Above: Vanessa Beeley and Henry Lowendorf of the US Peace Council delegation speak on Syria TV at the end of the fact finding trip to Syria July 2016.
Above: US Peace Council delegation meets with President Assad of Syria.
At the end of July 2016 the US Peace Council delegation entered Syria to meet with members of the elected Syrian government and opposition party members living inside Syria as opposed to those who have lived outside Syria since the beginning of the US allied war against Syria that was being fomented long before 2011.
Upon their return the delegates reported on what they had seen and heard with powerful honesty and integrity. They emphasized the need to lift the economic sanctions being imposed upon the “Syrian Government” by the US and EU NATO member states. These sanctions were seen to be collectively punishing the Syrian people first and foremost across all sectors including the crucial health and education sectors.
They also focused on the cessation of the illegal US military intervention both direct and by proxy terrorist forces that are marauding across Syria and massacring the Syrian people in their tens of thousands at the behest of the US, NATO members, the Gulf States and of course Israel.
The delegates spoke openly and forcefully at the UN in New York, accompanied by Dr Bashar Al Jaafari, permanent Syrian representative to the UN. Watch:
Following this conference, the US Peace Council came under attack from various NATO Left and anti-war organisations who seem unable to appreciate objective, constructive analysis of the US role in the destruction of another sovereign nation. The usual lines of attack were followed, including the lame pro-Assad label for anyone who chooses to discuss or highlight the positive aspects of the Syrian government and Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad.
The confusion among the anti war movements has been brought into sharp relief by the pragmatism of this US Peace Council’s reporting from another imperialist war zone in which all Syrian people are suffering. What became clear is that the genuine Syrian opposition had no desire to either take up arms or to destroy Syria to improve Syria. The destruction of this noble country is being engineered exclusively by the neocons inside the US with the help of allies in Europe, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel.
An article written by Terry Burke in InTheseTimes attempted to discredit the US Peace Council and the evidence it presented to the UN and in various subsequent articles, interviews and public speaking events. Burke’s diatribe relied on the tired anti-Assad propaganda and parroted much of the NATO narrative that has maintained the perpetual conflict, not only in Syria, but region-wide since first Iraq War and then in Libya – both of which were converted into failed states and terrorist infested vacuums in 2003 and 2011 by the very forces that are now seeking the same in Syria.
This article ends on a familiar note, suggesting that the so called civil movement in Syria needs support, ignoring the majority of Syrians who do defend their elected government or the fact that many of the original peaceful protestors have long since abandoned their protests and stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the Syrian state and their Syrian National Army who are battling to cleanse their country of the terrorist entities unleashed upon them by the US, NATO member states and allies.
These terrorist entities are not fighting for any Syrian-centric ideology or for the benefit of the Syrian people, they fight for money and for some warped vision of an Islamic state instilled in their NATO drug-fuelled minds by the Wahhabi regimes in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
They are fighting on behalf of the US and allies to destroy a nation that is built upon secular and socialist-democratic principles contrary to the majority of the US and EU media interpretation that governs much of the anti-war movement perception of this “conflict”.
The US Peace Council responded to this article by Terry Burke with dignity and gravitas proving once more that those who are continuing to support the NATO narrative are doing so either from a woefully misinformed position or are doing so because they are controlled opposition with a vested interest in feeding the propaganda mill. Anyone genuinely seeking an end to hostilities in Syria cannot fail to see the logic and vision of the US PC statement.
Here is that response:
“Pentagon and State Department, or the People of Syria? The U.S. Peace Movement Has to Decide Which Side It Is On — And Soon
An “Anti-Regime-Change” Position on Syria is NOT the same as a “Pro-Assad” Position! That is for the Syrian People to Decide Free of Foreign Intervention!
“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state….” ~ Article 2 of the UN Charter
“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations….” ~ Article 52 of the UN Charter
And one does not need to be only an “anti-imperialist” to stand for the principles of the United Nations Charter.
It is a sad irony that a significant segment of the U.S. peace and anti-war movement has now fallen prey to the distortions and misrepresentations promoted by the U.S. State Department, blindly repeating, and even insisting on, the distortions and falsehoods fed to the public by the war-mongers and their corporate media.
