Friday, August 30, 2013

11 Reason Why We Should Not Attack Syria

Reprinted from Yes! Magazine 8/29/2013

11 Reasons Why We Should Not Attack Syria

Remember the last time we were told military strikes were needed because a Middle Eastern despot had used weapons of mass destruction?

Photo by Patrick Nicholson Caritas Internationalis / CAFOD.
Syrian children photographed in June 2013 in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Photo by Patrick Nicholson Caritas Internationalis / CAFOD / Flickr.
As U.S. political and media leaders prepare for military strikes against Syria, the parallels to the lead-up to the war with Iraq should give us pause. Weapons of mass destruction, we are told, are being used by a cruel Middle Eastern despot against his own people. A military strike is inevitable, media voices say; we must respond with missiles and bombs. The arguments sound all too familiar.
U.S. intervention would play into the hands of the Syrian regime, triggering an outpouring of nationalist support for Damascus.
Meanwhile, weapons inspectors from the United Nations are on the ground investigating evidence of chemical weapons. But U.S. and European leaders are looking at an immediate strike anyway—although Britain's Labor Party, still smarting from popular opposition to its leading role in the invasion of Iraq, has successfully pressed for a hold on military action until the results of the U.N. investigation are in.

There are a great many differences between circumstances in Syria and Iraq, of course. Nonetheless, critics warn that, much as it did in Iraq, a military incursion here could have disastrous consequences. Here are 11 reasons the United States should stay clear of military action:

1. We don't actually know who is behind the chemical weapons attack. An attack employing chemical weapons took place in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21 and killed 355 people, according to Doctors Without Borders . Obama administration officials say the attack was carried out by the Syrian regime, but Institute for Policy Studies analyst Phyllis Bennis points out we haven't actually been given evidence that this is the case. And, while it's unlikely that the opposition was behind the attack, NPR has pointed out that the rebels have an incentive to use such weapons to trigger outside intervention and end the stalemate they've been stuck in since late 2011.

2. A military strike would be illegal under the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution. U.S. military attacks can only be carried out by an act of Congress, unless there is national emergency created by a direct attack upon the United States. The fact that Congress has adjourned doesn't change that. "There is no provision in the Constitution or the War Powers Resolution for a 'recess war,'"says Robert Naiman, writer for Just Foreign Policy. If it was a true emergency, Congress could be called into session to pass a declaration of war.

3. It would violate international law, too. Syria has not attacked the United States, and there is no U.N. Security Council authorization for a strike on Syria. It wouldn't be the first time the United States has violated international law, but doing it again adds to a damaging precedent and contributes to a lawless world.

4. The American people oppose it. Sixty percent of Americans oppose intervention in Syria, according to a recent Reuters poll. Just nine percent support intervention. Even if the use of chemical weapons is proven, just 25 percent of Americans would support intervention.

5. Violence begets violence. According to Stephen Zunes, chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, military interventions actually worsen and lengthen violence in the short term. "Countries whose dictatorships are overthrown by armed groups … are far more likely to turn into new dictatorships, often accompanied by ongoing violence and factionalism," Zunes says in an article in Foreign Policy in Focus. In the long term, he writes, interventions only reduce violence if they are impartial, which would certainly not be the case in any upcoming conflict in Syria.

6. Foreign intervention will deepen nationalist support for the Syrian Baath Party and the Assad regime. Zunes also reports that hundreds of members of the Syrian Baath Party, a key source of support for Assad, have left the party in outrage over the regime's killing of nonviolent protesters. But, he says, "few defections could be expected if foreigners suddenly attacked the country." U.S. intervention would play into the hands of the Syrian regime, triggering an outpouring of nationalist support for Damascus. The same thing happened in 1983-84 following U.S. Navy air attacks on Syrian positions in Lebanon, he says, and in 2008 after U.S. army commando raids in eastern Syria.
Syria has become a venue for a war between the United States and Russia, and between Iran and an allied U.S. and Israel.
7. There are no logical targets. Bombing stockpiles of chemical weapons would be untenable, since many would release poison gases into densely populated neighborhoods, according to Zunes. And there are too many ways of delivering chemical weapons—planes, missiles, mortars, and so on—to eliminate all of them.

8. It will be impossible to control who benefits from Western intervention among the rebels. The Pentagon estimates that there are between 800 and 1,200 rebel groups currently active in Syria, according to USA Today. Among them are ones with avowed affiliations with Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other groups the United States considers to be terrorists. While the House Intelligence Committee has said it's ready to accept the risk of providing weapons to such groups, a look at the Iraq and Afghanistan shows how such plans can easily unravel.

9. Civilians will be killed and maimed. Policy analyst Phyllis Bennis points out the obvious: Strike with bombs and missiles, and, whatever your intent, civilians with no involvement in the conflict—including children and the elderly—will be harmed.

10. There is no apparent exit strategy. Once we are involved, it is unclear how we will extract ourselves from a massive, ugly civil conflict that could spread to involve nearby countries such as Lebanon, Israel, and Iran.

