WNYT.com

Peace activists rally against military action in Syria

Posted at: 09/10/2013 12:27 AM
Updated at: 09/10/2013 12:39 AM
By: Steve Flamisch



DELMAR -- Members of the group Bethlehem Neighbors For Peace have come to Four Corners every Monday evening for the past ten years to protest the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. On this Monday, they came in the hope of preventing a war.

At the height of the afternoon rush hour, thirty people stood with banners and signs urging Congress to vote against President Barack Obama's request for military action in Syria. Similar vigils took place in three other Capital Region communities, and others were planned in more than 200 communities nationwide.

"At this point, I think Americans are tired of war," peace activist Trudy Quaif, of Delmar, told NewsChannel 13. "We don't want to go to war unless there's a good reason, and at this point Obama hasn't presented us with a good reason."

Many activists said the Obama Administration has not proven that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime was responsible for the chemical attack believed to have killed more than 1,400 Syrians, including hundreds of children. Some activists said it doesn't even matter.

"I think that they haven't really provided proper evidence," activist Mari Matsuo said at the vigil. "I also think that even if it was the Assad regime, I still don't believe that we would have the right to intervene militarily."

ACTIVISTS: SYRIA UNLIKE NAZI GERMANY

Though Secretary of State John Kerry recently said the world is facing a "Munich moment" -- a reference to the 1938 pact that allowed Nazi Germany to take over part of Czechoslovakia -- several of the peace activists said the situation in Syria does not compare.

"Yes, there has been over 100,000 people killed in Syria, but when you compare that to the millions and millions that died in the Holocaust, I don't think that that's very accurate," Matuso said.

John Brindisi, a non-combat veteran who served in Belgium, France, and Germany during World War II, said there is no comparison to be drawn between Assad and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, either.

"There is nobody like Hitler at this point," Brindisi said at the vigil.

THREE MORE STOPS

Later Monday, more than 50 activists lined the sidewalk at the busy intersection of Central Ave. and Wolf Rd. in Colonie. They tried to grab the attention of drivers stopped at the red light.

Activist Shari Greenleaf, of Schenectady, said she feels passionately that the U.S. should use diplomacy instead of military intervention to resolve the crisis.

"I still don't believe that bombing is the answer today," Greenleaf said, pausing to acknowledge a passing driver who honked his horn. "There are tribunals that have been established to deal with this type of situation, and we need to look at those types of solutions that do not involve bombing citizens, bombing people."

The final two vigils were held at the Midtown Mall in New Lebanon, and at the corner of Broadway and Church St. in Saratoga Springs. In all cases, the activists urged federal lawmakers to vote against a strike.

WHERE THEY STAND

Some members of New York's congressional delegation have taken a firm stance on the president's call for a military strike against Syria, while others are undecided. Here is a breakdown of their opinions Monday, according to their respective press secretaries:

U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Chris Gibson (R - Kinderhook): Opposes military action

Rep. Bill Owens (D - Plattsburgh): Undecided but opposes the use of ground troops

Rep. Paul Tonko (D - Amsterdam): Leaning against military action

U.S. Senate

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Undecided

Sen. Chuck Schumer: Favors limited action but opposes the use of ground troops