By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Sen. John McCain is a prime example of how U.S. officials so often have misjudged overseas crises, believing that the best way to bring democracy to a country is through massive US bombing and invasion.
The Arizona Senator has been highly critical of Pres. Obama’s ‘arm the rebels strategy,’ urging a more direct US military intervention in Syria. Sen. McCain does not seem to understand that toppling Pres. Bashar Al-Assad would result in more deaths and destruction, and turn Syria into a major hub of international terrorism. Over 30,000 Islamic Jihadists from dozens of countries currently are fighting the Syrian government and each another -- surely, not to bring democracy to Syria!
In fact, the former Republican presidential candidate is so obsessed with beating the drums of war that reportedly he behaved in an ill-tempered and discourteous manner with a group of high-ranking Christian Syrian leaders, just because they were not advocating violent regime change. The church delegation had come to Washington last month seeking a peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict and protection for Christians numbering around two million -- 10% of the country’s population.
The visiting Church leaders included Bishop Armash Nalbandian, Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Damascus, and representatives of the Presbyterian, Evangelical, Syrian Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox churches of Syria. The delegation met with members of Congress, State Department officials, U.S., NGO’s, academics, religious leaders, and members of the media.
The Syrian clergymen were gratified with their Washington visit, except for their unpleasant encounter with Sen. McCain, as described by Judicial Watch:
“Hell-bent on arming opposition forces in Syria -- despite strong evidence that they’re run by Islamic terrorists -- John McCain displayed behavior unbecoming of a United States Senator during a recent meeting with Syrian Christian leaders touring Capitol Hill.… Senator McCain, an Arizona Republican, evidently doesn’t want to hear negative stories about the rebels he’s working to arm. So he stormed out of a closed-door meeting with the Syrian clergy officials last week…. McCain marched into the committee room yelling, according to a high-level source that attended the meeting, and quickly stormed out. ‘He was incredibly rude,’ the source told Judicial Watch…. Following the shameful tantrum, McCain reentered the room and sat briefly, but refused to make eye contact with the participants, instead ignoring them by looking down at what appeared to be random papers.”
During their meetings in Washington, the Syrian Christian leaders informed U.S. officials about the unfolding massive human tragedy in their country and the precarious situation of Christian communities; kidnapping of Christian Bishops, priests, nuns, and parishioners; attacks on Christian villages; desecration of churches and holy sites; and violations of religious freedom by armed Islamists.
Given the escalating bloodshed in Syria, the Church leaders asked the United States to:
-- End all military and financial aid to armed rebels;
-- Demand from U.S allies -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey -- not to support the terrorists;
-- Ask that all sides of the conflict stop the violence, including bombings and terrorism;
-- Resolve the conflict through dialogue, not military action;
-- Ensure the Syrian people’s security;
-- Protect the Christian minorities;
-- Protect the churches and mosques;
-- Protect religious, historical, and cultural monuments;
-- Assist in the distribution of humanitarian aid in Syria.
The website of the Syrian Armenian Committee for Urgent Relief and Rehabilitation (SACURR) -- www.syriashdab.com -- reported that as of Sept. 30, 2013, the war caused serious harm to the Armenian community: 64 civilians murdered, 172 injured, 110 kidnapped, and 15 soldiers killed in action. Moreover, various Armenian institutions were damaged: seven Apostolic and three Catholic churches; 13 schools; and 10 community centers. Close to half of 65,000 Syrian-Armenians has fled to Armenia, Lebanon and elsewhere.
SACURR, composed of nine major Armenian social, religious and political organizations in Syria, reported that by the end of September it had received $1.7 million from overseas Armenian entities. Even though this is a small fraction of the amount needed, SACURR has been able to provide food, shelter, security, and medical and educational assistance to Syrian Armenians, including $500,000 in tuition aid to 6,436 students in 38 schools.
Sen. McCain and other foolhardy U.S. officials would do well to heed the wise counsel of the visiting Syrian Christian leaders. Dispatching more weapons to Syria would only exacerbate the fighting, resulting in endless bloodshed.