With another alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against the rebels that has killed civilians, the White House seems poised to take military action in Syria. At the same time, foreign policy organizations, like Peace Action, have intensified their pressure on the Obama administration to seek political solutions.
“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, President Obama needs to answer this question – ‘Who would Martin Luther King Jr. bomb?’ The U.S. needs to continue working with Russia to hold the repeatedly delayed peace talks and must add all key regional actors to those talks. Other diplomatic avenues need to be traveled to produce a negotiated settlement. The U.S. should support the International Criminal Court in arresting those committing war crimes such as the use of chemical weapons. And lastly, continued humanitarian aid and aid to refugees is needed to assist civilians,” observed Kevin Martin, the executive director of Peace Action — a group founded in 1957 and the largest grassroots peace organization in the U.S.
The UN Secretary General said yesterday that their inspectors on the ground will need several more days to complete their investigation into chemical weapon use. According to Martin, bombing Syrian government sites would likely not prevent further acts of aggression, including the possibility of future chemical attacks, and could further inflame the Syrian civil war. Indeed, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey himself has recently said that there is no military solution in Syria.
According to several letters sent to the White House by Members of Congress, there is no legal justification for an attack on Syria. Congress has not authorized it, and neither has the United Nations Security Council. While the Administration has not yet tried to used its authority, under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed just after 9/11, the only forces the U.S. could bomb would be the rebels, at least those associated with al Qaeda, not the Syrian government.
Candidate Barack Obama seemed to understand these legal restrictions back in 2007 when he stated, “The president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Constitutional experts think he should heed his own words now and stand down from bombing Syria.
Several months ago, Peace Action started a petition against military intervention in Syria and convened a coalition of a dozen other groups to pressure the White House. Early this week they called for their 100,000 members to call the White House and for their local chapters to get their Representatives to sign on to various Congressional letters opposing military action. Americans agree with the groups, with polls showing Americans overwhelmingly oppose the use of force in Syria.
While arming the rebels may seem a sensible approach, not all the rebels are the same. In fact, some are supportive of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Additionally, providing military support is like throwing gasoline on the fire and does not encourage a political settlement, which is the only way the violence will end.
With over 100,000 deaths, 4 million people displaced from their homes and the likely use of chemical weapons, calls for some urgent action continue.
“Only a political solution will stop the violence in Syria. Until then, aid for civilians caught in the middle of the civil war is desperately needed,” concluded Martin.