As the Obama Administration considers a proposal that Syria turn over its chemical weapons cache to international overseers, and the President prepares to make his case for U.S. military intervention in Syria during a nationwide address scheduled for Tuesday night, anti-war activists across Southern California on Monday urged him to stand down.
“It runs a great risk of reaping the whirlwind of war, and having American boots on the ground,” said Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints Church in Pasadena. “We have to exhaust every diplomatic option.”
Bacon said he accepts that the Syrian regime appears to have committed an atrocity in launching a chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 people, but said a military response would be “misguided,” and warned it could lead to a wider conflict in the region.
“We should think about the innocent civilians who would be in harm's way.”
Some people questioned whether the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out the chemical attack.
“We are not being shown the evidence,” said Mike Prysner of Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, or ANSWER, an anti-war group formed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The group already has sponsored two protests outside the Westwood Federal Building.
“Even if this chemical attack did take place by the Assad regime, that doesn’t mean U.S. intervention will save civilian lives,” said Prysner, a U.S. Army veteran who participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
A protest organized by MoveOn attracted about 40 people in Silver Lake Monday night. The protestors held up signs as passing drivers honked their support.
Public opinion appears to lean against any U.S. military strike on Syria. According to a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday, 7 in 10 respondents said they don’t think it would achieve U.S. goals.
Some Southern California groups planned more protests during the week, including the Armenian National Committee of America. More than 100,000 Armenians live in Syria, according to the group.
“We do not see how airstrikes will end the suffering of civilians caught in the crossfire,” said Berdj Karapetian, chairman of the Glendale chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America.
“As Americans, we do not see that escalation of military activity leads to a resolution that will lead to peace,” he said.
Karapetian said his and other groups have raised more than $1 million in Southern California to help Armenian Syrians affected by the two-year-old civil war. He said his group does not support either the Syrian government or rebel groups in the fighting.
Obama should consider a Russian proposal that would take control of chemical weapons out of the hands of the Assad regime, said Karapetian. “There are alternatives to military action.”
“There are a lot of tools in our toolkit, and a military strike seems to be the first think that people think about,” he said. “War is a failure of the imagination.”