Just before President Barack Obama delivered his televised address to the nation Tuesday night about the situation in Syria, about 50 Chicago anti-war protesters gathered downtown, urging the president not to move forward with U.S. military action against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons. Progress Illinois was there for the protest.
Just before President Barack Obama delivered his televised address to the nation Tuesday night about the situation in Syria, about 50 Chicago anti-war protesters gathered downtown, urging the president not to move forward with U.S. military action against President Bashar Assad’s regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
In his speech, the President laid out the case for why a possible U.S. military strike against Syria would be necessary in response to the August 21 chemical attack in the country, which reportedly killed more than 1,400 people, including children.
This week, the debate over military action has turned down a more “diplomatic path” now that Russia has put forward a proposal for Syria to put its chemical weapons stockpile under international control. Obama called the proposal “encouraging” during his address from the East Wing of the White House, but said, “It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments.”
Following the recent developments, the President said he has asked Congressional leaders to postpone a vote on legislation that would authorize the use of force against Syria.
But Obama vowed to keep the pressure on Assad, saying the U.S. military would maintain its “current posture” and would be “ready to respond” if diplomatic talks fail.
That wasn’t what Chicago anti-war activist Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, said he wanted to hear from the President.
“What I want to hear out of the President is the troops, in terms of the fleets in the eastern Mediterranean, [are] shipping out of there, and that there is a climb down on part of the United States militarily,” Thayer said at Tuesday's protest. “I do not believe anything any political leader says. I follow their actions, and that’s a lot better way to judge whether or not you can applaud what they’re doing.”
In his speech, Obama stressed that any strike against Syria would be limited. But he went on to say that the U.S. military doesn't do “pinpricks.”
“Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver,” he said.
Many of the Chicago protesters said Obama was recently “forced to the negotiating table” because American and world public opinion is strongly opposed to a U.S. attack on Syria.
“This president is so fact-challenged, so truth-challenged like his predecessor. The difference is that people today have gotten wise to what American presidents, Democratic and Republican, do, and they’re not buying it," Thayer said. "That’s why Barack Obama was forced, at least temporarily, to the negotiating table.”
According to a recent Associated Press poll, 61 percent of Americans want Congress to vote down legislation that would green light U.S. military strikes in Syria. (GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications conducted the poll of 1,007 adults on September 6 through September 8. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points).
“A lot of people oppose the U.S. war on Syria and interference, so the opinion is very important and good,” Albany Park resident Neal Resnikoff said. “But we need to get organized, because the opinion itself is not something the government necessarily listens to.”
When asked what message the Chicago protesters wanted to send to Illinois U.S. Congressmen, Thayer said, “We’re dangling their political futures in front of them.”
“If they vote for this war resolution or variations of it, we’re going to remember,” he warned.
Resnikoff and others at the demonstration stressed that no country has the right to interfere in the affairs of another country, unless it is responding to an attack on its own soil.
“Syria has not attacked the U.S.,” Resnikoff noted. ”It’s a basic Democratic principle that the people of Syria have the right to decide their own future without interference. We here in the U.S. certainly would not like it if any other country sent government agents here to interfere.”
Jay Becker with the World Can’t Wait political resistance group said the United States is “between a rock and a hard place” because people around the nation have been visibly exposing “the lies and the hypocrisy being used to justify an inhumane, murderous intervention as somehow humanitarian.”
“Whether Congress endorses it or not, it’s completely illegitimate and illegal under international law,” Becker said.
The protesters picketed outside the Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue, the nearby NBC Tower and the ABC 7 studio on State Street in order to push back against big media outlets that, they say, are reporting unbalanced stories on Syria without a voice from pro-peace policy experts.
Recent news coverage regarding Syria has been “particularly galling”, Thayer said, because it doesn’t reflect the overwhelming majority of people who are opposed to a U.S. attack against Syria.
“There are plenty of experts out there who will say what the United States is doing is not about humanitarian interest, it’s about a global power play; and that the U.S. citizens and people around the world need to utterly reject that,” Thayer stressed.
Going forward, those opposed to U.S. military force against Syria need to “keep out in the streets”, Thayer said.
“That’s the only reason why president Obama has been forced into this climb-down, and that’s the message about how we’re going to stop a U.S. escalation to this war,” Thayer explained. “We need to continue to force (Obama) and his allies in Congress to not do this attack.”