This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Syria needs help fast.

This week’s topic:

Should the U.S. intervention in Syria be limited to only air strikes?

I used to believe that the world shouldn’t intervene in Syria’s struggles using military action.

Then I was forwarded an opinion piece written by a Syrian currently studying in the U.S. that changed my thinking. He remarked that while an American intervention could fundamentally change the lives of Syrian citizens forever, to Americans the bigger issues are President Barack Obama’s credibility and the “red line” that Bashar al-Assad has allegedly crossed.

“This is not to suggest intervention is either right or wrong,” Mamoun Mayhani writes, “but rather to highlight the sad fact that it did not matter that humans were killed, but rather how humans were killed.”

While the use of chemical agents classified as weapons of mass destruction clearly takes the conflict in Syria to a level not previously seen, the sudden move to action on behalf of the U.S. seems rather late in the game to many of the millions of Syrian refugees who’ve fled the country.

Read Brent Stafford’s column

The motivation and political strategy behind the American push for airstrikes is an emotional debate. But to be blunt, even Syrians do not agree on what should be done. They simply want help. They want this non-stop fighting, in which thousands are being killed every single month, to stop…

READ the rest of this weeks column at this link: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2013/09/08/need-for-action-in-syria-trumps-concerns-about-sending-in-troops

When it comes to voting though, because I ended up agreeing with Brent, we’ve done something different this week.  Instead of voting for who you thinks wins the debate, you’ll vote to answer the question, Should the U.S. intervention in Syria be limited to only air strikes?

Response to my column this week was swift yesterday on twitter and via email. My opinion on the matter surprised many people. Because so many columnists and media outlets have done the debate on whether the US should even intervene in Syria, we decided to take a look at the proposed intervention the US has planned in the event they decide to go in.

Mere days ago, I was against a military intervention in Syria. But after researching, and reading over the weekend in preparation for my column, it became starkly clear that in much of the debate and coverage, the voices of Syrians overseas were missing. In fact, it was somewhat difficult to find credible articles or coverage detailing what Syrians want.

These are some of the compelling articles, debates and coverage I found that prompted my change of mind. I’m not an advocate of war, but I think my column is very clear. Syria needs help fast.

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/9/5/debate_will_a_us_attack_help ( read the transcript in addition to watching the video)

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/09/05/syria-refugees-military-strike/2770107/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mamoun-mahayni/reflections-from-a-syrian-student_b_3861370.html

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130830/heres-what-syrians-have-say

http://www.opendemocracy.net/odai-alzoubi/syria-do-something

16 thoughts on “This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Syria needs help fast.

    1. Laila

      I used to feel the same way and in a perfect world the US would be interested in a diplomatic resolution. I don’t see that happening, but IF the US goes in, they better do it right. But again, where are the Syrians considered in all of this? There is talk about the rebels, talk about Assad.. but no talk about the innocent civilians who’ve been killed in the thousands and thousands, or the millions who have fled the country and now face marginalization in countries who are growingly resentful of their presence and look to them as outsiders.

      Read some of those links. Many Syrians feel no one has been listening to their cries for help for years.

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  1. I tend to think the US shouldn’t go in. Not because there should not be intervention – there should. The world collectively said ‘never again’ many times. And this is ‘again’. In Syria. Another genocide. But it is really an issue for the UN, not the US. Yes, I know – if the UN says ‘go’ it will largely be the US forces. We all know that. But the US cannot be the world’s policeman without the support of the policed. And they simply don’t have it.
    The problem (for the time being) really is that the UN is almost dysfunctional. The bulk of it is useless and simply a drain on first world economies. Having said that, how can we ever hope to raise the standard if we don’t use the institutions that were designed for it? Finally, it is not fair to the US. They will be hated by half the world all over again. And, they will not do a good job – they never do a good job. They will ‘screw up’ and impose western thought where it doesn’t fit and another festering international sore will emerge. Syria needs intervention. But it should be an international group that does it. Russians, Chinese, Americans, Brits, Africans…the whole rainbow of flags. And, when they go in, they should go in full tilt. This silly ‘police-action’ thing just prolongs it.

