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Local Peace Activists Respond To Syria Missile Strike

     Reaction was swift to President Trump’s announcement Thursday night that the U.S. had carried out a missile strike against Syria to retaliate for the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.

   Left-leaning activists said Trump’s order to attack a Syrian military base with Tomahawk missiles confirmed their worst fears about him -- a commander-in-chief who will act impulsively and unilaterally.

   "When I heard about the attack yesterday my first reaction was this feels a lot like the Gulf of Tonkin," said  Paki Wieland of Northampton, whose career as an activist began protesting the war in Vietnam. 

   " I think this is behavior that shows a lack of impulse control," said Wieland about the attack ordered by Mr. Trump.  " The only people who are suffering are the Syrian people and this did nothing to curb that suffering."

   Wieland has been in Washington, D.C. since January. She’s been participating in protests and demonstrations, and was even arrested at the U.S. Capitol for disrupting the Senate confirmation hearing of Jess Sessions to be Attorney General.

   She called on Congress to forego the two-week recess that starts Friday, stay in Washington, and debate the U.S. military involvement in Syria’s six-year old civil war.

  " How do we stop these wars," asked Wieland?

   Jeff Napolitano, director of the American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, called the American missile attack in Syria “scary.”

"What makes it particularly scary is the temperament of our new president, and the very odd and impulsive way he launched military action," said Napolitano. " He was once very opposed to it and now seems to have done a one-eighty."

As for local protests, the Northampton Committee to Stop Wars will hold its weekly vigil in front of the old courthouse in downtown Northampton beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.

  "I expect there will be a lot of people showing up for that," Wieland said by phone from Washington Friday.

  Napolitano said there is a previously scheduled march in Northampton on April 17 to protest military spending.

   " What is necessary now more than ever is participation by people to get into the street, and call their members of Congress and hold the people leading us into all these wars accountable," said Napolitano.

     Local reactions from members of Congress included Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern, who said on Twitter “Any US military action against #Syria must be approved by Congress and be supported by our allies and the American people.”

  Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of northern New York said in a statement “The Obama Administration policy towards Syria has failed and we need a new strategy.”

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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