Why do we oppose US bombing of Syria?
1. It’s illegal!
a. No matter how hard the Administration tries to spin it, the US is not under imminent threat of military attack from the Assad regime. Under Article 51 of the UN Charter, that’s an illegal use of force, no matter what Congress says.
b. There is no lawful justification for the US self-annointment as the unilateral policeperson of the world when it comes to chemical weapons.
2. It’s immoral!
a. Secretary of State Kerry may be correct in declaring the use of chemical weapons a “moral obscenity.” But the unprovoked launching of cruise missiles or other weapons that are bound to kill additional civilians is as well.
b. Taken on its own terms, Obama claims that the “limited strikes” the Administration envisages are designed to degrade the Assad regime’s capacity, but not overthrow it. Thus, the Obama Administration is signaling to the opposition that continued military actions are increasingly likely to bring about their ultimate triumph, encouraging the prolongation of the civil war rather than a negotiated solution.
c. If the Assad regime’s military capacities are degraded significantly by US strikes, it will have every incentive to increase the violence it is willing to inflict so as to restore the status quo ante. In other words, the probable effect of military action will be to incentivize the Assad regime to use every means possible to shore up its position.
3. It’s dangerous!
a. The US is banking on the inability of the Assad regime to be unable or unwilling to retaliate. If faced with a serious prospect of losing the war, there is a significant risk that the Assad regime or its backers will target the US or its allies.
b. Russia, Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah have all made significant investments in supporting the Assad regime. Any of them may decide to retaliate for their own reasons.
c. Non-state actors could act on their own to retaliate.
d. The web of alliances that both the Assad government and the anti-government forces have woven represent a new factor: the possibility of region-wide war.
e. The current version of the resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria is wide open to its use by the President as an authorization for endless war everywhere in the world.
4. It’s stupid!
a. The lesson that North Korea, Iran and the rest of the world have had rubbed in their face by Obama’s call for bombing in Syria and actual bombings in Libya is that the only way to deter US violence against a regime deemed unworthy is to possess nuclear weapons.
b. In spite of his current denial of intent to unseat Assad, President Obama has previously stated that his goal is removal of the Assad regime. Even if he says that’s not his goal now, the results of military action are unpredictable, and may lead to collapse of the Assad regime.
c. Saudi Arabia, a country where women are forbidden to drive purportedly on religious grounds, is the opposition’s chief backer. It is not aligned with the moderate constitutional wing of the opposition coalition. Should Assad be overthrown by American military efforts, a Salafist regime a la the Taliban is a real possibility.
5. It’s the worst continuation of Bush unilateralism.
a. All pretense that the US can and should work with the “international community” has been discarded, as the Arab League, Great Britain, Doctors Without Borders and the rest of the world have overwhelmingly pronounced themselves opposed to the projected bombing.
b. The Obama Administration has overtly snubbed the UN in a manner that not even Bush attempted. Even the hapless presentation by Colin Powell was made to the UN. Obama and Kerry not only can’t be bothered with trying to seek UN approval, they announce their decision to bomb before the UN has completed its investigation to verify the use of chemical weapons. Another investigation will then be required to determine, if possible, who used them.
c. American “credibility” is used in the same sense that Michael Corleone would talk about “credibility.” Is the Mafia as enforcer the best model to which Obama and Kerry can aspire on behalf of this country?
6. It’s hypocritical
a. The US has had no problem in using napalm and white phosphorus, both arguably chemical weapons, in its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US use of those weapons in those conflicts has killed civilians and children. Thus, it would seem that the US has no moral authority in this situation which would justify an attack on Assad.
b. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons in Iraq’s war with Iran in the 1980s. The US was entirely aware that of this use, and at the very least provided major arms to the Iraqi government after the gas attacks. Why is Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons at that time worthy of military aid, while that of Assad merits air strikes?
7. It’s expensive!
a. A single cruise missile costs at least $1.4 MILLION (in 2011). We urgently need that money to provide jobs, housing, health care, schools, green energy, upgrading our transportation system, and more, right here at home.
8. There are alternatives!
from Phyllis Bennis, Director, New Internationalism Project, Institute for Policy Studies
First, stop the false dichotomy of “it’s either military force or nothing.” The use of chemical weapons is a war crime, it is indeed what Secretary Kerry called a “moral obscenity.” Whoever used such weapons should be held accountable. So, if it is proven that chemical weapons were used by either side, what do we do about it?
a. First, do no harm. Don’t kill even more people in the name of enforcing an international norm.
b. Recognize that the use of chemical weapons by anyone is a war crime, and that international law requires international enforcement. No one country, not even the most powerful, has the right to act as unilateral cop. Move to support international jurisdiction and enforcement, including calling for a second UN investigation to follow-up the current weapons inspection team, this one to determine who was responsible for the attack.
c. Convene meeting of states wjocj are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. All 189 signatories have the obligation to respond to violations. They should meet and decide collectively on what to do, as called for in the terms of the treaty. The US is a member of this treaty; Syria is not, and should be encouraged to join immediately.
d. Recommend that whoever is found responsible be brought to justice in The Hague at the International Criminal Court, understanding that timing of such indictments might require adjustment to take into account ceasefire negotiations in Syria.
e. President Obama can distinguish himself powerfully from his unilateralist predecessor by announcing an immediate campaign not only to get the Senate to ratify the International Criminal Court, but to strengthen the Court and provide it with serious global enforcement capacity.
f. Send international human rights monitors in huge numbers to remain on the ground (understanding the risk they take) and provide objective information on potential war crimes.
g. Move urgently towards a ceasefire and arms embargo in Syria. Russia must stop, and must push Iran to stop arming and funding the Syrian regime. The US must stop, and must push Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and others to stop arming and funding the opposition, including the extremist elements. That won’t be easy! For Washington it may require telling the Saudis and Qataris that if they don’t stop, we will cancel all existing weapons contracts with those countries. (Propose that the Pentagon deal with arms producers the way the Dept of Agriculture deals with farmers: pay them NOT to produce weapons. Use the money to retool their factories to produce solar panels instead of Tomahawk missiles, and the workers stay on the job…)
h. Stand against further escalation of the Syrian civil war by voting NO on any authorization for US military strikes.
What can YOU do right now?
Work with Brooklyn For Peace in the next week to do as much as possible to get our representatives to vote against authorizing the use of military force.
- Call your congressional representative. Click here if you’re not sure who your representative is. E-mail syria@brooklynpeace.
org to let us know that you called, and what district you’re in.
- Let us know if you can help with street tables to get petition signatures.
- Let us know if you can help with phone-banking.
- Let us know if you can join a delegation to your representative’s local office.
- E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-624-5921 to stay in touch and for further information.