Response To An Opponent of the Resolution to Strike Syria

I appreciate your actions and your desire for me to join moveon.org in calling on Congress to vote no. I have given this difficult matter a lot of thought and, as my latest tweet (posted on Facebook as well) indicates, it has not been an easy thing. I just happened upon Rep. Alan Grayson’s statement on Huff Post Live which I feel gave some very convincing reasons as to why we should not bomb Syria and is perhaps the closest thing to helping me make up my mind to speak up as you did.

However, I wish to discuss a few other considerations, the least of which is the fact that you are also joined by Congressman Ted Cruze and Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in your opposition to the strike.

I don’t think we can talk about chemical weapons lightly and look on as people are not only slaughtered by chemically mutated, the way they were in Hitler’s gas chambers and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is too easy to be an absolute pacifist while lives are destroyed and I have never advocated this approach to standing firmly on the side of life. For this reason, to take the gamble and send a forceful message to those who would see this as an opportunity to, in the future, exhibit this extreme brutality on people and get away with it, is a bet I would rather take than take the gamble on ignoring this as if it isn’t happening.

I also feel that paralleling this situation with Iraq is a vast disrespect to the care and caution that President Obama has taken in going into this, including his willingness to put this to a vote in Congress, in stark contrast to the eagerness with which his predecessor, President Bush, was so eager to go to war, using 9-11 as a very bad but effective pretext to cajole the members of Congress to make it unnecessary for him to take the action he took unilaterally. Secondly, there was no situation in Iraq in 2002 or 2003 that could even remotely be construed to warrant the invasion whereas the use of chemical weapons as well as the horrible way in which Assad has systematically gone about slaughtering his own people makes this something which cannot be ignored. To be sure, the legitimacy of the rebel forces is questionable at best and we have no way of knowing what an invasion will lead to. But we have no way of knowing what doing nothing will lead to either. However, I think if any parallel should be made, I would feel what we are doing is more akin to the bombings of Bosnia and Kosovo not Iraq and there is the strong possibility that all the fears people have of what could happen are only fears and not anything provable.

If I had responded to you two days ago, I probably would have said that it would probably have been useless to ask my Congressman, Bill Pascrell, to vote against it because I felt he would definitely be for it (in great contrast to the man I voted for in the Democratic primary, my former Congressman Steve Rothman, before New Jersey redistricted these two sitting Democratic Congressmen into having vie for the same seat, who I know would have adamantly opposed it.) However, I see he is as undecided as I am:

“I’m glad I read the documents, it was worth the trip,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). “I haven’t really made up my mind. I’m not trying to be a wise guy, I just haven’t.”

Pascrell said he sensed that colleagues in both parties and chambers seemed to appreciate the seriousness of the decision they face in the coming weeks.

“People are coming in from all over the place, I’m from Jersey, I’m only three hours away,” he said. “California is another story.”

(http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/09/01/after-meeting-with-obama-lawmakers-skeptical-on-syria-attack/)

I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of his constituents in this politically mixed yet left-leaning district (moderately left-leaning) are opposed and he’s been hearing from them. In fact, this “Buzz…” flash reports as much:

‘At a town hall in Cliffside, New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell found an audience almost unanimously opposed to any U.S. action in Syria.

“We shouldn’t be involved in Syria whatsoever,” a constituent said to applause from the audience. “We are not the world police.”

“I understand what you’re saying. I understand we don’t want to get involved in other people’s problems,” Pascrell, who supports a U.S. military response to Syria said. “When chemical weapons are used, then it’s a whole different ballgame.”’

(http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/in-their-districts-members-of-congress-demanded-a-syria-vote)

Senator Menendez chaired the committee that put forth the resolution on Tuesday so his position is clear.

(http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/09/04/senate-syria-committee-vote/2762415/)

Senator Lautenberg, as you know is dead, so I do not have another senator to contact.  The candidate I am supporting to be the new Senator, Cory Booker, you will be disappointed to learn, made somewhat of a shift after opposing the intervention:

After making an impassioned case earlier this week against another war, the senate candidate defers to Obama’s judgement. “I expect that the president will clearly delineate what the strategic objectives are,” says Booker.”

