More than 30 people gathered in front of the Rutherford County Courthouse in downtown Murfreesboro Thursday afternoon to protest U.S. military involvement in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
“We want justice, we want peace, U.S. out of the Middle East,” chanted the crowd of protesters as the rally got underway.
Past foreign military interventions into internal conflicts have increased the civilian casualty rate by “up to 40 percent,” according to a press release from the protest organizers, which cited a 2012 Journal of Peace Research study on armed foreign interventions.
“Whenever the U.S. gets involved in the Middle East, historically the pattern shows that violence escalates, the region becomes more unstable and we don’t end up accomplishing the goals that we went in with,” said Michael Cannon, a senior at Middle Tennessee State University studying philosophy and sociology. “We always say we’re going in to fight for democracy, to resolve a humanitarian issue, we end up causing more civilian deaths, more instability and moving the region further away from any kind of stable democracy.”
Cannon added there was still speculation as to whether the chemical weapon attack had actually been carried out by the Syrian government, and he did not believe that U.S. intervention in Syria would be for humanitarian reasons, but instead for political reasons.
“If the U.S. was concerned about democracy in the Middle East, we wouldn’t be providing all kinds of aid and diplomatic cover to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and some of those brutal, misogynistic regimes in the world,” Cannon said. “So it’s clear that there’s a total double standard: If you’re a tyrant and you suit the U.S. foreign policy interests, then you’re an ally; if you’re a tyrant and you don’t suit the U.S. foreign policy interests, you’re an evildoer and we have to go in and spread democracy. So it’s hypocrisy, and I think the Obama administration has little moral authority at this point when it comes to the Middle East.”
Other protesters criticized the push for military involvement for more fiscal reasons.
“My question is, who is going to pay for this war,” said Salina Khan, a Murfreesboro resident and blogger present at the protest. “And, if we have the money for this war, why don’t we feed the 50 million Americans who are hungry, and for the education of people, for the student loans that kids have, the houses that people are losing, health care. There are so many other needs that Americans have. If we have the money, that money should be put for those needs before we go and use it to bomb other people.”
The rally also attracted those who were showing their support for U.S. missile strikes against the military in Syria.
“If the United States of America does not act, no one will,” said Adana Homsi, an MTSU student of Syrian descent. “If you’re following, everybody that stands up to say something, or to even act like they’re going to do something, they’re always backing down. Maybe political reasons, or what not, but I know that we’re not getting helped. And we’ve had enough.”
Homsi, along with a few others, stood across from the protesters and handed out information in support of limited military intervention into the Syrian conflict.
U.S. missile strikes that would target the military of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could do a lot to help the rebels in their fight to remove Assad from power, Homsi said.
“No one is willing to arm the rebels for particular reasons,” said Homsi, “but I do know that we don’t want troops on the ground. We don’t want no more American lives to be taken out in any kinds of war. We want peace. We protested peacefully for seven months. We’ve had T-72 tanks fired on us while we protest. How much more peace can you handle?”
In response to the claims that foreign military intervention has been more destructive than helpful, Homsi said that without any foreign aid for the rebels, there would not be a Syria left standing to save.
“They claim peace [talks] not bombs – we’ve been bombed with TNT barrels and SCUD missiles and all kinds of Russian missiles that are – you know, how much more can we handle?” Homsi said about the chants being made by the protesters. “Should we wait until maybe the UN gets together and makes after three or four years. Yeah, we could do that, but if we get an opportunity to have somebody intervene, and if it’s a smart, strategical strike, I think we should go for it. Save the country today.”
Abdou Kattih, another Murfreesboro resident of Syrian descent who was present at the rally, said that he supported military intervention as a way to help prevent more needless loss of life.
Both sides present at the protest want to end the violence, but have different ideas of how to attain that goal, Kattih added.
Although a recent poll by Reuters/Ipsos found that only nine percent of Americans support military involvement in Syria, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee narrowly passed a resolution Wednesday approving limited military force in Syria. It’s expected to be voted on in the full Senate next week.