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Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Response of Veterans for Peace to the Syrian Conflict | a time-line

Veterans for Peace is one of the oldest and most important organizations to come out of the peace movement spawned by the Vietnam War. It has always been a strong supporter of me and my work. It contributed financially to the production of my film Vietnam: American Holocaust and showed it at a national convention when it was released.

In recent years I have had some sharp differences with the organization's stands on the revolutions in Libya and Syria. VFP is currently involved in a re-evaluation of its position on Syria. It is sincerely hoped that this critique and time-line of VFP statements and actions in the context of the Syrian conflict will help to lend clarify to that discussion.

first came the revolution

From the very beginning of the Syria Revolution in March 2011, the mainstay of the Syrian uprising has been the non-violent protests organized across Syria after Friday pray. Millions have participated in these protests and one of their defining features is that each of these protests has a name and a theme.

These Friday protests continue even today, sometimes under combat conditions. [complete list here]

Friday of "Ramadan to be Month of Victories Over Dictator" in Aleppo | 19 July 2013


These names and themes can be viewed as a true measure of the attitude of these revolutionary masses not only because thousands rally under their banners but because thousands are involved in choosing them. The Atlantic Wire did a good piece on this in Sept 2011:
While news reports often cite these bellwether Friday names, they hardly ever explain how the titles were chosen and by whom. The process sheds light on how the Syrian opposition, now entering its seventh month of defiance, operates, at a time when anti-government activists are trying to organize themselves better by forming the Syrian National Council with the goal of overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad within six months and forming an interim government.

Here's how the naming worked this week. On Tuesday evening, administrators of the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page, a hub for footage and accounts from the uprising, posted a poll with eight possible names for Friday's upcoming protest that fans of the Facebook page could vote on. By our count, 14,861 people voted before the close of the poll at midnight on Wednesday.
...
What's perhaps most amazing is that the winning Friday name really seems to wend its way from social media to the street.
A 14 April 2012 Al Jazeera English article, The battle to name Syria's Friday protests tells us more:
This week, more than 30,000 Facebook users voted, in what some described as a battle between secularists and moderates on one side and those with strong Islamist views on the other. Rallies on Friday were just a few hundred votes away from being called "The armies of Islam: rescue Syria" when the poll closed at 12am on Wednesday.

That name lost only after an intense last-minute campaign against it on Twitter and Facebook by prominent activists.
...
Calls for intervention

Hadi al-Abdallah, a spokesperson of the Syrian Revolution General Commission, the activist network that suggested the name calling for support from "armies of Islam", said the slogan was an expression of how they had lost hope that the international community would intervene.

"We have, in earlier Friday names, sent messages calling for military intervention," he said. "We sent messages to the Arab world and to the international community and their response was negative or insufficient every time.
Because of the democratic way they are chosen and then adopted by the protesters, these names and themes are a much better indicator of what the people are demanding than any number of party programs or leadership proclamations and from almost the beginning of the deadly Syrian government attacks on these protests, they have demanded foreign intervention.

These are the only people who have a right to demand intervention and these are the only people that have to be answered. Other calls for intervention, that don't echo these, should be discounted entirely.

What has the response of Veterans for Peace been to these demands and to this conflict?

This is my time-line.


29 July 2011 | 2,224 Syrians killed to date (SNC) | Friday of "Your Silence Is Killing Us"

The formation of the Free Syria Army is announced on this date. 200 Syrian Arab Army [SAA] soldiers ordered to fire on the Friday protesters in Daraa instead defect and post a video on-line calling on other Syria soldiers to join them.

9 Sept 2011 | 3,241 Syrians killed to date (SNC) Friday of "International Protection"
UN says 2600 Syrian killed to date. NY Times reports:
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets on Friday to call for international protection from President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on pro-democracy activists who have been trying to topple his government for more than five months.
Friday of International Protection in Zamalka, Damascus | 14 Sept 2011


Friday of International Protection in Azaz | 14 Sept 2011

"We want International Protection"

28 October 2011 | 4,106 Syrians killed (SNC) | Friday of "No-Fly Zone"



Friday of "No Fly Zone" Protest in Idlib | 28 Oct 2011


Friday of "No Fly Zone" Protest in Busr al-Harir | Daraa | 28 Oct 2011


Friday of "No Fly Zone" Protest in Rankoos | Damascus | 28 Oct 2011


Friday of "No Fly Zone" Protest in Deir Baalbeh | Homs | 28 Oct 2011


They never got a no fly zone or any international protection and 14 months later there was a massacre in Deir Baalbeh. Veterans for Peace opposed the no fly zone they were requesting as well as any weapons or international protection.