(http://www.buzzfeed.com/rubycramer/cory-booker-walks-back-opposition-to-military-intervention-i)

I recommend reading the entire Buzzfeed article because it resonates with how I feel.

But there’s another fact I wish to consider here as well. I don’t know if you saw “The Butler” because it will help shed a little light on what Obama’s really up against, and that doesn’t just concern this issue. I would recommend you go see it if you haven’t and then re-read this paragraph. There’s a dirty little secret in the U.S. Government which is really not so much a secret. President Eisenhower–in vain, of coursed–warned against it quite eloquently (http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html) and it is what murdered President Kennedy. In two words: “Joint Chiefs”. Now why do I bring up the movie, “The Butler”, which deals with racism, in the context of a discussion on war, politics and the military? Because racism has everything to do with why Obama has had to be so, so careful in how he has conducted himself as President. To be sure, any Democrat with any inkling of a desire to scale back or limit the activity of this very powerful branch of our government which has clearly shown itself to have an existence hugely independent of the government and certainly of any administration, being only one of three of our government’s branches, has quickly found himself up against one of the most profitable industries in the world, second only, perhaps to that other, climate-changing one, oil. And ironically, the very thing which has caused oil barons to shift their focus from the Middle East to backdoor right here at home–Middle East unrest–has made military barons salivate with greed at the grand opportunity to foment and seize upon any conflict possible. It is clear who has called the shots for decades, much to what would be Eisenhower’s dismay were he alive today, and the presence of a black man in the “highest” official office in the land is certainly not going to be any obstacle to them no matter what position Obama were to take. But it’s quite another thing to Obama. I’m sure Obama does not see his being black as the biggest loss to working harder for peace and opposing war with the same zeal that folks at moveon.org and Bold Progressives have been able to display with great alacrity. I believe he feels that to give in on this matter (as he has on all of his positions with respect to the military since he assumed office) will afford him more leeway and opportunity to accomplish the things he actually can achieve (which alone is remarkable with a Congress that has destroyed all the bills he sent to them and given him only legislation diametrically opposed to everything he believes in and a Supreme Court which has rendered decisions making it clear that he has no support in their corner either). But go see “The Butler”. You will understand what I am talking about a lot more clearly, I feel, after you do.

In 1962, the world was in a position as grave in some ways as the one we’re in now. The United States and the Soviet Union sat facing each other with missiles each pointed at the other one that, if even one were fired, could invoke disastrous consequences on the entire world. And while some may underestimate the situation we’re in now as being as grave, I know you, for one, are not one of those. You know, as well as I do, that one simple strike, even of limited scope, could easily erupt into a region-wide conflict that could then lead to even graver, unthinkable consequences for people all over the world. But when Kennedy sat in that room, both together with his closest advisers as well as alone, he knew that any decision he would make would not be an easy one. He knew what was at stake and probably wished so many times during those 13 days that he could be anywhere else than have to decide the fate of the world. I am of the utmost confidence that Obama feels exactly the same way and nothing he is saying or doing is easy for him. I also have developed a new found respect for my Congressman, who I voted for in the election but against in the primary, for appreciating how difficult this decision is even with so many of his constituents loudly calling for him not to support this resolution. My hope is that this plays out as that crisis did back 51 years ago, though I know that hindsight gives you the benefit of a doubt that cannot never be assuaged by easy answers. All I ccan truly offer at this time are my deep prayers for the safety and life of every human being and for this massive barbarity in Syria to end with minimal if any sacrifice. It is for this reason that I will make sure to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with as much muster as I can bring to it and I hope those who are reading this will join me as I know many of you have been already. Ultimately, as the Cuban Missile Crisis showed us, if it can show us anything, is that that which unites us gives us our best hope, not that which divides us along partisan, political and ethnic lines. It is for this reason that I think and act as I do. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give thought to and voice my feelings on this very serious matter.

 

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5 comments on “Response To An Opponent of the Resolution to Strike Syria

  1. marcginsburg says:

    Congressman Bill Pascrell kicked off a town hall in Clifton Tuesday with a presentation on the situation in Syria, telling constituents that while the U.S. must act, he does not support American “boots on the ground” in the conflict.

