David Swanson: Purposeless Death in Syria + No U.S. Warplanes Over Syria News Conference

Parliament Square sit-in against Syria airstrikes.

Image by Alisdare Hickson via Flickr

by David Swanson
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Let’s Try Democracy
August 9, 2017

Statement by David Swanson as Director of World Beyond War at DC press conference August 8, 2017.

I won’t have time to list all the reasons I want U.S. military planes and drones out of Syrian skies much less all the reasons people have noted in comments on our petition, but there’s no question what my first reason is, although it’s not a reason always given much weight here in Washington.

These planes kill a lot of people. The U.S. military’s casualty figures have such a record of error that I would trust them about as far as I could throw a Pentagon contract. Airwars identifies thousands of civilian deaths from U.S. and allied planes (4,734 to 7,337 in Syria and Iraq). And such counts generally turn out to be many times under the counts that comprehensive post-war studies arrive at. On top of which we have the problem of all the people killed who are not counted by virtue of not being labeled civilian — always an empirically and morally iffy labeling process. Then there are the injuries that almost always outnumber the deaths, the homelessness, the extremely longterm effects of the U.S. use of depleted uranium fired from some of those planes we want removed, the starvation that could have been prevented for a fraction of the cost of the planes, and of course the top killer of U.S. troops: suicide.

The primary reason that what would otherwise be considered mass murder is given little heed is that it is understood to serve some higher purpose in both the moral and legal senses. But what purpose is served by U.S. planes over Syria? If longer than most major wars of the past isn’t long enough to figure that out, how about a purpose served by bombing Afghanistan or Iraq or Pakistan or Libya or Yemen? Apart from selling weapons and creating more enemies for the next war, what has been accomplished? Former CIA Bin Laden Unit Chief Michael Scheuer says the more the U.S. fights terrorism the more it creates terrorism. The CIA’s own July 7, 2009, report “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency,” says drone killing is counterproductive. Admiral Dennis Blair, a former director of National Intelligence, says the same. Gen. James E. Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts: “We’re seeing that blowback. If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.” That’s true whether or not the plane has a pilot.

Maintaining the momentum of permanent war is obviously not a high moral purpose. Jodi Rudoren in the New York Times on September 6 reported that “For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis. ‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here.’”

This endless war for war’s sake may be done in the name of democracy. And you may be able to get television viewers to cheer momentarily for missiles launched from a ship — which have almost all the same problems as those launched from the air — but people in the very same polls that cheer for those missiles say the U.S. should get out of the war. Public pressure was key to preventing the start of a U.S. air war in Syria in 2013. Never has the public or the Congress advocated for or authorized this war. It is a war destructive of the rule of law. Nowhere does the UN Charter or the Kellogg-Briand Pact permit this action, from air, ground, or water. Special Operations Command chief Army General Raymond Thomas two weeks ago admitted it was illegal. Claiming to defend U.S. troops in Syria against aggression by Syria is not a legal argument for defensiveness but a declaration of imperial lawlessness.

President Obama’s decision to arm and train proxies was against the law, dramatically against public opinion, and against the report he had commissioned from the CIA on whether such efforts had ever succeeded in the past. President Trump’s announcement that he will cease those efforts and henceforth fight on only one side of this war is a nod to reality, law, and possibly decency — given the account of his decision having followed his viewing a video of CIA-backed fighters killing a child. But the war continues to kill children.

This is all before mentioning the risk of apocalyptic nuclear confrontation with Russia as a result of Russia also fighting an immoral, illegal, and counterproductive war in Syria. That alone is reason to remove every U.S. plane or drone.

This is also without considering the environmental damage done to Syria and to our atmosphere. You can drive your car all year and not pollute the sky like one flight of one military plane.

And then there’s the financial cost. National Priorities Project puts the cost of war on ISIS at $16 billion and counting — more than the UN says would be needed annually to have clean drinking water everywhere on earth, and more than half what the UN says it would take to end hunger, not just in Syria, but globally. And this war serves as the top public justification for military spending that adds up to about $1 trillion a year in the U.S. That choice of how to spend our resources kills more people than all current wars put together because of where that money is not spent.

A fraction of that spending could be invested in diplomacy, aid, disarmament, and unarmed peacekeeping to far better effect. These alternatives have been available since day one and still are. The United States spent years sabotaging UN attempts at peace in Syria. According to Former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari, the United States dismissed out of hand a Russian peace proposal for Syria in 2012. The U.S. ruined last year’s ceasefire by firing on Syrian troops.

Nothing is going to quickly bring peace and prosperity to Syria. But continuing to do what we know makes matters worse has to end. We have to give peace a chance.

C-Span video: https://www.c-span.org/video/?432288-1/activists-call-withdrawal-us-military-aircraft-syrian-airspace  [Transcript available on C-Span; see videos below]


David Swanson speaks at “No U.S. Warplanes Over Syria” News Conference, 080817

paulydc on Aug 9, 2017

David Swanson is the author of several books on war. He is the director of the World Beyond War organization, and in addition he is the campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. War Is A Lie: Second Edition, published by Just World Books on April 5, 2016. I’ll come anywhere in the world to speak about it. Invite me!

[DS added the videos.]

