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Sunday, January 12, 2014

ICUJP on Syria

Saturday, 11 January 2013 hosted two events that should have been of interest to the peace and justice community, Close Guantanamo Now, sponsored by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, and Global Day of Solidarity with Syria, initiated by the Syrian American Council.

Only one of these events received any attention from the Los Angeles peace and justice community. Frankly, I found that troubling, so I sent out this email to a number of activist lists in the LA area:
Subject: Today 11 Jan 2013 is Global Day of Solidarity with Syria!

Syria Day of Rage 11 Jan 2013Unfortunately the Los Angeles event had to be cancelled. The Syrian American Council has only one part-time paid organizer in Southern CA and after leading in organizing the protests against the visit of Assad's nun to LA, the visit by revolutionaries from Kafranbel and the very successful mass protest against Assad's UN ambassador Bashar Jaafari in Beverly Hills, she was forced to take a 2nd job just to keep her family afloat. She was very involved in organizing this event globally but LA got left behind because no one stepped forward to organize it. They will take a picture with a banner to show solidarity with this world wide effort, but there is no planned mass event in Los Angeles. The Jaafari protest was an important breakthrough for the Syrian American community here in that it united five local Syrian organizations in a joint action for the first time. Frankly, all of us who have been supporting the Syrian people have had our hands full with the tasks this struggle has present us with and have noted the serious lack of concern by the so-called peace and justice community in the United States.

From yesterday's protest in KafranbelIronically, today's global event, with actions in Kolin, Dublin, Berlin, Barcelona, Aachen, Buenos Aires, Freiburg, Antwerp, Hamburg, Montreal, Paris, Montpellier, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Hedelberg, Milan, Stuggart, Como, Genova, Bologna, Muchen, Ancona, Rome, Naples, Dortmund, Palermo, Lecce, Vienna, Nairobi, Mexico City, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Barcelona, Serville, Granada, Lausanne, London and even in Russia and many more, but not LA, had its inception right here in Los Angeles. It grew out of discussions in November on the SAC-LA Facebook page that was establish to promote protests against the Mother Agnes-Mariam speaking tour.

I am in Solidarity with the Syrian people!Sadly, I have been advised by many of the local Syrian-American's I've been working with not to "waste my time" appealing to the anti-war movement here. Their perception is that the so-called Left in the US is the most pro-Assad, anti-revolutionary segment of the US population and they have had more success appealing to ordinary Americans outside of the Peace and JustUs movement. It is a perception, I've found hard to argue with because while each of the events above have enjoyed support and participation from non-Arab Americans, it has seen little from LA's 'progressives.' For example, as I looked over the packed room that greeted the courageous revolutionaries from Kafranbel recently, I saw many fellow Angelenos, but no one I recognized from LA's "anti-war" movement.

I'm afraid that today the perception that the LA Left could care less about the 130,000 killed, 185,000 in detection and the 7 million made homeless by Assad in his savage effort to maintain this 40 year old brutal dictatorship will only be reinforced because today, while people around the globe will be standing in solidarity with the Syrian people, the LA Left will be focused on the fate of 160 prisoners still locked up in Guantanamo.
And got involved in this twitter conversation:

After more than a day had passed with no further feedback from ICUJP, and refusing to believe that this group had made no comment of the Syrian catastrophe in almost three years, I conducted my own more through Google search, but found only these two items:
ICUJP Calls for Immediate Cease-fire and Peace Talks in Syria

June 18, 2013
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) grieves over the unspeakable loss of life in the civil war in Syria. We fully endorse the call by Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, for an immediate cease-fire and a negotiated political solution. Tragically, Pillay recently reported that over 93,000 people have been killed in Syria during the two-year-old civil war.

Recognizing that some believe that peace will be achieved by President Barack Obama's decision to arm the Syrian rebels with weapons and ammunition, ICUJP believes this is a grave mistake, which will only perpetuate the hostilities and will damage the prospects of the Syrian people deciding their own future as they find themselves caught in the middle of a fight between global and regional powers for control of a strategically key region.

Humanity is facing massive global challenges, which will only get worse by expanding the threat of further war and violence. ICUJP calls on people of faith in Russia, Iran and all other countries to oppose their governments' bellicose policies, just as we have opposed and continue to oppose similar policies of our own government. When President Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G8 conference inNorthern Ireland, we urge him to seize the opportunity to provide bilateral leadership toward an immediate cease-fire and a viable solution to theSyrianconflict.

In the words of Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College, Russia is "putting certain states such as Syria off-limits for U.S. intervention. If you're going to get things done in the modern world, you're going to have to get great powers to work together."

Remembering the tragic lessons learned from U.S. military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, ICUJP calls on the interfaith community to stand together and join us in this statement and to bring moral pressure on Congress and the administration to pursue a nonviolent, multinational approach to resolving the Syrian conflict and other conflicts in the Middle East, including steps to ease the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of refugees and the burdens their plight places on neighboring countries.

ICUJP lives and struggles in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi whom we believe would oppose the escalation of war in Syria and would advocate for a peaceful, non-violent resolution. Humanity must end war. This can never be done by arming people with weapons in order to kill a perceived enemy in a ceaseless cycle of violence. There is a better way.