    “You’re not going to see boots on the ground here,” The Congressman said. “Unless I’m misreading it, there’s no taste to bring troops into Syria to get rid of Assad. There is a taste right now, in the Congress, to have a comeuppance and to say, ‘We’re not going to tolerate violation of international law.’”

    Constituents in the audience who spoke up during the town hall were largely opposed to direct U.S. military action in Syria.

    Pascrell said any U.S. action has to come as part of an international coalition.
    “We cannot do this unilaterally,” he said. “It will not solve any problems.”

  2. marcginsburg says:

    “Members of Congress from New Jersey said Saturday that President Obama was right to make them part of the decision on whether to attack Syria over the use of chemical weapons, but most were a long way from saying how they will vote now that they will have the chance.

    At one end of the spectrum is Sen. Bob Menendez, who will preside over hearings on the authorization to use force this week as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and previously co-sponsored a bill to arm vetted elements of the Syrian opposition.

    “We don’t look away when undeniable war crimes are committed,” Menendez said in a statement, promising to work to get Congress to authorize force “as expeditiously as possible.

    “To allow a despot to gas their population indiscriminately and with impunity is to fail our values and to compromise our freedoms,” said Menendez, a Democrat from North Bergen, who had said he favored a limited military strike even before Obama’s statement Saturday. “There is no fork in the road before us, there is no ambiguity to the evidence. … The Syrian regime and others like it must understand that red lines are indelible, that our foes should never question the resolve of the United States.”

    But others want to know more about what the United States is resolving to do before they will let bombs fly.

    “Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, appeared to be closer to where Menendez is, but not quite there. He said in an interview that he wants to see the evidence he will get at a confidential intelligence briefing in Washington today, but if it confirms his belief that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad used nerve gas on citizens, he wants a strong military response.

    “If they did this, heinous crimes deserve strong responses,” Pascrell said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to go to war, which we’re not — we’re not going to have boots on the ground.”

    Any attack should be aimed at military targets, while containing injuries to citizens, he said.

    “I’ll leave that to the generals, and let them advise the president so he makes the decision,” he said. “Congressmen should stop being generals.”

    “Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the Democratic nominee to replace Lautenberg, said he would treat military intervention as a last resort as a senator and that “there must be clear, achievable objectives and a credible path to achieving them.”

    http://www.northjersey.com/news/NJSYRIA0901.html?c=y&page=1

  3. marcginsburg says:

    Hi Marc,
    I can see that you have given the matter a lot of thought, but youe arguments are based on assumptions that I do not believe. See this article: https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/09/03-9 or http://truth-out.org/news/item/18559-how-intelligence-was-twisted-to-support-an-attack-on-syria about the “evidence” of Assad’s use of chemical weapons. It is illegal under international law for the U.S. to attack another nation except in self defense or with U.N. authorization. I have even read that some rebels have claimed that the nerve gas was the result of an accidental explosion of weapons given to them by the Saudis. Elsewhere I have read that there is evidence that the toxic substances used were deployed by the rebels. They had more to gain by using them. In any case the matter needs to be decided by the ICC or the UN. All the evidence should be given to those bodies..

    Besides, the U.S. has no credibility in trying to portray itself as an upholder of international norms or “responsibility to protect” after using white phosphorous in Fallujah and depleted uranium in the rest of Iraq, turning a blind eye to the use of white phosphorous by Israel in Gaza, training death squads and torturers in Central America, using Agent Orange and napalm in Vietnam, invading a long list of weaker states going back decades or centuries. The list of its crimes is very long. I believe that nations do not have morals, only interests.
    (Some possible interests in Syria are discussed here: https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/09/05-7.)
    It is realpolitik that determines their actions.
    They use humanitarian concerns or security scares and demonization of others to sell their wars of choice to the public. I am sceptical of the administration’s rush to bomb. Surely there are better options.
    Best regards,

  4. marcginsburg says:

    I am skeptical too. But all sources of fact are suspect that ee don’t observe with our own very eyes. I don’t know if you’ve heard me say this before, but despite the protestations of seekers of objective scientific truth that faith has no place in arriving at objective fact or truth, and therefore should not be used for honest assessment of any situation, it remains and most likely will forever remain an undeniable fact that because our ability to perceive, grasp and understand the truth cannot but be limited and partial, no method can truly give a completely verifiable, convincing or believable means for knowing the truth and therefore faith and room for error will always play an inevitable and ineluctable role in assessing and deciding in the absence of verifiable proof what the truth is. Hence, most humans will take up to almost 98% of everything they believe on faith, while a few will bother to research facts thoroughly and need to draw on faith at a lesser percentage.

