Can the antiwar movement stop the U.S. from attacking Syria? (photo: Olivia Harris/Reuters)
The House of Representatives is poised to vote No on any attack on Syria. This is the moment to bring antiwar forces together, both in the United States and around the world. This is the moment that we can build a movement that can make history. Who will show leadership to ensure victory this month and move on making this movement move?
As of 8 p.m. last night, Firedoglake reported that the count was 226 leaning or firm No, and 62 leaning or firm Yes. That means the No votes have a majority in the House, with 147 votes remaining undecided. The Huffington Post figures are similar, with 217 leaning No; 44 leaning Yes. In the House, Democrats are four to one against it, and the Republicans are almost 10 to one against it. Florida congressman Alan Grayson thinks that if this trend continues, the House may refuse to even vote on it "unless they want to simply put it out there to be defeated."
Antiwar actions will take place this weekend and in the days to come. Everyone should hit the streets. Everyone should lobby their Congressional representatives. Mass nonviolent direct action should take place now. It makes no sense after the vote. The idea is to make sure the bombs never fall.
Obama is going to address the nation next week, after Congress re-convenes on Monday the 9th. He is going to try to turn public opinion around, with the votes due to happen within a matter of days or weeks. Look at what Obama has to address -- his rhetoric can't defeat these five obstacles, and I think he knows it.
- What burden of proof is required to show that the Syrian government is to blame and that they weren't set up in some way? Congressman Alan Grayson asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about media reports that Syrian commanders were surprised to hear the news about the chemical attack. Hagel said he wasn't aware of these reports, but emphasized that any supporting documents would probably have to stay classified in any case. The legal community uses three different tools for making a decision: Preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, and reasonable doubt. Which one is proper here? Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the only reasonable standard for a question of this magnitude.
- This is important because chemical attacks are a terrible thing. What is the appropriate response? International law bars the United States from launching a preemptive attack, since an attack on Syria does not constitute self-defense. The United Nations can't take action, because Russia is on the Security Council and can block an attack. The place for action is at the World Court, and to seek criminal sanctions against the perpetrators. Anything else is illegal.
- The Syrian conflict is not simply a civil war -- it is a proxy war. Several wars are going on simultaneously in Syria, with al-Qaeda among the opposition forces. Are the United States and al-Qaeda really about to fight on the same side? There are also self-defense pacts between Syria and Iran, which could result in Iran attacking Israel if Syria is attacked. Israel, Turkey, and Russia have major security interests that could be triggered if bombs start flying. Any attack could lead to a larger conflagration and American boots on the ground. Secretary of State John Kerry was forced to admit that yesterday.
- Any attack on Syria is estimated to cost one billion dollars every two weeks, according to Rep. Grayson. If this action were to take the full 90 days permitted in this bill, that would be seven billion dollars, while everything from food subsidies to the National Archives are experiencing severe cutbacks. Grayson points to the 20 million looking for work and almost 50 million on food stamps.
- There are two million refugees due to the Syrian conflict. The United States and others should be supporting these refugees through established, internationally recognized, neutral institutions and organizations, not by another round of endless war.
This is the moment for people to come together. We can act where we live with 435 flying pickets -- one for each member of the House. The website of US Labor Against the War (USLAW) offers an excellent combination of educational materials and action suggestions to be used in the days to come. The Friends Committee on National Legislation and Just Foreign Policy are other great resources. Many other groups need our participation, fresh vision, and new approaches. We can start new groups, where we live and where we work. We can support those facing cutbacks and those fighting for a living wage by encouraging them to provide new leadership to the antiwar movement.
No president has ever been denied support for a military strike by either the Senate or the House. It's about to happen. Obama asked for a vote. The challenge is to make the House vote mean something. If we can stop the Pentagon from attacking Syria, we will make history.
How can we bring peace to Syria, if we tie the hands of the Pentagon? We can urge people from all sides of the conflict to come to the table. We can use the power of the media, the power of theater, the power of prayer. We can support the formation of an international, Gandhi-style nonviolent army to march to Damascus and help increase the peace. One thing is for sure: the path to peace is not aided by going to war for the sake of anybody's "credibility."
The antiwar forces in the United States have an enormous responsibility. People all over the world are looking to us. If we want peace, we have to work for peace. We can no longer stand on the sidelines and complain about being marginalized. We have to take the field. We have to act.