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Boots On The Ground

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Chicagoans March Against US Intervention in Syria

Local residents gather at an August 29 demonstration to protest proposed American intervention in Syria. Photos by Tessa Elbettar.

The opposition to U.S intervention in Syria is widespread. According to a recent Pew Research survey, Americans, regardless of their gender, race, class, and political affiliations, tend to oppose US military intervention and would prefer diplomacy. Demonstrations against possible military intervention in the area have taken place across the country. On Saturday, Sept. 7, demonstrators gathered in Federal Plaza in Chicago to voice their opposition to U.S involvement.

“We do not think it’s a good idea for anybody to go into Syria for any reason. It would only add misery and more destruction,” said Janet Fennerty, former Chicago Public Schools high school teacher and veteran anti-war activist. “It’s just stupid…to think that it’s going to have any effect on Assad or the rebels. Either way, it’s the people who are going to suffer.”

“I’m afraid we might repeat history,” said former U.S Army Sergent Alejandro Villatoro, who served in both the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the War in Afghanistan in 2011. “This act of war could bring a lot of implications, especially knowing that Russia and China and Iran are supporting Syria…we cannot afford to send more troops, we cannot afford to send our military or take military action knowing that we don’t have the resources and we’re already involved in two wars.”

Villatoro and other protesters expressed their frustration with Nobel Peace Prize winner President Obama and his administration for wanting to engage in any military action in Syria. “We have elected a president that promised to withdraw from these wars and to bring peace, to bring hope,” says Villatoro. “But this is an act of war. He was not elected to take this type of action.”

flag wave 1Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson recently wrote that the United States needs to intervene in Syria because, “somebody needs to be the world’s policeman.” This is an attitude shared by many mainstream news outlets, which also argue that a lack of intervention would make the US and the Obama administration appear weak. Other mainstream news sources believe the US must intervene in Syria to maintain its legitimacy as a world power, arguing it is the job of the US to make sure other countries abide by international law. Some of the protesters gathered Saturday disagreed with these assessments.

“That’s kind of hypocritical because we don’t abide by the law,” says Villatoro. “We invaded Iraq illegally and we haven’t received approval from the UN to take any military action in Syria.”

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq under the pretense that Saddam Hussein had “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Iraq is still not confirmed to have had such weapons and many Americans postulate that the United States invaded Iraq to control its oil supply. Now the Obama administration claims that involvement in Syria is necessary because of Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians. Are chemical weapons the new Weapons of Mass Destruction? Syria, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, is not an oil-rich nation. But are there other reasons the United States wants to get involved in a civil war in Syria?

“It is strategically placed,” stated Fennerty. “It is in the middle of the Middle East. It’s a very strategic location and [the U.S is] also looking out for the interests of Israel, that’s for sure. So that’s another reason for them to try to take charge.”

“I think [U.S intervention] has a lot more to do with geopolitical consequences, having a government that’s opposed to Israel and is not a friend to Saudi Arabia, which are the U.S.’s allies in the region,” argues John Stachelski of the Chicago Anti-War Committee. “I think that [the US] does not want to have any opposition to their plans there. And there’s all this historical antagonism, especially between Saudi Arabia and Syria. It’s not necessarily about resources sometimes, or oil specifically…I think it’s a lot more complex than just a question of resources.”

On Tuesday, September 10th, the Obama administration reconsidered launching an attack on Syria. President Obama issued a speech regarding “the red line” and U.S plans to intervene in Syria. The administration has gone on to claim that it will place its strikes on hold if Assad surrenders his chemical weapons. Still, with no official diplomatic agreement reached, the US’s future in Syria remains uncertain. This makes it all the more important for these demonstrations to occur. With the Obama administration continuing to delay the use of military action in Syria, it could be the voices of protesters across the country that ultimately sway its decision in the direction of diplomacy.

One Response to Boots On The Ground

  1. [Warning: long harsh comment below.]

    As a Syrian, I never understood the significance of writing till the Syrian revolution broke out. I never appreciated and detested words as much as I do today, after my writer friends in Syria received death threats from the Syrian government and Syrian feminist writers received rape threats. Today, I understand the importance of credibility, honesty and integrity when it comes to writing and to be honest this article lacks much of that.