    I will read your articles but please understand that the reasons for your according them greater believability than the sources I have cited are a combination of your own experience and prejudices just as mine are likewise my experience and prejudices which have been conditioned by my circumstances and karma to be different than yours. I believe the first stone may be cast by the person alive who is completely free of finding “truths” that fit ones already in-set prejudices and beliefs while rejecting those that do not accord with them.

    A fellow SGI member who I hadn’t seen in years happened to be at the same SGI meeting I was at. She said her 16 year old son who I had never met was dying to meet me. Being naturally curious, I asked her why? Because, she said, it was because of me that she decided not to abort him as a fetus. She reminded me that she had spoken to me of her dilemma during her pregnancy and that I had shared with her guidance that the Buddha had shared with a believer who had asked him when it was permissible to kill and when it was not permissible to kill. In answer to this question, he said, “It is enough to kill the will to kill”. Quite a refreshing contrast to the scripture which in one breath says, “Thou shalt not kill”, then a few books later commands Joshua to lead the wholesale slaughter of the Canaanites (and of course, there’s the much closer set of commandments in the Book of Leviticus requiring adulterers and homosexuals to be killed).

    When all is said and done, laws and systems will not end violence and killing from this world. Whether they are ns wiational laws or international laws, ultimately it will come down to humans’ will and their decision as to how they intend to regard the people around them in the world. It all starts with attitude, not with electing a bunch of officials, much less convening of body of unelected representatives of various member states, that will determine if killing wholesale en masse or on an individual basis continues to be the practice of our species that we have inherited from some of our primate ancestors.

    In the meantime, I’d like to remind you that had these international and U.N. laws been in place in the early 1940’s, it might very well have led to the wholesale gassing and murder of so many more people by the Nazis. Nothing is black and white. If life were that simple, it would be easier for me to go along with the idealistic and eschew the more practical approach. But ultimately, we all compromise any high ideals we may pretend to when the reality of living another day confronts us with its difficulty, to say nothing of helping to save another’s life, even more troubling is it, when we have the willingness to confront ourselves with the consequences of our decisions upon whole bodies of people. The truth is, every approach will come at a cost in terms of human life, and there is no one, no God spelling it out to us beforehand. It is easy to categorize and divide positions into what you call Realpolitik and human or moral positions,e but politics ultimately comes down to people who are forced to deal with the ugliest aspects of the human condition in order to accomplish something for somebody. I don’t believe that everyone who goes into politics is either morally bankrupt or inevitably becomes corrupted by the dark side. I believe there are those who sanguinely and sanely navigated their way through the murkiest of waters so that some aspect of human life could be ameliorated. I believe some of these uncorrupted politicians are among your heroes.

    I am sure all we’ll be able to agree upon is, as is the case between Obama and Putin, to disagree. Hopefully, though, some of what I am saying might cause you at least a little pause. I know that making the world a better place is not going to be easy by any stretch. But I do believe that meeting and engaging people on their terms as an initial cause for engagement is still better than to show anger that can only lead to us being won over by the same poison that the people we are denouncing are infected by.

    Having said all this, I do respect your position and your view and appreciate the fact that so many others in the world feel as you do. While it pains me that this opposition to the better President is in marked contrast to the worse President of the Iraq years, and knowing what we suffered through those 8 long years, seeing in Obama’s election and inauguration a new, hopeful dawn for humanity, I am also deeply heartened that this time the world seems to be clearly standing on the side of peace, and for that, I am grateful no matter what the political cost.

    Sincerely,

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