To the Editor:

We have about a week to stop our government from bombing Syria.  With the political action focused in Congress, Rivertowns residents have a significant role to play.  This is because our congressman, Eliot Engel, is a leading advocate of bombing and a Democratic Party point person for this action in the House of Representatives.

Those who think that the President’s plan to bomb Syria would be illegal, immoral, or downright foolish can register their views by calling Engel’s Washington, DC office at (202) 225-2464.

There are many reasons why our government should not bomb Syria.  We should begin with the maxim of “first, do no harm.”  We do know that the bombing is likely to kill civilians and swell the flow of refugees (already over two million people).  We do not know whether bombing will increase the intensity of the fighting, further diminish the chances for a ceasefire and/or a peace conference, spread Syria’s war beyond its borders, or draw the United States itself deeper into this war.  Yet all of these possibilities – and many more – have been raised by knowledgeable people, and the only answer is … we simply don’t know where the bombing will lead.

We also know that by bombing Syria our government will be in violation of international and national law.  It is ironic that the President Obama proposes to punish Syria’s alleged violation of international treaties forbidding the use of chemical weapons by violating the UN Charter that outlaws bombing another country (unless it is in response to an immediate assault on one’s country or pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions). And in bombing Syria the President will also be in violation of US law, which incorporates the UN Charter and other international treaties as per our Constitution (Article II, Section One). 

Almost all opponents of bombing Syria also agree that the use of chemical weapons is abhorrent and illegal, and cannot go unchallenged.  And the lack of unanimity in the UN Security Council certainly weakens possibilities for justice via a reference to the International Criminal Court.  Nevertheless, there are alternatives to bombing: among them are increased efforts to convene the peace conference initiated by the United States and Russia a few months ago, and greatly increasing aid (medical, housing, etc.) to the hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people who desperately need it.


Frank Brodhead