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Wary of War

blog syriaLocal activists respond to administration’s call for strike against Syrian regime

Protesters gathered at the intersection of Ocean and Water streets in Santa Cruz Saturday morning, Aug. 31, in response to President Barack Obama’s recent call for the use of military force against the Syrian government.

The protesters held signs with slogans like “Bombing Syria doesn’t help people, it kills them” and “More lies like Iraq, no war with Syria” amidst honking from passing traffic. Many expressed outrage over rhetoric they see as foreshadowing a long-term United States military presence in Syria.

“I am sickened that our country has been bullied by the weapons industry and is starting up another war, even though we haven’t recovered from the last one,” said Melinda Clark, an activist at the protest.

Obama has said the strike is intended to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for allegedly launching a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people on Wednesday, Aug. 21. On Friday, Aug. 30, Obama announced he would seek Congressional approval before authorizing military action against the regime.

Maureen Smith, a longtime activist who helped organize the protest, said she disagrees with Obama’s assertion that such a strike would help Syrian civilians by deterring the Assad regime from launching other chemical attacks in the future.

“I think it’s obscene,” Smith said. “I think it’s absolutely the opposite of what he needs to be doing. This whole concept of ‘humanitarian war’ is absolutely ridiculous and I think the American people are finally starting to realize that.”

Smith said the next step is to start putting pressure on elected representatives, who will ultimately decide whether or not to proceed with a strike against Syria.

David Silva, an activist whose 70th birthday fell on the day of the protest, said he’s wary of the United States getting drawn into a conflict as complex and volatile as Syria’s two-and-a-half-year long civil war.

“I’ve heard this kind of song and dance before,” Silva said. “Sometimes you just don’t stick your toe in the water if the water’s on fire.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 4, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a draft authorization for military force that restricts U.S. military action in Syria to a period of 60 days, with a possible 30-day extension. The Committee’s approval clears the way for a full Senate vote early next week, with a vote by the House expected next week as well.

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