Report from Teach-In & Speak-Out on Syria (October 20, 2013)


  • * Text of opening remarks by Jess Sundin, AWC
  • * Slides from Dr. Matar Matar, guest speaker for the Syrian American Forum
  • * Video of entire event


Opening remarks by Jess Sundin, for the Anti-War Committee

Hello and welcome! We are so glad to have you all here today.

Many of us took to the streets last month, when there was an open and immediate threat of a direct US military attack on Syria. Our actions were part of an outpouring of public opposition where some 70% of the US population opposed the attack. The international community also stood against the war. The Obama Administration was embarrassed by the dramatic vote of British Parliament AGAINST support military action, and the Russians managed to shut down the war drive by turning an off-hand remark by Secretary of State John Kerry as a back door to a negotiated agreement with Syria on chemical weapons.

That march for war was turned back, but so long as Syria remains independent, standing in the way of the US agenda in the Middle East, the threat of war still looms. We have seen the US launch a war on the flimsiest of pretext – the big lie behind the Iraq war comes to mind. A peace that is contingent on international weapons inspections is tenuous at best, and could even be used as a pretext for an attack in the future. While we hope for the best, we are here today, to prepare for the worst.

In planning this event, our committee came under a great deal of criticism, which some of you may be aware of. There are those who say we cannot hope for peace, unless and until we speak out against the Syrian government and denounce its wrong-doing. They would have us join the White House and Pentagon in their call for regime change. But this is not the way to build an anti-war movement. Peace between nations is founded on respect between nations. This is why the Ant-War Committee upholds the right of self-determination, and this is at the core of how we build a movement against war and in solidarity with the Syrian people, or any other people oppressed by empire. The future of Syria must be in the hands of the Syrian people, and U.S. war and militarism make it harder for them to make any advances. Who are you and I to say who should lead them?

US political leaders want to decide this, they want to topple Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad. They say he is a bad leader, and they want a war. These so-called leaders – the ones who can’t balance their own budgets, who cut programs for hungry children, who fail to ensure basic health care to the people – are running their own failed state right here at home and we cannot let them export their failures to Syria. The anti-war movement should not, and the AWC will not, do anything to help them make the case for war. We believe in the Syrian people, and their capacity to run their country without the dangerous help of Tomahawk missiles and CIA advisors.

Malalai Joya was here this week, speaking about Afghanistan, after 12 years of US war & occupation. She said it best, “No nation can donate liberation to another nation. These values must be fought for and won by the people themselves. They can only grow and flourish when they are planted by the people in their own soil and watered by their own blood and tears.”

With that in mind, we hope that today’s discussion will deepen all of our understanding the US agenda in Syria and the region; through that understanding, we need to build a stronger and more united anti-war movement, prepared for whatever the future may bring us. Thank you for joining us!

Slides from Dr. Matar’s presentation

Minneapolis lecture-20-Oct-2013

Video of event w/Dr. Matar Matar, Syrian American Forum; Mary Beaudoin, WAMM Middle East Committee; and Jess Sundin, AWC

– including presentations (1 hour) and discussion (1 1/2 hours).