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  2. Laila,you may be driinking the kool-aid if you think it is a proven fact just who used chemical weapons and who ordered it. Don’t forget the run-up to Iraq, the phoney yellow-cake from Niger or was it Nigeria – irrelevant since it was made up anyway. Or how about the WMDs that not only could the US not find, but Dick Cheney and Halliburton couldn’t even smuggle any in, thanks to the work of Valerie Plame, before she was outed by the same bunch of thugs – supposedly to get even with her husband, right. Oh yeah, and Saddam was involved with the 9/11 dudes, less than were Bu$h/Cheney.

    I find it ironic and hypocritical that the US, especially the disappointing DINO, or Repub lite Obama, should jump up and down so vigorously about this, but be fine with white phosphorous dumped on Gaza, or depleted uranium everywhere the US Military operates in attack mode, not to mentiion Agent Orange and napalm in Vietnam courtesy of Uncle Same, a 600 year legacy for the Vietnamese.

    Don’t forget the last few times chemical weapons were used in the Middle East (if not the world) and with many more deaths (oddly enough Doctors w/o Borders assert the deaths at Ghutta at 300-400 and Kerry has provided NO evidence to back up his 1500 number). was Saddam Hussein against the Iranians with the blessing (and encouragement if not even the gas supplied by), of Saint Ronnie Raygun and then he gassed his own Kurds with the blessing of Dubya’s daddy. Pot, meet Kettle!

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  3. I cannot, with a clear conscience, support the use of military force against another country. War is killing people and the planet and war isn’t over when it’s over. The first casualty of war is truth. Can we behave with moral integrity when truth is diluted, twisted and hidden?

    If the UN functioned as it is designed – there would not be American intervention – that’s why the security council has a veto mechanism. That’s why PM Harper’s rejection of Russia’s veto is a serious mistake. PM Harper acts like a President as though he has a right to repudiate Canadian law and International law (with Parliament prorogued !!). We should be outraged. PM Harper should be forced to retract his statement.

    At the G20 meeting, the head of the United Nations clearly stated that military intervention in Syria would constitute an illegal war. “The United Nations Charter, the fundamental core of international law, may be vague about a lot of things. But it is unequivocal about when military force is legal, and when it isn’t.” http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/09/201391142319670421.html

    That means that the US (with Canada’s approval) has no right to launch any military action toward Syria. There is no moral ground to be taken by acting outside of the law. Unlike Canada, the USA is not party to the International Criminal Court – so the US gets away with committing mass murder. The moment the US strikes Syria, Canada is supporting an illegal war. Do we want to be a warring nation or peace keepers?

    There are other options read explanations here: http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/syria-six-alternatives-to-military-strikes?utm_source=ytw20130906&utm_medium=email
    “1. Bring those guilty of atrocities to justice.
    2. Call for a United Nations embargo on arms, military supplies, and logistical support for both Damascus and opposition forces.
    3. The U.N. Security Council should hold an international peace conference
    4. Offer aid and support to the nonviolent movements within Syria
    5. Provide the humanitarian aid desperately needed by the millions of displaced people.
    6. Force the hand of Russia and China in the Security Council. Many people believe that Russia and China have vetoed efforts in the United Nations to condemn the Syrian regime or to impose sanctions on it. But all these governments have done, so far, is threaten to veto.”

    “By applying the rule of law through existing international institutions, we can work to isolate the wrongdoers on all sides of the conflict in Syria from their bases of support around the world. We can support those in Syria working for peaceful change and offer humanitarian assistance. And we will move beyond the limitations of responding to lawbreaking with violence.”

    Very interesting article on Chemical weapons:
    http://fpif.org/the_us_and_chemical_weapons_no_leg_to_stand_on/

    “It should also be noted that many of today’s most outspoken congressional advocates for U.S. military intervention in Syria in response to the Damascus regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons were among the most strident advocates in 2002-2003 for invading Iraq. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY),… voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction. When no such weapons were found, Engel came up with the bizarre allegation that “it would not surprise me if those weapons of mass destruction that we cannot find in Iraq wound up and are today in Syria.”

