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Our mission is to abolish war, particularly as an instrument of U.S. policy, and to build a culture of peace through personal responsibility and witness, education, and promotion of human needs over militarism.
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September 6, 2013
Open Letter to Representative Price
Dear Representative Price
Reports of chemical warfare being waged in Syria are troubling, as are reports of tens of thousands who have perished in the civil war, which has produced millions of refugees in the greatest humanitarian crisis since the US invasion of Iraq. Even more troubling are statements from President Obama, beginning over a year ago, that Syrian President Assad must step down from the Syrian government. By what right does a US president have to order another nation’s president to resign? And by what right does the US government have, with or without Congressional approval, to make war on a nation that has neither threatened nor attacked us?
President Obama has asserted that the Syrian government is responsible for chemical attacks on its citizens. But after fraudulent claims of WMD to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US bears a very heavy burden of proof in this regard, a burden as yet unmet by a reliable and certifiable trail of evidence.
It is implausible that the Syrian government would deploy chemical weapons once President Obama declared a “red line” which would trigger US military reprisals for such actions. More plausible (and there have been numerous reports to support this theory) is that rebel forces in Syria used chemical weapons in order to bring the US to intercede on their behalf.
And who are these rebel forces? Can they be trusted as much as we trusted the Mujahadeen we recruited to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan, only to see al Qaeda emerge to attack its next rival, the United States?
If we attack Syria we will forfeit future opportunities to engage in diplomatic efforts to arrive at a political resolution of this tragic conflict, while making the current humanitarian crisis worse.
On the other hand, if we call for international investigation and adjudication of allegations of chemical weapons use, in accordance with international laws and treaties, we would enhance our diplomatic leverage to encourage a political resolution to the conflict.
If we focus our resources on addressing the refugee crisis, we would demonstrate true devotion to our stated “responsibility to protect” vulnerable populations. US military intervention cannot solve the Syrian conflict. But US humanitarian intervention is desperately needed to relieve the suffering of refugees.
NC Peace Action
Veterans For Peace
Enclosure: Dr. Lawrence Wittner, The Syrian Problem – and an International Solution
History News Network, September 4, 2013
The Syrian Problem – and an International Solution
By Lawrence S. Wittner
Let us consider the worst: that, in violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the subsequent Chemical Weapons Convention, the Syrian government has used chemical weapons to massacre large numbers of people. If true, that is a real problem, for it is not only a dastardly act, but a clear violation of international law that, if left unopposed, will encourage further use of these abhorrent weapons.
But will the U.S. government’s lobbing cruise missiles into Syria provide a solution to the problem? That seems unlikely, for that action will not topple the Syrian government, eliminate that regime’s large chemical weapons stockpile, or hasten an end to the brutal Syrian civil war which provided (and still provides) the context for their use. Indeed, unilateral U.S. military action seems likely to add to the bloodshed in Syria, worsen U.S. relations with the Syrian regime’s major arms supplier and defender (Russia), and further inflame the volatile Middle East. Once again, the U.S. government will be acting like a Wild West vigilante and will face very dangerous consequences.
In recent decades, many people around the world have grown accustomed to seeing the United States behave like a trigger-happy nation, intervening militarily whenever its officials feel U.S. “national interests” are threatened. Rallying around the flag, many Americans have come to perceive the United States as a uniquely virtuous country — the savior of the world or, at least, the world’s policeman. At the same time, many other people, often in foreign lands, have concluded that the United States is the world’s bully.
But however one views the unilateral employment of U.S. military power, it is unsustainable. No nation has sufficient worldwide credibility or resources to rule the world. Despite the demagogic, flag-waving ranting of many cynical U.S. politicians and pundits, increasing numbers of Americans realize this and, consequently, are willing to pass along global responsibility and burdens to a global organization.
For better or worse, that global organization is the United Nations, to which the nations of the world (including the United States) have granted the formal authority for enforcing international law. In response to the international anarchy and vast destruction of World War II, the United Nations came out of the war with the official goal of providing the world with some degree of governance, especially in relation to matters of war and peace. Thus, the United Nations is the organization that should be calling the tune in Syria — not only responding to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons, but facilitating an end to Syria’s terrible civil war, which has expanded into a regional conflict.
Yes, the United Nations is pathetically weak, largely because, in the post-1945 era, the “great powers” have clung greedily to their bloated national prerogatives on the world scene. Crippled by this very limited support to it from the major military-industrial powers, the United Nations has all too often been unable to enforce international law or to carry out the many other tasks of a world organization. But it does have worldwide credibility and an internationally-recognized voice that individual governments cannot entirely ignore. In addition, if the major powers threw their support behind a strengthening of the United Nations, that organization could become a very important force for disarmament and peace.
