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Don't ignore the US's role in Syria
City recently carried an editorial and letter on the US role in the Syrian refugee crisis (September 15). Both perpetuate the myths that the US is a "humanitarian force for good" that must rescue the victims of "oppressive regimes" like Syria "when things go drastically wrong." Neither piece asks what went wrong, other than "as with so many crises, this one has deep, deep roots..."
A few glimpses at these roots reveal a starkly antihumanitarian picture of the US role in the crisis. According to a new anthology, "The WikiLeaks Files," US diplomatic cables show that regime change in Syria has been a longstanding goal of US policy, extending from the Bush to Obama administrations. The US promoted the destabilizing Shia-Sunni sectarianism, in support of its regime-change policy, that led directly to the horrific sectarian civil war and the current refugee crisis.
WikiLeaks documents show that from 2006 to 2010, the US spent millions to instigate propaganda against the Syrian government and to support opposition forces. President Obama claimed in 2013 that the Assad regime was responsible for killing civilians with chemical weapons, justifying US intervention — a claim that remains unproven.
The refugee crisis could have been averted. Former Finnish president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari, who was involved in negotiations in 2012, reported that Russia proposed a peace process between the Assad government and its opponents that would have included President Bashar al-Assad's resignation. But the United States rejected the proposal.
Syrian refugees are fleeing both their war-torn country and the horrific threat of ISIS. Once again, the US role has been pivotal. Prize-winning British foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn, author of The Rise of Islamic State, concludes that the ISIS movement arose directly from the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the sectarian war in Syria since 2011.
In fact, a declassified 2012 US Defense Intelligence Agency document obtained by Judicial Watch revealed that the US has helped set the stage for the growth of ISIS in order to use it against the Assad government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long proposed an international coalition to defeat ISIS, but the US has ignored this proposal, in part because it is using its (intentionally overestimated) war against ISIS as an excuse to use air power, including drones, against the Assad regime.
Mary Anna Towler's editorial concludes that "the United States took in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War...We were that kind of nation then." Yes, we were then a nation responsible for the horrors of Vietnam, and we are now a nation very much responsible for the horrors in Syria. Helping refugees, once again, is the least that the US can do in atonement.
Work together to improve school climate
I was deeply disheartened when I read the article "RTA prez: 'Where is the outrage?'"(News, September 16). I am the parent representative to the school board's Policy Committee, a member of the Community Task Force on School Climate since its inception, and a member of the CTF committee that put together the new draft Code of Conduct.
I agree with Mr. Urbanski that we need to stop the blame game. In fact, the CTF, with leadership and support from the youth at Teen Empowerment, has been moving past blame toward collaboration and the modeling of the care and respect we want to see in our school communities.
Of course, it's very hard to change the ways in which many of us were raised. We sometimes fall back into our old ideas of right and wrong, of judgment and blame. The language and tone of this article suggest that's what happened here.
Rather than responding directly to Mr. Urbanski's comments about the draft Code of Conduct, I would like to bypass the blame. I would like us to speak with honesty and care, listen without judgment, build trust, and work collaboratively to improve school climate.
Specifically, I ask that Mr. Urbanski and teachers listen to the CTF about the reasoning behind the recommendations and new draft Code of Conduct and about the participation of teachers, administrators, and RTA representatives in the development of these documents. I also ask the CTF to listen to the concerns of Mr. Urbanski and teachers around safety and supports.
Then, I invite all of us to work together to ensure that this new direction will create a climate where all members of the school community are treated with dignity, respect, and care. And that we improve school safety, keep more students engaged in learning, and provide the supports necessary for teachers to teach and engage their students. These are not mutually exclusive goals; restorative justice practices can help ensure that we have all of these.
Rather than taking sides and creating divisions, let's work together to improve the climate in the RCSD before another generation is lost.
BARBARA VAN KERKHOVE
Praise for La Cage
Saw this show and it was great! The acting was fabulous and I absolutely loved it.
Energized by Fringe Fest
One of the most delightful and entertaining evenings was enjoyed at the Fringe Festival. The vocalists and the orchestra were spectacular.
For a concert that was scheduled for one hour and lasted more than two hours, I hope the energized singers and orchestra enjoyed the evening as much as the appreciative audience.
Another hidden talent pool in our great city. Not to be missed!