Anti-war groups press their case to halt impending Syria attack

Anti-war groups are mobilizing across the country at breakneck speed to halt an impending attack on Syria.

While President Barack Obama and Israel lobby groups are flooding Congress with pro-intervention messages, anti-war organizations are giving them a run for their money. And in sharp contrast to the votes on Iraq, the Syria resolution being debated in the House of Representatives could very well fail.

“It’s dead in the House,” said a staffer for a Congress member. “The calls are running 100 to 1 against. So that makes a big difference.”

That’s in part due to the efforts of groups like Code Pink, Peace Action, Win Without War and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, alongside like minded Congress members like Representative Alan Grayson, who is leading the charge against intervention in the House and whose office is organizing a hearing next week that will feature experts who are skeptical of an attack on Syria. Anti-war forces are finding fertile ground across America, with polls consistently showing broad opposition to cruise missile strikes on the Assad regime. The argument they are pressing is that military intervention will escalate the conflict in Syria, and that it’s time for real diplomacy to halt the bloodletting.

“Just going into the offices, you hear the phones ringing constantly and you hear the receptionist saying, ‘Yes, I will register your opposition to a U.S. invasion of Syria,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink who is a ubiquitous presence on Capitol Hill. Benjamin was arrested earlier this week after disrupting Secretary of State John Kerry’s pro-war pitch to the Senate, and her group is lobbying Congress ferociously to vote no on an attack Syria resolution. “[Members of Congress] appear to be very torn by what they’re party, what the Democrats, are pushing them to do and [what] their constituents are pushing them do. It’s a real tug of war between the people versus the power,” Benjamin added.

The opposition to a Syria strike, which would further embroil the U.S. in a brutal civil war, is being registered intensely at the local level. In town hall meetings, opponents to intervening in Syria–from anti-war Democrats to libertarian Republicans–have gone on the offensive. Senator John McCain, a key proponent of greater intervention in Syria, faced a groundswell of voices against attacking Syria at a town hall meeting held Thursday.

In Fort Greene, Brooklyn, a local peace group is going back to organizing basics to halt the looming strikes on Syria. Fort Greene Peace, a sister organization of the larger Brooklyn For Peace, has hit the farmer’s market in the local park and has set up shop outside a supermarket near public housing projects. They’ve collected over 200 signatures on a petition against an attack on Syria stating “military strikes by the U.S. will not make any Syrians safer.” Ed Goldman, an activist with Fort Greene Peace, said that “we think it’s immoral, we think it’s illegal, we think it’s crazy politically in the region.” Goldman added that the public seems to agree with him: “It’s unbelievable. We’ve had people lining up at our table to sign this petition. There’s almost nobody that walks by who doesn’t say, ‘yeah you’re right.’”

Today, a group of about 10 activists met with Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the generally progressive Congressional Black Caucus who is serving Fort Greene and other Brooklyn neighborhoods. Jeffries has been on the fence about his vote on Syria. He released a statement this week saying that “we must now carefully evaluate whether the use of force is appropriate.  The situation in Syria is a serious one and the use of chemical weapons, if proven, must be met with severe consequences.” The anti-war activists wanted to push him to their side.

They didn’t exactly get what they wanted, though the activists were pleased that Jeffries was receptive enough to meet and listen to their concerns.  In a post-meeting interview, Jeffries said he was concerned about “an open-ended conflict that would divert resources away from domestic spending priorities that we have here in America as well as the possibility of sparking a war that would result in United States’ boots being put on the ground.” While the Congressman said he would take those concerns down with him to Washington D.C., where he will meet with the Obama administration, he has yet to make up his mind on a vote.

Jeffries, like many other elected officials, is caught between his constituents on one side, and his president on the other side. The role of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee will also be a factor in how Jeffries votes. He coasted to Congress on a wave of pro-Israel donor money, which poured in to stop his opponent in the Democratic primary, Charles Barron.

“I do think that there will be a variety of groups that will weigh in, into this question. I’ve spoken to at least one member of AIPAC. However, I do anticipate that we’ll have a lot of different conversations with a lot of different folks over the next few days,” said Jeffries. “The AIPAC member was simply asking what my position was. It wasn’t an aggressive conversation at all. It was a very thoughtful conversation.”

