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van Gelder writes: "Weapons of mass destruction, we are told, are being used by a cruel Middle Eastern despot against his own people. A military strike is inevitable, media voices say; we must respond with missiles and bombs. The arguments sound all too familiar."

Syrian children photographed in June 2013 in a refugee camp in Lebanon. (photo: Patrick Nicholson/Caritas Internationalis)
Syrian children photographed in June 2013 in a refugee camp in Lebanon. (photo: Patrick Nicholson/Caritas Internationalis)


11 Reasons Why We Should Not Attack Syria

By Sarah van Gelder, Yes! Magazine

31 August 13

 

s U.S. political and media leaders prepare for military strikes against Syria, the parallels to the lead-up to the war with Iraq should give us pause. Weapons of mass destruction, we are told, are being used by a cruel Middle Eastern despot against his own people. A military strike is inevitable, media voices say; we must respond with missiles and bombs. The arguments sound all too familiar.

Meanwhile, weapons inspectors from the United Nations are on the ground investigating evidence of chemical weapons. But U.S. and European leaders are looking at an immediate strike anyway-although Britain's Labor Party, still smarting from popular opposition to its leading role in the invasion of Iraq, has successfully pressed for a hold on military action until the results of the U.N. investigation are in.

There are a great many differences between circumstances in Syria and Iraq, of course. Nonetheless, critics warn that, much as it did in Iraq, a military incursion here could have disastrous consequences. Here are 11 reasons the United States should stay clear of military action:

  1. We don't actually know who is behind the chemical weapons attack. An attack employing chemical weapons took place in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21 and killed 355 people, according to Doctors Without Borders. Obama administration officials say the attack was carried out by the Syrian regime, but Institute for Policy Studies analyst Phyllis Bennis points out we haven't actually been given evidence that this is the case. And, while it's unlikely that the opposition was behind the attack, NPR has pointed out that the rebels have an incentive to use such weapons to trigger outside intervention and end the stalemate they've been stuck in since late 2011.
  2. A military strike would be illegal under the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution. U.S. military attacks can only be carried out by an act of Congress, unless there is national emergency created by a direct attack upon the United States. The fact that Congress has adjourned doesn't change that. "There is no provision in the Constitution or the War Powers Resolution for a 'recess war,'"says Robert Naiman, writer for Just Foreign Policy. If it was a true emergency, Congress could be called into session to pass a declaration of war.
  3. It would violate international law, too. Syria has not attacked the United States, and there is no U.N. Security Council authorization for a strike on Syria. It wouldn't be the first time the United States has violated international law, but doing it again adds to a damaging precedent and contributes to a lawless world.
  4. The American people oppose it. Sixty percent of Americans oppose intervention in Syria, according to a recent Reuters poll. Just nine percent support intervention. Even if the use of chemical weapons is proven, just 25 percent of Americans would support intervention.
  5. Violence begets violence. According to Stephen Zunes, chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, military interventions actually worsen and lengthen violence in the short term. "Countries whose dictatorships are overthrown by armed groups ... are far more likely to turn into new dictatorships, often accompanied by ongoing violence and factionalism," Zunes says in an article in Foreign Policy in Focus. In the long term, he writes, interventions only reduce violence if they are impartial, which would certainly not be the case in any upcoming conflict in Syria.
  6. Foreign intervention will deepen nationalist support for the Syrian Baath Party and the Assad regime. Zunes also reports that hundreds of members of the Syrian Baath Party, a key source of support for Assad, have left the party in outrage over the regime's killing of nonviolent protesters. But, he says, "few defections could be expected if foreigners suddenly attacked the country." U.S. intervention would play into the hands of the Syrian regime, triggering an outpouring of nationalist support for Damascus. The same thing happened in 1983-84 following U.S. Navy air attacks on Syrian positions in Lebanon, he says, and in 2008 after U.S. army commando raids in eastern Syria.
  7. There are no logical targets. Bombing stockpiles of chemical weapons would be untenable, since many would release poison gases into densely populated neighborhoods, according to Zunes. And there are too many ways of delivering chemical weapons-planes, missiles, mortars, and so on-to eliminate all of them.
  8. It will be impossible to control who benefits from Western intervention among the rebels. The Pentagon estimates that there are between 800 and 1,200 rebel groups currently active in Syria, according to USA Today. Among them are ones with avowed affiliations with Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other groups the United States considers to be terrorists. While the House Intelligence Committee has said it's ready to accept the risk of providing weapons to such groups, a look at the Iraq and Afghanistan shows how such plans can easily unravel.
  9. Civilians will be killed and maimed. Policy analyst Phyllis Bennis points out the obvious: Strike with bombs and missiles, and, whatever your intent, civilians with no involvement in the conflict-including children and the elderly-will be harmed.
  10. There is no apparent exit strategy. Once we are involved, it is unclear how we will extract ourselves from a massive, ugly civil conflict that could spread to involve nearby countries such as Lebanon, Israel, and Iran.
  11. Yes, there is a better way. Tried, true, and boring though it may be, diplomacy often works. As Bennis told Democracy Now! this week, Syria has become a venue for a war between the United States and Russia, and between Iran and an allied United States and Israel.

What's needed, she says, are peace talks involving not only the parties who are fighting, but their backers as well. We need "all the forces on the two sides coming together to talk," she says, "rather than fighting to the last Syrian child, to resolve these wars."


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+33 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-08-31 15:04
"...wouldn't be the first time the United States has violated international law..."

Thank God, folks from across this country and the world, including a vast number of our members of congress, have spoken up and out, saying a firm NO NO to this president, and saying emphatically that he must get an o.k. from Congress (a.k.a. follow the Constitution, insofar as Syria has not attacked or begun a war against us) before doing his 'limited strike'.

