A response by the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) to the attack on the antiwar movement from Terry Burke published in "In These Times"
In the past 15 years, the US military machine has attacked 17 countries. The many peace and justice organizations and individuals attacked in Terry Burke’s article(1) have a long history of opposition to ALL US wars, interventions, invasions, drone attacks, military coups, blockades, and sanctions on numerous countries around the world. The military aggression of the United States, the expansion of NATO, the efforts at encirclement of Russia and China with weapons shields, CIA destabilizations in Latin America and the massively destructive US wars in Central Asia, West Asia, Middle East and North Africa, along with the massive arms deals with US allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, have created terrible destruction and millions of deaths and refugees.
UNAC, a peace and justice coalition with organizations and individuals from different perspectives, seeks to counter the corporate media propaganda and politicians’ justifications for each of these wars and for expanding US militarism.
These wars collectively, and each of them individually, are for US economic and geopolitical domination. None of these wars have resulted in increased security or stability for the countries targeted or for the people of the US.
It is from this perspective that we oppose the US war in Syria. We oppose the US bombing that has ruined so much of the vital infrastructure, and we oppose the US-coordinated arming and financing of numerous armed groups and the devastating sanctions that the US has imposed on the people of Syria.
Terry Burke cites her past work in the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee as the basis of her position on Syria. However, this distorted reasoning would have led Terry and the antiwar movement to support the US backed Contra forces in Nicaragua as “democratic and progressive forces.”
The US role in Central America was to covertly arm contra forces to impose regime change in Nicaragua while funding and arming Salvadoran and Guatemalan death squads. This destructive policy created millions of refugees from Central America in the 1980s, just as US policies of regime change in the past 12 years of war in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere has created even more refugees.
The US is coordinating Saudi, Israeli, Qatar, Turkish and EU efforts of bombing and of arming opposition groups. The stated goal from the beginning has been regime change in Syria. Regime change, as in Iraq and Libya, means the complete destruction of every secular state institution, including the very structures that provided full access to free education, free health care, electrification, potable water, modern infrastructure, irrigation and communication.
Years of US sanctions against Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya did not succeed in carrying out regime change, although they created great hardships and dislocations in each economy. Up to 1.5 million people died due to US sanctions in Iraq alone.
Today, as we watch two candidates running for president who threaten increased and terrible interventions in Syria, we are seeing a big increase in US propaganda. Take, for example, the August 11th article by Fair and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) on the breakdown of the recent ceasefire: http://fair.org/home/how-media-distorted-syrian-ceasefires-breakdown/. FAIR, a media watchdog group, exposed the fact that it was groups supported by the US fighting alongside the al Nusra Front, the al Qaida group in Syria, that actually broke the ceasefire, yet the media blamed the Syrian government and the Russians for the breakdown. Much of what we see in the US media related to the situation in Syria is the same kind of propaganda with the goal of building greater support for war.
Terry Burke claims we are “US-centric” for opposing our government’s attacks on Syria and attempts at regime change in that country. She claims that we have “ignored anti-Assad progressive Syrian voices.” But who has ignored what? Where in the US corporate media are the voices of Syrians (both pro and anti-Assad) who want an end to the ISIS/Al-Qaida/US/NATO intervention in their country and have rallied to the side of their government to end it? The US corporate media and some so-called progressives in the US have focused on vilifying Assad rather than the US-led war on Syria, which only leads to strengthening the forces who seek regime change and war. Should we add our voices to that chorus? Is that the best way to end US intervention in Syria, which the overwhelming majority of Syrians oppose? We think not.
Syrians in Lebanon line up to vote in Syrian election 2014
The March 13 UNAC protest, “A Day of Peace and Solidarity,” is the basis of Burke’s claims that “a dictator accused of monstrous war crimes is being given tacit support by major organizations in the peace movement.” Why? Because the “anti-war protest in New York City included people carrying the flag of the brutal Assad regime…” It is true that Syrians came to that demonstration and carried the flag of their country. Do Syrians not have the right to carry their flag? Is it the place of the US anti-war movement to tell people from any country that is under attack by the US that they do not have the right to carry their country’s flag? That is not the role of our movement; we oppose our government’s illegal and immoral aggression against all countries and do not lecture the people of that country on whom they should support or not support.
Syrians protest in DC to end US intervention in their country
If antiwar activists and organizations in the US condemn US bombings and aggression in Syria as our primary concern, rather than denouncing “Assad’s crimes,” we are branded “pro-Assad.” Burke attacks us for having signs like “US Hands Off Syria” and “No US War on Syria.” These she says are “US-centric.” Were similar slogans used during the Vietnam War, Afghan War, and Iraq War also US-centric? The US is the most militarily aggressive country in the world. It has around 20 times the number of foreign military bases as all other countries in the world combined. We in the US have an obligation to humanity to demand that our government stop the aggression and bring the troops home from Syria and all of the more than 130 countries where there are US troops.
Burke accuses the antiwar movement of ignoring progressive Syrian voices but she is highly selective in identifying the “Syrian perspective” as those who are anti-Assad. We must ask her why she ignores the Syrian voices that seek to end the US/NATO/ISIS/Al-Qaida attacks on their country.
Burke believes that the primary feature of the Syrian conflict is fighting between two camps of Syrians. However, this is not the case. Syria has been invaded by extremists such as ISIS and al Nusra. Tens of thousands of mercenaries have poured into this small country to overthrow the government, a goal which the US and NATO share. They have been supported by bombings, logistics and harsh sanctions against Syria from the US and NATO. Though the US has claimed it is there to attack the extremists, there had not been much damage to them until Russia entered the fighting-- and then, in a matter of weeks, the tide turned. The oil that ISIS takes from Syria and uses to help fund their operations has been left untouched by the U.S and its allies until Russia started bombing their oil operations.
The antiwar movement can agree on non-intervention and self-determination. Aligning with those anti-Assad Syrians who support US intervention in Syria can only divide and weaken our movement, which needs to be united today, perhaps more than ever.
We urge the antiwar movement to reject the ideas that Terry Burke presents in her article and demand that the US and NATO stop the bombing, stop the sanctions, stop the flow of weapons and stop the funding. This will stop the extremist groups. Then the people of Syria can alone decide their fate.
(1) Organizations and people attacked by Terry Burke in her article in “In These Times” include United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), US Peace Council, Syrian American Forum, Veterans for Peace, Manhattan Green Party, WarIsACrime.org, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Syrian American Will Association, ANSWER Coalition, Anti-War Committee Chicago, Minnesota Anti-War Committee, Women Against Military Madness, Workers World Party, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Mint Press News, AntiWar.com, Consortium News, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity including members William Binney, Coleen Rowley and Ray McGovern; dedicated activists like David Swanson and Kathy Kelly, as well as journalists Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Kennedy Jr., Gareth Porter and Robert Parry.
The Administrative Committee of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)
Marilyn Levin - UNAC co-coordinator
Joe Lombardo - UNAC co-coordinator
Margaret Kimberley - Senior columnist, Black Agenda Report
Joe Iosbaker - Chicago Anti-war Committee
Sara Flounders - Co-director, International Action Center
Bernadette Ellorin - Chairperson, BAYAN, USA
Judy Bello - Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars
Abayomi Azikiwe - Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice
Phil Wilayto - Editor, The Virginia Defender
Jeff Mackler - Northern California UNAC