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Response to ‘A Call to Defend Rojava’

As long-time anti-war and anti-imperialist activists, we were deeply disheartened to see the recent open letter “A Call to Defend Rojava,” signed by a number of people with records of anti-war activism.

We empathize with the suffering faced by Syria’s Kurds at the hands of ISIS, the Turkish military and foreign-backed paramilitary forces, but the “Call to Defend Rojava” makes a number of serious errors, particularly by demanding what amounts to an escalation of the criminal and disastrous US military intervention in Syria, which has underpinned much of the violence face by all Syrians, including Kurds, since 2011.

We wish to reiterate the following points:

  1. Demanding continued U.S. support for the SDF in Syria, which means maintaining an illegal presence of U.S military bases, soldiers, advisors and special forces, is nothing less than a call for an escalated, criminal US military intervention in Syria.
  2. Kurds have a right to self-defence against ISIS and against Turkish aggression, but the US cannot, has not, and will not play a positive role in the Syrian war, however one wishes to characterize it. The US military and security forces are not supporting the SDF because they are concerned about Kurdish civilians’ lives, and certainly not because they support anarchism. American military support for the SDF is entirely self-interested, and the United States will betray Syrian Kurds at the first opportunity.
  3. Kurds are not the only people in Muslim and Arab countries to fight for progressive causes, including feminism and secularism. Implying that they are, in order to win support for the SDF among American leftists and liberals, plays on racist stereotypes about Arabs and Arab political history.
  4. Turkey’s aggression in northern Syria is a war crime, but Turkey is far from the only aggressor in Syria. American activists singling Turkey out for criticism for its role in Syria only serves to whitewash, excuse, and obscure America’s own ongoing military intervention in the region, including in Syria. Turkey should not be a NATO member because NATO should not exist. Implying that NATO could play a positive role in world affairs simply by scapegoating Turkey is a serious error.
  5. The final constitutional structure and peace settlement in Syria needs to be determined by Syrians, not by external great powers. It is important to remember the disastrous history of imperialist powers drawing and redrawing borders in their former colonies, particularly in the Middle East. In fact, an ethnic and sectarian partition of Syria has been a goal of many neoconservatives for some time, not for particularly altruistic reasons.
  6. US military intervention is never humanitarian. Every advocate for US “humanitarian interventions” has been wrong: in Iraq, in Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan, in Libya, and now in Syria. “A Call to Defend Rojava” demands an escalation of US military intervention in Syria, which is particularly shocking and disappointing because it betrays the principles and better judgement which many signatories have defended in the past.

Fundamentally, we are motivated by the conviction that the chief responsibility of anti-war and anti-imperialist activists living in imperialist countries is to oppose the imperialist policies of their own governments. “A Call to Defend Rojava” betrays this principle. While anti-war protest movements are not always successful, betraying anti-war principles in order to provide left cover for imperialist wars is never successful.

We live in very dangerous times, and one of our most urgent priorities must be to rebuild the networks, politics and movements of international solidarity and resistance to imperialist wars.

Signed,

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[Signatures are in alphabetical order]

