IVAW's Statement Against Military Force in Syria
On August 23rd, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the suspected use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad, and a proposed military response. In his remarks to the nation, Secretary Kerry condemned the use of chemical weapons, calling it a “moral obscenity.” Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) agrees. We believe that US military action in Syria is also obscene. Our vision includes building a movement that is “an ally to the oppressed—a community connected in solidarity with war torn peoples,” including the people of Syria.
We condemn the use of chemical weapons, not only against civilians, but against all peoples in all nations. We know intimately that chemical weapons indiscriminately harm, maim, and kill, while causing long-term health problems and environmental destruction.
As veterans of the Global War On Terror, we are acutely aware that these sorts of indiscriminate and inhumane weapons have comprised our own arsenals throughout history, and that we inherit this legacy. America’s atomic bombs, napalm, and agent orange have killed millions of innocent civilians. For strategic gain, the U.S. actively supported Saddam Hussein while knowing that he was simultaneously using chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War. Nevertheless, we were called upon to deploy to Iraq under the false pretense that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, we were party to America’s introduction of white phosphorus and depleted uranium and know all too well their disastrous legacy on the people of those countries. We continue to watch our veteran brothers and sisters die of cancer from exposure to these and other substances employed on the battlefield. As veterans, we cannot help but recognize the glaring hypocrisy of America’s leaders as they demand immediate military action against any country that uses chemical weapons.
Our condemnation of chemical weapons is also based on the principle that military violence against civilians by any means is wrong. Whether through Assad’s artillery—or through American bombs, bullets, Tomahawk missiles, and drones—killing civilians for military and strategic gain violates international law and basic human decency.
Many of us are Iraq veterans and know what sacrifices have been made in the name of fighting against illegal weapons, only to find that the justification was a lie. We implore our leaders not to follow the mistakes that led to the Iraq war by violating national and international legal conventions.
But beyond law, the use of military force in Syria would be reckless, dangerous, and morally wrong. It will destabilize the conflict and lead to further civilian casualties. As Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, we have also seen how narrow military actions have devolved into invasions and occupations.
So long as non-military avenues exist, we demand their use before war. According to current opinion-polls, the majority of Americans share our deep opposition to military intervention. As veterans, we know all too well the limitations of military action to bring meaningful resolution, and this is why we now call upon the U.S. and international community to exhaust every available non-military option to ensure that a cease-fire is diplomatically secured in Syria. We firmly believe that the Syrian people have the right to self-determination and that international leaders should work tirelessly to secure a space within which the Syrian people can pursue a lasting reconciliation free of outside interference.