Jeffries will likely hear again from AIPAC next week, when the lobby group will send 250 activists to Capitol Hill to push for authorizing a Syria attack as a way to “send a message” to Iran over its nuclear energy program. The Senate is set to vote on a Syria strike next week, though it’s possible opponents of a strike could delay a vote. It’s unclear when the House, where there’s a lot of opposition to military action, will vote. The majority of House members have indicated they will vote no an attack Syria resolution, according to counts compiled by news organizations.

In the meantime, anti-war groups continue to organize. Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin said her group is planning to set up an encampment in Washington, D.C. to oppose force on Syria and will continue to protest. Anti-war rallies around the country are being held Saturday to rally more opposition to a strike on Syria.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is an assistant editor for Mondoweiss and the World editor for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
Posted in Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, Middle East, syria, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

{ 23 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. RE: “Anti-war groups are mobilizing across the country at breakneck speed to halt an impending attack on Syria.” ~ Alex Kane

    FROM CommonDreams.org:

    Groups urging their members to sign petitions, call their representatives or take direct action against the war include:

    • RootsAction.org – link to rootsaction.org
    • Win Without War – link to winwithoutwar.org
    • Credo Action – link to act.credoaction.com
    • MoveOn.org – link to front.moveon.org
    • CodePink – link to codepink4peace.org
    • United for Peace and Justice – link to unitedforpeace.org
    • Progressive Democrats for America – link to salsa3.salsalabs.com
    • War Times – link to war-times.org
    • Iraq Veterans Against the War – link to ivaw.org
    • Friends Committee on National Legislation – link to fcnl.org
    • Just Foreign Policy – link to justforeignpolicy.org
    • Grassroots Global Justice – link to ggjalliance.org
    • Arab Resource and Organizing Center – link to araborganizing.org
    • Veterans for Peace – link to veteransforpeace.org
    • US Labor Against the War – link to veteransforpeace.org
    • Middle East Children’s Alliance – link to mecaforpeace.org
    • Avaaz – link to avaaz.org

    SOURCE – link to commondreams.org

  2. Bravo Code Pink for protesting!

  3. Those who assert: it’s time for real diplomacy to halt the bloodletting are full of it. It is just more palatable than: let them kill each other. (And more palatable than: we don’t know what to do, so it’s best to do nothing. There is some validity to this argument, but to pretend as if “real” diplomacy, will result in peace, is really detached from reality and it sounds like it comes from people who think we are dealing with some theoretical conflict between sides A and B. The rebels in their variety and Assad in his singularity are at very real loggerheads and to pretend, Oh, diplomacy is the path, is a symptom of ignorance. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s ignorant. It is ignorant, both of the nature of the Assad regime and the nature of the genie of rebellion in Syria, which will not go back into the bottle, just because some people in pink flash a sign in Washington d.c.)

  4. Now Obama knows what political and moral impotency feels like to know that America’s UNSC resolutions will be vetoed by another Security Council member. Successive American administrations acting under the orders of AIPAC have been routinely so acting to veto any UNSC resolution critical of nuclear Israel, for decades. The blatant irresponsibility in subserviently subverting the wishes of the international community in order to service the demands of a lobby acting for a foreign state devalues the standing of any American president.

    • Citizen says:

      @ anthonybellchambers
      Yep. How many times has the US at the UN SC vetoed attempts to make Israel accountable for its rogue conduct and policies? 40?

  5. seafoid says:

    Barry is going to lose the house of reps vote. Even McCain is getting calls 100 to 1 against the bombing. Aipac is losing its grip on the US. Israel can forget about taking out Iran.

  6. ToivoS says:

    Well this answers last week’s question: Yes AIPAC is coming out into the light of day to lobby for the US to go to war against Syria. Now that that is cleared up it looks like it will an open fight between the American people and the Israel lobby. This can be a win-win for the antiwar folks. The big win for us will be to win the vote in the House. If we lose and war results, the little win will be to expose Israel’s negative influence on American politics. That will never end until they are fully exposed to the light of day.

  7. Bandolero says:

    Israel and AIPAC made a BIG mistake. All what AIPAC does now is proof in an analysis of who has a strong interest in a US-led war against Syria.

    … a dozen former U.S. military and intelligence officials are telling President Obama that they are picking up information that undercuts the Official Story:

    Obama Warned on Syrian Intel

    Looks like Israel and AIPAC were caught red-handed in a false-flag terror attack to pull the US into war.

    Please spread widely.