11. Yes, there is a better way. Tried, true, and boring though it may be, diplomacy often works. As Bennis told Democracy Now! this week, Syria has become a venue for a war between the United States and Russia, and between Iran and an allied United States and Israel.
What's needed, she says, are peace talks involving not only the parties who are fighting, but their backers as well. We need "all the forces on the two sides coming together to talk," she says, "rather than fighting to the last Syrian child, to resolve these wars."

Sarah van Gelder newSarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practice actions. Sarah is executive editor of YES!
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TPP Opposition Growing and What You Can Do

We are starting to see the explosion of opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that was expected given the radical and sweeping new powers it gives to multinationals over governments, people and  the earth.

From the AFL-CIO, "Corporations are trying to hijack a trade agreement that is currently being negotiated in secret. It's called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and if they're successful, they'll have a say in everything from your rights at work to the prices of your prescriptions and safety of your child’s toys. Working families around the world are going to be affected by the outcome of this legislation". Read their article "Do You Know What TPP Is? You Should. It's Going to Affect You." and sign their petition.

Even Mayor Bloomberg got in  the act this week with an Op Ed in the New York Times excoriating Obama for caving to the tobacco industry in the TPP. As many now know the TPP gives corporations the right to sue governments if they pass health and public safety laws the corporations feel could interfere with future profits. They could sue nations, states and municipalities for millions (this is already happening under NAFTA- and over $13 billion in suits are pending).

The big difference with TPP is that the "judges" who would decide these cases are corporate attorneys. You cannot make this stuff up.

So if a nation, a state or locality passes a fracking ban, a corporation like  Halliburton could come in and sue them for millions because the ban would lessen their future profits. Labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could be revoked saying such labels erected "trade barriers".

In the beginning, the one thing corporations could not sue nations for was their anti-smoking policies. An exception was made because even they had to admit tobacco is uniquely lethal. But tobacco cried and everyone caved and that "safe haven" has been removed.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said that legal challenges against a country’s anti-smoking policies will now be allowed and then he went on to say "it was an important step forward for public health." Say what?! As Mayor Bloomberg correctly states this new stipulation in the TPP will result in more dying from smoking- in fact he says one billion will die of tobacco use by the end of the century if nothing is done.

Bloomberg adds the TPP "that sells out our national commitment to public health, and forfeits our sovereign authority over our tobacco laws, does not merit the support of Mr. Obama; of the Senate, which would have to ratify it; or of the American people"

I'm glad Bloomberg weighed in, but his focus was a very narrow one. Here is a more inclusive article from Jim Hightower "The Trans Pacific Partnership- Corporate Coup d'Etat against Us" He includes a list  of "TPP’s provisos that would make our daily lives riskier, poorer, and less free".

Obama is trying to push Fast Track for the TPP that would effectively make Congress a rubber stamp for a deal done by the multinationals. Congress would have to pass it without any amendments and with little debate. Saying NO to the Fast Track of TPP is the most important step we can take right now to derail this destructive deal.

    Expect many more suits like this one by Syngenta and Bayer if the TPP goes through.  It is not an exaggeration to say it would end life as we have known it and overtime it would end life...period. 

Actions and Things You Can Do:
Sept 3 - rallies in front of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand's offices in NYC- telling them to vote NO Fast Track for TPP

Also, please call them and Rep Gibson and tell them all- "Do not give up your constitutional duty to review and amend trade treaties- NO Fast Track for TPP!" Capitol Switchboard 202 224-3121 . Tell President Obama what you think of his attempt to pass this without debate -  tell him to end the secrecy. White House comment line 202 456-1111.

Sept 17- actions everywhere to expose TPP and say No to Fast Track for TPP. There will be one in the Hudson Valley-stay tuned!

Sign this petition and PLEASE share it! If we get 30,000 names we will get more national support from MoveOn which is needed!
Thank you to the 35-40 who joined us last Sunday for our Teach-In on the TPP. We will stay in touch! If you want to be a part of the local NO TPP Team please send your email to: Thank you! Together we will stop this.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Support Brad, Stop TTP, Greet Boehner In Liberty, Day 25 of Hunger Strike by 30,000 in US

 Vigil for Bradley Manning

Last Saturday, New Paltz Women in Black held a special vigil for Bradley Manning as part of an International Day of Action that happened in 40 cities. Here was another-

Now we know he has been acquitted on the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, but many other charges could still bring him life in prison. This is a travesty. Manning, who wore dog tags that said "humanist" was appalled at the war crimes he saw and felt he could not in good conscience not let the American people know what was being done in their name. There will most likely be an appeal and he still needs our support and funds. Please go to

Here is the flyer we passed out:

            Support Bradley Manning Rally
By New Paltz Women in Black

Bradley Manning is facing life in prison for being a truth teller and exposing war crimes:

The Iraq War logs-  showed that between 2004- 2009, there were 109,000 deaths in Iraq and a shocking 2/3 of them were civilians.

A video showed a US helicopter gunship crew firing on and killing 12 civilians, including two Reuters reporters and two who stopped to help.

