Posted by: sweeneyblog | August 31, 2013

Rally Against Attacking Syria Draws Large Crowd

On the streets surrounding the Federal building in downtown Bellingham, over 100 people gathered to protest a military strike against Syria. Organized by the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center, the rally drew a diverse crowd. Some opposed military action because it would destabilize the region, while others questioned our moral authority to criticize the Assad government for using chemical weapons when we have done so in Afghanistan and Iraq. I identified a handful of libertarians, plenty of Democrats and progressives, and even a few conservatives who showed up to wave signs.

Janet Marino speaks

Janet Marino speaks

Janet Marino, executive director of the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center, said that no matter what your reason for opposing the action, you need to contact Congress. “Call your legislators! With the president seeking congressional approval, it is now more important than ever for them to hear your voices!” She passed out petitions for the assembled to sign.

Three things struck me about this rally. First, I had such a strong feeling of deja vu. Everyone at that rally mentioned, in one way or another, the long shadow that Iraq has cast over our nation. To once again face the issue of chemical weapons as justification for bombing a secular Arab nation with large natural resources, caused many to wonder if we have learned anything from that bloody struggle.

Second, Terry Bornemann was the only elected official to attend. No other members of the city or county council decided to stop by and listen. I understand this is an international issue, but it always helps to have local politicians offer their support for community action.

Finally, with the exception of Cascadia Weekly columnist Alan Rhodes, I was the only member of the media there. You would think that over 100 people gathering would elicit some sort of attention, but it is a weekend, and we all know nothing newsworthy ever happens on a weekend.

Below are some more pictures from the event. There are more available at The Political Junkie facebook page here.

Bham Syria Rally

The crowd

My favorite sign

My favorite sign

Obviously this protester is a Mario fan

Obviously this protester is a Mario fan

Attendees signed petitions to our legislators

Attendees signed petitions to our legislators

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Responses

  1. Did you get any sense at all what these folks feel about burning children alive with napalm?

    • That it is horrifying no matter who is pulling the trigger, why do you ask?

      • There have been reports of a napalm like attack on a school in Aleppo, carried out by a military jet. See the bbc news.

  2. I am retired military and agree that we do not want to go in to Syria and get another war started. What is happening to the Syrian people is tragic and Assad is a wicked man. There are no words to describe how despicable he is. But if we went in it could inflame the rest of the middle east, especially since Saudi Arabia and Iran have surrogates fighting in Syria.

    We have enough dead and injured military members and veterans now from the two unnecessary wars, one done and one finishing soon.

    If we are going to continue to be on a war footing then we must bring back the draft and let everyone gone including the rich and greedy.

  3. Would have been with you but ; I was with DNC member Lona Wilber and Skagit Dem, Debbie Aldrich in the Central District of Seattle at a previously scheduled funeral service for civil rights worker Bertha McDaniel.
    It was good to get back to the Ham and be able to “read all about it ” plus photos. The Mcklatchy Herald might be asleep but Sweeney Blog did a better job covering the demo then they would, even if it was a weekday. Thanks Riley!

  4. our penchant for military action, or even opposition to action is surpassed only by our gluttony for cheap oil…the silliness of the opposition to action is highlighted by our unwillingness to stop using the oil for which this is all about…the opposition as represented by a “crowd” of 100 people is surpassed only by the nonsensical naivete of those who don’t bother to get facts and info…

  5. Riley, you state that, “To once again face the issue of chemical weapons as justification for bombing an secular arab [sic] nation with large natural resources…” This is a unique observation and it deserves elaboration, especially as it is stated as a fact. As it happens, Syria’s “large natural resources” are actually relatively negligible. According to The New York Times, ” Syria’s 2.5 billion barrels of proven reserves were far overshadowed by Saudi Arabia’s 267 billion or neighboring Iraq’s 115 billion”. Furthermore (also according to The NYT, March 20, 2013), “The bulk of Syria’s oil is split between Hassake, a province in the far northeast of the country where the Kurds are a majority, and Deir Ezzor, further south…[and] Hassake Province produces heavy crude, which is harder to extract, more difficult to refine and sells at lower prices than lighter oils.” The Kurds, while presently somewhat “supportive” of Assad, are hoping for an independent Kurdistan and with them goes the oil. As the US is presently drowning in domestic petroleum and (per the CIA Factbook), other Syrian resources such as potash are of no particular strategic or commmercial interest, I am wondering exactly what “large natural resources” we might covet and you are alluding to.