  8. kalithea says:

    There’s a protest march happening right now in Washington D.C. in front of the White House and it will be moving to protest in front of Congress later in the day. Cable networks are reporting from this protest and I saw a mere 200 people there. THIS IS PALTRY GIVEN THE GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION. THIS IS SHAMEFUL. How many people live in Washington D.C.??? Get off your butts anyone who lives in the area and join that march!

    There should be at least 200,000 people marching IN EVERY CITY! What’s the matter with everyone, you really believe this war ain’t gonna happen if you do nothing??? Do something! Obama plans to use the Senate vote and not Congress’s vote to launch the bombing campaign on Syria. Call and email your Senators and wherever there’s a march happening support their efforts. Get off your butts, already! You’re not the only ones who don’t want this war – the entire world is counting on Americans to do something this time. The majority all over the world are against Obama’s plan to bomb Syria and they need Americans to speak for them. YOU will make the difference – YOU can stop the march to war with your march. March, call, email – doooooo something PLEASE before it’s too late.

    • yrn says:

      There should be at least 200,000 people marching IN EVERY CITY! What’s the matter with everyone, you really believe this war ain’t gonna happen if you do nothing???

      Hypocrite kalithea , you never said a word regarding those 200,000 marching to stop the Butchering of 100,000 Syrians and the Millions of Syrian refugees Butchered by Arab Muslims.

    • Shmuel says:

      100,000 in St. Peter’s Square tonight, against Obama’s folly.

      • A gut yahr and shana tova, Shmuel.

        Easy enough calling this Obama’s folly. But a tougher question: what policy for good hearted people to pray for in their hearts and for world leaders to implement do you propose vis a vis Syria?

        • Shmuel says:

          A gut yohr to you too, Yonah. At the moment, I think it is enough for good-hearted people to pray that Congress vote against a course of action that is more than likely to cause even greater misery and suffering in Syria and beyond. Primum non nocere is always a good place to start.

        • American says:

          ”what policy for good hearted people to pray for in their hearts and for world leaders to implement do you propose vis a vis Syria?”……yonah

          good hearted people should pray that world leaders do the one thing that would bring this to an end sooner—-cut off the weapons supply to both rebels and Assad.

          but world leaders arent good hearted, they’re politicans so that isnt gonna happen.

  9. Kathleen says:

    Code Pink out on the cutting edge before the bloody invasion of Iraq still doing such important work. Millions of us marched, lobbied, were arrested before the invasion of Iraq let’s hope all of this action helps this time around

    MSNBC has had lots of references to Israel and the I lobbies push for this strike. Alex Witt allowed on correspondent in Israel to refer to Iran’s nuclear program as a “nuclear weapons program” No objection out of Alex Witt

    • Citizen says:

      @ Kathleen
      Medea Benjamin, wearing her Code Pink shirt, was on SPAN WJ a coup of days ago. She was shown in the congressional hearings, carrying her protest sign, along with a couple of other’s in Code Pink. They just walked in, walked around the seated folks, and walked out silently. They had painted red hands, and four or five people seated against the back wall held their similarly painted red hands up while the congress critters were interrogating Obama’s pro-strike panel.

      Ms Benjamin is a great American. Nobody with similar views has the access she has to protest in the halls and rooms of congress. She must be well-connected in the Establishment.

    • Citizen says:

      @ Kathleen
      Medina Benjamin, wearing her Code Pink shirt, was on SPAN WJ a couple of days ago. She was shown in the congressional hearings, carrying her protest sign, along with a couple of other’s in Code Pink. They just walked in, walked around the seated folks, and walked out silently. They had painted red hands, and four or five people seated against the back wall held their similarly painted red hands up while the congress critters were interrogating Obama’s pro-strike panel.

      Ms Benjamin is a great American. Nobody with similar views has the access she has to protest in the halls and rooms of congress. She must be well-connected in the Establishment.

      • Citizen says:

        Wikipedia says (when she yelled at President Obama) “Benjamin was first told by the Secret Service and others that she would be under arrest if she did not agree to be escorted out immediately, but she threatened to “make a scene” if grabbed. After several interruptions, she was removed from the hall. Looks like she has since taken their advice to just make a visible but less noisy, quick walk around.

        • Kathleen says:

          There are rules. Have been in those same rooms holding signs. Not allowed to hold above your shoulders,if you make a scene of course bank on being escorted out.

  10. Forseti says:

    The legacy of Iraq looms over the debate. Its a shame because Syria is not Iraq. Syria does have chemical weapons, Assad has used warships, scud missiles and airplanes to bomb cities.