News conference: 5 call for end to U.S. warplanes over Syria – August 08th, 2017

paulydc on Aug 9, 2017

News conference speakers were:
* CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou
* Former State Department official Matthew Hoh
* Christie Edwards, Chair of the ASIL Lieber Society on the Law of Armed Conflict and an advisor to the Center for Civilians in Conflict on international humanitarian, human rights, and gender issues.
* David Swanson, World Beyond War
* Norman Solomon, RootsAction.org

Speakers discussed the reasons behind a petition to Congress and Defense Secretary James Mattis calling for removal of all U.S. military aircraft from Syrian skies.

Sponsors included a coalition of six organizations: Daily Kos, The Nation magazine, RootsAction.org, Veterans For Peace, Watchdog.net, World Beyond War.

RootsAction.org is an online initiative dedicated to galvanizing Americans who are committed to economic fairness, equal rights, civil liberties, environmental protection — and defunding endless wars. RootsAction is endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Frances Fox Piven, and many others.

Q & A at “No U.S. Warplanes Over Syria” News Conference 080817

paulydc on Aug 9, 2017

Norman Solomon speaks at “No U.S. Warplanes Over Syria” News Conference 080817

paulydc on Aug 9, 2017

Norman Solomon is the Co-founder and coordinator of RootsAction.org. Norman is also the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is an author and longtime activist.

John Kiriakou speaks at “No U.S. Warplanes Over Syria” News Conference, 080817

paulydc on Aug 9, 2017

John Kiriakou was the first U.S. government official to confirm in December 2007 that waterboarding was used by the CIA to interrogate Al Qaeda prisoners. Mr. Kiriakou served 2 years in prison for exposing torture as CIA and US government policy. He is now a columnist at Reader Supported News.

Matthew Hoh speaks at “No U.S. Warplanes Over Syria” News Conference, 080817

paulydc on Aug 9, 2017

In 2009 Matthew Hoh resigned from his State Department post in Afghanistan in protest over U.S. policy in that country. The Council on Foreign Relations has cited his resignation letter as an Essential Document. Prior to his diplomatic career, Mr. Hoh served two deployments as a Marine in Iraq.

Christie Edwards’ Legal Analysis on Syria Bombing 080817

paulydc on Aug 9, 2017

At the American Society of International Law, Ms. Edwards is the Chair of the Lieber Society on the Law of Armed Conflict. She is an advisor to the Center for Civilians in Conflict on international humanitarian, human rights, and gender issues.


‘Assad not going anywhere’: Presser promotes petition against US intervention in Syria

RT America on Aug 9, 2017

A group of activists, including the CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou and former State Department official Matthew Hoh, held a press conference at the Washington National Press Club on Tuesday over a petition calling on Congress to remove all US military aircraft from above Syria.


Take Action:

No U.S. war planes over Syria petition

From the archives:

David Swanson: The Case for Abolishing War + Transcript

Uncle Sam’s Grisly Record of Murder and Mayhem Since 1945 by Paul Street

Self-Defense Is No Defense for US Acts of War in Syria by Finian Cunningham

John Pilger: There Is No Evidence + Vanessa Beeley: Depleted Uranium and White Phosphorus Used in Syria

Trump’s Tomahawks, Double Standards – Using Chemical and Radioactive Weapons for Profit? by Felicity Arbuthnot

US ‘Deep State’ Sold Out Counter-Terrorism To Keep Itself In Business by Gareth Porter

4 thoughts on “David Swanson: Purposeless Death in Syria + No U.S. Warplanes Over Syria News Conference

  1. Pingback: There Is No Crime Larger Than War by David Swanson – Dandelion Salad

  2. Pingback: Am I an American Supremacist? by Adele Roof – Dandelion Salad

  3. These are important and cogent discussions. The rapid decline of confidence in US ‘authority’ is palpable.

    My concern is that we can all talk as much as we like, arguing the fine points of international law; but it will be of minimal benefit, so long as the protagonists who are operating from the real centres of power, continue to benefit from promoting the ambiguous fog of proliferating & competing narratives.

    For these may be exploited as useful camouflage, sustaining a moral/media distraction that contributes to an illusion of apparent strategic confusion, while actually allowing insidious (franchised) operational tactics to persist ‘out of sight & out of mind.’. Money talks and walks.

    The real calculus changed when Russia mobilized and acted directly against ‘daesh’ & in support of Assad’s Syrian state forces. That put the proverbial cat among the pigeons and the relentless campaign against Putin, who continually invoked UN treaties and international law, literally exploded.

    Notwithstanding Putin’s gynophobic ‘orthodoxy,’ Russia has immense influence and a colossal pragmatic presence ~ both geo-strategically and in terms of essential (interim) resources, like gas, that Europe desperately needed but so foolishly foreclosed on by conceding to the imposition of US sanctions over Crimea,..

    The impending crisis of unraveling US hegemonic ambition and the disabling impotence of the ridiculous UN security council as a legitimate institution, has ensued & increased. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-wednesday-edition-1.4240252/investigator-carla-del-ponte-quits-un-syrian-war-crimes-panel-says-it-s-going-nowhere-1.4240254

    So long as the almighty (virtual) dollar dictates the formative architecture of our dominant planetary relationships, we shall make little headway; until, or unless the United States can demonstrate a real separation of powers ~ in pursuit of regenerative global stability.

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