Re-posted from Andy Berman: Threads of My Time, the blog of longtime antiwar activist and Veterans for Peace member Andy Berman
A Farewell to Arms: Till We Meet Again
By Andy Berman
May 11, 2016
As a longstanding member of Veterans for Peace, I often contributed to internal online VFP discussion groups over the last few years. With Syria the bloodiest war on the planet, and thus a topic that nominally should be high on VFP’s agenda, I often wrote about developments in Syria.
My contributions frequently clashed with the self-identified “anti-imperialists” in VFP who blame the Syria conflict entirely on the United States and either defend or ignore the criminal role of Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.
While my prose was always exceedingly civil, I was relentlessly attacked by a handful of angry and disturbed VFP members using extremely vile personal diatribe against me. I was called a “spy, an infiltrator, and agent of the CIA, FBI and Mossad, a Trotskyite, a Zionist shit”, and other tirades. I resisted the impulse to return the insults because I knew that it would do no good to put myself in the gutter with those baiting me, and would be counter-productive.
The response of the VFP officer in charge of the online discussion server was initially to claim that I was engaging in personal attacks, which clearly I was the object of but never the instigator. Next came his false allegation that I was advocating violence and US military intervention for “regime change” by denouncing Assad. He ordered me to stop doing so. I continued to post the reports from Doctors Without Borders, Physicians for Human Rights, United Nations agencies, and other sources about Assad’s war crimes. I said that I could not abide by censorship of my views.
The straw that apparently broke the camel’s back and led to me being blocked from VFP discussion sites and thus effective kicked out of VFP, was my posting about George Soros. Mr. Soros, a wise and generous philanthropist, has been repeatedly attacked on VFP sites, My posting noting that Mr. Soros is the founder and chairman of the Open Societies Foundation, which recently gave $200,000 to VFP, was the last submission I was allowed to make. My post may have been an embarrassing revelation. Immediately after it, I was blocked, denied the right to participate in VFP discussions, and thus effectively banned from the organization.
Here below is my letter acknowledging my shunning, along with a small final request:
To: Gerry Condon, Vice-President, US Veterans for Peace
From: Andy Berman
CC: VFP Board of Directors
May 8, 2016
Subject: Farewells and a last request
I held my tongue while I was continually slandered on the VFP listservs. I have been repeatedly called a “spy”, an “infiltrator”, a “CIA agent,” an “FBI agent,” and a “Mossad agent” by a handful of sick and angry members. When they could not refute the solid documentation that in Syria Assad’s regime engages in massive war crimes and crimes against humanity, they turned to personal slander.
Now that I have been shut out of participating in VFP discussions, effectively tossing me out of VFP, I will speak more frankly.
Far worse than insults from conspiracy wackos has been your continual false assertion that I advocate violence and US military intervention to overthrow Assad. I have never done so in any of the scores of my posts over the past few years. I am very aware of the sordid history of US military intervention around the world. To my Syrian friends I have repeatedly said that the US government is not a reliable ally.
What I have said on the issue of violence is that the decision of Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, South Africans and Palestinians to take up arms against the tyranny that oppresses them did not and does not stop honest antiwar activists from expressing solidarity with their determination to be free. Nor should it in Syria. Our success in promoting non-violence hinges acutely on our solidarity against oppression
The only difference between those nations and Syria is that the tyranny that oppresses Syria is not backed by US imperialism. The fascist dictatorship in Syria, which has imprisoned, tortured and killed tens of thousands political opponents, is backed by Russian imperialism. Russian imperialism is the effort to project Russian military power in the region, to keep in political power a compliant regime and to keep Russian military bases on Syrian soil.
This absolute refusal to see anything beyond US crimes, the willful blindness about the massive military intervention of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah in Syria are the defining characteristics of the phony “anti-imperialist” politics that you and others have pushed in VFP. It stinks of American national chauvinism and moral hypocrisy. Generating VFP positions on Syria without consulting Syrians is also Islamophobic. It is very characteristic of party line politics that some phony “Marxist” sects have tried to push on the US antiwar movement since the era of the Vietnam War.
Gerry your personal history of Vietnam War resistance is absolutely heroic. I fear you now sully your legacy with sectarian politics. In my 50 years of peace and justice activism, I have known a number of folks who, for various reasons, fell in with the easy dogma of sectarian ultra-leftism. I have often thought it is comforting and it relieves some frustration and it brings strong personal comradeship with a group of others. But several of these folks later discarded dogmatism and returned to the more challenging path of honest peace activism. Given your honorable history, I tend to think you will too.
My loss of access to the small audience on VFP-ALL is no great tragedy. There are many other venues that are much more open to serious discussion of the Syrian tragedy and work to heal the wounds of war. With the recent massive slaughter of civilians in Aleppo by Syrian Government and Russian airstrikes, a great upsurge in solidarity is happening worldwide. Demonstrations are occurring in cities throughout the world. New Syria peace and solidarity organizations are forming.
No Gerry, being booted out of VFP for speaking truth is no great loss to me. The greater loss is to those VFP members who will no longer hear the voices of Syrians and see the videos from Syria that I have been posting. As VFP founder Jerry Genesio noted, I believe that VFP is now betraying its roots as a peace and justice organization by adopting dogmatic politics covered with the shroud of a phony “anti-imperialism”
With the $200,000 grant from the very astute and generous George Soros for combating Islamophobia, I suggest you hire consultants who could train the chapters on how to reach out and dialogue with the Syrian-American community Hint: The largest Syrian-American organization is the “Syrian American Council” with chapters throughout the US. They are easily found on the internet. VFP members may not agree with everything they hear from SAC members, but they would certainly profit from a respectful conversation and fraternal exchange of opinions.
I am happy to note that our sisters in CODEPINK, having sent a delegation to work in a Syrian Refugee camp and talked with Syrians there, has now adopted a position condemning Assad, leaving behind its sole focus on the US role. Their latest statement says: “CODEPINK supports our brothers and sisters in Syria who are suffering either under the Islamic State or the bloody regime of Assad” I have no doubt that if VFP members had better contact with Syrians, listening to their personal stories, VFP would move in the same direction as CODEPINK.
Gerry, until the day that I am invited back into VFP, I have one modest request: My $40 annual dues to VFP are paid up for another six months, As I have now effectively been excluded from the organization, please have the decency to cut a check for my remaining $20 and send it to:
Doctors Without Borders
Attn: Syria Medical Aid
333 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10001-5004
Go in Peace,