In a statement issued by the Labor Fightback Network weeks ago, we noted in part:
“A lot of terrible things are taking place not just in Syria but also in other parts of the world. But the U.S. has no right to intervene and dictate the course of events in other lands. We are not the world’s cop and have no right to go from one hot spot to the next, demanding that countries comply with what the U.S. government directs them to do.
“The cornerstone of international law is that each country must decide its own destiny, free from outside intervention and dictation. Unfortunately, the U.S. has a long history of waging aggressive wars — even when it faces no immediate threat as is the case with Syria — because it does not approve of the regimes and policies of other countries. Vietnam is a classic example of where such a war was waged with enormous loss of blood and treasure, while the warmakers suffered a staggering defeat.
“Labor must be unconditionally against any military aggression by the U.S. government — the only government in the world that used atomic weapons and that later used Agent Orange in Vietnam and Depleted Uranium in Iraq.
“The American people are sick and tired of endless wars and occupations. All polls show an overwhelming majority of the public opposes a U.S. strike against Syria.
“We urge our union brothers and sisters — and all of labor’s allies — to speak out now and demand of the U.S. government: ‘Money for Jobs and Education, Not for Wars and Occupations! Hands Off Syria!’ ”
Rationale for Keeping Silent
There is one basic reason why labor leaders are so far withholding comment on Syria and that is their persistent support for President Obama and the leadership of the Democratic Party. Big battles are looming ahead on the budget, the deficit and the debt, and since the Democrats are expected to take positions less extreme than the Republicans in putting the austerity burden on the working class, the strategy is to protect the president at all costs. He was about to bomb Syria and apparently labor officials were willing to let this happen without protest if only to curry favor with the commander-in-chief.
But this is a time to build an independent labor movement and to fight for policies that reflect the needs and interests of the working class majority, not defer to politicians of either of the major parties who are defending corporate interests and the hawks who are hell-bent on going to war. With the multiple crises here at home — unemployment, loss of pensions, threatened cuts in safety net programs especially Social Security and Medicare, cuts in food stamps, voter suppression, immigrant rights, sequestration, foreclosures, tens of millions without health care coverage even if the troubled Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, more states adopting right-to-work laws, growing poverty, attacks on public education, growing inequalities in wealth etc. — dealing with these problems must be our priority. It is clearly against the interests of the majority to divert our attention from these burning issues by launching a war against Syria, which is 6,000 miles away, with the loss of life and the loss of the billions of dollars that would be expended.
Despite the current “pause” and turn to diplomacy, the threat to bomb Syria remains. Proponents of military action are regrouping and are still searching for ways to get language approved by Congress and/or the UN which could then be used to “justify” air strikes. We must stay alert and on the ready to take united action to prevent what could be a catastrophic war.
We again urge unions to speak out now opposing an interventionist war against Syria or other targets in Washington‘s cross hairs, like Iran. And let’s make our “No War!” position visible at rallies and demonstrations. Workers throughout the world look to us to stay the hand of the warmakers. We must not disappoint them.