‘We must say no to bombing Syria’

September 25, 2015
Anti-war protesters in Sydney, September 21. Photo: Peter Boyle

September 21 was declared International Peace Day by the United Nations.

This is an abridged version of a speech given by Pip Hinman on behalf of Sydney Stop the War Coalition to protest against the bombing of Syria at a rally on that day.

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Stop the War Coalition (STWC) adds its voice to those saying Australia should not join the latest “Coalition of the Killing” and the disastrous bombing of Syria.

The United Nations-declared international day of peace, September 21, is a good time to recommit to opposing Western imperial intervention in the Middle East.

We opposed the US-led bombing and invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and we oppose the bombing of northern Syria for the same reasons.

The horrendous consequences of those wars and occupations continues. Those impoverished countries are struggling to rebuild, to control their national assets and to rehabilitate the war wounded.

A reminder of the scale of the devastation is Iraq’s inability to deal with the heat wave that swept the Middle East last northern summer. In the hottest year on record, a majority of Iraqis still have very limited access to electricity, let alone water. This is despite the country being rich in oil and other minerals, and natural energy sources such as the sun. The inability of Iraq to cope with heat waves is the horrendous legacy of more than a decade of war.

US warmongers Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, along with Tony Blair and John Howard, should be tried for war crimes. Cheney and Rumsfeld used the 2001 terrorist attacks to launch “regime change” in the Middle East with their man — George Bush Jr — a willing accomplice.

Blair stated publicly in 2010 that Cheney wanted forcible “regime change” in all the Middle Eastern countries he considered hostile to US interests: Iraq, Syria and Iran.

According to Blair: “[Cheney] thought the world had to be made anew, and after 9/11 it had to be done by force and with urgency. So he was for hard, hard power. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.”

The John Howard government agreed with Cheney. However, the Labor opposition opposed Australia joining the war on Iraq and, before 2003, it helped create a large, powerful anti-war movement.

When the invasion took place, the anti-war movement faded, and now the ALP, led by Bill Shorten and shadow foreign affairs minister Tanya Plibersek, is shamefully supporting the bombing of Syria.

The Greens are the only parliamentary party to oppose it and because of that they will have to play an important role in helping revive the anti-war movement against this latest assault.

As we know, for several years, Syria has been in the grip of a civil war. Millions of Syrians have had their lives uprooted, or destroyed, and millions more are now travelling the world looking for safe haven. More than 1.2 million Syrians are in Lebanon, 2 million in Turkey and 600,000 in Jordan. Hundreds of thousands are risking all to get to Germany.

Australia’s offer to take 12,000 Syrians is indescribably pathetic. The Turnbull government knows bombing Syria will create more refugees, and yet has still only agreed to this minuscule amount.

Some who opposed the Iraq war have been either scared, or taken in, by the warmongers’ rhetoric that the only way to deal with Islamic State (IS) is to bomb it — supposedly into submission.

To believe this, you have to be either very scared, or willfully ignore history and the evidence that this is precisely what didn’t work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

IS, the Taliban and al-Qaeda will only ever be defeated politically. This is the message from those such as democracy activist Malalai Joya who has spent her entire adult life fighting the Taliban — and the West’s occupation of her country, Afghanistan.

It is good to see some leadership coming from Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the British Labour Party and a former chair of the British Stop the War Coalition. He has called for dialogue between all the parties in the region saying there is no military solution to a military stalemate in Syria.

The sad truth is that only when the US and Russia; Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Iran; and Turkey and Egypt agree that this war must end will it begin to end.

We must pressure the government and the opposition to rescind support for the bombing campaign. We must push for more Syrian refugees to be allowed into to this country and to settle permanently if they wish.

We must continue to say no to the bombing of Syria. Peace with justice. End the wars.

[Pip Hinman is a member of the Stop the War Coalition and the Socialist Alliance.]

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