Posted by CODEPINK Staff
By Ann Wright
There aren’t many who come to Congress to protest—not nearly enough—and the disparaging comments of chairs of committees and witnesses toward those who challenge administrations are certainly aimed at discouraging pesky, uncomfortable protests.
It wasn’t that anyone liked Saddam Hussein and his treatment of many in Iraq, but we knew we were being lied into a war with the false claims of weapons of mass destruction—and we protested vigorously against it.
We certainly don’t like what Assad has done to many in Syria, nor what ISIS is doing to the people in the territory they currently control, but we didn’t trust the Obama administration on last year’s issue of chemical attacks in Syria, nor do we trust him on arming “moderate” rebel groups in Syria. So we protest.
On September 16, we attended the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and held up our signs saying, “There is no military solution,” “More killing = more extremism” and other similar messages. After the hearing began, I stood up and said, “No More War, No More War.” Committee chair Senator Carl Levin responded by banging his gavel and saying, “If you don’t sit down you will be removed.” Then he added a snide comment, “You’re acting very war-like yourself,” even though I was totally peaceful and calm.
During that hearing, five of us were thrown out of the room after we each gave the committee and witnesses a quick piece of our minds about the folly of another attempt to use the U.S. military to resolve yet another political issue.
The next day on September 17, Secretary of State John Kerry began his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations committee, a committee he chaired as a U.S. Senator, by challenging CODEPINK: Women for Peace over their opposition to arming the Syrian rebels. As Kerry entered the hearing room, we shouted, “No more war. No military solution.” Kerry responded by saying that he respected our right to protest. “You know, as I came in here, obviously we had some folks who spoke out. And I would start by saying that I understand dissent. I've lived it,” he said, referring to his leadership of Vietnam Veterans Against the War nearly 40 years ago. “That's how I first testified in front of this country in 1971.”
Kerry then said that CODEPINK was started by women who were opposed to war but who also thought that government's job was to take care of people, give them health care, and education, and good jobs. “And if that's what you believe in, and I believe it is,” he said, “then you ought to care about fighting ISIL. Because ISIL is killing and raping and mutilating women. And they believe women shouldn't have an education. They sell off girls to be sex slaves to jihadists.”
Well, Secretary of State Kerry, we are concerned about women and all people. We do not like what Assad has done to the people of Syria and we don’t like what ISIS has done. And we did not like what Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi or the Taliban did to those who opposed their rule. And we also do not like what the United States has done to the women, children and men of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and the chaos it has caused in the Middle East.
Kerry conveniently didn’t mention in his testimony that ISIS is the direct blowback the United States is facing after the 11-year war on Iraq. According to the Washington Post, after the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, now the head of ISIS, was a minor Islamic preacher who became a militant because of the occupation. He formed a small, armed group in eastern Iraq to oppose the American occupation and in 2005, he was captured by American forces and spent the next four years as a prisoner in the American prison camp called Bucca, in southern Iraq.
According to the New York City Daily News, the U.S. military did not consider him particularly dangerous, and let him go when the camp closed in 2009. As he left, he reportedly told guards, “I’ll see you guys in New York.” They did not consider his parting words a threat — just an acknowledgment that many of his captors were reservists from a unit based on Long Island. The camp’s commanding officer said, “He was a bad dude but he wasn’t the worst of the worst.”
We believe there are other ways to deal with ISIS than having more weapons from the United States flood into the region. The armed rebel groups that number between 80,000 to 100,000 want more weapons, interestingly, to counter the U.S. weapons that the 10-30,000 ISIS fighters have captured from some of the 250,000 Iraqi military trained and equipped by the United States over the past ten years. The cycle of arming groups with U.S. weapons and having those weapons fall into the hands of fighters the United States opposes is well documented and a very good reason not to provide these weapons to even more fighters.
A better strategy is to pressure those governments that have been supporting ISIS behind the scenes and that are now the U.S. allies in Obama’s coalition of the willing. Saudi Arabia is the big brother caliphate that ISIS wishes to become—an oil rich, conservative religious country where Sharia law, morals and vice police, prison for those who do not agree and beheadings are the norm. Saudi Arabia has been the cash cow for U.S. military contractors and oil companies for decades and the U.S. government has turned a blind eye to the human rights abuses that the Saudi monarchy has wrecked on its people. But rather than confronting Saudi Arabia directly about its support for extremist groups in the region, the Obama administration pushed for a formal training facility for “moderate” armed groups in Syria to be trained in the home of extremists. It does not make a bit of sense!!!!Now is the time for the United States to go to the mat with Saudi Arabia.
And now that the Turkish diplomats have been freed from ISIS, it’s time to put great pressure on Turkey. Turkey is anti-Assad and has allowed international fighters to transit into Syria and Iraq and has turned a blind eye toward militant recruitment in Turkey itself. Unemployment in Turkey is 9.3% in 2013, and in 2010, almost 17% of the population lived below the poverty level. ISIS reportedly pays fighters $150 a day. Working with ISIS, young men are able to earn more that three times Turkey's average per capita GDP-a tremendous recruitment tool.
The U.S. must put pressure on Turkey to stop the flow of illegal oil from ISIS into Turkey. ISIS is selling $1 million in oil per day from oilfields it has captured in Syria and Iraq on the black market to groups in Turkey.
Rather than trying to bully CODEPINK to stop protesting Obama-Kerry policies, we suggest that Secretary Kerry focus his energies on getting Obama allies to stop aiding and supporting ISIS and its brutal regime of terror on civilian communities.
(Retired) Col. Ann Wright spent 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves. She was a diplomat in the State Department for 16 years, serving in the U.S. embassies of Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Grenada and Nicaragua. She resigned in 2003 in protest of the then-impending invasion of Iraq. In 2009, she co-authored, Dissent, Voices of Conscience.