Peace movement urges caution on Syria

By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  September 12, 2013

As politicians in Washington and abroad weighed their options in response to the crisis in Syria, Peace Action Maine asked its members and like-minded citizens to contact their elected officials to express opposition to any US military strike against that country.

“The use of force is just not a solution to problems,” says Seth Berner, a member of the PAM board of directors. “And it’s pretty clear that use of force in Syria is not going to help achieve any humanitarian objective.”

In a six-point statement, the local peace and justice organization (which also organized a small demonstration opposing retaliatory action on August 30 in Monument Square) detailed its reasons for opposing any military action —  regardless of how small or “surgical” they are.

“We believe that the United States should not rush to judgment against the Syrian government in relation to the reports of chemical weapons attacks in August,” the statement reads. “We believe that the determination as to whether the Syrian government is culpable should be made by an impartial tribunal, not ceded to the United States unilaterally.”

While the White House has declared its “high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013,” others have suggested that the attack could have come at the hands of Syrian rebels (who will presumably benefit from US intervention).

The PAM document calls for further diplomatic efforts in concert with other countries including Russia, Iran, and China; it also raises questions about whether a military response would merely exacerbate already dismal conditions in Syria. “We do not save children who might be killed by others by dropping bombs and killing them ourselves. We do not help a fragile population by destroying its infrastructure.” The authors suggest that, with more than seven million people displaced from their homes in Syria, “[o]ur first priority in spending US tax dollars on that country should be for humanitarian aid to those who have already been victimized by this war.”

The official Congressional debate over what to do in Syria began on Monday when legislators came back from summer recess. President Barack Obama was expected to address the nation on Tuesday night to make the administration’s case. Polls suggest that about half the country opposes US military action in Syria. While each of the four members of Maine’s Congressional delegation remains officially undecided about how they will vote, none seems to be particularly gung-ho.

“I’m not convinced that a strike against Syria is in the best interest of the United States,” Democratic representative and gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud told the Associated Press. “But we’ll give the administration the ability to talk in the briefing and to try to convince me with additional information.’’

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  Topics: This Just In , Barack Obama, Syria, Seth Berner,  More more >
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