, Salem, MA

September 7, 2013

Peace activists rally in Peabody against Syria attack plan

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — More than two dozen peace activists held signs and paraded in front of the downtown office of Congressman John Tierney yesterday afternoon, hoping to prevent proposed military action in Syria. Some were scheduled to meet with Tierney aides later in the day.

Most were veterans of the peace movement, gray-haired members of groups like the North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice and the House of Peace in Ipswich. If their past efforts were frustrated over wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they seemed confident that this time a popular wind is at their back.

Meanwhile, supportive drivers plowing through yesterday’s commute sporadically leaned on their horns and waved encouragement.

President Barack Obama has proposed the use of military action to punish the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad for the alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack on rebels that killed hundreds of women and children. Obama has asked for a vote of Congress supporting his decision, and has warned that doing nothing could lead to more widespread use of weapons like the sarin gas suspected in this attack.

While expressing doubts about a military response, Tierney has not yet declared his position on the vote.

“I’m here to let John Tierney know it’s very, very important that he does not vote to bomb Syria,” said Sue Kirby of Salem.

As for charges that the Syrian government has committed atrocities, she said, “It’s an issue the United Nations should decide.” When it was suggested the United Nations would do little in such a case, she shrugged, “Well, there you go.”

“It’s very strange,” said David Zackon of Wakefield, commenting on the bipartisan nature of opposition to Obama’s proposal, with conservatives and liberals both opposing the president.

Further, he suggested that the evidence of an atrocity is suspect. “You got that 20 years ago,” he said, referencing stories of Kuwaitis mistreated by invading Iraqi soldiers prior to the first Gulf War, stories spread by a public relations firm. “It turned out to be trumped up.”

Zackon conceded that it is difficult to oppose Obama, whom he voted for and supports. “He has to be more astute politically. When he’s wrong, he’s wrong. It doesn’t matter who’s in the oval office.”

A new face at such protests was former city councilor and current candidate for Ward 3 councilor Bill Toomey. He decided to attend the rally after hearing a reporter mention it was happening. When a member of Veterans Against War appeared, he grabbed a sign and declared, “I’m a veteran. And I’m against the war.”