search for “No War With Syria [insert city]” or start your own page to get involved. In addition, here is a list of growing numbers of protests. There is a lot of power in people organizing themselves throughout the country. We all need to be leaders to stop this war.
Lots of Gaps in US Intelligence on the Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria
The media has been consistently reporting the views of Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Kerry, UN Ambassador Power and National Security Adviser Rice. All are urging an attack and serving as the choir singing that there is no doubt Assad used chemical weapons – when in fact there is plenty of doubt.
The media failed to report that in fact there are lots of gaps in U.S. intelligence including who ordered the use of chemical weapons and where those chemical weapons are now. A strike to remove chemical weapons cannot succeed if the US does not know where they are and can present additional dangers if the US spreads lethal chemicals through bombing.
Associated Press is reporting that President Obama provided no evidence to support the administration’s claim that the chemical weapons came from Assad. In fact, AP reports lots of doubts in the intelligence community, writing: “U.S. officials used the phrase ‘not a slam dunk’ to describe the intelligence picture — a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a ‘slam dunk’ — intelligence that turned out to be wrong.” The Iraq War disaster, based on false claims of WMD’s, is close enough in the memory of the media and the public that people are doubting the claims of Biden, Kerry, Power and Rice.
In addition, people who turn off the corporate media and think about the situation realize that the claim that Assad used chemical weapons makes no sense from Assad’s point of view. He has been defeating the rebel forces. Why would he take an action that would give the U.S. an excuse to enter the war? What was the strategic value of using chemical weapons against a small group of rebels that could have been defeated with conventional weapons? Who benefits from the chemical attack? Certainly not Assad.
Then there are the actions of the various parties after the chemical attack was made public. Assad provided access to UN inspectors within a day of being asked and, along with many, urged the US and UK to wait for the results of their investigation. Gareth Porter indicates that the US tried to derail the UN investigation and wanted to attack quickly before the results of their examination. Further, Syria has now asked the UN to investigate three new chemical attacks that it claims were made by US-allied rebel forces. Syria’s claims gain further legitimacy when it is remembered that the last time the US accused Assad of using chemical weapons, the UN investigators pointed their finger at the rebels, not Assad.
Americans have been lied into wars so often that many are skeptical of administration claims. In fact some dare to ask the terrible question: is the US drive for immediate war on Syria an effort to cover up a war crime by US-allied rebels?
War on Syria would be illegal without Congressional and UN approval
Domestic and international law on war is quite clear. In fact, both President Obama and Vice President Biden are on record – prior to holding their current offices – stating the law clearly. When he was running for president, Obama told the Boston Globe:
“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
“As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.
“As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J. Res. 23, which states in part that “any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.”
Vice President Biden, in a 2007 campaign event in Iowa, went further, not only stating clearly that the president does not have unilateral power to conduct military attacks but threatening impeachment of President Bush if he did so: “I made it clear to the president, if he takes this nation to war in Iran, without congressional approval — I will make it my business to impeach him.”
In the last two days, two letters signed by a total of 163 Members of Congress have been sent to Obama urging the White House to seek congressional approval before taking military action. One letter, organized by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) with 116 signers, including 18 Democrats, states: “Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat exists to the United States and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.” The signers conclude saying: “If you deem military action in Syria is necessary, Congress can reconvene at your request. We stand ready to come back into session, consider the facts before us, and share the burden of decisions made regarding US involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict.”
A second letter authored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) has 53 Democratic Party signers. This letter states: “Congress has the constitutional obligation and power to approve military force, even if the United States or its direct interests (such as its embassies) have not been attacked or threatened with an attack. As such, we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.” The letter concludes: “Before weighing the use of military force, Congress must fully debate and consider the facts and every alternative, as well as determine how best to end the violence and protect civilians.”
The Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States also called on President Obama to seek congressional approval before going to war, noting that under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the US Constitution, it is the Congress that determines whether the United States goes to war. They also note that “If President Obama launches an attack without prior explicit authorization by Congress, he will have committed an offense worthy of impeachment.”
In addition to domestic law, an attack on Syria will violate international law if it proceeds without the approval of the United Nations. The Green Shadow Cabinet points out that “attacking another country without UN approval is ‘the supreme international crime.’” This point is also made in the letter authored by Rep. Barbara Lee “We strongly support the work within the United Nations Security Council to build international consensus condemning the alleged use of chemical weapons and preparing an appropriate response; we should also allow the U.N. inspectors the space and time necessary to do their jobs, which are so crucial to ensuring accountability.”
There had been indications that the US and UK were planning to go ahead without UN approval and without waiting for the UN inspectors report on the chemical weapons. Prime Minister Cameron received push back from the Labor Party and has now requested a resolution from the UN Security Council and will not debate the issue until the UN makes a decision. If the UN Security Council rejects military action, it will make it more difficult – but not impossible – for the US and UK to take military action.
The repercussions of a military attack on Syria are unpredictable and dangerous
The Obama administration is reportedly considering a limited strike that would last two or three days that would not have as its goal regime change. Rather the goal would be to prevent further use of chemical weapons by Assad. However, even if that is their intent (and after the way the attack on Libya unfolded and turned into regime change, we do not assume that is really their intent), it does not mean the United States will be able to prevent escalation.
If Obama attacks Syria he will be putting gasoline on a fire already burning out of control. Syria has the ability to defend itself and attack US military vessels. Iran and Russia have already indicated they will be drawn into the conflict. How will this limited engagement escalate if US troops are attacked or a ship is hit?
Threats of retaliation are already being made and troop movements are occurring. Russia is moving two additional naval ships, a missile cruiser and a large anti-submarine vessel, into the Mediterranean to strengthen its presence in case of a US attack.
