Best statement on Syria to date: Campaign for Peace and Democracy

This statement by Campaign for Peace and Democracy directors Joanne
Landy and Thomas Harrison is in my view possibly the best overall
statement on the current stage of the Syrian revolution and the the
opposite threats of either imperialist intervention of theocratic
degeneration, coming out with clear opposition to imperialist
intervention but also an equally clear view that the Syrian
revolutionaries have the right to receive arms from whoever they wish. I
hope it can be published in GLW, Links and Red Flag. Needless to say it
won;t be very pleasing to the supporters here of of brutal capitaliust
dictatorships slaughtering their own people in massive numbers in the
name of bullshit-style “anti-imperialism.”

MK

ON SYRIA – A PERSONAL STATEMENT
by CPD CO-DIRECTORS
Thomas Harrison and Joanne Landy
June 2013
http://www.cpdweb.org/stmts/1023/stmt.shtml

During the past two years, the Campaign for Peace and Democracy has
released official statements in broad support of the Syrian revolution:
CPD Salutes Syria’s Courageous Democratic Movement and Message of
Condolence and Solidarity from U.S. Peace Activists to the Syrian
People. What follows, however, is not an official position but rather a
personal statement by CPD’s co-directors about the current situation. We
hope it will generate an on-line symposium with arguments opposing,
supporting, or supplementing our view. Please contact us at cpd@…
if you are interested in participating in this symposium.

We also invite symposium contributions and comments on an important
issue that the statement below attempts to address, and that is the
question of outside arms to the rebels. Many have argued that if the
rebels, even the more non-sectarian and democratic-minded elements among
them, get weapons and ammunition from outside, it will have one or both
of the following bad consequences: 1) it will only perpetuate the
bloodshed, and/or 2) it will greatly increase the influence of foreign
powers that are actually hostile to the democratic struggle in Syria,
and will thus inevitably pervert the struggle. Others maintain that the
democratic rebels have a right to acquire weapons from anywhere they
can, as long as they are able to maintain their independence, and indeed
must obtain these arms if they are to both avoid defeat and successfully
compete with theocratic forces.

We look forward to hearing from you and to reading your comments and
responses.

In peace and solidarity,

Tom Joanne
Thomas Harrison and Joanne Landy
Co-Directors
Campaign for Peace and Democracy
New York, NY, USA

STATEMENT ON SYRIA
By Thomas Harrrison and Joanne Landy
June 2013
More than two years ago, the Syrian people, inspired by the Arab Spring,
began a democratic revolution against the viciously authoritarian Assad
regime, a revolution that we enthusiastically supported from its
beginning and continue to support.

For two long years now, we, like the rest of the world, have watched in
horror as the Syrian government waged merciless war on its own people.
Some of the revolutionaries argued that for strategic if not for
pacifist reasons, the movement should have remained nonviolent despite
the mounting repression it faced. However, the extreme violence and
unspeakable cruelty, including the use of torture on a massive scale,
that Assad unleashed against an initially peaceful democratic movement
impelled many of the regime’s opponents to take up arms, understandably
believing that they had no choice other than outright surrender, which
would be followed inevitably by mass slaughter. Some of the rebels have
also committed atrocities; these are indefensible, but it should be
remembered that it is the Assad regime that has been the initiator and
far and away the greatest perpetrator of violent outrages.

Nonviolent Syrian demonstrators July 2011. Photo: AP

Assad’s brutal effort to stay in power has led to more than 90,000
deaths and the displacement of some four million Syrians, almost 20
percent of the country’s population. The Syrian people have every right
to depose him and his cohorts, and to hold them accountable for their
crimes. While at this writing the strategy of the Obama administration
remains unclear, it has signaled possible military intervention but is
more likely to press for a “negotiated solution” that allows Assad or
his regime’s military and security forces to remain in power. We would
welcome an end to the violence in Syria, but we strongly oppose any
diplomatic, not to mention military, intervention by outside powers that
tries to dictate the shape of a future Syria or prevents the Syrian
people from overthrowing the Assad regime. It is the Syrian people
themselves who must make the decision as to how to defend themselves and
their basic human rights, and what kind of society they hope to build.
We stand in solidarity with their struggle and our hearts go out to them
in their suffering.

The fate of Syria must not be decided by foreign powers or forces, all
with their own self-interested agendas. We condemn the support given to
Assad by Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah. Equally, we condemn the
attempts by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf states to manipulate
the Syrian revolution by promoting reactionary Islamist forces within
its ranks. As for our own government and its allies, Washington, London,
Paris and Tel Aviv are long-time enemies of democracy in the region;
they cannot be trusted to help shape a free and socially just Syria. In
particular, we condemn the recent Israeli bombing of Syrian targets.

Consistent with our strong opposition to any kind of military
intervention in Syria by the U.S., or other foreign powers, we also
oppose providing air cover or establishing no fly zones. We do believe,
however, that the democratic opponents of the Assad dictatorship have
the right to get guns where they can, while resisting all attempts by
those who provide arms to acquire political and military influence in
return.

At the same time, we are troubled by the growing strength of
anti-democratic elements within the Syrian rebel forces. It is clear
that extremist Islamist militias, armed and financed by Saudi Arabia and
Qatar and including foreign jihadists, are expanding. Increasing numbers
of fighters are rallying to Jabhat Al-Nusra, a fundamentalist group with
ties to Al-Qaeda. The Syrian revolution was rapidly militarized not only
because of the savagery of Assad’s response, but also because it
originated in the countryside; peasants and villagers could not readily
confront the regime with strikes and other nonviolent mass actions. Once
militarization began, leadership came to depend on access to guns rather
than on political programs. This helps explain the growing power of
heavily armed and tactically skilled Salafi jihadists.

But if extremist Islamism is now a leading force in the Syrian
revolution, it is not the only force. There is a great deal of evidence
that the mass of ordinary Syrians, while mostly Sunni and devout, are
nevertheless non-sectarian and democratic-minded, and that they are
willing to challenge the Islamist militias. Anand Gopal, one of the few
international journalists to actually go to liberated towns and cities
in Syria, has noted that in some cases, when self-appointed Islamist
authorities have attempted to repress women and political opponents,
they have been met by effective resistance.

Even if it is far from inevitable, it is possible that extremist
Islamists may yet hijack the Syrian revolution and deflect its
democratic potential. It would be a tragedy for the Syrian people if
they ended up exchanging the rule of a brutal tyrant for a regime of
bigoted fanatics committed to the oppression of women and gays under a
theocracy. We are also concerned that the revolution’s democratic
promise may be compromised by the oppression of Syria’s many ethnic and
religious minorities under a post-Assad government. The largest of these
minorities, the Kurds, have a long history of mistreatment, and their
national rights should be respected as should the rights of Alawites,
Christians, Druze and other minority religions.

It seems clear, though, that millions of Syrians want neither Assad nor
theocratic tyranny. The Syrian revolution continues, and the nature of a
post-Assad Syria, should it come to be, is far from clear. But
international solidarity can crucially help to influence the outcome.
Global public opinion – and especially the left, social justice and
human rights movements, and labor – must work both to support the
revolution and to strengthen democratic and secular-minded forces within
its ranks.

We stand for full democracy, an independent labor movement, and complete
equality for women, sexual minorities, religions and ethnic groups
everywhere. We will do everything we can to support Syrian groups and
individuals who share this democratic vision, and we call on people
throughout the world to do the same

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