    While it is noble of so many Americans taking a firm stand against “another war”, due to their understanding of war in foreign countries it is worth noting that this article does not take JUST that stance. Firstly, the images included, quite frankly, are offensive. The flag raised in first image is today no longer the flag of Syria it is directly associated with the Assad regime, that only a few weeks before this article was written, only a few days before Americans decided to adopt a stance against Syria, conducted a Chemical Weapon attack on civilians, and in the past two years killed 10s of thousands of Syrians.
    The only people who dispute the chemical weapon attack today are members of the Assad regime and the American Anti-war Association and some people on the left. I find that the anti-war association and the Assad regime agreeing to deny a massacre against defenseless civilians truly worrying and a disgrace to human conscience.

    Even worse: the second image is an image of “anti-war” protesters raising a poster of the dictator himself, Bashar al Assad.

    Now, forgive me for my harsh comments, but aside from a false title “boots on the ground”, how does anyone seeking any credibility publish something like this? NEVER were boots on the ground in Syria proposed, so why is this even a title? Whether I’m missing a pun, or not reading between the lines, this title in addition to the terms such as “Iraq invasion” is to the very least dangerously misleading. Then the question: “are chemical weapons the new weapons of mass destruction?” Yes, chemical weapons are by definition weapons of mass destruction.

    I am Syrian my self, and while the discussion of military strikes (as far as US intervention will ever go) is definitely problematic to many Syrians like my self, we do not appreciate the newly found American concern.

    I’ve written a few pieces on Syria for Fnews, the humanitarian club attempted to raise awareness by holding a fund raiser and an artist talk at the Neiman Center, that no one showed up to, and an art sale that only managed to raise $300. Where were the concerned students back then?

    Secondly opposing intervention in Syria should not mean denying facts, demonising Syrian opposition, and most importantly taking the stance of the Syrian regime itself.

    The voices of American protesters today delayed intervention in Syria, but did nothing to delay killing. the voices of Americans who, from the comfort of their democratic, safe country, actively mobilize people against intervention in Syria, while Syrians under constant shelling go out of their way to create youtube videos and articles saying that nothing is worse than Assad and that they want the intervention of even the devil. (http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/column/samar-yazbek-in-syria-i-cry-for-intervention-in-exile/article_5dda8cb2-3bd4-5886-9930-4cc62ed4a9cd.html)

    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSHKJaWleXs)

    Today John Kerry praises Assad for the “progress” he’s made in transferring his chemical weapon stockpile, as if that means anything to any Syrian. The “progressive” Assad continues to kill at an average of 90 people per day, young non-violent men and women still get tortured, children are still getting killed so what is this frenzy ver chemical weapons and “diplomacy” that has done absolutely nothing!

    the voices of protesters that want to ultimately sway the Obama administration towards diplomacy, are not needed, and frankly Syrians could not care less about Americans’ opinions on how the Syrian crisis should be solved, so there is no need to sway anything. These efforts are counterproductive and have caused Syrians to hate americans more than ever while they beg for the devil to get them out of their misery. Americans with consciences are those who joined our protests in Chicago a long time ago, and attempted to mobilize people for humanitarian support for Syrian refugees since 2011. Every month Syrian Americans take to the streets of chicago to protest the genocide in Syria. Syrian Americans have quit their jobs and dedicated their entire lives to help and support refugees, orphans and non-violent activists with little attention from mainstream media and the general public. Yes, in Chicago, there are Syrian Americans who do support Assad, but their opinions are just as valid as those of Neo-Nazis. You can choose whether to allow yourself to validate the opinions of those who supported the Holocaust or not, just know that this is no different.

    In case you have stopped following the news on Syria after mainstream American media stopped reporting on it, and after you righteously acted on preventing military action in Syria, here’s what’s been happening since: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-24288698

    When you write about Syria, remember that what you write means something to someone, and whether this was just another article to put into your resume or that it is something that affects your life like it does to mine: remember to be honest, mindful and cautious.

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