    Engel is currently the chief sponsor of the Free Syria Act of 2013 (H.R. 1327), which would authorize the United States to provide arms to Syrian rebels.”

    My last comment is this: Depleted Uranium (DU) is exported from Canada to the US and made into US armaments, tanks bombs, bullets etc. DU goes on killing long after the war is over. It causes horrific birth defects. Two headed babies… extra body parts, no eyes, no legs – 3 babies a day die from birth defects in Iraq where women are being warned not to have babies. If you can’t look at the photos that show the consequence of Canada’s part in war, how can you accept military action?
    Birth defects:
    http://raniakhalek.com/2013/03/20/u-s-turns-a-blind-eye-to-iraqi-birth-defects-worse-than-hiroshima/

    “In April 2011, a US Air Force Spokeswoman denied rumors that DU-loaded ammunition was being fired in Libya, but preferred not “to speculate on what may or may not be used in the future.” The future is now. The use of DU in Libya has been certified by a group of independent scientists on the spot, as reported by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya. It can now be added to the list of criminal acts perpetrated by NATO allegedly to protect the civilian population”.
    http://www.thewe.cc/weplanet/news/depleted_uranium_iraq_afghanistan_balkans.html

    my anti war protest songs:
    let’s have a war (Syria)
    http://priscillajudd.ca/music/?p=900
    Poppies and Crosses

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  4. “While the use of chemical agents classified as weapons of mass destruction clearly takes the conflict in Syria to a level not previously seen…”

    Really? So the hundreds of lives lost in this recent event near Damascus were worth more than the 100,000 or so killed in this civil war by conventional chemical weapons that come in the form of high explosives or explosive propelled bullets and shells?

    No red line was crossed if one side or the other deployed Sarin and killed people. Sarin is a chemical agent that may kill in seconds. High explosives are chemical agents that may kill instantaneously. The difference is mostly in form and in the emotional response of people in safe havens.

    If more parties join the fighting and escalate warfare in Syria, will that result in peace? Sure, if damage, destruction and death is complete, the fighting will stop.

    Instead of encouraging the widening of warfare and another American campaign of shock and awe, we following the lead of international diplomats. As AP reported:
    “United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pleaded Wednesday for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict, even as world powers appeared to be moving toward punitive military strikes against President Bashar Assad’s regime for what the United States and its allies say was a deadly chemical weapons attack.”

    Remember the lessons of Iraq, particularly that death and violence has continued for more than 10 years after America declared victory in April 2003. Consider Colin Powell talking about “proven facts” that led to the attack on Iraq when you listen to John Kerry talking about today’s “proven facts.”

    The neo-cons of the USA want a continuous state of war against someone, somewhere. It’s partly philosophical (akin to Nazi master race ideas of the 20th century), its partly economic. Waging war is big business, in the USA and elsewhere. BCiMC, the province’s investment agency, has spread over half a billion dollars among almost every one of the top 20 public companies involved in the international arms trade. In a sense, an escalated war in Syria would be good for BC taxpayers.

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  5. put me out of my misery

    The test I use when I try to decide if Canada should join a military strike is: if my child was in the military, is this action worth the possibility they may lose their life.

    There are too many questions and unknowns for me to support an action which might sacrifice another parent’s child for a cause which may have the best intentions, but which is doomed to failure.

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  6. Laila

    Thank you all for your comments and thoughts on this column. I’m sorry for the delay in reply, it was a very busy day yesterday. I understand that it is hard for many of you to understand where I am coming from on this, and I respect that, and you have every right to your opinions as well.

    First of all, it’s interesting to note that here and elsewhere on social media, the first assumptions people make after reading my column is that I must not know anything about the United States of Americas history with respect to their involvement and actions in other conflicts around the world; that I must not know anything about weapons, where they come from, what they are made of and who has been dropping them around the world; and last, but not least, that I am completely unaware of the many complexities surrounding the conflict in Syria.