    I am also curious about the apparent non sequitor in your quoted sentence wherein your “once again” conjunction suggests that chemical weapons were previously used as a pretext for an attack. I presume here that you are referring to Iraq. Every specious Bush administration justification concerned nuclear armaments. Per my understanding, while “weapons of mass destruction” was the premise for the Iraq invasion and the WMD rubric includes CBW, the actual concern was nuclear capability; not CBW. Everyone knew Saddam had used gas on the Kurds in Halabja on March 16, 1988 (the attack killed between 3,200 and 5,000 people, and injured around 7,000 to 10,000 more) and intermittently against their Iranian foes from 1980-1988: in fact, the US supplied intelligence information to Saddam to allow targeting. In short, that wasn’t news.

    So, while I can find numerous pragmatic and reasonable arguments against the potential intervention in Syria, nothing you posit convinces me…even a little bit.

    • The Bush administration repeatedly used the justification of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. They, at various points during the run up to the war, said that Saddam was developing or possessed all of those. Remember the “mobile weapons factories” that turned out to be just regular trucks?

      As for Syria’s natural resources, I think their most vital resource is their warm water port, that allows them to quickly and easily ship resources through the area. It is why the Russians are so invested in this area and why we have such an interest in this country.

      To your larger point, I don’t feel that it is a completely straight comparison but as I wrote, because of the lies we were told about Iraq, this similar situation is bringing up so much skepticism, fear and mistrust. I hope that we are wrong, that this isn’t going to spiral out into another expensive invasion – the President has already said that there will not be boots on the ground – but we shall see.

      • A pedantic point perhaps, but both possession and use of chemical weapons by Saddam were known and acknowledged. These were not the pretext for the Iraq invasion: nuclear weapons were.

        Saddam used chemical agents openly (against domestic Kurds and Iranian forces). The US government knew of both events. So, for that matter, did the general public here at home: The New Yorker reported the issue extensively as did other mainstream sources. At that time, we were not motivated by moral concerns over chemical weapons. Our new president says we are so motivated now and both his statements and those of Biden and Kerry repeatedly and forcefully state that justification The moral issue is entirely different from the arguments you cite in your report.

        The concern at the time of the Iraq invasion was the potential that CBW agents might be used against invading “coalition” forces: the assumption (actually factual) was that Saddam would use them again, if necessary. He didn’t for a variety of reasons. However, none of that was the pretext for coalition invasion: suspected nuclear force capability was. Read, for example, Colin Powell’s UN speech for a pithy summary of the Bush administration’s position.

        The ruthlessness of the Assad regime is not a matter of dispute. Perhaps you remember then Syrian President Hafaz al-Assad’s actions against the Muslim Brotherhood (a Sunni Islamic group: Assad is a “schismatic” Alawite). He resolved that problem at Hama in February 1982. The Syrian Arab Army under Hafez al-Assad’s order besieged the city of Hama (a Brotherhood base) for around a month. The commanding General at Hama was Rifaat al-Assad, President Assad’s younger brother. Rifaat killed plenty of Syrians: at least 10,000 civilians were killed. Robert Fisk (of the UN) put the number at 20,000 deaths. Or maybe it’s 40,000 (Syrian Human Rights Committee).

