The announcement by leading anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan that she was leaving the Democratic Party and quitting the anti-war effort has evoked reactions from the Syrian press. Her decision was presented as proof that there is no real difference between the Democratic and Republican positions on the war in Iraq, and that the only way to effect a change in U.S. policy is to step up the Iraqi resistance and increase losses to the U.S. armed forces.
The following are excerpts from the articles:
Syrian Minister: Sheehan's Struggle is a "Battle of Truth Against Falsehood"
Syrian Minister of Expatriate Affairs Dr. Buthayna Sha'ban praised Sheehan's activism and expressed sorrow at her retirement from public life. In an op-ed in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat – also posted on www.syria-news.com, which is affiliated with the Syrian regime – she called on "all the honorable people in the world" to join forces and continue Sheehan's struggle:
"Cindy Sheehan has long been considered an example of how a [single] person [can] lead a campaign to change the outlook and position of a strong regime, like the American one, and she has long been a beacon for all those who defend liberty and justice in the world. The news of her retirement [from public life] caused [us] to lose hope, [but] when I read her clearly reasoned letter of resignation [from the anti-war movement], I understood the extent of her difficulty.
"It is a difficulty faced by all honorable people who bear large burdens and confront strong and well-financed establishments, which are powerfully motivated to [gain] wealth at the expense of people's bodies and souls.
"Cindy Sheehan's letter makes it clear that she received all the backup and support [she needed] when she was regarded as a Democrat fighting against the Republican Party's outlook on the war. But when she left the Democratic Party, and defined the war in Iraq not as a matter of the political left vs. the political right, but as a matter of right vs. wrong – then her real problems began, for in a democratic regime, you are permitted to voice opposition [to the regime], but you are not allowed to expose the true nature of the regime and what it really stands for.
"The path blazed by Cindy Sheehan is a very important one, because it was meant to bring justice, respect for the human spirit, and awareness that what is happening in Iraq is a crime against humanity. [Sheehan's activism] could have a real impact not only on American's policy in Iraq, but on its policy in the Middle East [at large] and perhaps even in the [whole] world.
"[Sheehan] states that her aim was to bring about a change in the norms of the American regime, and this is something that [the regime] strictly forbids, since a change of norms would mean a change in the [U.S.] stance on Palestine, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia. [A change of norms] could dictate a policy completely different from the present one, and the two American parties cannot afford this, unless they decide they want a foreign policy completely unlike the one currently employed by the U.S., in which the two parties differ only in tone and degree but not in essence...
"I do not know whether Cindy Sheehan will rescind her decision. But I hope she will, because the battle is an important and a crucial one. It is not a battle of the American people against the [American] administration, but a battle of truth against falsehood – of those who believe in justice and human dignity against those who see the world only [in terms of] oil, wealth and hegemony...
"Cindy Sheehan took a very noble step, and she is entitled to rest, if that is what she wants. We, on the other hand, must not let her struggle come to nothing. She touched on a sensitive point that is extremely important to us as well as to her, and all the honorable people of the world must join forces and complete her mission – for the alternative is inhuman and immoral, and holds no hope for the future of peoples craving liberty, independence and dignity."
Syrian Columnist: Both American Parties "Have Become a Joke in the Eyes of the World"
Charles Kamilah, columnist for the Syrian government daily Teshreen, also reacted to Sheehan's resignation:
"What made the famous American citizen Cindy Sheehan, head of the [American] anti-war movement, say 'goodbye America... you are not the country that I love?'... Her main reason [for this move] at this time was probably not Bush's [insistence on] pursuing his erroneous path – which is [merely] the persistence of [his] known stupidity. Rather, it is the Democratic Party's betrayal of its voters, who gave it a majority in Congress after it promised an immediate withdrawal from Iraq in its elections campaign.
"Today, the [Democratic] Party has withdrawn even the demand to set a timetable for the withdrawal as a condition for approving the war funding bill. Sheehan, who was committed to the [Democratic] Party, regarded this [decision] not only as a betrayal of America's moral values, but [as a blow to] the very foundations of the democratic regime in which [America] takes so much pride... This [betrayal] is a sore blow to Sheehan and her comrades, who pinned real [hopes] on the beacon of morality brandished by the Democratic Party's propagandists. But they [soon] learned that the two sides of the coin [i.e. the Democratic Party and the Republican Party] have [both] become a joke in the eyes of the world."
Syrian Columnist: The Iraqis Must Increase the Losses to the Occupation Forces
In an article in the government Syrian daily Al-Thawra, columnist Muhammad Khayr Al-Jamali wrote that the debate between Democrats and Republicans on Iraq has degenerated into election polemics, and called on the Iraqis to rekindle the real debate on this issue within the U.S. by increasing the losses to the U.S. armed forces:
"For over three years, the [internal] debate [in the U.S.] has been going in circles, without bringing any change in the policy of the [American] regime or ending the American entanglement in Iraq. The conclusion is that the debate itself – [which was originally] aimed at correcting the mistakes of the current American administration and reshaping America's relations with the Middle East and the rest of the world, far from the logic of power and from the policy of threats – has gradually degenerated into [empty] election polemics – a prelude to the presidential election that will take place in over two years [sic]. The transformation of this debate into part of the election [campaign] has eliminated any possibility [of resolving] the crisis... in Iraq.
"For the debate to open up positive horizons that will hasten the end of the American occupation in Iraq and extricate America from the crisis and its consequences, the Iraqis must continue their resistance and increase the losses to the occupation [forces]. The Americans [themselves] have no [choice] but to expose the deceitful policy of their government – which was the basis for its failing war in Iraq – and to work to depose President Bush before the end of his term. This [move should be carried out] based on the harm he has caused to America's interests, economy, status, reputation and credibility."