The Controversial Peace Council Visit to Damascus and Meeting with Assad
The visit took place at the end of July 2016.
The Delegation Describes the Visit
Here's one description of the trip from
two people who took part.
a quote from the article "The following is an interview Henry Lowendorf and I gave to Syria TV at the end of our trip. It was an emotional experience, the testimonies we had heard during our short time were compelling and moving. Meeting President Bashar Al Assad and listening to his wise and pertinent analysis of events in Syria and globally were a wake up call for us, living under true tyrants and oligarchs whose intent is mass murder, theft and rape of sovereign nations in order to feed their inhumane and ravenous hegemony. Henry and I both struggled to keep emotions under control during the interview."
On the World Peace Council Site
More from the US Peace Council
The "fact-finding" trip was partially paid for by the Syrian government according to one participant
In the New Haven Register article about the delegation Henry Lowendorf of the Peace Council claims to speak for the "peace movement"
"We're small voices in this whole thing," he added of the peace movement. "And we need to become very loud.""
Some questions to the Peace Council from Stanley Heller
1. Was anyone in the delegation an Arabic speaker or did you rely on translators provided by the Syrian government?
2. Besides speaking to the government figures and "opposition" figures suggested to you by the Syrian government, did you speak of anyone who said they supported the opposition, whether Free Syrian Army, Local Coordinating Committees or others?
3. Did you travel to any area not under Syrian army control?
4. Did you raise the issue of the U.N. documented claim that thousands of prisoners have been tortured to death?
5. Did you raise the question of why the Syrian government has hundreds of thousands of civilians under siege?
6. There are many, many reports of airstrikes against hospitals and medical workers in Syria. Attacks on medical personnel were condemned by the UN Secretary General this May. Did you ask how these attacks can be justified?
Terry Burke wrote in "In These Times"
"The current Vice President of Veterans for Peace, Gerry Condon, recently returned from a weeklong U.S. Peace Council trip to Syria, where a delegation met directly with Bashar Assad and other regime leaders. Condon wrote on Facebook that he was "honored to represent Veterans for Peace" on the trip. An article about the trip by Vanessa Beeley, a writer and steering committee member of the Syria Solidarity Movement International, gushed about the meetings and the "fascinating insights that were shared. … Our meeting with the Grand Mufti was one of the most profoundly moving and eloquent introductions to the mind of a true man of peace and reconcilitiation [sic]." This is the same Grand Mufti who threatened to unleash suicide bombings on the U.S. and Europe if the West bombed Syria. Beeley has promised that a full report on "the extraordinary conversation with President Bashar Al Assad will be forthcoming."
Sasha Crow (on her Facebook page)
Gerry [Condon of Veterans for Peace, member of the delegation visiting Damascus - editor] you "know" me - we met when you were in southern Oregon speaking at a fund raiser for the refugee relief project I founded in Jordan -- Collateral Repair Project. I founded it as a response to the terrible damage done to civilian Iraqis because of the US-led illegal invasion and occupation. You may not know that this followed me going to Baghdad in 2003 to stand up against the then-impending invasion - against US Sanctions and risking fines and imprisonment. I was later arrested in nonviolent protest against the shipment of Stryker vehicles headed for Iraq. So don't, whatever you do try to pass me off as some US imperialist dupe or agent.
I was there, in Jordan, before and then during the first few years of the Syrian revolution. Initially, because of the US attack on Iraq, I sat on a fence, wondering which was propaganda -- that Assad was responding brutally to peaceful protesters or that this was a US instigated attempt at overthrowing a "legitimate" government (as brutal as Saddam's was but without the populace behind it as was in Iraq 2003).
But then our charity began receiving droves of Syrians fleeing for their lives, Gerry -- and every last one of them blamed the same culprit, Assad. EVERY ONE OF THEM.
And this was not a handful of cherry-picked Syrians who presented themselves to me in an orchestrated visit. I lived in an impoverished area of Amman for 8 years, among refugees and impoverished Jordanians and Palestinians. I was pretty savvy when it came to sussing out "stories" vs truth -- and there is no way that every Syrian could have come up with the elaborate and yet individually unique accounts they did --- and no way they would endure the deep poverty they were forced into -- just to put on some US-inspired "act" to impress the American woman - nor all of the colleagues I knew in other aid organizations and in the huge UN-run camps like Zaatari.