        In any event, what we are seeing now is more of the same. There is no need to invoke conspiratorial theories about “warm water ports” (Russia already has a naval facility at Tartus for the Black Sea Fleet). There is no need to look for a hidden agenda with nefarious cabals looking for exploitable resources. Rather, this situation is a toxic brew made of moral pieties (Obama’s ill-conceived “red line” statement), realpolitik (Iranian regional hegemony, a Syrian client state with a desperate ruler), inter-ethnic rivalries (Sunnis vs. Shia-Alawites) and larger geo-political concerns (fear of terrorism and spread of hostilities). It cannot be reduced to a simple solution because there is none.

        Perhaps the best summary and one of the more insightful ones comes from an unlikely source: General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This excerpt is well worth pondering:
        “All of these options would likely further the narrow military objective of helping the opposition and placing more pressure on the regime. We have learned from the past 10 years however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state. We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action. Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.
        I know that the decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly. It is no less than an act of war. As we weigh our options, we should be able to conclude with some confidence that the use of force will move us toward the intended outcome. We must also understand risk—not just to our forces, but to our other global responsibilities…One we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next.”

    • Also, my point wasn’t to convince anyone not to intervene in Syria, it was to report on the event. That whole journalism thing.

  6. Most disturbing to me is the cheerleader squad of MSM once again parroting the Obama line without question.
    Watch RT news or the BBC for a balanced approach to the lack of proof Assad is using chemical weapons and all the good reasons – he’s winning, he doesn’t need the negative attention from Obama and he has no real control over all the stockpiles – that he likely wouldn’t do such a thing.
    But our hypocrisy is sickening after cheering Saddam’s gassing of Iranians and our spraying of dioxin in Vietnam and spreading DU and white phosphorus in Iraq and Afghanistan,
    actions that even to this day maim and kill thousands of civilians through direct contact and birth defects.

  7. in so far as oil goes, the issue is not how much Syria has, or how much we get from them, the issue is that any further destabilization, read: impairment of the flow, costs us in a big way…by 1978 we were down to a negligible amount of oil imported from the middle east for a variety of reasons, mostly president Carter’s endeavors to reduce that dependency, and in part because OPEC was holding back to gain money & leverage—Reagan came along, told us all to “Pack up your ‘ole kit bag, and smile, smile, smile,”—and promptly turned our energy policy over to the military under the tacit premise : “That’s our oil over there, you folks just happen to be living on it.”—Dr. Assad should be punished somehow, but exactly how I’m not qualified to say…And by the way, Riley gave his take in a responsible manner—the Bush folks couldn’t make up their mind from day-to-day as to exactly why invading Iraq was necessary, they made it up, (with the help of the NY Times), as they went along—we must be the most gullible, uninformed populace in the modern world, and perhaps in the history of popularly-governed societies…

    • As you note, regional hostilities will disrupt flow from the Gulf, but the US obtains only a negligible amount from that source. The EU and Japan, however, would be heavily impacted and that, in turn, will affect the US economy. The spreading of hostilities appears to be a foregone conclusion: Iran, Hezbollah, Lebanon and Sunni Islamists are already involved. Sectarian violence has re-emerged in Iraq and is beginning (again) in Lebanon. Refugees are destabilizing Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. This conflict will disrupt the region and potentially impede oil flow regardless of what the US does or does not do. The issue (a genuine Gordian Knot) is resolving the conflict or at least containment.

  8. “The concern at the time of the Iraq invasion was the potential that CBW agents might be used against invading “coalition” forces: the assumption (actually factual) was that Saddam would use them again, if necessary. He didn’t for a variety of reasons.”—‘factual’? he didn’t use them because he didn’t have them…which may be the point at the end of the day…

  9. we made a regional superpower out of Iran, the Iraq mess was a screw-up impelled by lies…there was nothing factual about it

  10. Iraq used a variety of chemical weapons against US and coalition forces during Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait (1990-1991). While there was no “major” deployment causing widespread death’s, they were nonetheless used. It is well documented in a variety of declassified sources http://cns.miis.edu/npr/pdfs/tucker43.pdf

    He would have used them again during the 2003 invasion (Operation Iraqi Freedom) if he hadn’t moved what was left to Syria during the ramp up….


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