 An order in 2004, directed US troops to not investigate 1000s of reports of prisoner torture in Iraq.

US taxpayer money was used for child trafficking. DynCorp, a US contractor, threw parties for Afghan security recruits featuring boys dressed as women who were sold for sex to the highest bidder.

And there is much more information- embarrassing to the US to say the least- but not threatening our national security in any way- 2.5 million had access to the “secrets” Bradley shared with Wikileaks.

Join the international campaign to support Bradley Manning-

Sign the petition at

Follow “Save Bradley” on twitter and facebook.

Speak out in support of whistleblowers!
They are essential to democracy.


 Want Clean Water and Air? Want Workers' Rights Protected? Want Jobs to Stay in the US?
Then You Do NOT Want TPP

About the TPP and Senator Elizabeth Warren's Petition to Stop It:

For three years, a group of some 600 multinational corporations and trade associations have been quietly negotiating a trade pact IN SECRET that could void American laws that protect workers, jobs, health, and the environment. During negotiations here last summer, news leaked of some of the provisions U.S. trade officials were prepared to approve, and a public outcry derailed the talks. Trade Representative Ron Kirk resigned. Now that Michael Froman has been confirmed as the new U.S. Trade Representative he is pushing to renew "fast track" authority so President Obama can sign the agreement first, and then force a quick vote in Congress without any public scrutiny, floor debate, or revisions.

Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of just four U.S. Senators who voted against Froman's confirmation, said of TPP: “I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant,” Warren explained. “In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it. This argument is exactly backwards. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”

The only TPP language made public was leaked in 2012 and shared by Public Citizen. Since then trade officials have kept a tight lid on the negotiations, only recently allowing members of Congress to view (not copy) the text, which remains "classified." Among the most disturbing revelations in last year's leaked TPP language, that seems to be mirrored in the Atlantic version as well: Foreign companies would have "preferred status" – granting them greater rights within our borders than our own companies enjoy. U.S. companies would have more incentives to offshore jobs, and foreign companies would not be bound by the minimum wage and could sue the U.S. if our health, safety, or environmental regulations interfered with their profits. Jurisdiction over such suits would rest not in the hands of elected officials or judges, but with an international business tribunal. Their decisions, which would be binding upon all member nations, would supersede our own laws – including our Constitution.

Please sign Senator Warren's petition here -

Our local Ulster County MoveOn is making it a priority to stop TPP, AKA The Terrible Plutocratic Plan. If you would like to know more, come to our next meeting, or learn how you can be a member of the TPP Team- there will be trainings, power points and more- email me at clearstreammedia@gmailcom. Please share the petition with all you know and talk this up- It is a corporate global coup and we have to stop it! Thanks.

Action Alert
Tell John Boehner and Chris Gibson- Do Your Job!
John  (Don't judge us by the bills we pass, but the bills we repeal- Number repealed- ZER-O) Boehner is coming to Ulster County to raise funds for Rep Chris Gibson and we would like many to come out to welcome him with a message he can't ignore and will never forget! Sign up here-

1 Cablevision Center Liberty, NY August 6, 4:30PM
Join us to tell Boehner and Gibson:
VOTE for Immigration Reform & a Roadmap to Citizenship NOW!
Stop budget cuts that hurt our families!
Make big corporations and the rich pay their fair share!
Jobs, jobs, jobs

We will be meeting at the entrance along Old Rt 17
(Across from the NYS DOT Barn)

For more information, please contact:
Mary Clark 607.723.0110
Kat Fisher 845.637.0174

Day 25 of Hunger Strike by 30,000 Inmates

This video begins with a woman talking about her brother who has been in solitary confinement for almost 30 years! She says she last was able to touch him in 1982. Solitary confinement for decades is torture, it is barbaric and a terrible stain, as much as Abu Ghraib was, on who we are as a nation. 

When an inmate needs immediate medical attention, others yell "Man down!" This happened recently at Corcoran State Prison. The guards ignored the plea for help and hunger striker, Billy "Guero" Sill died July 22. People are dying for sunlight, fresh air and human contact.

Prisoners describe solitary as being "buried alive". They are in windowless, concrete boxes approx 11 x 7 for 221/2 hours a day. In Pelican Bay where the strike originated, 500 have been in solitary confinement for over 10 years, 80 for over 20 years and 2 for 40 years. The UN says solitary confinement for more than 15 DAYS is torture.

Call Gov Jerry Brown today- 510 289-0336 and tell him to end this inhumane practice and to negotiate with prsioners on their legitimate demand to end long-term solitary confinement, and three others, like not denying food as punishment.

Go to to learn more on how you can stand in solidarity and amplify the voices of the prisoners on hunger strike and sign the open letter to Brown here.


I'll leave you with a victory-
The Non-GMO label for meat and eggs has been approved for US use!
This brings us one step closer to labeling foods that are GM. Also helping that to happen was the public hearing for GMO labeling in NYS- first hand account here-

 We have the power- let's use it! Keep Faith.