The Public Has Never Stopped a President from Going to War Before, But That Might Be About to Change with Syria

Last week we wrote about what you could do to stop the war in Syria. This week we can say—many Americans are taking the action needed to stop this war.

If we succeed, and it is still a very big if, it will be historic. We cannot remember when the American people stopped a war after a president said he wanted to bomb a country.

How close are we? The Washington Post reports that 180 members of the House of Representatives are leaning toward voting no on war. FireDogLake reports 216 are leaning toward no. Winning requires 217 votes. There are 151 undecided according to FDL. We need to solidify those who are leaning toward voting no on war and convince enough of the undecided votes to vote no. (Click here for an updated tally.)

The media is reporting that Congress is being flooded with phone calls and that at constituent meetings people are telling their representatives to vote no on war. Immediately after the President’s call for war, there were protests across the country. Hearings in Congress to authorize war were interrupted by protesters. Congress needs to hear from you: call 202-224-3121. Take part in a historic moment—stop a war!

Members of the Armed Services are speaking out against a war. Some are posting pictures on social media with messages like “I didn’t join the Navy to fight for Al Qaeda in a civil war” or “I did not join the Army to fight for Al Qaeda in Syria while my brothers and sisters are being killed by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.” Top military leaders leaked to the media their concerns about the war while intelligence officials also leaked their concerns about the shaky intelligence.

If we are successful in stopping an attack on Syria, it will teach the movement something very important. Movements need to be independent of the two parties to win. We need to be willing to push people from both parties to support our view and applaud people from both parties who do so. Or, as Martin Luther King Jr. explained: “I feel someone must remain in the position of non-alignment, so that he can look objectively at both parties and be the conscience of both—not the servant or master of either.”

The only reason the antiwar effort has a chance is because opposition is coming from across the political spectrum, and both Republicans and Democrats in the House oppose this war. Even the classified briefings are unconvincing.  

To have an impact in Congress, people from the right and left must join together. A local group in Oklahoma composed of socialists, progressives, liberals, libertarians, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats and independents who oppose war shows that it is possible. A national group, Come Home America (of which Kevin is a co-founder) has been working to build right-left opposition to war and militarism for several years. 

The leadership of both parties, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, support President Obama’s call for war, but the rank and file members, in reaction to their constituents, are listening to the people. Nancy Pelosi admits that she cannot guarantee a majority of Democrats will vote for war. 

And, they should be doing so. The Green Shadow Cabinet, of which we are members, is calling on Americans to make a pledge: "I pledge that I will not vote to reelect any member of Congress who votes for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Syria."

The Democrats who follow the mis-leadership of President Obama and Leader Pelosi and go against the views of vast majorities of Americans will ensure they are a shrinking minority in the House and will lose their majority in the Senate. They do not seem to realize how angry Americans are at the possibility of another war and that more people are aware of the lies that are told to foment war. Democrats who vote for war may find themselves out of a job after the next midterm election.

Another right-left coalition is developing around another issue where President Obama is leading in the wrong direction. He is pushing the secret globalization agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and is urging Congress to give him sole authority to negotiate it through “Fast Track.” 

The Constitution is a uniting element in Congress on both the war on Syria and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3, Congress is given the responsibility “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.” Just as with war, where the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 and they asserted that power when nearly 200 demanded Obama get congressional approval; when it comes to trade, Congress needs to assert itself and fulfill its constitutional mandate by refusing to allow Fast Track, holding hearings, listening to experts and citizens and making amendments to the proposed TPP.

As with a war on Syria, a bipartisan coalition is developing in Congress to stop Fast Track. For the Democrats, it is led by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro; for the Republicans, by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).  These members are seeking to reassert congressional responsibility over trade as the Constitution requires and argue that Congress should not concede its constitutional power to the President.

Jones and Bachmann are seeking the support of the House Republican caucus in a letter they are circulating, and DeLauro is seeking Democratic support. They are all aware of the secrecy over the past four years of negotiations—secret except for the more than 600 corporate advisers to the US Trade Representative for President Obama—and therefore Congress has not played its role “regulating trade” under the TPP.

Outside of Congress, we are also seeing views from across the political spectrum in opposition to the TPP. Mayor Bloomberg wrote an op-ed criticizing the TPP for risking U.S. public health and undermining our sovereignty. On the same day, Jim Hightower wrote an excellent report on the TPP calling it a “corporate coup d’état—against us.”

