Opposition grows against Syrian bombing as breakthrough emerges

CHICAGO — A steady blare of horns honking greeted dozens of demonstrators holding signs aloft opposing U.S. military action in Syria at a neighborhood vigil here Sept. 9.

The vigil was one of 160 organized by MoveOn.org activists along with about a dozen other groups, and represents a vast sentiment by the American people against military intervention.

A Credo Action online petition against bombing Syria has collected over 211,000 signatures.

Nearly 70 percent of the public is opposed to U.S. military action.

“We reject the false choice between bombing and no action,” said Michelle Kelly, a Bridgeport resident. “We should be pursuing a diplomatic path. It takes time.”

The outpouring of opposition occurs as a fast moving potential breakthrough emerged in the Syrian crisis. President Obama responded favorably to a proposal initially advanced by Russian Prime Minister Sergey Lavrov and supported by the Syria government, to place Syria’s chemical weapons under the auspices of the UN.

Syria also announced it would sign the international Chemical Weapons Convention, an arms control agreement which outlaws the stockpiling, production and use of chemical weapons and its precursors.

The diplomatic initiative gained momentum on Capitol Hill just as support for military action was also ebbing. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators began drafting a resolution that would give the United Nations time to take control of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons and ultimately destroy them.

Peace activists called for building up international law rather than actions that would undermine it.

A U.S. military strike “is an illegal action,” said Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies. “International law, the UN Charter, allows military action only in two cases – immediate self-defense or authorization by the Security Council.”

Just because some other countries support the action and it is deemed urgent, doesn’t make it legal, she said.

Bennis also told a MoveOn Town Hall meeting there are numerous conflicts taking place in Syria: an internal civil war, competition for regional domination between Saudi Arabia and Iran, competition between the U.S. and Russia and competition between the U.S. and its allies and Russia and its allies. Military action could spin any of these conflicts out of control.

“Such an attack will not make Syrians any safer,” said Bennis.

It was also reported in the Jerusalem Post that the military strike, which the Obama administration had described as “limited” would actually be far wider and involve firing over 200 Tomahawk missiles and a two day bombing campaign destruction of military units, and buildings involved the chemical weapons program.

“We must continue to call the White House and our elected representatives to let them know we oppose bombing Syria,” said Kelly.

In addition to the MoveOn rallies yesterday, many cities held rallies on Sept. 7, including one of more than 130 in Jacksonville, Fla., urging Rep. Ander Crenshaw, a Republican, to vote no on any military action. M. Djordjevic reports that many Syrians attended and spoke of unity, claiming that Muslim or Christian, all Syrian were under “one hand.” Speakers sought to illustrate the civilian causality in war, while others denounced war in more other ways, pointing out the waste of tax dollars or resistance to send youth to fight.

Protester Mike Stovall said military action affects the working class because money spent “for warfare” means “budgets can’t sustain health care, schools, and public services, like police and libraries.”

M. Djordjevic contributed to this story.

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John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He served as national chair of the Communist Party USA from 2014 to 2019. He is a regular writer for People's World, and active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, Pittsburgh, and Albuquerque and attended Antioch College. He currently lives in Chicago where he is an avid swimmer, cyclist, runner, and dabbler in guitar and occasional singer in a community chorus.