American anti-war group heaps praise on Assad

American anti-war group heaps praise on Assad

Syria serves up the Kool-Aid for sympathizers

By Luke Vargas   

Syria serves up the Kool-Aid for sympathizers

Syrian Ambassador to the U.N., Bashar al-Jaafari, looks on during a press conference by a group of U.S. peace activists. August 9, 2016. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
Syrian Ambassador to the U.N., Bashar al-Jaafari, looks on during a press conference by a group of U.S. peace activists. August 9, 2016. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

UNITED NATIONS (Talk Media News) – As the U.N. Security Council hashed out how to secure humanitarian access to the besieged city of Aleppo, a group of U.S. peace activists fresh off a Syrian government-sponsored tour of Damascus used a U.N. podium on Tuesday to tout the popularity of President Bashar al-Assad and praise the country’s social services.

“The Assad government provides free healthcare, free universal healthcare to everyone. It’s part of the government’s mission – free education for everyone, from primary school all the way even to university and medical school,” said Madelyn Hoffman, executive director of New Jersey Peace Action and a member of the delegation to Syria. “These are the kinds of policies our citizens here in the United States are calling for.”

She failed to mention several widely reported attacks on Syrian hospitals in recent months, the mass exodus of half of the country’s doctors or a precipitous drop in nationwide school enrollment.

Madelyn Hoffman. Photo: Talk Media News
Madelyn Hoffman. Photo: Talk Media News

The seven-member delegation to Syria was led by the U.S. Peace Council, a group founded in 1979 as an “anti-imperialist organization committed to peace, economic and social justice.” The formerly Soviet-backed council has long called for the dismantling of the NATO alliance and condemned Ukraine’s 2014 Euromaidan revolution as a coup d’etat.

But an independent analyst warned that the group was fed a bill of goods by the Syrian regime.

“These groups that are going to go to talk to Assad, obvious Assad is trying to play them, and get some news and get his story out,” Joshua Landis, a Syria expert and the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma who was not affiliated with the delegation, said.

Throughout their six-day visit, the delegation visited Damascus and two government-controlled villages, and met with President Assad and other government ministers, NGO’s and business people. The Syrian government covered part of the cost of the delegation’s accommodations.

U.S. Peace Council delegation members meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo: SANA
U.S. Peace Council delegation members meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo: Syrian Arab News Agency

“What we saw goes against everything we read in the United States,” said Henry Lowendorf, a member of the Executive Board of the U.S. Peace Council and the head of the American delegation, who brushed off a suggestion that life in Damascus was hardly representative of the plight of those in Syria’s besieged cities.

In a colorful account of her experience in Damascus, delegation member Judith Bello of the United National Antiwar Coalition detailed one memorable lunch hosted by the Syrian business community on her blog:

“The members of the chamber of industry took us to a great restaurant this afternoon with a live singer and dancing Sufi,” she said. “Awesome!”

More than 80,000 civilians are estimated to have died in fighting since the Syrian war began in 2011, prompting the worst refugee crisis since World War II, according to the European Union.

Lowendorf said of Syria’s 4.8 million refugees, “they could afford to leave.”

A recent U.N. humanitarian appeal warned that more than 250,000 civilians in Aleppo are cut off aid deliveries after being engulfed by fighting. An estimated 2 million people in Aleppo have “little to no access to running water” amid ongoing fighting, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund.

The members of the Syria delegation spent little time dwelling on humanitarian topics, and Lowendorf flatly rejected the existence of improvised “barrel bombs” used by the Assad government.

Henry Lowendorf. Photo: Talk Media News.
Henry Lowendorf. Photo: Talk Media News.

Instead, Lowendorf and others praised Assad for “[withstanding] an invasion by the most powerful country in the world and its most powerful allies in Europe.”

In their view, Assad had not only succeeded in rebuffing outside military intervention in Syria, but had orchestrated a political feat in unifying the country.

“Even the non-violent opposition parties who had issues with democracy or corruption prior to 2011, everyone has thrown themselves in behind the Assad government because that’s the best hope, the best bet for the Syrian people,” Hoffman said.

But the assumption that Assad speaks for all Syrians is too simplistic, Landis said.

“Anybody who claims to talk for the Syrian people is blowing a lot of hot air,” he said. “The Syrian people are not one. Ten percent of the country are Kurds, and they want their own nation. There are 1,500 different militias in Syria, and each of them has a leader who would like to be the leader of Syria.”

Landis said peace delegations and academic groups are occasionally granted permission to tour Damascus and speak to Assad, but that the occasion is increasing reserved for those willing to listen to the president reiterate his talking points about the conflict.

“He’s repeating the same thing,” Landis said. “Which is: ‘I’m the rightful ruler, these people are insurgents who are being funded by outside governments and they are traitors to the government and should be killed.’”

A top official at another American anti-war advocacy group, Peace Action, openly questioned if findings from a trip sponsored by Assad could be objective.