Graphic: Video of martyrs from the Deir Baalbeh massacre | Homs | 28 Dec 2012


Two weeks before this massacre VFP issued a statement "Veterans For Peace urgently calls on the United States and NATO to cease all military activity in Syria," but the US and NATO didn't do this massacre, the Assad regime did. There has been no US or NATO military activity in Syria so the VFP demand was already met and did nothing to stop the slaughter of Syrians by their government.

9 December 2011 | 5192 Syrians killed to this point (SNC) Friday of "the Syrian Buffer Zone"

Night protests on Friday of "Syrians Demand Buffer Zone" Sanamein | Daraa | 02 Dec 2011


15 December 2011 5,000+ Syria have died in the first seven months of the uprising. (UN)

10 February 2012 | 7,500 Syrians killed (UN 27/2) | Friday of "Russia is Killing Our Children"

16 March 2012 | 9,000 Syrians killed (UN) | Friday of "Immediate Military Intervention"

Large protests on Friday of "Immediate Military Intervention" in Qusayr | 16 March 2012

Tragically for the people of Quasyr, the only military intervention in their future would be the intervention of Hezbullah as well as commanders from Iran some fifteen months later in support of Bashar al-Assad's temporarily successful effort to crush this resistance center.

The protesters in this video, if they have not been killed, have been scattered to the four winds. Veterans for Peace never opposed the military intervention by Hezbullah, Russia and Iran that allowed Assad to destroy Qusayr. Their only fear was military intervention in defense of these protesters. They only opposed military intervention that wasn't happening and would not be happening.

Qusayr today after bombardment by Assad

then came the vfp response

03 April 2012 | 12,300 Syrians killed (SNC) | Veterans for Peace issues a statement: VFP Opposes "Humanitarian Intervention" in Syria
...
Now we are hearing similar calls to intercede in Syria where thousands have been killed under the direction of President Assad, another foreign leader the U.S. wants to see removed.

It is the position of VFP that a military “humanitarian intervention” is an oxymoron. More...
The day after VFP issued this statement, the Assad regime opened fired on a peaceful demonstration:

Brave cameraman catches regime massacre in Daraa on video | 4 April 2012

The regime open fired on more than ten thousand protesters, killing and injuring many.

20 April 2012 | 13,674 killed (SNC) | Friday of "We Will Be Victorious and Al-Assad Will Be Defeated"

Protest in front of the Great Mosque | 20 April 2012


25 May 2012 Houla massacre - Assad regime thugs kill 108 civilians in this small village. (UN)

23 June 2012 | 17,204 Syrians killed (SNC) | VFP calls for protests against the growing threat of war:
The growing threats of war against Syria are alarming. Recently, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Russia not to get in the way of US backed efforts to force out the government of President Assad. The corporate media is making every effort to make the case for another "Humanitarian War."
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During the period from June 23 through July 1, Veterans For Peace is asked to join with our partner organizations in the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) to organize demonstrations, events, and vigils around the country to protest the growing threat of war against Syria and Iran. Please join the protests in your city or take the lead in organizing one.
After the Syrian Arab Army shelled Rastan for 18 consecutive days


Huge defection from the SAA formed al-Hamza FSA brigade in Rastan | 27 June 2012


30 June 2012 | 18120 Syrians killed (SNC) | With Assad facing increasing defections on the ground, the Syrian Air Force is used in an unprecedented attack on the Syria city of Douma near Damascus. The world's acceptance of this attack and continued refusal to stop the air attacks would lead to a dramatic increase in the carnage in Syria.

11 July 2012 | 19,298 Syrians killed (SNC) | New VFP statement issued: Say No to Humanitarian Imperialism in Iran & Syria
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The lies about Syria and Iran are flowing freely. But neither the motivation nor the likely result of the warmongering is humanitarian. Intervention in either nation now will cause enormous human suffering, make reform more difficult, and quite possibly escalate into regional or global conflict. More...
Assad's forces massacred 227 Syrians in Tremseh on the same day VFP issued the above statement indicating it still thinks the Assad regime capable of reform.

