SPC Unity Statement on Syria

From the February 2014 PNL #831

by SPC Steering Committee

Editor’s note: Following President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry’s attempts to rush to bomb Syria in the late summer of 2013, the SPC Steering Committee undertook to write an organizational statement responding to that call for war and the situation on the ground in Syria. We found it a surprisingly challenging task due to the complexity of the situation and differing analyses within our leadership. We find these differences mirrored across the left in the US. After a thoughtful process, we would now like to share this statement outlining our values and points of consensus regarding the horrific conflict in Syria.

As we go to press, peace negotiations between the Assad government and certain factions of the opposition are opening in Geneva. Just ahead of negotiations a Qatari-financed report was released claiming proof that Assad’s military tortured, starved and killed thousands of prisoners. On Day 1 in Geneva harsh words were flying with the Syrian Foreign Secretary positing that the disinvitation of Iran guaranteed a mix of “anti-Syrian” countries. Meanwhile, opposition leaders called the Assad government “a disease” and some observers are concerned that negotiations can’t possibly be meaningful because so many sections of the opposition refused to participate.

Those of us inspired by the cry for democracy and human rights that continues to reverberate from Tunisia to Egypt to Syria were saddened and horrified to see that same movement violently repressed by the Syrian state beginning in 2011. We were further dismayed when foreign governments including the US, Russia, and Saudi Arabia armed various sides in the Syrian conflict. The Peace Council has consistently spoken out against any government, especially our own, escalating armed conflict in Syria in the form of airstrikes, invasion, or weapons shipments to armed groups.

We continue to stand in solidarity with those in Syria struggling for freedom, dignity, peace and social justice in the face of both overwhelming state violence and escalating attacks on civilians from some anti-government groups. Syrian activists and revolutionaries continue to struggle for democracy and human rights, showing a resiliency of human spirit and organizational creativity that is truly inspiring. As an organization committed to nonviolent struggle against militarism and all forms of oppression, we find most affinity with nonviolent movements within Syria also fighting against militarism and oppression.

Russia continues to support and arm the al-Assad government, while the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar continue to arm some of the anti-government groups. This is not the conduct of governments seeking peace or working to help the Syrian people come to a popularly supported solution to the crisis engulfing their country. It is reprehensible for our government or any government to use Syria as a pawn in a geo-political chess game.

We will continue to oppose any attempts by the Obama administration to militarily intervene in Syria. In opposing US military strikes on Syria or weapons delivery to any side in the conflict, we seek to prevent further loss of life. We do not turn a blind eye to the violence and oppression faced by the Syrian people, nor do we ally ourselves with the Syrian state. We do seek to prevent the US from using the situation in Syria to further its own political and economic agenda at the expense of Syrian self-determination. We share the desire to do something to end the bloodshed, but there is no evidence that bombing Syria or arming opposition groups in Syria will make life better for Syrian civilians.

We reiterate our call for our government to participate in and strengthen international institutions designed to prevent war, human rights abuses and hold international war criminals accountable, including those within our own borders. We call on our own government and governments around the world to divert money from weapons to humanitarian aid through international institutions to help ease the severe humanitarian crisis.

We stand with the majority of Americans who are opposed to a military intervention in Syria. We are heartened to see such an outpouring of opposition to the use of military force and increasing skepticism over the idea that the US can use military clout to support human rights and democracy.