"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."


September 5, 2013

In a few days members of Congress will vote on a resolution that would authorize a military campaign against Syria.  The Washington Post has been canvassing Congress at this historic juncture, and as of last night not a single senator or representative from Western Washington has expressed an intention to vote to attack Syria.  The voters who elected them are overwhelmingly against any attack.  Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA 7th) is planning a town meeting Sunday evening to hear from his constituents (7:00 pm on Sun., Sept. 8, 2013, in the sanctuary at University Temple United Methodist Church, located at 1415 NE 43rd Street, Seattle [University District], Washington 98105); we urge his fellow representatives from Washington State to do the same.  Tomorrow members of United for Peace of Pierce County will have a personal meeting with Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA 6th) in Tacoma.  We will implore him, as we implore all these senators and representatives, to listen to their constituents and vote "No" on this resolution.

On August 21, a horrific crime against humanity occurred when, according to an "intelligence assessment" released by the U.S. a week later, more than a thousand civilians and many hundreds of children were killed by chemical weapons east of Damascus.  In recent days, the Obama administration has mounted a concerted campaign to convince Congress and the American public that the Assad regime is guilty and must be held accountable by the U.S.  This campaign is failing and it should fail.  We have examined the unclassified evidence, and it is too weak to support the administration's conclusion.  Expert analysts like John Glaser have reached the same conclusion.  We cannot penetrate the fog of war in Syria and know what is going on.  Still, we have found many reasons to doubt the U.S. case against Syria and to suspect that evidence is being manipulated and misrepresented.  These we have posted on our website, www.ufppc.org.

More fundamentally, though, the narrative about Syria that is advanced by the administration and echoed by the mainstream media is false.  Syria is not the site of a civil war merely; it has also been for two years now the site of a proxy war.  Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, with support from several European Union countries, the United States, Turkey, and Israel, are in an undeclared war against Iran and Russia, with support from Hezbollah and China.  At stake in this conflict are geopolitical interests that flow from Syria's central geographic position in the economy of energy.  Humanitarian arguments expressed by the parties involved are demonstrably subordinate to those interests.  People have figured this out, which is one of the reasons public opinion is so massively opposed to an attack on Syria.

But even if they believe that Syria has done what the U.S. accuses the Assad regime of doing, members of Congress should vote No on the resolution.  The U.S. should not bomb Syria.  As Rep. Alan Grayson has said, this is not our responsibility, it would be expensive, it would be dangerous, and it would be futile.  It would also be illegal under the United Nations Charter.

What former Senator William Fulbright called "the arrogance of power" has encouraged American leaders to stunt the growth of international institutions.  The U.S. no longer has the moral authority to police the world, if it ever did.  It is time to change course and foster the legitimacy of international institutions, as is contemplated by the Chemical Weapons Convention when it calls for the most serious violations to be met not with a military response but by referral to the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly.  This is not "doing nothing," it is the diplomatic option.  This is how the terrible events of Aug. 21 must be addressed.  This goes to the heart of the mission statement of United for Peace of Pierce County:  "We nonviolently oppose the reliance on military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."  If in 2003 the U.S. had submitted to the authority of the U.N. and desisted from invading Iraq after it failed to win Security Council authorization, hundreds of thousands who are now dead would be alive and the world would be better off.  We face a similar moment today.

An attack on Syria would be expensive, costing, it is said, a billion dollars that our budget-challenged government can ill afford.  More importantly, it would cost innocent lives lost in collateral damage.

An attack on Syria also would be dangerous and would certainly have dire unforeseen consequences.  Syria is a country with modern weaponry and powerful allies who are not without the means to respond to what is indisputably an act of war.  It is far from certain that the U.S. can confine its action to a short punitive operation.

Finally, an attack would do no good.  An American bombing campaign would not end the civil war or the proxy war in Syria.  Even if it weakened the brutal and unjust Assad regime, it would not further American interests in the region.  In fact, it would probably strengthen extremist factions in Syria's civil war: what better recruitment device than a U.S. attack?  There is no military solution to Syria's problems that the U.S. can provide.

In an already tragic international situation, American military intervention would lead to yet more bloodshed and chaos.

For too long Congress has shirked its responsibility as possessor of the United States Constitution's war power.  It has allowed an increasingly imperial presidency to usurp the war power in isolation from the authority of the representatives of the American people.  If Congress listens to the war-weary American people and summons the courage to turn away from war in Syria, this can be a watershed moment.  Not only can it provide a check to executive power as envisaged by the Constitution, but it can also begin a long-overdue revitalization of our faltering democracy.  Congress faces an historic choice.  Senators and representatives:  Listen to the voters who elected you!  Vote No!


"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."