Chair, ICUJP Board of Directors
They first spoke out when they thought Obama might arm Assad's opposition, although this never happened. This statement clearly opposes the US proving any arms or ammunition to the Syrians Assad had been attacking with military power ever since they first hit the streets in peaceful protests and had been bombing and shelling for more than two years before ICUJP spoke out, and while this statement opposes the "bellicose policies" of Russia and Iran, it says nothing about their supply of weapons to Assad, or his use of the Syrian military, including his war planes, against the civilian population.

It calls upon "Congress and the administration to pursue a non-violent, multinational approach to resolving the Syrian conflict" but it has been the violent policies of Assad, not Obama, that have been killing Syrians, and on Assad's violence, they are silent. They are equally silent on the heroic struggle of the Syrian people to overthrow a 40 year old fascist dictatorship and that heroic struggle has been the power driving everything else in this conflict. They prefer to take away the Syrian people's agency, cast them as victims, and conclude "they find themselves caught in the middle of a fight between global and regional powers." Their call for "an immediate cease-fire and a negotiated political solution" may sound very ICUJP, but it is meaningless because Assad has shown no intention of ceasing the violence he initiated and the people would be fools to give up their right of self-defense in the face of his onslaught.

After the devastating sarin gas attack that took 1700 lives, there was again a chance that the West might move militarily against Assad, so they issued a second statement opposing any attack on Assad, which they equated with Syria:
No U.S. Military Intervention in Syria!

September 4, 2013


As an interfaith community of religious and secular members who believe in the power of love to overcome hatred and the power of mercy to conquer vengeance, while affirming the world’s common humanity and the sacredness of human life, we urge President Obama and Congress to reject any military intervention in Syria, including any military attack, arming the rebels, or creating a no-fly zone, and instead to focus on increasing humanitarian assistance through the United Nations and building active multilateral diplomacy without preconditions with all involved parties for an immediate ceasefire, a full arms embargo, and negotiations to end Syria’s civil war.

Hundreds of Syrians recently died in what appeared to be a chemical weapons attack. Any such attack would violate a host of international laws, and would indeed be what Secretary of State Kerry called a “moral obscenity.” But the UN weapons inspectors have not yet determined what killed the Syrian victims, nor has anyone proven who might actually be responsible. Yet the threat of direct U.S. military intervention in Syria is rising, as the Obama administration claims that the Syrian government is responsible and therefore military strikes are somehow called for.

We stand against all chemical weapons, as well as all other weapons of mass destruction, and oppose their possession or use by anyone, including our own government. The horrific deaths in Syria must be thoroughly investigated and whoever is responsible brought to justice – in the International Criminal Court or elsewhere.

Any military attack without the prior consent of Congress would violate our own Constitution, as well as international law. Committing a crime as a reaction to a crime brings us and the Syrians no closer to peace or justice. A military strike by the U.S. would not make any Syrians safer. It would not bring the civil war closer to an end. Such a strike, without Security Council approval, would be completely illegal, regardless of any “coalition” Washington may cobble together. We must demand diplomacy and new talks to end the war, not more military attacks. There is no military solution to the crisis in Syria, and more arms to any side would mean more civilians would be killed.

Any U.S. military intervention holds the threat of unplanned escalation, and ultimately a quagmire. It is much easier to send planes, bombs and missiles in than it is to get out – especially if a plane is shot down or a pilot captured. There is no exit strategy for Syria, and even a “no-fly zone” could easily become a costly quagmire. The situation in Syria today is full-scale civil war, which denies the people of Syria their right to choose their own government and leaders. Other governments arming and financing the two sides will not restore that right; it will only make things worse.

The U.S.-Russian initiative known as the Geneva II talks should be pushed forward, involving all the relevant outside actors, especially those providing weapons and military or economic support to any side. The U.S. should stop trying to prevent Iran’s participation in the talks – any serious diplomacy requires everyone to be at the table. On the Syrian side, negotiations must include not only the Syrian government and the armed rebels, but organizations representing Syrian civil society including unarmed opposition forces, Syria's minority communities, women, and youth.


Senator Barbara Boxer 202-224-3553 Senator Dianne Feinstein 202-224-3841
In this statement they claim it is the fight against the Assad dictatorship, the civil war, "which denies the people of Syria their right to choose their own government and leaders." Nevermind Assad's rigged elections which gave him 97% of the votes in 2000 and 97.6% of the votes for another seven year term in 2007, according to the ICUJP, if they would just stop fighting to overthrow him, they would have the right to choose their own government and leaders. Their position is based on a fantastic notion of the realities of the Assad dictatorship.

Once again, they say nothing about Assad's military assault on Syrian civilians, or his use of war planes, cluster bombs, barrel bombs and Scud missiles against schools, hospitals and residential housing, but they are strictly opposed to any intervention that might make him stop, they oppose any "no-fly" zone. ICUJP's stand on Assad's campaign of "Death from Above" can be summed up in two words: "Bombs Away."

They say "There is no military solution to the crisis in Syria" but there most certainly is a military solution to Assad's use of his war planes to slaughter civilians, in fact short of relying on Assad's humanity and forbearance, there are only military solutions to stopping the bombs from dropping from his war planes.

So until I hear otherwise, this would seem to be the sum total of ICUJP's "intervention" in the Syrian crisis. It is far too little, far too late, for a group that has peace and justice in it's name and it earns ICUJP* an asterisk from Linux Beach. [* Some Exceptions Apply]

Photos from Global Solidarity Day with Syria

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