Perhaps all of us from both major parties and libertarians and independents and Green Party voters, speaking to this Pres. as one 'no more war' voice, got through to him. Our saying that a massive move to impeach this pres., should he again violate the constitution with his proposed 'limited strikes' without congressional approval, also got through to him.

O.K. folks, time to push hard on all members of Congress to disapprove use of any warmode approach, and instead, work to assist all Syrians under attack, and gather together with nations across the globe, through the UN, to penalize in a non-violent manner any and all countries or groups, including the U.S., from use of any and all WMD's, including but not limited to chemical WMD's.
 
 
+11 # 666 2013-08-31 20:27
Just say NO WAR; there's no need to ask congress. just don't do it. even if they vote (any thing short of a war declaration) it doesn't legitimize it. it's still criminal.

and why wait to impeach? BigbrO doesn't need another chance to be a war criminal. the way it looks now, by tuesday or wednesday at the latest obama is gonna start pulling the triggers. there's no incentive for him to ask gridlocked congress for permission when at best he'd get a split congress. besides, he feels he's above congress. bomb now, ask questions later, that would be the president's "pragmatic approach". and that's probably what we're gonna see; maybe with a little israeli participation.
 
 
+4 # tedrey 2013-09-01 05:00
"It's better to ask forgiveness than permission" is a vile philosophy, in war as in love.
 
 
+1 # Merschrod 2013-09-01 09:28
Perhaps O'Bama has gotten cold feet and reality is settling in?
 
 
+18 # anntares 2013-08-31 22:44
12. The gas attack may have been a False Flag attack designed to draw the US into the fray, increase chaos, create a void for al qaeda or other extremists to enter and take over the Syrian govt.

13. If the US bombs Syria for using gas, who will bomb the US for using white phosphorous in Fallujah Iraq (a war crime)?

14. Bombing a country for gassing , bombing and shooting its people only adds to the murders of innocents. What about not just diplomacy in general, but a strategy that harnesses the international court that tries war crimes, the Arab League, leaders of all faiths involved, and the UN General Assembly despite its Security Council's impotence.
 
 
0 # Merschrod 2013-09-01 09:29
Why are folks giving Ann the thumbs down?
 
 
+2 # seeuingoa 2013-09-01 05:17
Nobel's Peace Prize ????
 
 
+8 # balconesfalk 2013-09-01 12:02
Given what we did in Vietnam it is quaint that the US would take such an arch stance against alleged use of gas in Syria. Coming from a country that harbors the giant multinational terrorist threatening the worldwide food supply, Monsanto, also the maker of gases used on Vietnam, this is disingenuous. Our nation used tear gas-CN, dioxin-CS, adamite-DM (with mortality rate of 10% in adults but 90% in children), Agent Orange defoliants and herbicides whose effects linger to the present, were used to kill both food crops as well as troop cover, and napalm. Domestically the police freely use pepper spray on peaceful demonstrators. Given such documented history it is quaint that the US would so righteously point to the use of "chemical weapons" as an excuse to declare war on Syria.
 
 
+1 # rockieball 2013-09-01 17:59
Not to mention chemical weapons by the ton in bunkers near Hawthorn in Norther Nevada. Chemical weapons dating to pre WWII. You can see the bunkers from highway 95 surrounded by miles of barb wire and guard towers.
 
 
+1 # blizmo1 2013-09-03 22:23
Quoting balconesfalk:
Given what we did in Vietnam it is quaint that the US would take such an arch stance against alleged use of gas in Syria. Coming from a country that harbors the giant multinational terrorist threatening the worldwide food supply, Monsanto, also the maker of gases used on Vietnam, this is disingenuous. Our nation used tear gas-CN, dioxin-CS, adamite-DM (with mortality rate of 10% in adults but 90% in children), Agent Orange defoliants and herbicides whose effects linger to the present, were used to kill both food crops as well as troop cover, and napalm. Domestically the police freely use pepper spray on peaceful demonstrators. Given such documented history it is quaint that the US would so righteously point to the use of "chemical weapons" as an excuse to declare war on Syria.



...don't forget our universal favorite -- Depleted Uranium, as a legacy foreign policy tool...or what about unauthorized drone killings and surveillance, here and abroad...?

We dare not cast stones, for fear anyone will look and judge our own actions.
 
 
+1 # Mrcead 2013-09-03 16:28
12 common sense reasons why we should not attack Syria:

1. It's wrong.

2. America has it's own backyard to clean.

3. America does a bad job of cleaning said backyard.

4. Only the military contractors and their shareholders would truly benefit.

5. The world will end up hating America and Americans even more - if that's even possible.

6. Syria already hates America, this won't change that.

7. It could backfire into an even bigger conflagration than expected unless that is what's expected.

8. Republicans will somehow get more political mileage from this than the Democrats will.

9. The militant Muslim world will somehow get more political mileage from this than America will.

10. It will be all over the news dropping morale even lower than it is now.

11. It serves no rational, emotional or spiritual purpose to do so.

12. Haven't we already done enough to wreck the lives and futures of the peoples of the Middle East?
 
 
0 # Activista 2013-09-04 00:06
6 - Syria already hates America, this won't change that?
Syria was a choice place for CIA rendition after 911 - outsourcing CIA torture (so was Libya) -
NOw CIA are using the Sunni hate and started civil war (like Top Libyan Rebel Leader Has Deep Al Qaeda Ties - All News Is ...
www.worldcrunch.com/...libyan...leader...al-qaeda...libyan...leader...al-q...‎
Aug 29, 2011 - Top Libyan Rebel Leader Has Deep Al Qaeda Ties).
 

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