A public forum on the bombing of Syria was hosted by the Independent Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) in Sydney on October 20.
Entitled ‘Is Bombing Syria the Right Strategy?’ the forum attracted over 50 people. Chaired by Denis Doherty (IPAN and Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition), the forum was addressed by two speakers: Nick Deane (IPAN and Marrickville Peace Group) and special guest, Vincent Emanuele, a former US Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq. He refused to do a third military tour and is now an anti-war veteran and peace activist.
Marty Morrison, who attended the forum, noted that Nick Deane outlined three main concerns about the bombing in Syria: (a) Of all the nations involved, Australia is perhaps the most secretive about its military operations and impact on civilians (b) Far from ‘degrading’ ISIS, the US-led bombing campaign is more likely to add to the suffering of Syrians in ISIS controlled areas and (c) The campaign risks being counter-productive in the sense that every misdirected bomb is a ‘recruitment poster’ for those at war with the US and its allies.
Marty also noted that Deane criticised successive Australian governments for engaging in US foreign wars with scant strategic relevance to this country. Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that gave rise to ISIS,1 Deane emphasised that Australia has continued to get involved in disastrous wars that have primarily served US interests, not ours. In the light of this, Deane posed the following question: When is Australia going to assert its strategic sovereignty and embrace foreign and defence policies worthy of an independent nation? Marty believes this is a question that more and more Australians are seriously asking themselves, even though it continues to be sidestepped by the country’s political and defence policy elites.2
Jessica Schoultz, another participant in the forum, said she was keen to hear ex-US Marine, Vince Emanuele, speak at the forum. She said he took a different tack from Deane on the topic.
Jessica noted that Emanuele’s main point was that we needed to start working together, putting aside our differences and becoming more effective in our opposition to foreign wars and to our complicity in the deployment of US drones etc. He stressed that we needed to spend less time absorbed with theory and facts and more time becoming skilled and competent in organising successful campaigns.
Emanuele also referred to the mass demonstrations around the world that were held in 2003 against a US-led invasion of Iraq. Held prior to the invasion taking place, he asked how similar mass protests against war in the Middle East could be rekindled today. Emanuele called for a re-invigoration of the peace movement through creative initiatives, information campaigns etc. that would inspire people to step onto the political stage. A relentless focus on the horror of these conflicts, he reminded us, can lead to despair and an abiding feeling of powerlessness. In contrast, a revival of the peace movement depended on developing a stronger sense of agency though collective action along with a growing belief in the possibility of social and political change and a better future.
As the anti-war veteran has said, “War is hell, no doubt, but so is stagnation and powerlessness”.
Vince Emanuele is in Australia to promote Amir Amirani’s new documentary film, We Are Many, about the massive 2003 protests against the Iraq War. This will be his fourth speaking tour of Australia. Following a preview of the film on Monday, November 9, at the Dendy Cinemas in Newtown, Sydney, he will be part of a panel of speakers that will discuss the implications of this documentary.3
Information about the availability of tickets for this film preview and Q&A session can be accessed here.
1. The post-invasion conditions that gave rise to ISIS in Iraq are discussed by Middle East specialist Patrick Cockburn in an interview he did in September 2014. Refer to the video and transcript here.
2. Read Nick Deane’s address to the IPAN forum here.
3. To date, Vince Emanuele has written two articles while in Australia: (a) ‘Neoliberal Australia: Reflections from Down Under’, Znet, October 23, 2015 and (b) ‘Reflections on Antiwar Activism in the U.S. and Australia’, Znet, October 24, 2015.