About 100 folks participated in this emergency rally at the traditional downtown corner of Kirkwood and Walnut, at the Monroe County Courthouse Square, where the Bloomington Peace Action Coalition has been holding peace protests every Wednesday evening at 5 p.m. since 2001.
How can I describe the mood? As a sort of joyful seriousness. Joyful, because we were gathered with those who also feel the ominous threat of war drums.
I thanked this woman for her thoughtful signs. Told her I didn’t know which one I liked better, though I’d say now that her admonition to “stay calm” might have been better phrased, “calm down!” On the other hand, to act as if we are calm may help us become so? That she also featured General Smedley’s classic War Is A Racket made me rejoice. Perhaps it’s to be expected that in a university community there seems to be a deeper recognition of the multilayered quandary “our”nation has gotten itself into than usual.
Bill Breeden, for example, one of our speakers, an activist and Unitarian Universalist minister, spoke of how there must be some virus that lives in the White House, since all the occupants seem to get infected with it. Talked about how since our main business as a nation is designing and building weapons, no wonder we require endless war.
Shelli Yoder, whose valiant run for the U.S. Congress from the 9th District last year galvanized a bunch of new young voters, also spoke, about how, when she speaks with her children about not hurting other people, how difficult it is to talk with them about what our country does to others.
But the talk that riveted me came from David Keppel, an unusually serious and thoughtful man, son of a diplomat; his concern for righting the direction of this nation towards peace and justice is constant, and seems to weigh heavily on his small shoulders. I was glad to see that he posted his remarks on his fb page. Here they are:
In 2002 and 2003, we gathered on this Square to oppose the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a war based upon lies which cost the lives of 4,805 U.S. troops and over 160,000 Iraqis, most of them civilians, disabled over 30,000 U.S. troops and left many with P.T.S.D, leading to an epidemic of suicides, cost an estimated 3 trillion dollars, and unleashed unintended consequences, including a sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites that we see in the civil war in Syria, that continue to this day.
Now President Obama, who ran in 2008 vowing not to repeat that, is asking Congress for authorization to attack Syria, again based on allegations about weapons of mass destruction. And once again, a president is not telling the truth.
There is no question that more than 300 Syrian civilians were killed and 1000 injured in a horrific chemical attack on August 21st. And it’s very likely that this attack came from Syrian government forces, though rebels have also used chemical weapons. Israel reportedly supplied the U.S. with the communications intercepts. The U.S. intelligence agencies themselves say it is no slam dunk just who was responsible for the attack. But that’s not the heart of the pro-war lie.
Congress must understand that the choice between a limited strike and doing nothing is false on both counts. No strike can be so calibrated to send Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a signal and degrade his ability to use chemical weapons yet avoid hitting those toxins, unwittingly aiding rebels allied with al Qaeda, and inflaming a regional conflict involving Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, and Israel.
Syria has a mutual defense pact with Iran. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iranian legislators have vowed to attack Israel if the U.S. attacks Syria. You can only imagine Israel’s response. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressing the United States for years to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and threatening to go first and get things started. We would have a full scale regional war, and the United States would be drawn in much deeper. Of course, this is a risk, not a certainty, but what was the likelihood that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 would set off the First World War?
Perhaps that’s why – despite the administration’s assurances to the public – the resolution authorizing military force is open ended. No time deadline. No geographical boundary – attacking Iran could be included, according to Jack Goldsmith, a former top lawyer for the Bush administration. No limitation barring the use of ground troops. Of course, it’s likely that Congressional committees will tighten up these conditions to win swing votes. That doesn’t matter. Once the missiles start flying, all bets are off, and President Obama knows it.
The second big lie is that the only alternative to war is to do nothing.
If our aim is to protect Syrian civilians, we should demand that Syrian chemical stocks – both the regime’s and the rebels’ — be put under constant U.N. inspection, while working for a cease fire and a diplomatic settlement. Because Syria is caught in a regional struggle, this has to involve all stakeholders. I’m not sure why the quote “international community” involves the United States, seven thousand miles from Syria, but not Iran, which is next door.
The administration and the Israel lobby are selling war as a signal to Iran. Some signal. One of the political victims of a strike would be Iran’s moderate new president, Hassan Rouhani, who would like to negotiate a nuclear compromise with the West in return for an end to extremely harsh sanctions that are ruining the lives of ordinary Iranians.
In 1945, President Truman used atomic weapons against Japan in part to send a signal to the Soviet Union. Instead he unleashed the nuclear arms race and nuclear proliferation. You cannot control weapons of mass destruction while practicing a double standard. All nations should ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Israel is party to none of these. Everyone in the Middle East knows that. For its part, the United States is building a new generation of nuclear warheads, contrary to the NPT’s requirement we work toward nuclear disarmament.
Congress can do for President Obama what the British House of Commons did for Prime Minister David Cameron: save him from a trap of his own making. Congress must say NO to war.
Please contact Senator Donnelly, Senator Coats, and Congressman Todd Young and tell them to reject the use of force. Please keep an open mind about Members of Congress and how they will vote. Senator Coats’s staff told me last week he was opposed to a strike. Hal Turner, Congressman Young’s Bloomington director, tells me that Mr. Young is quite literally counting every letter and call he gets on this issue.
Friends, this crisis can be a turning point where people say No to war, where Congress votes down a President on national security, and where the United States turns away from empire and begins to rebuild democracy, peace, and justice. Each of us can make a difference. Thank you.
Finally, Timothy Baer, co-organizer of this emergency rally with David Keppel and founder and head of the ongoing Peace Action Coalition made an impassioned call for each of us, to call and write both the White House and our U.S. senators and representatives. Handouts with their contact info were on the table for us to take home. I made sure to grab one.
Contact information for ALL U.S. Representatives and Senators can be found at http://www.contactingthecongress.org
Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121
Whitehouse Switchboard: (202)456-1414
Whitehouse Comment Line: (202) 456-1111
Afterwards, a number of us stood around and talked, old friends who were drawn to meet here, downtown in our beloved community, in this hour of great global need.
Let us pray that locals everywhere are both contacting their representative and senators as individuals as well as getting together in groups to reforge our democracy and stop this insane push towards yet one more profit-mongering war for the 1%.
P.S. Even Shadow had a good time!