Sunday, June 23, 2013

Letter to the editor

For the past 2 years, Syria has spiraled from what began as a peaceful call for freedom by Syrian citizens into a bloody conflict fanned by foreign fighters who have joined both sides in this war. Over 90,000 Syrians have been killed and 1,500,000 more been forced to flee the country and are living as refugees in neighboring countries.

This is a complex conflict. The Assad government, a heavily armed and brutal dictatorship, has repressed the majority of its people and promoted the dominance of Syrian society by a religious minority. The rebels, a heavily armed conglomeration, includes the al-Nusra Front, an ally of al-Qaeda that is pursuing a fundamentalist takeover of Syria, and the Free Syrian Army, which is a catch-all term for numerous factions, including other fundamentalists, that is dominated by ongoing internal struggles for control and has been unable to forge a cohesive strategy. Both Assad and the rebels have the support of a significant part of the citizenry. Both sides have brutally killed unarmed citizens. Both sides have committed war crimes. Both sides are supported by outside forces with their own agendas: Saudi Arabia and Iran are each using Syria to further their own ambitions to dominate the region as well as using it as a battleground for the age-old sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims; the United States, Russia, and China are using Syria as another way station in their battle for global dominance. The reality is that Syria is now a non-functioning society that is overrun with weapons and disorder.

Where to stand in this crisis? We should neither defend the brutality of the Assad regime or its right to exist, nor should we defend or support the rebels, who would also deny human rights and rule using violence and religious coercion. There are no good solutions that we, or anyone else, can impose from the outside. Syrians should decide Syrian destiny. Remaking a society in our vision, as we have tried to do in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a disaster for the people of those countries. What we can do is stay focused on the very people who are most threatened in this nightmare—the civilians—and reach out to them with humanitarian aid. We can and should stand in solidarity with those in Syria, who are currently marginalized within the opposition, and share a peaceful, democratic vision for their country. Care and concern for Syrian civilians should guide U.S. policy. Military action will only exacerbate the crisis. No arms to Syria.

Nicholas Abramson

Saturday, June 22, 2013

To the editor

Since the question I've asked as to whether Israel is Jewish or democratic goes unanswered, I'll have to let it be, for the nonce. I've been accused of defending Fred Nagel, and that's absolutely not true; Fred needs no defense. The rabid Jewish defenders of Israel's politics at any cost, are the ones who are the anti-semites; they present a white-washed picture of who the Jewish people are. Just like everyone else, they are capable of goodness and of evil. I helped to liberate Buchenwald, Dachau, and Flossenburg, and I know anti-semites when I see or read them. They work mightily to maintain a facade of innocence, just like the Germans I encountered during the war. They use the Holocaust and attacks on Israel to cover over anything Israel is doing today to the Palestinians. A dangerous game; they remind me of children shouting "You did it first" as an excuse. I'm old enough to remember "Lebensraum", the Nazi acquisition of other people's lands because they, the Germans, claimed they needed that land for themselves, and I've seen the yellow Star of David that Jews were forced to wear during that regime. It's curious to me that todays Israeli's, for some reason, provide Palestinian automobiles with yellow license plates. An unfortunate choice, in a sea of ruinous choices. I still have hopes that the genius and creativity of the Jewish citizens in Israel will survive the destructiveness of the Governments there.

Jay Wenk

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

No Arms to Syria

There are many crises in the Middle East.  The most recent is in Syria.

Middle East Crisis Response (MECR) is opposed to the US sending military aid to the so-called "rebel" forces.  MECR deplores the violence of both the Assad government and the opposition forces.  We support the use of diplomacy and other non-violent means to resolve this bloody conflict, and we believe that it is only the Syrian people who have the right to determine their own future.

Providing more military weaponry to anyone in Syria will only enhance the possibility of more violence; unfortunately, the victims of this violence are predominantly civilians—men, women, and children who are left dead or mutilated, homeless or stateless.  Sadly, while civilians suffer and die, the only real beneficiaries of supplying weapons are the weapons manufacturers and dealers, who line their pockets, often with taxpayer money.

The US has no business engaging in regime change in the Middle East (or anywhere else).  US intervention is catastrophic and results in widespread death, destruction, and corruption; one only has to look at Iraq, Libya, or Afghanistan.  The only place we should be engaged in regime change is right here in the USA.

MECR Steering Committee

Nic Abramson
Pia Alexander
Eli Kassirer
Jim Mays
Helaine Meisler
Fred Nagel
Katja and Paul Rehm
Jane Toby

Friday, June 14, 2013

To the Editor:

School children buried beneath buildings in Oklahoma - many dead and many injured. To even contemplate this is unbearable, one can only imagine the suffering, grief, and distress of the mothers and fathers of these children.

Our hearts too are broken and we understand the grief and pain of the families with dead and missing children. This tornado was indeed a cruel and brutal act of nature. Sadly, there are man-made actions that also bury children beneath buildings.

In Pakistan our drones have killed nearly 5000 people since 2001 - at least 176 were children. In 2009 Israel attacked Palestine and "Operation Cast Lead" damaged or destroyed 20,000 buildings in Gaza. 1606 children were injured and 313 died, many were buried beneath the debris of bombed buildings.

We and our media rightly express profound compassion and empathy for the fate of buried children in Oklahoma, but somehow the identical suffering of Palestinian or Pakistani children is unacknowledged and unreported. Where are the tears for those innocent children buried beneath buildings demolished by US drones or those buried by buildings bombed by Israeli pilots in F-16 jet fighters (paid for with our tax dollars) ?

Surely the families of all children whether Palestinian, Pakistani, or American suffer and grieve the loss of loved ones. The tornado in Oklahoma was an act of nature but the drone attacks and Israeli bombings are intentional. What is wrong with us that we cannot make this connection and stop intentional government acts that result in children being buried beneath bombed out buildings?

Eli Kassirer