Saturday, 7 September 2013

Letter: Call from Obama might have prevented gas attack

Call from Obama might have prevented gas attack
Letter to Buffalo News, published on September 7, 2013

As the world justly condemns the horrific gas attacks in Damascus, Syria, killing over 1,400 people, the debate in Washington and elsewhere over what to do about it is just beginning, and some sort of military action is at the top of the list. There are two items that need to be part of the upcoming congressional discussion.

First, although the Obama administration initially welcomed a U.N. investigation in an Aug. 21 press briefing, it puzzlingly turned 180 degrees around on Aug. 30 when Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States should not wait for the conclusion of the U.N. investigation before deciding on a course of action. What’s the hurry?

Secondly, on Aug. 30 the White House released an assessment on Syria’s use of chemical weapons. It says three days prior to the gas attack, the United States collected much information pointing to an impending chemical weapons attack. The report did not say President Obama called President Bashar Assad during that three-day period prior to the gas attack telling him: “Don’t do it.” Such an effort by Obama may have prevented the attack, if indeed it was carried out by the Syrian government on orders from Assad. Why didn’t Obama make that phone call?

Charley Bowman, WNY Peace Center,  Buffalo

Letter: More violence is not the solution in Syria

More violence is not the solution in Syria. ce:   By Victoria Ross
Published by Buffalo News on September 4, 2013

“Those who have not been killed by chemical weapons will be killed by American weapons.”
– Local Syrian-American woman

Violence begets violence. Nonviolence is basic to virtually all religions (although man has also somehow inserted violence into every religion, too). Yet we treat violence as our ace in the hole. We must believe, and act, in nonviolence and love.

We grieve for the people of Syria. We know Bashar Assad’s regime is brutal – torturing and murdering – and violence is escalating all around. We must stop it.

We grieve, but don’t know who actually gassed people. There are conflicting reports. Although our government claims Assad gassed his people, we also know that “truth is the first casualty of war.” Our government has often lied to go to war – e.g., Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin and the mythical weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Whoever gassed people in Syria, it was a terrible crime, and the terror continues. Adding to it will clearly result in more innocents dying. Targeted assassination is a specialty of drones, yet many civilians die in drone strikes. In Pakistan, for example, estimates of civilians killed range from 10 percent, per the New America Foundation, to near 98 percent, per Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute. The broad-ranging terror is indisputable.

We can and must take decisive action. Let us strengthen international law, organizations and community. We need to work through U.N. peacekeeping. We need to work with the international community to halt fighting (and arming), and to promote communication and negotiation.

We must recognize the U.N. International Criminal Court, the proper venue for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court originated in 2002, and has been ratified by 122 countries. We originally signed but then reneged. Might our own war crimes – war of aggression on Iraq, extra-judicial assassination via drones – have something to do with our reluctance?

The international community is like any other community – a culture is created and perpetuated by the actions of its members. As the No. 1 arms merchant and military spender, determined that our world dominance be unchallenged, our belligerence has only encouraged others to behave badly. Let us instead promote the rule of law internationally, including the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war, signed by the United States in 1928.

Let us take the side of compassion, and work hard to create a culture of peace at home and abroad. Even a fraction of the time and energy spent on violence could make all the difference.

Victoria Ross is a peaceful conflict resolution consultant for the Interfaith Peace Network and the WNY Peace Center.

One of the statements read at tonight's peace vigil in Buffalo.

LCWR Statement on US Action in Syria.           Fri., Sep 6, 2013
[Silver Spring, MD]  We, the members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, are compelled to work toward a world where reverence for all living beings finds expression in an approach to life free from violence. We stand in solidarity with the victims of violence everywhere, with a majority of the American people, and with the leaders of our Catholic Church as we heed the Gospel call to peace, reconciliation, and universal love.

Like so many, we are horrified at the violence we witness in our world and appalled by the continued carnage in Syria. We wholeheartedly condemn the use of chemical weapons along with the indiscriminate killing of civilians, and other violations of international humanitarian law.  In the face of so much pain and suffering; confronted by so much evil and immorality; we know that we must act.

However, we reject the false choice currently being offered by our political leaders in Washington, DC.  We need not choose between military action and doing nothing.  Like Pope Francis we know that, “Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.” Only aggressive diplomacy and deliberate dialogue can end the violence and bring about peace in Syria.

We urge the US Congress and the President, working with the international community at the United Nations to provide the leadership necessary to:

De-escalate the violence by stopping the flow of arms to all sides and seeking a ceasefire.
Provide humanitarian assistance to the millions of Syrians forced to flee their homes by the continuing violence.
Pursue a just political settlement with all of the stakeholders including members of civil society.
Bring to justice those responsible for these egregious violations of international law and crimes against humanity.
We will act to stop the killing and end the violence. We join with Pope Francis in appealing for an end to violence everywhere and calling on all people of good will to observe a day of prayer and fasting for peace on September 7. Let us pray for the grace to respond to violence, conflict, and war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation, and love.

Sister Annmarie Sanders, IHM
Associate Director for Communications
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has more than 1400 members, who represent more than 80 percent of the approximately 51,600 women religious in the United States.