The war in Syria appears to be heating back up. A surprisingly widespread “cessation of hostilities” had reduced violence considerably for several weeks. But U.N. sponsored peace talks got nowhere fast, with rebel factions insisting that the Assad government must go or they will keep on fighting. Now all sides in the conflict appear to be preparing for a resumption of hostilities – even an escalation – in which tens of thousands more Syrians will die or become homeless refugees.
Veterans For Peace is especially concerned about recent actions of the U.S. government. President Obama announced this week that he is quintupling the number of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria (from 50 to 250). The White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA are said be discussing arming their “moderate rebel” friends in Syria with even more lethal weaponry, in particular “MANPAD” portable anti-aircraft missiles.
The relative lull in the fighting has allowed many Syrians to take a deep breath of fresh air and do their daily errands without worrying that their families will be bombed. The parties to the conflict, including the United States, should have seized on this hopeful moment to initiate courageous diplomatic moves toward a peaceful solution. Instead, they appear to be doubling down on Dante’s Inferno.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and its subsequent eight year occupation, created the conditions for the current wars in Syria and Iraq, including the emergence of ISIL. The U.S./NATO intervention in Libya destroyed that nation, leading to yet more violence and war. Yet “regime change” is still at the top of the menu for the neocolonial powers that be.
Similarly, the increase of U.S. troops in Iraq, now estimated to be over 5,000, is not making Iraq or the world any safer. Nor are the 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, rumored to be actually increasing rather than drawing down, as promised.
Veterans For Peace calls on the U.S. government to come to its senses and to represent the interests of the U.S. people, 99% of whom have no interest in this state of “permanent war.” We call on the U.S. government to:
- Withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, from Iraq and from Afghanistan;
- Stop feeding arms and ammunition to the war in Syria, and certainly do not arm rebels with sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles;
- Maintain and extend the current “cessation of hostilities” in Syria into a broad ceasefire;
- Seriously engage in bold diplomacy for a real and lasting peace in Syria;
- Increase support for Syrian refugees, including accepting many more into the United States; and
- Provide adequate medical care to all returning veterans, who have also been victimized by repeated deployments to wars that were unnecessary, illegal and immoral.
The war in Syria is at a crossroads. The intractable, many-sided war threatens to spill over Syria’s borders and engulf the entire Middle East in more death, destruction, chaos and despair. Now is the time to seize the opportunity for peace, not to escalate toward a war without end.