Russia and Saudi Arabia have exchanged threats over Syria. Russia threatening an attack on Saudi Arabia if the US attacks Syria with President Putin ordering a “massive military strike” against Saudi Arabia in the event that the West attacks Syria. Saudi Arabia is threatening Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia at the Olympics.
Iran, Syria and Hezbollah have threatened to retaliate against Israel and other US allies in the Middle East in the event of a US attack on Syria. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said western military action against Syria would be an “open violation” of international laws; further, “military action will bring great costs for the region.” Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, told the Tasnim news website, that an attack on Syria “means the immediate destruction of Israel.”
Obama could be starting a much larger war than he realizes and doing so without congressional or UN approval. Why would Obama take this tremendous risk? Shamus Cooke puts forward some important reasons: first, the rebels are winning and weakening Assad, several days of bombing will boost their efforts. Second, Obama will look weak if he fails to respond to the alleged crossing of his so-called “red line” without response. The US keeps its power through projecting strength and scaring other countries to keep them in line. Third, this is more than a battle against Syria, it is also a battle against Iran and Hezbollah as well as Russia, and Obama does not want them to become stronger. Finally, the US is losing ground in the rapidly changing Middle East and an attack on Syria would remind the region that the US Empire is not going away.
A full congressional debate as well as a debate in the UN Security Council will bring out some of the faults of the reasoning behind war with Syria; as well as escalate doubts about whether Assad is guilty of ordering a chemical weapon attack.
Beyond these reasons to oppose the war, US Labor Fight Back puts out others: “At a time when 27 million U.S. workers are unemployed or underemployed and severe cuts in social programs are being implemented under the sequestration, the Obama administration is focused instead on finalizing plans to unleash a bombing attack on Syria. We strongly believe that labor and our community partners should vehemently oppose such an attack.” The US faces many economic and other problems and while sequester and other budget cuts impact on everything from food stamps to housing and education; there seems to be no limit for war spending.
We agree with their demand: “Money for Jobs and Education, Not for Wars and Occupations! Hands Off Syria!” There are plenty of reasons to oppose this war and many allies who oppose it. While the Obama administration seems to be moving quickly, there is still time to stop this war.
The movement is active and effective on many fronts
There are lots of activities taking place on a wide range of issues across the nation and the globe. On PopularResistance.org we cover as much of this vibrant movement for change as we can. Just look back over the last few pages of stories on the site to see what is going on in the movement. Here are some quick highlights beyond all the action around Syria:
- Efforts to stop hydrofracking are continuing with nearly 1,000 protesters greeting Obama in NY, royalty in the UK is being exposed as fracking profiteers, the connection between fracking and earthquakes is resulting in litigation and a report on how fracking may already be in retreat.
- Multiple critical reports on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington including from Yvette Carnell of Your Black World, Cornell West on Black Agenda Report TV, peace activist Joe Lombardo, Food Not Bombs urging us to take direct action to realize The Dream and David Zirin describing how out of step the speakers were with the crowd who came to the march.
- Labor actions including Occupy Labor Day, nationwide fast food strikes, learning from Jobs With Justice on how to reach out beyond unions, wage theft of legal and illegal immigrants, migrant farm workers battling for dignity, a victory against Peabody/Patriot Coal and progress for WalMart workers who keep fighting for their rights even after they are fired.
- Challenges to oil and tar sands including polar bears redecorating a Shell refinery to stop arctic drilling, Greenpeace crashing Shell’s Formula One event, the dangers of tar sands sludge, solidarity with tar sands activists facing felonies in Michigan and how climate change is the cause of forest fires throughout the west.
- Reports on efforts to restore the Fourth Amendment and the Snowden leaks including the NSA spying on the UN, Obama’s dishonesty, his rubber stamp “review” of NSA spying, and what is really needed as well as the attack on the media shown by the detention of David Miranda and a new law proposed by Sen. Feinstein that only protects corporate journalists.
- Continued battles against militarism including closing Guantanamo, stopping drones, stopping the Navy Base on Jeju Island, releasing an American held prisoner in Iraq and protesting the war machine this October 7 in New York.
- How the Obama administration is terrorizing medial cannabis dispensaries and is not “yet” willing to change the medical marijuana laws but the Department of Justice will not challenge the legalization laws in Colorado and Washington.
- We’re also not forgetting the prison hunger strikers against solitary confinement in California as well as an upcoming nationwide day of protest for Marissa Alexander sentenced 20 years for firing a warning shot against an abusive husband.
- People are fighting for their schools. We were inspired by this speech by a nine year old in Chicago and this action by people in Philadelphia, students organizing around the nation; and people seeing through Obama’s rhetoric and inadequate plans for colleges; and here’s one chart that shows misplaced US priorities.
- And, ongoing coverage of the worldwide global summer of protests including the revolution in Egypt and how the people can end military rule as well as other actions around the world like the indigenous in Honduras reclaiming their land and nationwide protests in Colombia against “free trade.”
We also continue to cover Chelsea Manning. Her abhorrent 35 year sentence has us continuing to work for her release and for her to get the hormone therapy she needs. This week Tunisian activists let Chelsea know that her efforts made a giant difference in ending a dictator’s rule and spurring the Arab Spring. We recognize Manning put her life on the line for a better world, and will not forget her.
All of these issues are connected. They are all part of a corrupt economy and dysfunctional government that puts profits ahead of people and the planet. Be planning for actions this fall around the issue that connects them all – the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Jim Hightower calls a “corporate coup d’etat against us.” Sign up at www.FlushTheTPP.org to join the campaign to stop this corporate domination over every aspect of our lives.
There is a movement happening and we hope you are part of it. If not, get involved and if you are, get others involved. We will transform the world – together.