By Sara Flounders
December 6, 2016
Excerpted from a talk by Sara Flounders, co-coordinator of the Hands Off Syria Coalition, to a Dec. 2 coalition meeting in New York.
The Hands Off Syria Coalition is part of a continuing effort to develop basic political unity on the massively destructive war in Syria and the way forward. The coalition’s “Urgent Message for peace on the eve of wider war” has now gained thousands of signers. Hundreds of peace and social justice organizations have endorsed its Points of Unity.
The statement focuses on the U.S. role: “We raise our voices against the violence of war and the enormous pressure of war propaganda, lies and hidden agendas that are used to justify this war and every past U.S. war. … We commit to working together to help achieve four very basic demands.
“An immediate end to the U.S. policy of forced regime change in Syria … including respect for the independence and territorial integrity of Syria.
An immediate end to all foreign aggression against Syria. An immediate end to all military, financial, logistical and intelligence support by the U.S., NATO and their regional allies to all foreign mercenaries and extremists in the Middle East region. An immediate end to economic sanctions against Syria.”
Maybe the most important point for unity here in the center of imperialism is that “It is not our business to support or oppose President Assad or the Syrian government. Only the Syrian people have the right to decide the legitimacy of their government. The fundamental rights of the Syrian people to independence, national sovereignty and self-determination … include the right of the Syrian government to request and accept military assistance from other countries.”
New administration, same system
Big political changes can catch some of us off guard. Hope can lull people into the illusion that a U.S. administration has a secret plan for peace.
One month ago, the media were unanimous: Clinton’s electoral victory was a sure thing. All who know Clinton’s criminal role in Syria, Libya and in NATO’s expansion had every reason to be concerned. Donald Trump’s electoral victory came as a big surprise.
Now, all the same media pundits, Republicans and Democrats, are telling us that we must give the racist bigot Trump a “chance.”
We cannot “give a chance” to a president who says: “I’m the most militaristic person there is,” “I always said, take the oil,” “I love war in a certain way,” “I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” and “Why have nuclear weapons if we are not going to use them?”
Yet he claims to be a deal maker, willing to talk to Putin and Assad.
U.S. wars are not just policy mistakes. A change of face does not change the capitalist system, a system that breeds war, that lives off the profits of conquest and global domination.
The United States is an empire in decline. It is decaying and desperate to hold its global position and profits. It has an enormous military machine.
The U.S. policy of regime change has been an all-out effort to inflame sectarian, cultural and religious divisions, arouse fanatical groups and the hatred of one group against another. It has meant arming and unleashing mercenaries and extremists whose only goal is to pull Syria apart and bring down this progressive, secular Arab state.
While opposing the war criminal Clinton, we need to remember that for 18 months, Trump rallies focused on using racism; attacks on immigrants, LGBTQ people and Muslims; and the most offensive conduct toward women.
Much publicity was given to Trump’s claims that he does not intend to expand the war in Syria. But we should view with great apprehension the naming of generals, far-right extremists and known fascist forces, including Steve Bannon, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and retired generals Michael Flynn and James Mattis, to key cabinet positions.
We need to prepare for ramped-up war at home and abroad.
Mattis is a warhawk on Russia, Iran and Syria. From 2010 to 2013 he was at the helm of the military’s Central Command, overseeing all military activity in the Middle East.
Every U.S. war is a racist war for domination, not for democracy or human rights.
The great frustration of U.S. imperialism is that, even after almost six years of unrelenting war, a majority of Syrians support President Bashar al-Assad. Otherwise, the government would have collapsed.
I’ve traveled to Syria twice during these years of war. What made the greatest personal impact was seeing the enormous determination of the people to resist the efforts to pull Syria apart. More than a third of the population is displaced. They flee en masse toward the government and away from the areas under the control of marauding mercenaries.
Trump has tweeted about improved relations with Russia. He has also spoken of secret plans to end the war in Syria and of putting boots on the ground to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
For over two years the U.S., France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have bombed Syria, supposedly to attack ISIS. They have hardly scratched ISIS but have destroyed much of Syria’s infrastructure. Saudi Arabia’s role in arming ISIS is hardly a secret.
A section of the U.S. ruling class hopes to tempt Russia into a tactical alliance against China or a break with Iran and Syria. This is the basis of Trump’s thin promises of talks and deals with Russia.
We need to build a movement based on the forces fighting for change right here in the U.S.: Refuse to align with racists and militarists of either party. Instead, consciously align with the Black Lives Matter movement, the resistance at Standing Rock, with women and LGBTQ people, with immigrants and Muslims.
(Photo: Anne Pruden)