A vivid example of this fact was the vicious attacks that started soon after the return the U.S. Peace Council’s fact-finding delegation to Syria on July 30th. Immediately after the delegation’s Press Conference at the United Nations on August 9th, an article subtitled “Syria Serves up the Kool-Aid for Sympathizers,” appeared on the so-called “Talk Media News” web site, which, instead of dealing with the substantive issues raised by the delegation members, blasted a barrage of baseless accusations and slanders against not just the delegation members but the U.S. Peace Council itself, calling it, in a McCarthyite style, a “formerly Soviet-backed council,” in the hope that reviving Cold-War fears in the minds of possible listeners would keep them from hearing the hard facts provided by our delegation.
But being the target of such attacks by “news” outfits like “Talk Media News” is one thing, hearing similar accusations from our friends in the peace movement, like the writers and contributors to In These Times, is quite another.
The August 15th issue of In These Times contained an article titled “U.S. Peace Activists Should Start Listening to Progressive Syrian Voices,” by Terry Burke, described in the footnote as “a long-time peace activist.” It was our hope that her “long-time” activism and experience would have brought her to see the true nature of what is going on not only in Syria, but in all other countries that have been, and still are being, victimized by the United States’ wars of aggression. It was very disappointing to see the opposite.
Implicitly claiming that she knows Syria much better than the rest of the peace movement, Terry Burke starts by saying that “many peace activists know little about Syria’s peaceful uprising,” and as a result, “major organizations in the peace movement,” are now supporting “a dictator accused of monstrous war crimes.”
She then goes on to lump together a whole number of diverse organizations with different views and political orientations in her newly invented “pro-dictator” camp. What is the evidence? In her own words: “The March 13 … UNAC anti-war protest” (clearly not “pro-Assad protest”) in which many “left-wing” organizations, including the “pro-Assad Syrian-American Forum,” participated. And what is the charge? Some “people” were “carrying the flag of brutal Assad regime” and “some even wearing T-shirts with Assad’s image….”!
First, it is ironic that people like Terry Burke, who are claiming to be “fighting for democracy” in Syria, have no stomach for it in the United States. Do some Syrians (who are by the way the majority) have the right to support their government and have their President’s image on their T-shirts? Or, from her point of view, they should not exist at all? Isn’t that what ISIS is trying to do?
Second, is the falsification (or lack of knowledge) of the facts despite the author’s claim to knowing Syria better than others in the peace movement: Ms. Burke, Syrian flag is not “the flag of brutal Assad regime.” This flag was adopted as the flag of Syria when Syria became a part of United Arab Republics in 1958, 13 years before Hafiz Al-Assad first became the President of Syria. It does not stand for the “brutal Assad regime,” but officially represents “Syria’s commitment to Arab unity”! Why are you trampling on Syria’s national honor just to score an invalid point?
Third, and more important, is the lumping together of all organizations that participated in the March 13 anti-war protest and using “guilt by association” as a means of accusing “major peace organizations” of the “crime” of being “pro-Assad.” In doing so, Terry Burke is shifting the debate from one about whether people are for or against the war of aggression on Syria to one about whether they are pro- or anti-Assad. And this is exactly what the State Department and the corporate media are trying to do: “you are either with us or with Assad.” And within the peace movement: “You are not a genuine peace organization if you don’t join the anti-Assad camp”!
But this pro- or anti-Assad dualism is a false one that only serves the State Department and its war and regime change policy. It is meant to split, confuse and disarm the peace movement: if you oppose the regime change policy, you must be pro-Assad, and that’s it! And it seems it has been a successful strategy so far in both confusing and splitting the peace movement. With this dualism at work, the only choice left for the peace movement is to either join the State Department or the Assad government—nothing else.