20 July 2013 | 20,710 Syrians killed (SNC) | US Out of Syria/ Justice for Trayvon Martin Rally in Boston
Speaker says "How can you stop violence by putting in more arms and threatening a no fly zone?" [01:54]
26 July 2012 | 21,800 Syrians killed (SNC) | Another VFP statement begins:
We are once again on the verge of another disastrous war in the Middle East. The United States and its allies in Europe and the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are consciously pushing Syria toward a destructive civil war. The objective is to bring down the Assad regime, an ally of the Iranian government, as a stepping-stone toward further isolation of Iran and preparation of the ground for a military attack on that country.
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Recognizing the critical nature of the present situation in the Middle East and the threat of an imminent war, Veterans For Peace,
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  • Demands immediate cessation of all foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Syria, including an immediate end to the illegal arming of surrogate forces fighting the government; establishment of an immediate ceasefire on all sides; and allowing the peaceful people of Syria to decide their destiny democratically and independently;
More...
On the very day VFP issued this statement the opposition organized an English language protest in Damascus specifically to communicate with us:

27 July 2012 | Friday of "Uprising of the Two Capitals"
      This link leads to videos of ten other protests in Syria that Friday.
1 August 2012 | 22,716 Syrians killed (SNC) | Kofi Annan resigns as envoy to Syria

8 August 2012 | 23,987 Syrians killed (SNC) | Friday of "Arm Us With Anti-Aircraft Weapons"
     Veterans for Peace opposed this too.
19 August 2012 | 25,974 Syrians killed (SNC) | Obama warns Assad that using chemical weapons is a "red-line" but also indicates there will be no US military intervention to stop the ongoing carnage.
I post Obama "green lights" Assad's slaughter in Syria

5 October 2012 | 35,105 Syrians killed (SNC) | Friday of "We Want Weapons, not Statements"

19 October 2012 | 37,626 Syrians killed (SNC) | Friday of "America, Your Suspicious Silence is Killing Us"

30 November 2012 | 43,394 Syrians killed (SNC) | 59,648 Syrians killed to this point according to the UN.

13 December 2012 | 45,230 Syrians killed (SNC) | VFP issued a statement:

Veterans For Peace Opposes Military Intervention in Syria
Veterans For Peace urgently calls on the United States and NATO to cease all military activity in Syria, halt all U.S. and NATO shipments of weapons, and abandon all threats to further escalate the violence under which the people of Syria are suffering.

NATO troops and missiles should be withdrawn from Turkey and other surrounding nations. U.S. ships should exit the Mediterranean. More...
While the VFP view that NATO violence is mainly what ails Syria is completely out of touch with reality, it has a curious unity with Bashar al-Assad's view of the Syrian conflict. Not a month after VFP issued its statement calling on NATO to cease all military activity in Syria, Assad gave a rare public speech.

6 January 2013 | 48,896 Syrians killed (SNC) | President Bashar al-Assad's Opera House Speech
“When part of the people becomes tied to the outside, the conflict becomes between the homeland and outside powers, between the country's independence and hegemony over it, between staying free or occupying it, and hence the issue becomes defending the homeland and all unify against the outside aggression which is aided by some internal tools.”

“It is not a matter of loyalists against opposition, nor an army vis-à-vis gangs and criminals…We are in a state of war in the full sense of the word…We are repelling a fierce outside aggression in a new disguise, which is more lethal and dangerous than a traditional war, because they do not employ their tools to strike us, but they have us implement their projects, and target Syria using a bunch of Syrians and a lot of foreigners.”
Both Veterans for Peace and Bashar al-Assad have this in common with regards to Syria. Both ignore the reality of millions of Syrians who have rallied to the cause of democracy and justice. Both prefer to talk about foreigners who have joined the opposition rather than the thousands of Syrian army defectors that make up the backbone of the force fighting Assad. And both think the main problem with Syria is a NATO campaign to get rid of Bashar al-Assad.

11 January 2013 | 49,193 Syrians killed (SNC) | Friday of "the Refugee Camps of Death", or "Death Camp Friday" as it was more commonly known, was designed to call attention to terrible conditions in the refugee camps and to call for international assistants in addressing the problem.

"Death Camp Friday in Hama | 11 Jan 2013


1 February 2013 | 52,322 Syrians killed (SNC) | Friday of "The International Community Are Partners in the Massacre"

They would probably also consider Veterans for Peace partners in the massacre as well.

