Today, OXFAM mailed a plea to its members and supporters to contact our Congresspeople with a message opposing a military strike on Syria. Their message consisted mainly of a few questions they have been consistently asked, with answers. I found I was in complete agreement with their position, and I welcomed it as a bell of sanity and responsibility ringing in the air, versus the sabre rattling we hear from too many in the government.
In sending my message to Congress, I asked representative Polis, “In all the unsuccessful military actions since WWII, have we learned nothing about diplomatic alternatives to violence?”
The answer seems apparent. But we still have a voice.
Here is OXFAM’s letter:
We believe the proposed intervention is likely to make the situation worse, not better, for ordinary Syrian men, women, and children. There’s a clear risk that it could make the entire region more unstable and damage the prospects for an internationally-brokered peace.
As a humanitarian organization, we are working on the ground to provide much-needed aid to those affected by this conflict and we’re also speaking up to help protect civilians from more violence. We believe that the best way to do this is for the international community to urgently pursue a peaceful, political solution to the crisis. After more than two years of fighting in Syria and the deaths of more than 100,000 Syrians, world leaders must act immediately to end the bloodshed once and for all.
How did you reach this position?
Our position is informed by decades of experience working in conflict zones and based on extensive consultations with Middle East experts, Syrian and other Arab Civil Society Organizations, and Syrian civilians themselves.
Have you spoken up for or against military interventions before?
We’re an organization with a strong humanitarian mission. In the past, Oxfam has advocated for peace talks and other peaceful resolutions to conflicts as part of our humanitarian agenda, and in some cases, we’ve advocated for military intervention to save lives, such as in Rwanda in 1994, the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003, and Liberia in 2003.
How can you be concerned about the humanitarian aspects of this crisis and not support action in response to a chemical weapons use by a government against its people?
We strongly condemn any use of chemical weapons in Syria, along with the continued indiscriminate killing of civilians in the country. The use of chemical weapons is a violation of international law. There must be a strong and immediate response. We urge the international community to hold perpetrators of war crimes, including those responsible for chemical weapons use, legally accountable for their actions. There must be no impunity for war criminals.
We support action to end the bloodshed in Syria and prevent any further violence against civilians. However, the proposed military intervention is not intended to end the conflict, and our concern is that a military strike could possibly widen the conflict and civilian casualties. As Secretary of State Kerry has said, “There is no military solution.” We urge the international community to instead pursue a political solution.
What do you mean by a political solution?
The United States, Russia, and the United Nations – who are key leaders in the peace process – have committed to holding peace talks, but they have been delayed for months. Peace talks must happen, as soon as possible.
Additionally, all external actors – including the US and Russia – must stop all forms of military intervention and support, from sending weapons and fighters to launching air strikes. Actions such as these perpetuate the violence and put more civilians in harm’s way. Instead, the international community must come together to insist that the parties involved in the conflict agree to a ceasefire, sit down for talks, and find a just and sustainable peace for all Syrians.
The road to peace is not an easy one – in a conflict as complex as the one in Syria, it never is. But what we can’t do is stand silently by while Syrians suffer. We believe a military intervention is likely to prolong the conflict and the suffering of the ordinary men, women and children of Syria – which is why we’re speaking out against it, and asking you to join us.
I urge you to contact your representatives with a similar message.