President Obama's decision to ask Congress for authorization to attack Syria has given the American people a giant challenge:
Will we send a powerful message to senators and representatives this week telling them to vote "no" on any U.S. attack against Syria?
We must take up the challenge and act now.
The vote will likely come next week, when Congress returns from recess. So the time is short to prevent a dangerous U.S. escalation of the already brutal Syrian conflict. It would be a very sad day if Congress authorized a U.S. attack on Syria. And it would be a very sad day if this president were to order a missile strike on that war-torn country.
It seems clear that more than 1,000 Syrian people including children were killed in some kind of deadly chemical attack near Damascus last month. However we still do not know who the perpetrators were. Unfortunately, our government has tried to stymie or brush off the work of United Nations investigators sent by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to determine the facts of the attack. Instead, we have seen an unseemly U.S. push to attack Syria. It is all too reminiscent of the duplicitous rush to invade Iraq a decade ago,
Missile strikes against Syria, the president and others say, would be a humanitarian move, "limited," "carefully tailored," with the sole purpose of preventing further chemical weapons use.
But there is nothing humanitarian about sending missiles raining down on another country (killed some civilians? oh sorry). Shades of the Vietnam War's "We had to destroy a village in order to save it."
No matter how "limited" or "tailored," a U.S. missile strike on Syria 1) would violate international law, as former President Jimmy Carter pointed out last Friday, and 2) can only aggravate strife and bloodshed, further destabilizing not only Syria but the entire surrounding region. And there is nothing humanitarian about possibly empowering fanatical extremist al-Qaeda types to take over.
The centrist International Crisis Group put it succinctly: Any U.S. missile strike on Syria will be for "reasons largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people." (We have written previously about some of the real, negative, reasons driving U.S. policy.) The ICG continued, in its Sept. 1 statement, "Apart from talk of outrage, deterrence and restoring U.S. credibility, the priority must be the welfare of the Syrian people. Whether or not military strikes are ordered, this only can be achieved through imposition of a sustained ceasefire and widely accepted political transition."
And Carter, condemning U.S. unilateral military action, said, "The chemical attack should be a catalyst for redoubling efforts to convene a peace conference, to end hostilities, and urgently to find a political solution."
If Secretary of State Kerry would put as much energy into those efforts as he has unfortunately expended in trying to justify a misguided U.S. military strike, the cause of peace and the interests of the Syrian people would be advanced.
Surely, silence and acquiescence in the murder of innocent civilians using internationally banned chemical weapons is not acceptable. The perpetrators, once they are determined, should be brought to justice by an international body.
But silence and acquiescence in a U.S. military attack on Syria is also not acceptable.
The challenge is for us, the people, to bombard our representatives and senators with messages: No U.S. attack on Syria. It will make a horrible situation worse.
1) Call your senators and representative:
2) Sign and circulate the CREDO Action petition "Tell Congress: Don't bomb Syria."
3) Visit your senators and congressional representative at their local offices this week while they are home on recess. Bring others with you - from your community, campus, union, church or other group.
Photo: A Tomahawk cruise missile is fired from a destroyer during the first Gulf War. U.S. Navy.