    None of these assumptions or insinuations, are correct ,but my word limit for my column is 400 so clearly I cant get into the entire history of the US, or of Syria, or of who is funding who and why, etc etc, It simply isn’t possible.

    The conflict in Syria is sadly, nothing new, but it is absolutely correct to state that before the chemical weapons issue made the press, the large majority of both Canadians and Americans paid little attention to it, and likely fewer even were aware this conflict has been going on so long, or how many people have been killed during that time.

    Suddenly Syria is a front page story on every paper because of the use of chemical weapons and everyone is in an outrage over chemical weapons, and even more so that the US is getting involved.

    If you read my article in full, and read exactly what I wrote, not what some people think I wrote – and believe me, some of the emails from people contain accusations of things I supposedly wrote in my column, but actually did not write, nor even came close to insinuating- It’s clear that my biggest concern, over anything, is the plight of the Syrian people who remain within Syria’s borders.

    In very cases have many people considered what Syrians in Syria want, or how they feel. There is so much anti-American sentiment clouding what needs to be a real discussion in many cases, and in researching much of it, there is so much inflammatory press coverage of the situation from both the left and right in North America that the average Joe or Jill has a hell of a hard time even formulating an opinon on this issue.

    In particular there are a large number of people who would prefer the world doesn’t know that many Syrians want the Americans – or any nation for that matter who would do so – to come in and conduct some sort of military intervention, just as there are many Syrians who do not want them to.

    The voice of the Syrians themselves was the element I wanted to re-introduce back to the debate which has deteriorated into nothing that will assist the Syrians themselves who remain in Syria, caught between rebels and Assad, being murdered while the world looks on, or turns a blind eye.

    Even my counterpart Brent points out explicitly his views on airstrikes and the failures of doing ” unbelievably small, limited airstrikes” as Kerry stated. Even many Syrians feel it would be too little too late. But many also strongly feel that if the US – or again, any nation willing to help- would take out Assad, that they could fight off the rebels on their own to prevent them from taking over where Assad left off.

    Now clearly we can all see that if Assad truly did not order those weapons to be used, he is not even in control of his own forces, which further complicates the situation. And while everyone is hoping for a diplomatic solution to this current chemical weapons issue dominating the press right now, diplomatic solutions have failed to save hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have been killed by Assads forces, and by rebels.

    There is no guarantee that Syria will ultimately comply with putting their chemical weapons under international control – I hope they will – however again, Assad may have little control over those weapons at this point. It may also be impossible to ascertain where those weapons are and if all of them have been acquired. http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/09/10/is_it_even_possible_to_dismantle_syrias_chemical_weapons.html

    Let’s say all goes well, the weapons are perceived to have all been accounted for etc….

    What then? Assad goes back to bombing his people while the rebels continue their fight armed by outside forces as well? Even Syrians are asking that question, the same ones who have fled by the millions and are being killed by the thousands.

    My last paragraph summed it up:

    “Putting emotion and politics aside, it is my belief that Syria cannot resolve this on its own at this point. The risks of military intervention are high, and because of political alliances with forces and groups in neighbouring countries, the results are unknown. But simply doing nothing is not an option either. If the U.S. decides to go in, let it be as Brent suggests, with air strikes and boots on the ground.”

    And this was Brents opinon:
    “If the intended goal is to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal, then air strikes are less than ideal. There is no guarantee that a bomb or missile will burn hot enough when it hits the target to destroy chemical agents, and since they are explosives there is the risk they will disperse those chemical agents as well. Certainly, air strikes can target the rocket launchers used to deploy chemical weapons. However, to be certain Assad can never use chemical weapons again, or to secure them against falling into the hands of terrorist organizations, the U.S. will have to put boots on the ground. There is no other way.

    I firmly believe if the U.S. conducts an air strike, it should then also plan a much broader mission, including international partners, to intervene in Syria’s bloody civil war. The war is more than two years old, it has killed 100,000 people and there are about two million refugees camped in adjoining countries. Something must be done to break what appears to be a stalemate. Assad’s desperate use of chemical weapons should be a wake-up call for the international community to rally behind a multinational peacekeeping force. The U.S. should provide as much military support as needed. However, it should also sponsor negotiations between the Assad regime and the rebels. Air strikes aside, it is time Obama lives up to his Nobel Peace Prize.”

