Will Obama Hear a Who?

“This,” cried the mayor, “is your town’s darkest hour!
The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
to come to the aid of their country!” he said.
“We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts!
So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!”
Thus he spoke as he climbed. When they got to the top,
the lad cleared his throat and he shouted out, “Yopp!”
And that Yopp… That one small extra Yopp put it over!
Finally, at last! From that speck on that clover
their voices were heard!

Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss

The American people are rejecting war with Syria by margins up to 6-to-1, according to several polls. They are also burning up the telephone lines to Congress and the White house to voice their opposition. Many are writing letters to their local newspapers or calling in to talk shows, or visiting the offices of their Congressional representatives in person, as well.

Will it be enough? Some members of Congress, such as Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein have spoken openly about voting against their constituency. President Obama has said that whatever Congress decides, he is not obligated to follow. The press is subserviently publishing justification for intervention much more than criticism. The Congressional hearings are weighted heavily toward the rhetoric of intervention, as are most of the television pundits.

And still the American people refuse war.

It is a wonderful vindication of the people, but is it a vindication of the system? What can you say about a system that so strongly resists the very obvious and overwhelming will of the people?

You can say that there is slight movement in the system. President Obama’s “red line” of last year may in fact have been a way to defer intervention and silence the warmongers that seem to predominate in his administration. At the time, it appeared absurd that the Syrian government would actually use chemical weapons.

It is still absurd. The administration claims “high confidence” that the chemical attack in Ghouta was by the Syrian army rather than the rebels. However, it has produced not a shred of evidence to support anything except that a horrible attack took place with nothing pointing to the regime as perpetrator, while evidence of rebel use continues to accumulate (though still inconclusive). It was inevitable that advocates of U.S. intervention – and especially the rebels and their backers – would attempt to trip the “red line” in order to push the U.S. directly into the conflict.

Another indication of movement in the system was Obama’s request for Congressional endorsement. Given public opposition, a Congressional endorsement would be a way to share responsibility for the decision. By the same token, it would be a way to exit gracefully if the decision went the other way, although the strongest proponent of intervention appear to be the administration itself, and particularly its Obama appointees in the Cabinet and agencies. Since these appointees are neither elected nor career professionals in intelligence, diplomacy and military strategy, whom do they represent?

They represent, quite simply, the big campaign donors and the powerful lobbies. These include the “defense” industries, the oil companies, the major government contractors, the Israel lobby, Wall Street and other entrenched vested interests. The appointment of these powerful advisers and administrators is a way of paying back obligations. These are the voices that the President hears the loudest and most frequently.

What chance do the American people stand? Granted, the President is feeling the pressure, and now even Congress is, as well. In fact, Congress is under so much pressure from both their constituents (opposed to intervention) and the special interests (pushing for intervention) that they are considering making no decision at all. It is difficult to even comment on a potential Congressional refusal to speak for the people.

How much louder do the people need to speak?

Like the inhabitants of Who-ville in the Dr. Seuss children’s classic, it is hard to know how loud is loud enough. We can only know that the louder we speak, the more chance we have of being heard in a very deaf and distant Washington that hardly knows we exist, and arrogantly believes it can do whatever it wants with us.

How much louder can we be? As I write, people are heading for the streets to demonstrate and become visible. That is good, but is it enough? It is expected that the crescendo of emails, telephone calls, letters, faxes and visits to Congress and the White House will only grow, but is it enough? Some Americans are already heading to Syria, to place themselves in harm’s way as a deterrent to the use of American weapons. But is it enough?

Around the world, people are pressuring their governments not to participate in the attack, and the British have actually managed to get their parliament to say no to their American ally. Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, has affirmed that it is a violation of the UN charter for the U.S. to attack Syria in the absence of a threat to U.S. security and without UN authorization. A General Assembly resolution against U.S. intervention, including a request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, can only add to the chorus of dissuasion, but will it be soon enough?

Hopefully, one of these voices will put us over the top. If so, like the Whos of Who-ville, we will prove we “ARE persons, no matter how small. And [our] whole world [will be] saved by the smallest of ALL!”

Paul Larudee is a retired academic and current administrator of a nonprofit human rights and humanitarian aid organization. Read other articles by Paul.