That you and Madelyn (who both knew me prior to this trip of yours) did not even ASK my opinion shows just how ripe you were to become regime apologists -- and how you made up your minds without using due diligence.
And you know, I traveled in Syria prior to the revolution (and that's what it is, Gerry, no matter what Assad wants us all to believe) and I could tell you about the repression I knew of then.
Free healthcare? Big deal. The entire Middle East has free healthcare. That does not mean that every other aspect of governance is humane. Truly -- you do not yourself really hold such simplistic notions of things, do you?
Anyway Gerry, it sickens me that a group of people who present themselves as being activists for peace would instead be mouthpieces for genocide.
This from a statement by poet and professor Mohja Kahf in defense of a criticism of UNAC whose Judy Bello who was part of the delegation and listed as a UNAC representative:
"Peace activist, do you know that the Syrian regime's constitution gives police immunity and the president unchecked power? Do you know that Syrians lived under martial law from 1963 to 2011, when it was replaced by the same law with a new name? Do you know that Bashar and his ruling elite plundered the country for over a decade with neoliberal "social market reform" that lined their pockets and caused poverty to skyrocket? Surely you cannot in good conscience go on junkets sponsored by Assad and paid for by the sweat of the Syrian people, peace activist.
Do you know that in the spring and summer of 2011, hundreds of thousands of Syrians marched peacefully in over 400 towns in Syria to demand the release of prisoners of conscience, their sons and daughters? Peace activist, at least support the release of all prisoners of conscience in Syria, no matter who holds them. Surely, peace activist, you do not defend authoritarianism, whether Assadist or Islamist.
Peace activist, do you understand that masses of Syrians protested in those marches because they want the fall of this regime and their human rights back, independently of any U.S. agenda? Do you know that Hama's square was full of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who were nonviolent and nonsectarian and loudly against the regime, week after week, through July 2011? Call those hundreds of thousands of Syrians proxies of imperialist agendas. Or deny their existence; maybe Syrians imagined it all, those heady days, the hope, the camaraderie. But don't support a dictator, peace activist.
Deny that Syrians chanted "the people want the fall of the regime" from their hearts. Maybe, in your view, Syrians have no hearts. They have no heads. They have no will. Maybe Syrian crowds can only have roared "the people want the fall of the regime" because they are pawns in a war started by the CIA. Perhaps all over Syria, in the villages, in the cities, among Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, and Shia, anyone in my country of origin who hates the authoritarian regime is an agent of imperialism. Salamiya, a predominantly Ismailia Shia town, was among the first to protest, led by women; deny those women, call them foreign agitators all-but don't support Assad. "
Full statement here
Here's another criticism of UNAC and Syria by David Turpin, Jr.
"UNAC's leadership has been played for fools by the Assad regime. They've also foolishly fallen for US imperialism's feigned support for the opposition. It is obvious from UNAC's statements that the leadership sees the US playing homologous strategies in Afghanistan in the 80s and Syria today, but the trickle of small arms once supplied to the Syrian opposition, and always with strings attached, contrasts sharply to the flood of weaponry the US channeled through Pakistan to the Mujahideen, weapons which included ground to air missiles. In Syria, the US has imposed an embargo specifically preventing the opposition from acquiring air defense systems, and the US attempts to control the supply of heavy weapons, precisely because it wants to control the struggle against Assad. If regime change were the real objective of US imperialism, why does it dither? The pitiable US antiwar movement has certainly not be a factor even worthy of consideration.
UNAC's tiresome and repetitious lectures about the savage history of US imperialism miss the point: in Syria the US is just as opposed to democracy as it is anywhere else, but in Syria it leaves the dirty work of butchering people to the Assad regime, Russia and Iran. UNAC presents apologies for the war criminal regime as defense of Syria's right to self determination; Assad may be a war criminal, but UNAC's leaders tell us he is an "anti-imperialist" war criminal. All the better for US imperialism, the dirty deeds are done for free by a "sovereign" power."
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