The TPP is a big deal, the largest trade agreement since the WTO, that will affect every aspect of our lives from the food we eat to whether water becomes a commodity; whether we have healthcare as a public good or whether workers get paid a fair wage, work in a safe environment or jobs leave the country; whether Big Banks and their economy-risking derivative deals are regulated to whether we have Internet freedom or a clean environment. The list goes on and on. The TPP is being negotiated with no checks and balances, and with the constitutionally mandated branch of government being virtually excluded.

As with stopping the war in Syria, stopping the global corporate coup of the TPP is possible. And it is possible because the movement is independent of the two parties and committed to the issues. An overarching issue for our movement is fair trade that puts people and planet before profits. But, to accomplish this, people must take action. On September 17, the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, protests are planned to push Congress to oppose Fast Track. There will be a training camp and protests in Washington, DC beginning on September 21. Space is limited, so register today.

There may be another right-left alliance coming up if President Obama is foolish enough to appoint Wall Street’s darling, Lawrence Summers to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Already we are hearing grumbling across the political spectrum and once again an independent movement that crosses the political spectrum and is the conscience and critic of both parties is the only way we will succeed in stopping this wrong direction. Ellen Brown has an excellent article linking Summers, the global economy and war on Syria.

All of these issues are pressing, but the war on Syria is the most imminent. There are so many reasons to oppose this war. There are lots of doubts about the intelligence alleging President Assad ordered the use of chemical weapons. There are reports of significant gaps in intelligence, alleged manipulation of intelligence by the administration and different information on who used the weapons with credible reports that it was the U.S.-supported rebels. There is also inconsistency between nations on what actually happened and how many people were killed. Americans have been lied to so often about war that many no longer trust the government. We realize that the situation in Syria is complicated and that dropping bombs is not a solution.

Americans have also seen how wars weaken the U.S. economy by costing hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars. Even President Obama’s plan of firing multi-million-dollar tomahawk missiles at Syria will be costly. The U.S. economy cannot afford another war. We have many pressing needs domestically. And evidence indicates that war against Syria is about profits for the wealthy; in this case, it might be about gas pipelines.

Americans have learned that once the bombs are dropped and the attacks begin, it becomes impossible to predict what will happen next. Reports indicate this may be a first step to a larger war and “mission creep” is always a real possibility in war. Retired Colonel Ann Wright, an Army and State Department veteran, points out the history of unexpected consequences of war.

When the Iraq war began, Americans were told we’d be treated as liberators in a six-month war and the oil in Iraq would pay for the war. No one predicted the devastating human consequences: that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would be killed, millions would be forced to flee their homes and millions more forced to flee their country, and that thousands of Americans would lose their lives and thousands more would be injured for life, with a record number of military suicides and more than a trillion in expenditures.

No one predicted the reputation of the United States would be tarnished by torture, incarceration without charges and civilian deaths. No doubt the United States created many enemies who will undermine our security for a generation or more.

There are serious warning signs that a military attack on Syria will have unpredictable consequences. As we pointed out in our last newsletter:

“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. 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. 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.”

Americans know the risks are high, and the effectiveness of an attack is questionable. There is no doubt that an attack on Syria would be illegal under international law.

There are more effective and legal ways to deter chemical weapon use by Syria. We recommend that the United States and other members of the Security Council refer this case to the International Criminal Court under the Chemical Weapons Protocol. This is what international law requires. If the U.S. worked within the framework of law, it would strengthen the rule of law by reinforcing both the ban on chemical weapons and the prohibition of military attack unless in self-defense or with Security Council approval. If President Obama took this path, he might finally be worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded.

We do not have space to report on the other excellent actions people are taking. Please look over the first few pages of to see what else is going on. There is one we want to highlight—the prisoners at Pelican Bay who began a hunger strike on July 8 ended it after making major gains. We applaud their impressive effort.

We urge you to act now to stop a war. It will be a historic moment when the people stop a President from bombing another country. Help make history happen. Do what you can to stop the war against Syria.

This article is produced by in conjunction with AlterNet. It is based on’s weekly newsletter reviewing the activities of the resistance movement.

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