Photo Caption: Nach Neun, right, and Peggy Gish, center, hold signs in front of the Athens County Courthouse Friday evening to urge President Obama not to go to war against Syria.
A handful of people showed up Friday to show their opposition to U.S. military intervention in Syria with a protest outside the Athens County Courthouse.
The demonstration came just a day before a major development in the situation, in the form of President Barack Obama's announcement Saturday that he would seek authorization from Congress before launching any military action against the Syrian government.
The local protest, organized by the UCM: Center for Spiritual Growth & Social Justice, called for increased levels of humanitarian aid and more involvement in peace negotiations, as an alternative to dropping bombs.
One of the demonstration's organizers, Rod Nippert of Amesville, said Sunday that much of the group's stance on the proposed war in Syria comes from Code Pink, the anti-war activist organization.
"A lot of our talking points come from Code Pink," he confirmed.
Nippert said local anti-war activists are stressing that they do not in any way support the violence the Syrian government has been using against the country's civilians, but believe that American military intervention won't help.
"Our position is, military action will worsen the situation, not help it," he explained. "But we're not saying we don't want the U.S. to be involved. The U.S. should be actively involved, but not in a military way."
He added that, just because he and others are opposed to U.S. military intervention, "we don't want it assumed that we're supporting what's happening (in Syria)."
U.S. involvement, he said, should certainly include humanitarian aid, to help the millions of Syrians who have lost their homes and been subjected to government violence, including the reported use of chemical weapons (though there is some dispute as to who actually used them). The demonstrators also suggested that more U.S. support for Syrian-based non-violent opposition groups could improve the situation there.
Regarding humanitarian aid, Nippert suggested this should be priority number one. "We really need to do something because obviously (the problems are) overwhelming," he said. "We certainly have money; we can help."
Nippert said one hopeful sign is that, in contrast to some previous U.S. military adventures, a proposed attack on Syria doesn't seem to be generating a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the American public.
A recent NBC poll found 80 percent support for the president's getting congressional approval before any military action in Syria. About half those polled opposed intervention, though the numbers go up a bit when people are asked about intervention that involves only firing cruise missiles, rather than sending in troops. Some foreign policy experts don't expect Obama to push for anything more than short-term air strikes as punishment for the chemical attack, rather than any long-term war effort.
Code Pink has argued that bombing, while more palatable to Americans than boots on the ground, would have a devastating effect on the Syrian people that an intervention would supposedly be aimed at helping.
form letter the group is urging citizens to send to the president maintains,
"With much of the ground fighting in Syria taking place in densely populated
areas, bombing by the U.S. and coalition forces will inevitably lead to the
deaths of innocent Syrians and civilian bystanders. Additionally, the obvious
brutality by the Assad regime toward innocent civilians will not stop with
bombs; instead, the regime will retaliate against innocent Syrians."