Why Peace Activists Should Stop Cheering For Russian Bombs In Syria – OpEd


There’s a view of Syria, common even among some peace activists in the United States, that because the United States has been making everything worse in Syria and the entire Middle East for years, Russian bombs will make things better.

While the actions of the United States and its allies will lead to victory for the Islamic State, horror for millions of people, and chronic chaos in Syria along the lines of post-liberation Iraq and Libya, Russian bombs — this view maintains — will destroy ISIS, restore order, uphold the rule of law, and establish peace.

I’ve been informed repeatedly that because I’m opposed to Russian bombing, I’m opposed to peace, I’m in favor of war, I want ISIS to win, I lack any concern for the suffering Syrian people, and my mind is either overly simplistic or somehow diseased.

This line of thinking is a mirror image of the many self-identified peace activists in the United States who for years now have been insisting that the United States must violently overthrow the government of Syria. That crowd has even found itself aligned with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry who in 2013 told the U.S. public that if we didn’t support bombing Syria, we were in favor of the Syrian regime murdering children with chemical weapons. To our credit, most of us rejected that logic.

Advocates for U.S. bombs and advocates for Russian bombs each see a particular evil and wish to remedy it. The evil of the Syrian government, while often exaggerated and embellished, is real enough. The evil of the U.S. government, and what it has done to Iraq and Libya and Syria, can hardly be overstated. Both groups, however, place their faith in violence as the tool for remedying violence, revealing deep beliefs in the power of force that are clearly at odds with professed commitments to peace.

Dropping bombs kills and injures civilians, traumatizes children who survive, harms infrastructure, destroys housing, poisons the environment, creates refugees, fuels bitter commitments to violence, and wastes massive resources that could have gone into aid and rebuilding. These are all well documented facts about every past bombing campaign in the history of the earth. In theory, peace activists agree with these facts. In practice, they are not outweighed by other concerns of realpolitik; rather, they are avoided entirely.

When the U.S. bombs a hospital in Afghanistan, we’re outraged. When Russia is accused of bombing a hospital in Syria, we avoid knowing about it. (Or, if we’re from another camp, we put on our outrage for Syrian bombs but imagine U.S. bombs planting little flowers of democracy.) In wars that we oppose, we debunk claims to precision from the bombers. But good bombs are imagined has hitting just the right spots. After so many endlessly drawn-out U.S. wars that were advertised as quick and easy, we’ve begun to recognize the unpredictability of campaigns of mass murder — and yet awareness of war’s unpredictability doesn’t seem to play at all into praise for Russian bombers joining in an already chaotic civil/proxy war.

The United States is accusing Russia of murdering people it armed and trained to murder different people. Some of those people are now asking for missiles with which to shoot down Russian planes. Russian planes have nearly come into conflict with Israeli and U.S. planes. A major figure in the Ukrainian government wants to help ISIS attack Russians. Members of Congress and pundits in the United States are urging conflict directly with Russia. Warmongers in Washington have been working hard to stir up conflict with Russia in Ukraine — now their hope lies in Syria. Russian bombs only heighten U.S.-Russian tensions.

When you unscramble the chaos of forces, and questionable claims about those forces, on the ground in Syria, some facts stand out: The United States wants to overthrow the government of Syria. Russia wants to maintain the government of Syria, or at least protect it from violent overthrow. (Russia in 2012 was open to a peace process that would have removed President Bashar al Assad from power, and the United States dismissed it out of hand in favor of his imminent violent overthrow.) The United States and Russia are the world’s major nuclear powers. Their relations have been deteriorating rapidly, as NATO has expanded and the U.S. has orchestrated a coup in Ukraine.

A war with Russia and the United States on different sides, and all sorts of opportunities for incidents, accidents, and misunderstandings, risks everything. Russian bombs solve nothing. When the dust clears, how will the war be ended? Will Russian bombs leave behind generous good-willed people eager to negotiate, unlike U.S. bombs, which leave behind anger and hostility? We’ve learned to ask the U.S. government to spell out its “exit strategy” as it dives into each new war. What is Russia’s?

