Common Dreams | 08 April, 2017
Demonstrators take part in a 2015 “Don’t Bomb Syria” event in London. (Photo: Alisdare Hickson/flickr/cc)
Protests took place in cities across the United States and beyond on Friday to denounce President Donald Trump’s missile strikes on Syria.
The strikes on a Syrian air base—launched without congressional approval or U.N. authorization—were said to be in retaliation for Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians, though there has not yet been an independent investigation showing that the chemical attack was, as the U.S. claims, ordered by President Bashar al-Assad.
While the direct military attack against the Syrian government elicited fawning praise from media and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, peace groups and humanitarian voices have condemned them, and many hit the streets to say that “bombs are not the answer” to the country’s ongoing conflict.
In Philadelphia, dozens of protesters marched against the strikes, with some carrying signs reading “U.S. Out of the Middle East.”
In New York City’s Union Square, protester said Martin Jennings said to NBC New York: “It’s only going to escalate the violence,” adding: “I’m really concerned about the future of the Syrian people.”
In Chicago, protester Vicki Cervantes stated to CBS, “The tragedy of the children is heart-rending,” possibly referring to the children killed in the chemical attack or those killed in ongoing coalition strikes. “But I think the response of escalation—of more bombing, of more war—only means more dead children.”
In Detroit, Joe Mchahwar, son of a Syrian native, helped organize a protest and toldMLive.com: “Even if international law is broken in a place, we’re not some vigilante, rogue power that should just be allowed to go attack anyone that they deem has broken the law.”
Across the Atlantic, the British Stop the War Coalition held what it called an “emergency protest” Friday evening at Downing Street, saying the missiles launched by Trump “will only increase the level of killing in Syria, and inflame the terrible war that has already caused untold misery for the people of the country.”
“This is the worst possible way to respond to the indefensible attack at Khan Sheikhun. As well as deepening the tragedy of the Syrian people, this utterly irresponsible act threatens to widen the war and lead the West into military confrontation with Russia,” the group stated.
Earlier on Friday, during a U.N. Security Council meeting—in which the Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations offered a vital history lesson—U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, who “seemed to be channeling George W. Bush even more than her actual boss,” according to one observer, described the strikes as “a very measured step.”
“We are prepared to do more. But we hope that will not be necessary. It is time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in Syria and demand a political solution,” she said.
Threatening to rise tensions with Russia, she said: “Every time Assad has crossed the line of human decency, Russia has stood beside him,” and: “Assad did this because he thought he could get away with it. He thought he could get away with it because he knew Russia had his back.”
The Associated Press writes that at the meeting,
Russia’s deputy ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, strongly criticized what he called the U.S. “flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression” whose “consequences for regional and international security could be extremely serious.”
The New York Times adds:
President Vladimir V. Putin’s office called the Tomahawk cruise missile strike on Syria a violation of international law and a “significant blow” to the Russian-American relationship, while Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev said it had “completely ruined” it.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said later Friday that the U.S. was preparing more sanctions aimed at Syria.
But what Trump must do, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and a handful of other lawmakers, is “come to Congress to authorize any further use of force against the Assad regime.”
Given the two weeks of recess members of Congress are about have, Win Without War is circulating a petition that states: “Only Congress can authorize the type of military force the President just unleashed on Syria. Instead of heading out of town for two weeks of vacation, we call on you to immediately return to Washington to debate and vote on Trump’s military escalation in Syria.”
“President Donald Trump said that the attack was prompted by concern for the lives of Syrian civilians, but his administration has shown callous disregard for Syrians attempting to flee their lives,” noted Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “He must immediately revoke the Muslim travel ban and end restrictions on refugees from Syria, fleeing the horrors at home.”