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    1. Laila

      Unless you’ve used some sort of new-age spelling I’m not aware of, you spelled anonymous incorrectly. I’m sorry you feel you can’t disagree with my opinion, without being foul and nasty.

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  7. “I firmly believe if the U.S. conducts an air strike, it should then also plan a much broader mission,”

    Like how to respond when a US warship is sunk in the Med, or when Hezbollah/Iran lashes out at Israel and Israel lashes out at everybody and then Russia comes to the party…….kinda like 1939.

    As it stands, the US and Israel are still the leaders in the use of WMDs and other un-conventional weapons…though no one has been able to interview a dead person to see if they gave a crap how they were killed. Personally I think one of the worst aspects of the gas in WWI was those who weren’t killed by it, but had to live with the after effects for the rest of their often shortened and painful lives.

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  8. I do not agree with your assessment Laila, on a couple of levels.

    First, I have seen no proof that Assad or his military were responsible for those weapons. I have seen equally creditable reports from the area that the rebels had been given those weapons by the Saudi Prince who often cooperates with the CIA. Given the history of the US and their “intel”, I’d want hard evidence, not youtube compilations.

    Second, a military strike will harm more civilians, regardless of how teeny and surgical it may be touted as. It is not like you to bypass diplomacy and democracy in favour of brutal attacks. Now would be the time to push for a complete ban on chemical, biological and nuclear warfare by all nation states. Ban cross border arms trade. Ban Uranium mining. Cluster bombs. White Phosphorus and make it a capital war crime and crime against humanity to order to deploy any such weapon on any population anywhere on earth. Destroying the civil infrastructure and destabilising society will only inflame the problems they are having achieving democracy. Major General (R) Lewis MacKenzie (former commander of the Bosnia Peacekeeping mission) and Gwyn Dyer both cautioned that the mission proposed would be stratigically ill advised.

    Okay, there’s a third reason. My son is in the military now. Before you council sending him off to war to protect the bottom line of Raytheon and Xe and Haliburton and Monsanto, imagine your child had signed up to serve in our Military. Be honest. Would you still want to send them to war to make a point for a President who drew a red line in the sand and did not prove his allegations?

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    1. Laila

      No Kim, I would not want your son to go to war and I understand your position, and of course, your feelings as a parent.

      I don’t believe anyone wants to see their children go to war Kim…. any more than the parents of children in Syria who are completely innocent wanted to see their children get killed by Assad’s forces, who are questionabley under his control, or the rebels. But if my child decided to serve his country, I would respect his choice as I respect the choice of every man and woman who chooses that calling.

      It was interesting to note that in many cases in the news today, since Assad has in theory agreed to the Russian proposal,everyone seems to have stopped thinking about the horrific number of deaths that occurred in the years leading up to this last media frenzy. If and when Assad hands those weapons over,will the killing stop? I doubt it. More children will be killed, more parents, more women and grandparents and cousins and aunts.
      But everyone in the US and Canada will go back to business as usual, because it’s not our war after all.

      Gandhi once said: ” “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism… or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

      Such an eloquent manner of point out the hypocrisy inherent to the debate of war, or of conflict.

      And that, Kim, is what is really sad about all of it.

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  9. Everything about the whole situation is sad. I think that it is not Syria’s fault that the military industrial complex has overtaken the global economy and that war is the new GDP. The US, Canada, Russia, China and everyone else will jump on the bandwagon, as military services continue to be privatized and arms manufacturers continue to proper.

    What about the horrific number of deaths that have cumulated from Iraq, over 600,000? Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Viet Nam and the Gulf War? How can you advocate for a “limited strike?”

    My son serves with pride. As I have done, and his father. But I reserve the right to call bullshit on a mission that has nothing to do with Freedom or Honour.

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