  1. Suzanne Adely, National Lawyers Guild International Committee/Al-Awda NY, United States
  2. Mara Ahmed, Neelum Films, Rochester, New York, United States
  3. Max Ajl, Jadaliyya
  4. MJ Anderson, Michigan, United States
  5. Natylie Baldwin, Writer
  6. Stacy Bannerman, Military Families Speak Out, Oregon, United States
  7. Willard Banta, Chicago, Illinois
  8. Ajamu Baraka, National Organizer, Black Alliance for Peace, United States
  9. Robert Bell, NYU, New York, United States
  10. Oliver Besner, Party for Socialism and Liberation, San Francisco, California, United States
  11. Patrick Blair, Connecticut, United States
  12. Max Blumenthal, United States
  13. Scotty Bruer, Founder, PeaceNow.com, Board of Advisors Defend International, United States
  14. Jamie Burnett, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  15. Ray Bush, Professor, University of Leeds, UK
  16. Robert M. Campbell, Teacher, Dalian, China
  17. Bonnie J Caracciolo, Women’s March on the Pentagon, United States
  18. Joe Catron, Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, New York, New York, United States
  19. Collin Chambers, PhD Student, Syracuse University, ANSWER Coalition, Syracuse, NY, United States
  20. Paul Chislett, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
  21. Daniel John Christie, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  22. Harry Clark, New York, New York, United States
  23. Helena Cobban, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
  24. Dock Currie, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  25. Jason Devine, Calgary Anti-Racist Action, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  26. John Dickinson, United States
  27. Zein El-Amine, Washington, D.C., United States
  28. Joe Emersberger, Canada
  29. Miguel Figueroa, Canadian Peace Congress, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  30. Derek Ford, Assistant Professor, DePauw University, Indiana, United States
  31. Glen Ford, Executive Editor, Black Agenda Report, Plainfield, New Jersey, United States
  32. Maximilian C. Forte, Professor, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  33. William S. Geimer, Prof of Law Emeritus Washington and Lee University, Canada
  34. Aaron Gibson, Arkansas, United States
  35. Ronald Goldman, Early Trauma Prevention Center, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  36. Stephen Gowans, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  37. Doug Henwood, Brooklyn, New York, United States
  38. Patrick Higgins, Houston, Texas, USA
  39. Matthew Hoh, Arlington, Virginia, United States
  40. Greg Hunter, World Beyond War, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  41. Ron Jacobs, Vermont, United States
  42. Tony Jenkins, Georgetown University, United States
  43. Daniel Joseph, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  44. Can Kayabal, GHA, Istanbul, Turkey
  45. Jonathan Kennedy, Filmmaker, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
  46. Rania Khalek, Journalist, United States and Lebanon
  47. Sophia Kiernan, ANSWER Coalition, Florida
  48. Paul Larudee, Syria Solidarity Movement, El Cerrito, California, United States
  49. Daniel Lazare, United States
  50. Kevin Lindemann, Winfield, Illinois, United States
  51. James Marron, Ireland
  52. Mario Martone, Post-doctoral scholar, Particle Physics, University of Texas, Austin, TX, United States
  53. Rania Masri, Beirut, Lebanon
  54. Mabrouka M’Barek, Global Working Group Beyond Development, Vermont and Tunis
  55. David Mizner, USA
  56. Nick Mottern, Coordinator, Knowdrones.com, Hastings on Hudson, New York, United States
  57. Corinna Mullin, Brooklyn, New York
  58. Jana Nakhal, Lebanese Communist Party, Lebanon
  59. Ben Norton, Journalist, New York City, New York, United States
  60. Gunar Olsen, Journalist, New York, United States
  61. Kristofer J. Petersen-Overton, CUNY Graduate Center, New York City, New York, United States
  62. John Philpot, Attorney International Law, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  63. Edward Pickersgill, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  64. Omar Rabbee, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  65. E Wayne Ross, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  66. Frank Rudiger Lopes, University of São Paulo, Brazil
  67. Bill Scheurer, Executive Director, On Earth Peace, United States
  68. Cindy Sheehan, Women’s March on the Pentagon, United States
  69. Gregory Shupak, University of Guelph-Humber, Canada
  70. José Sillos, Mariana, Brazil
  71. Alice Slater, New York, United States
  72. Gar Smith, Environmentalists Against War, Berkeley, California, United States
  73. Tom Slaughter, United States
  74. R.L. Stephens, Democratic Socialists of America, United States
  75. Rick Sterling, United States
  76. Ryno Steyn, Auckland, New Zealand
  77. Brendan Stone, Co-Chair, Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  78. Ingrid Style, Quebec, Canada
  79. David Swanson, World Beyond War, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
  80. Barry Sweeney, World Beyond War, Ireland
  81. Kevin Tang, Ontario, Canada
  82. Phil Taylor, The Taylor Report, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  83. Marko Velimir Kobak, Communist Party of Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  84. Jaime Veve, Transport Workers Union Local 100 (ret.), San Francisco, California, United States
  85. Jay Watts, Toronto Association for Peace & Solidarity, Canada
  86. Varian Webb, United States
  87. Catherine Wilkerson, Washtenaw Reds, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
  88. Dylan Wilkerson, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 

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