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Interactions with Electeds on Syria

Congressman John Larson, Thursday, August 29, 2013, 7 p.m., Founders Hall, Northwest Community College, Winsted, CT

Congressman John Larson addresses the crowd at Northwest Community College in Winsted, CT.

Congressman John Larson addresses the crowd at Northwest Community College in Winsted, CT.

Under the pressure of Ralph Nader, Congressman Larson holds a forum on the minimum wage, the Affordable Care Act and proposed Syrian intervention. About 75 people attend. Congressman Larson commands the floor with talk for 45 minutes, then opens the evening to questions.

I wanted to talk about raising the federal minimum wage, because we originally petitioned Congressman Larson for a meeting about this (and  was hoping it would be in Hartford). But instead, Obama’s proposed military action in Syria demanded attention.

My call to Congressman Larson was simple: Please go to Washington, D.C. and carry the mantle of peace. Claire Nader, Ralph’s sister, called for a peace conference with everyone, Russia, Syria, China, Iran, Hezbollah, and Israel. We have to dream.

Congressman John Larson, Monday, September 2, 2013, 3 p.m., West Hartford Town Hall

Congressman John Larson speaks during the public forum at West Hartford Town Hall, September 2, 2013.

Congressman John Larson speaks during the public forum at West Hartford Town Hall, September 2, 2013.

At the Town Hall doors, local Syrians placed white sheets over large dolls of children, symbols of victims gassed on August 21, 2013. Bashar Al-Assad has killed his own people. Does he own this chemical attack? False flags in the fog of war prevent certainty, and thus should give us pause in a march to war.

So I am encouraged Congressman Larson called, on short notice, a forum to listen to his constituents. I feel some confidence Congress will not abdicate its war powers to the presidency, and that the people’s exhaustion with violence and bloodshed will inspire Congress to a path of peace.

Not to get carried away, but wouldn’t a 2014 version of a “Church Committee” be excellent? Imagine real legislative oversight of the executive branch, and a process to provide accountability for global war crimes?

Sitting on the floor of the West Hartford council chambers, surrounded by an overflow crowd of 200 or more, I thought of what to say. Bashar Al-Assad is capable of gassing his own people. But American intervention won’t stop him.

In 1982, his father, Hafez Al-Assad killed more than 30,000 Syrians in Hama – women, children, sick, old. With conventional weapons, Al-Assad wiped out his biggest threat, the Muslim Brotherhood. The world watched as Al-Assad shelled his own people under Soviet protection.

President Ronald Reagan did not intervene in Al-Assad’s fratricide. Reagan may have caused it through the Kirkpatrick Doctrine. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeanne Kirkpatrick called for the U.S. to partner with anyone who opposed communism: theocrat, oligarch, dictator or monarch.

As a Soviet protectorate, Al-Assad leaned communist. He was a secular Baathist who fed his subjects crumbs from an iron fist. With covert CIA support, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood in Hama grew restless. Al-Assad responded with mass murder. Reagan stood down.

It’s not precisely analogous to the current Syrian civil war, and since Congressman Larson was only allowing one minute per speaker, I couldn’t tie it to a need for diplomacy instead of drones in less than 60 seconds.

So I asked Congressman Larson: if the deaths of 400 children by chemical means provide casus belli, when can we attack Union Carbide?

Then I challenged him to recruit and organize 20 more Congresscritters to oppose intervention in Syria. Please carry the mantle of peace to D.C., Congressman.

If I had a baritone, I would have belted a chorus of “Down by the Riverside”: I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield down by the riverside. I ain’t gonna study war no more. I fear Larson is. His public statements lean against war, but I bet he votes “bomb.”

One pacifist challenged Larson to straw poll the room to assess the percentage of opinion. I guessed a 65/35 anti-war/pro-intervention split, with that 35 percent-intervention likely over-represented by heavy Syrian turnout.

Larson demurred, a number in his conscience would demand action. He knew this was political theatre and he will march to Obama’s orders. I left a hollow man, emptied by the absurdity of pretend listening to us narcissists who think our voices count in war.

Senator Chris Murphy, via website contact form, 9/4/13

Sen. Murphy –

I wish to write to express my sincere gratitude for your efforts to oppose any American military intervention in Syria.

I appreciate your carrying the mantle of peace to Washington, D.C., and working with other Senators in an attempt to stop what appears a foolhardy exercise in global policing.

It is important to me to read the news and see Connecticut’s junior senator listening to his constituents and representing their collective will, by voting against any authorization of force requested by President Obama.

Clearly, bucking the national party establishment may carry political costs, but we all watched Ned Lamont knock Joe Lieberman out of Connecticut’s Democratic Party for warmongering. The grassroots party members here in Connecticut have a strong taste for peace, and thank you for representing this collective aim for peace in Washington. I know I am not the only one who wants to laud you for such courage.

A civilized approach would include the use of diplomacy, in getting all interested sides at a table, including Russia, Iran and China, and discussing a solution, and working to strengthen the international criminal court to punish such excesses. I do not believe America violence can play a constructive role here.

In Damascus, I once met a dentist who worked for President Hafez Al-Assad. He told me an old Syrian tale. The sun and the wind had a contest to see which force of nature could make a man undress. The sun let the wind go first. The wind blew and blew and blew, trying to denude the man of his clothes. Afraid of whipping desert stand against his tender skin, the man wrapped his clothes tighter around him, and took shelter behind a rock. The wind gave up. The sun took its turn, and shone brightly, warming the man, until he was so hot he took off his clothes and starting dancing naked with joy. The wind is brute military force, the sun is soft power of knowledge and diplomacy.

We can do more by rebuilding Syria instead of bombing it. America gains by reconstructing medical and educational facilities and providing economic opportunities for the war-torn refugees and the displaced, instead of punishing a brutal dictator with force.

Syria has evidence of this kind of global kinship. One can walk across the River Euphrates in Dier Ez-Zor in eastern Syria on a pedestrian and bicycle bridge built as a gift to the Syrian people from the French Government.

Can American follow this lead and blaze a larger trail? Can we help restore the ancient souk in Aleppo? Can we rebuild the hospitals and museums and mosques and schools? If we don’t, Hezbollah and Iran and Russia will.

Let’s start by creating planetary coalitions to engage smaller cease fire zones, which allow for stability and investment. Eventually, we can bring the country to a lasting peace.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. We are a war weary people, and to you, our senator, I wish you the first badge of a soldier of love: fortitude under fatigue and privation.


Kenneth J. Krayeske








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