15 February 2013 | 54,282 Syrians killed (SNC) | Friday of "God is Sufficient Help"

Is it any wonder the Syrian people have turned so heavily towards religion when the world has left them to their fate or that they support right-wing jhadists when the left wants Assad to have the freedom to keep bombing them?

23 March 2013 | 70,000 Syrians killed (UN) | Friday of "Your Chemical Weapons Will Not Halt Our Progress Towards Freedom"

This followed two deadly chemical attacks on 19 March in Khan al-Assal and in Ateibeh.

30 April 2013 92,901 Syrians killed to this point. (UN)

3 May 2013 | Friday of "Syrians Are Being Killed with Your “Red Lines”"

Syria Kafarzeita Red Line Friday Anti-Assad Protest Calls for Rebel Victory | 3 May 2013


10 May 2013 | Friday of "Banias: Ethnic Cleansing and International Complicity"

Just as with Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia and Kosovo the international community is looking the other way as a government commits ethnic cleansing.

14 June 2013 | 100,000 Syrians killed (UN) | More than a hundred thousand Syria have died in the proceeding 27 months. Many civilians have been killed by their own government with cluster bombs, barrel bombs, ballistic missiles, and heavy artillery. There is a growing body of extremely creditable evidence that the Syrian government is starting to also use its admitted stockpiles of chemical weapons to kill its own people. That evidence includes the extensive collection of video evidence by Brown Moses, testimony by a number of defectors who were in a position to know, as well as investigations by the UK, Le Monde and the US. Veterans for Peace blows all this off with:
President Obama has turned another dangerous corner, escalating U.S. involvement in the civil war in Syria by announcing he will directly arm Syrian rebels. “This is very concerning to Veterans For Peace,” says VFP Board member Gerry Condon.
...
“And the so-called “red line” of chemical weapons use? This fraudulent rationale for U.S. intervention has been telegraphed for several months now. If you buy it, you have not been paying attention."
Assad is already killing thousands of Syrians every month and now he has started killing an increasing number of them with poison gas. VFP campaigns against taking this seriously or doing anything about it, remembering that Bush used fraudulent claims of WMD possession to instigate the war in Iraq, They forgot that it is normal for the US imperialists to ignore a dictator using WMD to suppress his own people, as they did when Saddam Hussein used poison gas to murder 5,000 Kurds, and they don't need any prodding from the peace movement to do that.

In Summation

For more than a year, Veterans for Peace virtually ignored the struggle of the Syrian people against the brutal 42 year old Assad dictatorship. Then what they did was worst than ignore it.

They took the dictator's side and they gave left cover to western imperialists that had every intention of allowing Assad tremendous latitude in applying military power to crush the uprising.

They took the dictator's side when they failed to acknowledge the plight of the people or that their mass struggle against Assad was the main motive force behind the crisis. From time immemorial, oppressors have blamed uprisings of their oppressed on "outside agitators" so it is not surprising that Bashar al-Assad does this also. What is surprising is that VFP backs his play, also plaints the Syrian opposition as pawns of the imperialists and blames Syria's troubles on a NATO conspiracy.

They took the dictator's side when they opposed foreign military intervention only on the revolutions side, intervention the imperialists never really intended anyway. VFP ignored the foreign military intervention in support of the dictatorship. VFP ignored precisely the foreign military intervention that was taking tens of thousands of Syrian lives and campaigned against any military intervention to stop it.

They took the dictator's side when they rendered his Syrian opposition invisible and refused to answer the demands of those in jeopardy for "regime change" or a "no-fly zone." Instead VFP treated those demands as Assad has, as though they have come exclusively or mainly from NATO when what the past two years have shown is that, contrary to VFP fears, NATO has little interest in promoting either.

While Obama and the other NATO leaders have found it necessary to feign support for the Syrian struggle for democracy, the practical record has shown that they have no intention, and never had any real intention of supporting a democratic revolution in Syria or seeing an end to the Assad regime. VFP has helped them embellish their cover story and given them valuable left cover by helping to organize "peace protests" to demand that they keep doing what they have been doing with regards to Syria.

Still, It must be said that VFP's Syria campaign has been one of its greatest success stories. Unlike in Iraq and Afghanistan where they demanded no war and there was war. Unlike in Libya when they opposed a no-fly zone and NATO went ahead with a no-fly zone plus. In Syria their demands that there be no military intervention to protect the people, that a no-fly zone not be imposed and the opposition not be armed, have largely been met. This is a rare policy success for Veterans for Peace. In Homs, Syria, this has been the result.


Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

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