In the Syrian situation, for example — as one of the world’s oldest peace organizations, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, has proposed — U.N. inspectors could be empowered to complete their investigation of whether chemical weapons were used and, then, to determine who used them. Meanwhile, a U.N. Security Council resolution could be sought to secure the turnover to the United Nations of any chemical weapons in possession of the warring parties. The Russian government, although a strong supporter of the Syrian regime, might well agree to this, as it has long supported prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. Furthermore, the Security Council could refer the issue of chemical weapons use to the International Criminal Court, which could further investigate and indict the perpetrators. At the same time, the United Nations could convene a peace conference that would bring together representatives of all groups on the ground, countries in the region, and the United States and Russia to negotiate a ceasefire and a political resolution to the bloody Syrian conflict.
Would this kind international approach work? Perhaps so; perhaps not. But it seems at least as promising a route toward the enforcement of international law and the implementation of a peaceful settlement to the war in Syria as simply raining more bombs upon that nation. And it would be considerably less destructive. Finally, it is the kind of approach to which the nations of the world have at least given lip service — unlike a military attack upon Syria without U.N. authorization, which would itself be a violation of international law.
Of course, this sort of international approach would require that nations, particularly the major powers, stop their military meddling in other lands and turn over a bit of their precious sovereignty to the United Nations, as they had promised to do when creating it back in 1945. But a more peaceful, better-governed world would be well worth that price, wouldn’t it?
Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany.
June 5, 2013 News & Observer
Joe Burton, Raleigh
In his speech on counterterrorism, President Obama acknowledged that drone assassinations risk “creating new enemies” (May 24 news story). We know this is not only a risk but a fact.
As frequently reported, and as the president admitted, drone strikes result in civilian casualties, including women and children. So why continue a policy that creates the very problem they are trying to solve?
The president justified drone assassinations as needed to combat terrorist “networks that pose a direct danger” and said that “right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first.” But why should there be such hatred for Americans? Could it be a result of two Gulf wars, 12 years of occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, hundreds of thousands of casualties and millions displaced from their homes?
The Obama administration needs to develop a just, even-handed, non-militaristic foreign policy in the Middle East that does not favor some states over others and does not support regimes that regularly violate human rights. That would be much more likely to dissipate hatred for Americans than continued drone assassinations of suspected terrorists.
MOVE THE MONEY SPREADS
Orange County Peace Coalition launches campaign to Move the Money, Fund our Communities, Not War. Read more here.
March 21, 2013, Durham Herald Sun
The March 21 letter by G.E. Woodlief states that, “due to the nature of warfare today, we could close at least a couple of large military bases in the country without jeopardizing our national security.”
I would agree, and add that we could also close just about all, if not all, of the approximately 1,000 military bases our taxes maintain outside our country. Why are they there, if we are not trying to control other countries, i.e., function as an empire? What other country has even one military base on U.S. soil?
An article dated March 13 discussed the sequester’s effects on the Durham Housing Authority, which must now take Section 8 rental vouchers out of circulation after former clients turn them in, denying housing assistance to about 187 Durham families, reducing by 7 percent the number of vouchers in circulation and refusing them to people on its waiting list. The sequester is expected to cost DHA about $3.5 million.
So we have money for 1,000 military bases in other lands, but we don’t have money to help our neighbors keep roofs over their heads. Does this make sense? Sen. Hagel, Sen. Burr, Congress members Price and Butterfield, are you doing all you can to change this bizarre distribution of our tax dollars?
We are still the wealthiest country in the world. Why can’t we curb our insanely voracious “defense” budget, and instead house, feed, and provide health care – including mental health care – for everyone who lives here?
March 8, 2013, News & Observer
Ole R. Holsti
The deadlock between Congress and the White House has resulted in sequestration. The Department of Defense budget will share in the cuts, but that need not harm national security. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has seen constant delays and overruns that have driven the cost per aircraft up by more than 50 percent, with a lifetime projected cost of $1.5 trillion. A Pentagon study in 2011 revealed 11 major problems. If the F-35 were vital to national security, cost considerations should take a back seat, but a 2012 Foreign Policy magazine survey of 76 top military experts rated the F-35 as the best candidate for immediate elimination. It won’t be easy to do so as prime contractor Lockheed Martin has contributed vast campaign funds to a bipartisan congressional caucus to protect the F-35. Dwight Eisenhower’s warnings about the “military-industrial complex” were very prescient.
February 25, 2013, News & Observer
Joe Burton, Raleigh
The U.S wants an “enduring presence” of up to 12,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to keep the Taliban in check (“Troops many stay in Afghanistan,” Feb. 23). This would prop up an admittedly corrupt government until its forces are “strong enough to hold off the Taliban.”
Meanwhile, we are using drones to assassinate suspected Taliban leaders (“U.S. drone strikes increase sharply in Afghanistan,” Feb. 23) in the belief they can be stopped if enough of them can be killed.
An analysis by the Brookings Institution, of drone attacks in Pakistan, has shown that for every militant leader killed, 10 civilians have died. What could be a better recruiting tool for the Taliban than a foreign nation that invades your country and then begins killing innocent people?
Imagine what it would be like to live in a land where you or a family member might be killed at any time of the day or night, by a drone missile aimed at a suspected Taliban leader. That is terrorism by any definition.
One thing known for certain, violence begets more violence. Using drone warfare, in an attempt to pacify Afghanistan, will be self-defeating. And keeping NATO troops in the country will not prevent that.