It is in the context of this false dualism that Terry Burke talks about the “progressive Syrian voices” and sets them up against those in the peace movement she mockingly calls “anti-imperialists.” However, she herself falls victim of the same dualism she has created and inevitably ends up on the side of the State Department. Let’s take a look:
First, throughout the whole article, all you constantly read about is the “crimes” of the “Assad regime” and not a single word about the savage crimes of mercenaries and terrorists like ISIS, or about the innocent civilians that have been killed by US bombs and Saudi weapons. This is only a natural outcome of her argument: with regard to Syria, you can only be on one side or the other. And for her, the safe side is the side of the State Department. Thus the absolute silence on crimes that the US government and its allies are committing in Syria.
Another fact that reveals her true position is the terminology she uses and the “progressive Syrian opposition” she identifies with. First, she (probably inadvertently) refers to the ISIS-occupied territory of Syria as “liberated areas”! Interesting. Now ISIS has become a “liberating” force for Syrians.
Then she goes on to talk about the “remarkable ongoing successes and organizing efforts of grassroots groups” in these “liberated areas.” Well, the scenario becomes complete: ISIS has “liberated” parts of the Syrian territory and has empowered the “progressive Syrians” to “organize” in these “liberated areas.”
Didn’t George Bush claim that he “liberated” women of Afghanistan and the freedom-loving people Iraq? Didn’t Obama “liberate” the Libyan people from the “criminal dictator” Qaddafi? Are we looking for the same kind of “liberation” in Syria with the help of ISIS and the “progressive Syrians” it is harboring in the “liberated areas”?
Could these “progressive Syrians” survive the wrath of ISIS if they demanded anything other than the toppling of Assad government? Have we not witnessed the beheadings that are going on in those “liberated areas”? Only “barrel bombs” are killing the Syrian people?
Anticipating objections from the peace movement that the same fate is awaiting all of the Syrian people, she simply claims that the case of Syria is different:
“The analysis that the United States was promoting regime change was correct in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Cuba (1960-2015), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003). But Syria is not Iraq. It is not Afghanistan. Syria is Syria. It has its own unique history and culture—and its own Arab Spring of a genuine popular uprising against nearly five decades of the brutal Assad family dictatorship. This revolution is real, and beyond U.S. control.”
Indeed, a “real revolution” with the help of U.S. arms, Saudi and Qatari funds, Turkish logistical support and Israeli intelligence is under way. But it is certainly not the Syrian people’s revolution. In fact, such revolutions were planned by the Bush Administration for 7 countries including Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran, as testified by Gen. Wesley Clark, former supreme commander of NATO. And one by one they are being implemented.
We certainly oppose this kind of “revolution” and “liberation.” For us, the choice is much more than what Terry Burke has put before us. The Syrian situation is more complicated than that. We are dealing with two levels of reality that should not be collapsed into one.
One level is the war imposed by the U.S. Government and its allies against the independent state of Syria. In this war, we are on the side of the Syrian Government and the U.N. Charter.
The second level is the relationship between the Syrian Government and the Syrian people. On this level, we are always on the side of the Syrian people. The Syrian people have the right to change their government if they want to. But it is solely their decision. And the only way they can express their will is when they are free of any foreign intervention.
Terry Burke goes so far as accusing all independent journalists and others in the peace movement — all those whom she repeatedly mocks as “anti-imperialists” — as racists who are “behaving like imperialists,” by not listening to the “progressive Syrian voices” and “imposing their point of view on poorer countries voices.”
But she is putting herself in the same “imperialist” boat by taking an anti-Assad position as an American — no American has any right to decide Syria’s future — and ignoring the voice of the majority of Syrian people.
The true progressive opposition forces are inside Syria, not in the ISIS-“liberated areas,” and our delegation has met with many of them.
They have many disagreements with the Assad government, but strongly believe that they should join with their government against foreign attack and invasion, like any patriot would. The “progressive Syrian voices” that Terry Burke is identifying with do not have the monopoly on truth. She would be well served if she listened to the other opposition forces within Syria as well.
It is one thing for the Syrian people to oppose their government if they choose to. It is another thing for the foreigners to take the position of “Assad must go!” The latter is a clear imperialist demand that violates the international law. Our support in this case, as in any other case, is for the international law, the U.N. Charter, and the people’s right to self-determination — and not for or against any particular government or leader.
We hope that this has become clear once and for all.”