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Friday, September 13, 2013

Peace Activist: ‘People Power’ Helped Prevent Syria Strike

Anti-war demonstrators protest against possible U.S. military action in Syria in front of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Anti-war demonstrators protest against possible U.S. military action in Syria in front of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

A congressional vote authorizing the use of force in Syria is on hold, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hold negotiations for the Syrian government to give up its chemical weapons.

Public opinion polls showed most Americans oppose the strikes and President Bashar al-Assad even mentioned that when he argued against the strikes in media interviews.

Tom Hayden, a longtime peace activist, says public opposition made a big difference in the debate.

Longtime peace activist, Tom Hayden. (

Longtime peace activist Tom Hayden. (

“It seems to me what is the understated fact of the matter, is the credible threat of democratic people power that has stopped this process from going over the edge,” Hayden told Here & Now.

He thinks the simple act of people calling their representatives in Congress and asking them not to authorize force, worked in derailing the push for a military strike.

“I think it’s the accumulated impact of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, the legacy of people being used and feeling manipulated into wars,” Hayden said. “But people were not only tired of these wars, they acted on that fatigue in the millions.”

Hayden thinks the peace movement is effective even though it is not represented by lobbyists or a central organization.

“We have millions of people who support alternatives to war,” Hayden said, “All we have is the constant force of public opinion expressed through decentralized networks.”

Such a movement, Hayden says, helps put the decisions to go to war back in the American people’s hands.

“One thing that strikes me as an American tragedy is that these decisions about war and peace are determined by a small handful of cloistered national security advisers,” Hayden said. “It’s very removed from public opinion.”


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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