There aren’t many to come to Congress to protest – not nearly enough – and the disparaging comments of chairs of committees and witnesses toward those who do challenge administrations are certainly aimed at discouraging pesky, uncomfortable protests.
It wasn’t that anyone liked Sadaam Hussein and his treatment of many in Iraq, but we knew we were being lied into a war with the false claims of weapons of mass destruction and we protested vigorously against it.
No one likes what Assad has done to many in Syria, nor what ISIS is doing to the people in the territory they currently control, but we didn’t trust the Obama administration on last year’s issue of chemical attacks in Syria, nor do we trust him on arming “moderate” rebel groups in Syria, so we protest.
On September 16, we attended the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and held up our signs” “There is no military solution,” “More killing = more extremism” and other similar messages. After the hearing began, I stood up and said, “No More War, No More War.”
Committee chair Senator Carl Levin responded with banging his gavel and “if you don’t sit down you will be removed. Then the snide comment, “You’re acting very war-like yourself.” During that hearing, 5 of us were thrown out of the room after we each gave the committee and witnesses a quick piece of our minds about the folly of another attempt to use the US military to resolve yet another political issue.
The next day on September 17, Secretary of State John Kerry began his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations committee, a committee he chaired as a US Senator, by challenging protest, particularly the delegation of CODEPINK: Women for Peace over their opposition to arming the Syrian rebels. As Kerry entered the hearing room, we shouted, “No more war. No military solution.” Kerry responded by saying that he respected our right to protest, “You know, as I came in here, obviously we had some folks who spoke out. And I would start by saying that I understand dissent. I’ve lived it,” he said, referring to his leadership of Vietnam Veterans Against the War nearly 40 years ago. “That’s how I first testified in front of this country in 1971.”
Kerry then said that CODEPINK “was started by a woman, or women, who were opposed to war but who also thought that government’s job was to take care of people, give them health care, and education, and good jobs.”
“And if that’s what you believe in, and I believe it is, then you ought to care about fighting ISIL.”
“Because ISIL is killing and raping and mutilating women. And they believe women shouldn’t have an education. They sell off girls to be sex slaves to jihadists.”
Well, Secretary of State Kerry, we are concerned about women and all people. We do not like what Assad has done to the people of Syria and we don’t like what ISIS has done. And we did not like what Sadaam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi or the Taliban did to those who opposed their rule. And, we do not like what a war that the United States has orchestrated has done to the women, children and men of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and the chaos it has caused in the Middle East and the world.
Kerry conveniently didn’t mention in his testimony that ISIS is the direct blowback the United States is facing after the 11 year war on Iraq. According to the Washington Post, after the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, now the head of ISIS, was a minor Islamic preacher who became a militant because of the occupation. He formed a small, armed group in eastern Iraq to oppose the American occupation, and in 2005, he was captured by American forces and spent the next four years a prisoner in the American prison camp called Bucca, in southern Iraq.
According to the New York City Daily News, the US military did not consider him particularly dangerous, and let him go when the camp closed in 2009. As he left, he reportedly told guards, “I’ll see you guys in New York.” They did not consider his parting words a threat – just an acknowledgment that many of his captors were reservists from a unit based on Long Island. The camp’s commanding officer said, “He was a bad dude but he wasn’t the worst of the worst.”
We believe there are other ways to deal with ISIS than having more weapons from the United States flood into the region. The armed rebel groups that number between 80,000 to 100,000 want more weapons, interestingly, to counter the US weapons that the 10-30,000 ISIS fighters have captured from some of the 250,000 Iraqi military trained and equipped by the United States over the past ten years. The cycle of arming groups with US weapons and having those weapons fall into the hands of fighters the United States opposes is well documented and a very good reason not to provide these weapons to even more fighters.
A better strategy is to pressure those governments who have been supporting ISIS behind the scenes and who are now US allies in Obama’s coalition of the willing. Saudi Arabia is the big brother caliphate that ISIS wishes to become – an oil rich, conservative religious country where Sharia law, morals and vice police, prison for those who do not agree and beheadings (24 last week in Saudi Arabia) are the norm. Saudi Arabia has been the cash cow for US military contractors and oil companies for decades and the US government has turned a blind eye to the human rights abuses that the Saudi monarchy has inflicted on its people. But, rather than confronting Saudi Arabia directly about its support for extremist groups in the region, the Obama administration pushed for a formal training facility for “moderate” armed groups in Syria to be trained in the home of extremists. It does not make a bit of sense!!!!
Now is the time for the United States to go to the mat with Saudi Arabia.
And now that the Turkish diplomats have been freed from ISIS, it’s time to put great pressure on Turkey. Turkey is anti-Assad and has allowed international fighters to transit into Syria and Iraq and has turned a blind eye toward militant recruitment in Turkey itself. Unemployment in Turkey is 9.3% in 2013, and in 2010, almost 17% of the population lived below the poverty level. ISIS reportedly pays fighters $150 a day. Working with ISIS, young men are able to earn more that three times Turkey’s average per capita GDP-a tremendous recruitment tool.
The US must put pressure on Turkey to stop the flow of illegal oil from ISIS into Turkey. ISIS is selling $1 million in oil per day from oilfields it has captured in Syria and Iraq on the black market to groups in Turkey.
Rather than trying to bully CODEPINK to stop protesting Obama-Kerry policies, we suggest that Secretary Kerry focus his energies on getting the Obama administration “allies” to stop aiding and supporting ISIS and its brutal regime of terror on civilian communities.