“Peace Action was invited, and we had declined to go,” said Paul Kawika Martin, the Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs at Peace Action, noting that, “the trip might be a little bit too close to the Assad government and might make it difficult to have a fair assessment of what’s going on there.”

Hoffman, a member of a local chapter of the same organization, accepted the invite from the U.S. Peace Council after the national executive declined.

For Martin, though, achieving anti-war goals means turning down invitations from foreign governments with their own agendas and staying focused on the topics he knows best.

“I think the way for us that we stay balanced is that we’re focused on U.S. foreign policy, cause that’s what we have any – if any – influence on. We’re a grassroots organization, we lobby Congress, we lobby the Administration, we’re focused on U.S. foreign policy because that’s where we can try to make an impact.”


    • What a dupe you are, Janice Kortkamp. Hanging out in Damascus and pretending you know what’s happening in Syria. The conflict is well documented and began with Assad brutally suppressing those who protested his regime, its phony elections, its favoritism to Alawites, and more. You’re like someone being given a guided tour of Russia by Putin.

      • lol!! Now that’s funny! I’ve been now five times to Syria and spent many months traveling around there including in Deir Ezzor and Al Mayadeen surrounded by ISIS. What you don’t know about this latest US manufactured regime change war and Syria as a country – is literally everything.

  1. Henry Kissinger – war criminal on the run? – World’s alleged number one state terrorist at large – Responsible for the deaths of millions? How long until he is brought to trial?

  2. Look at all the Assad propagandists here in the comments too – lol

    You’re going down, Assad – start counting your last breaths. 🙂

    • Assad needs useful dupes like you and Madelyn Hoffman, Janice Kortkamp. Giving you a guided tour of Damascus, like Putin showing you what he wants you to see in Russia. The civil war started when Assad began brutally suppressing people protesting his regime, its rigged elections, its blatant favoritism to Sunnis and Alawites, and above all its willingness to disappear anyone who dared challenge Assad.

  3. In 2014, Vice President Joe Biden admitted that the greatest problem with the terrorists in Syria is that US allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States were nurturing, feeding and weaponizing them. You can see the video here: . Although the Obama administration quickly shut him down, he revealed that it knows full well that this terrorist war is externally created and supported. Practically every other week either the President or his Secretary of State Kerry tell the world that they have the right to choose Syria’s leader and that President Assad must go. That the US and its allies have been illegally trying to overthrow a sovereign government with its terrorist mercenaries is common knowledge. Syrians we spoke with simply supported the content of Vice President Biden’s statement. That the author of this article and his “Syrian expert” would try to cover up those facts is remarkable.

    The delegation never tried to speak for the Syrian people. Its members spoke to what we saw and heard. Those who want to see for themselves – let them go and do so. Let them not hide behind so-called experts and State Department propaganda. It is the US that is sanctioning Syrians, not the other way around.

  4. what garbage…i spent 2 1/2 weeks in Syria myself
    … by myself not in a group…with just a Syrian friend this year and what the delegation is saying is what all the people there were talling me as i traveled around the country, able to talk to anyone and everyone i wanted to. And they hate Landis by the way. And they hate the US orchestrated coup that has tried to rip their country to shreds to the next Iraq or next Libya. This pro-terrorist propaganda, like all the rest of the bs that comes from western backed “opposition” led predominately by the Muslim Brotherhood, is simply more lies to get more western funding, support and arms, all of which end of in the hands of torturing, slaughtering, kidnapping, raping, looting terrorists and mercenaries…many of whom are from over 80 other countries. Despicable. Time to end tbis counterproductive, illegal, regime change coup and to recognize the legitimacy of the Syrian president, army, and nation. The reality is taht what Assad says is true….the reason he’s still in power is simply because he has the support of the vast majority of Syrians.

  5. Sasha Landis was in Syria before and she entered Syria illegally and stayed with the terrorists troops. I wonder why didn’t she go legally to Syria ? Why didn’t she got a visa and chose the hard way ?
    She can’t be neutral when she sees the truth side ..If she wants to be fair she has to visit places destroy by ISIS and be a witness of the mass graveyard and mass slaughtering of women and children. She is not reliable .

  6. Syria now is fighting terrorism to help the world , the while world and what you are doing is just being so shallow accusing the peace derogation of Kool aid . Are Sen. Tulsi Gabbard and Richard Dick also accused of such bad words. Isn’t better for the US government to safe the money to build America rather than wasting your resources for the sake of some interests. Be fare and safe your children and your families the same destiny that is Syria and.some European countries are facing now . Be clever and wise

  7. Syria MUST NOT BE CONTROLLED BY ISLAMISTS! This is who SYRIA IS FIGHTING in a cynical foreign supported civil-war. Turkey is used as a supply route for arms and resupply of insurgents ALL THE TIME, without which, the “rebellion” and killing of civilians would be stopped.

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