Here’s my position: Murder isn’t moderate.

You cannot find “moderate” murderers and engage them to kill extremist murderers. You cannot bomb the extremist murderers without producing more murderers than you kill. What’s needed now, as in 2012 when the United States brushed it aside, is a peace process. First a cease fire. Then an arms embargo. And a halt to training and providing fighters and funding by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, and all other parties. Then major aid and restitution, and a negotiated settlement in which, in fact, Russia should be included — as it is located in that region of the world — and the United States should not, as it has no legitimate business being there.

This is what has been needed for years and will continue to be needed as long as it is avoided. More bombs make this more difficult, no matter who’s dropping them.

This article was published at Telesur.

David Swanson

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and was awarded the 2018 Peace Prize by the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation. David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and War Is A Crime and works for Roots Action. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

2 thoughts on “Why Peace Activists Should Stop Cheering For Russian Bombs In Syria – OpEd

  • October 23, 2015 at 11:42 am

    This is incredible.

    Up to last year ISI/IS WORKED FOR OBAMA, being on the US payroll as paramilitaries to overthrow the Syrian government. Then a renewed wave burst out of Turkey, making rapid advances in Iraq and Syria.

    Now, suddenly they had fallen out with Washington, were an incredible danger and had to be bombed in war Against Terror II. As it was claimed their HQ was in Syria, Syria could be bombed.

    It is thus virtually certain they are still on the payroll and being used in this way by Washington.

    Along comes Putin and flattens them in a fortnight, and that’s bad ?

  • October 23, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    David Swanson’s comment makes sense until you consider certain
    facts: 1) the outsiders who are feeding weapons and fighters into Syria (the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran,Qatar etc.) have no interest in ceasing their efforts, largely because each player has his own objective to attain there. For instance, Turkey’s objective–to keep an independent Kurdistan from being formed–is different from that of the Saudis, and is different from Iran’s. America’s objective–to serve the Greater Israel objective of splitting Syria and Iraq into 5 or 6 statelets that will be less troublesome to Israel–is entirely different than that of the Sunni entities involved. So, rational as it might be, I see no chance that the current players are voluntarily going to withdraw the fighters and weapons that are feeding the current frenzy of bloodletting, much less pay reparations and rebuild Syria.
    2) Russia’s entry into the mess has entirely different objectives: to maintain its access to the Mediterranean, to support its clients, Syria and Iran, to irritate the United States by displaying US hypocrisy to the world, to prevent Muslim terrorists from infiltrating into the Muslim parts of Russia.
    The entire situation is now so vexed that it feels like the long-running struggle between Israel and the Palestinians: it has no solution that all the players can live with.
    The US has never been an “honest broker” in the Middle East and is not one now. If it were, it would accept Russia as a partner in ridding the area of ISIS (which the US does not want to get rid of) and in rebuilding Syria.
    Anyone old enough to remember the Cold War and to have understood it, knows that it was a long series of proxy wars aimed at controlling the world’s resources. Nothing has changed. We are now involved in a long series of proxy wars aimed at controlling resources, covered over by endless propaganda about which leader is the new Hitler–Saddam Hussein, Khaddafy, al-Assad, Khameni–who, if magically deposed or murdered, would usher in peace and prosperity. This is nonsense, but it keeps Americans entertained and/or angry. Informed Americans may remember that last summer our entire Congress (minus ten reps. who were still sane) voted for a new Cold War against Russia. The antagonists here are the same as they were during the Cold War: the US, the USSR, China and the same configuration of patrons and clients continues to exist in the Middle East.
    The real trick will be in the 21st Century what it was in the 20th–to keep out of WWIII, but with the US sending Germany the B-61 (a new nuclear weapon), pulling off that avoidance of WWIII is going to get increasingly difficult. The progressive weakening of international law created by US refusal to honor it or to join the ICC simply intensifies all the world’s difficulties and makes solutions far harder to find. To top it all off, we now have a planet that cannot afford any longer to play these great power games, but the United States seems oblivious to these realities. We all need to ask ourselves whether we want our descendants to have a future. If the answer is yes, we have to change, starting with the US.


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