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Listen to the people: No military action in Syria

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Last Saturday’s demonstration against a U.S. strike on Syria was supported by a broad coalition of local peace and justice groups. The Albuquerque Chapter of the United Nations Association endorsed this action based upon legal and humanitarian grounds.

The U.N. Charter, which the U.S. had a huge role in writing and which the U.S. ratified as a treaty, provides authority for the resolution of threats to the peace, including, in appropriate circumstances, armed intervention in other nations. Chapters 5 through 7 of the Charter require armed intervention to be a last strategy, not the first, and makes clear that the armed force may only be employed in self-defense or with an authorization from the Security Council after a determination that such a step is required to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Signed and ratified treaties are recognized in this country and worldwide as the law of the land; otherwise the various nations of the world would have no structural arrangement that would allow them to rely on each other’s solemn word.

Thus an attack on Syria by the U.S. and our allies and NATO would be illegal under treaties we have ratified, as well as unwise. Such an attack would serve to widen the conflict, cause extensive destruction and suffering and unknown longer-term consequences.

In addition, the nature of modern weapons, which so often include a depleted uranium casing, adds an additional level of poisoning of land, water and the civilian population beyond what they have already suffered.

Adherence to the Charter is a safeguard from unnecessary and ill-conceived warfare.

While the use of chemical weapons is a serious war crime that must be dealt with, a “strong signal” to punish is not the way to do it. Use of chemical weapons represents a type of warfare that must be banned internationally through a variety of diplomatic and international judicial strategies. Perpetrators of crimes against humanity – which include use of chemical weapons – should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

The U.S. should not be taking on the role of world policeman.

President Obama should not be taking on the role of God.

The civil war in Syria, which has already claimed so many lives, should be confronted through the full range of diplomatic and economic avenues available to the nations of the world and the international law remedies that have been built into the mandate of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. Only a solution that involves all the parties and gives all a stake in maintaining the peace can produce any real stability in this volatile region.

Scoring points in Syria may feel good at the moment, but it will in fact make the situation more hazardous than ever and endanger even more civilians.

We strongly urge our government to use its influence in more prudent and productive ways. Arming either the Syrian regime or the rebels is counterproductive to peace and we should work to bring an end to this practice by all parties. The convening of a conflict resolution meeting involving all concerned parties to reach a mutually-accepted settlement is the only way to achieve a real peace.

Since our government is again on the verge of taking our country into a wider confrontation in an important and volatile part of the world, we feel compelled to join with the more than 90 percent of Americans who are favoring restraint and a legal approach to solving problems.

Unfortunately, our government, unlike the U.K., does not seem to be listening to the voice of the people, where an overwhelming majority do not support a military strike on Syria.

The only way the public can be heard, evidently is through visible actions such as demonstrations like the ones held last Saturday around the nation. We urge our media and our elected officials to listen to the voices of the people.

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