JUSTICE * RESPECT * COMPASSION * DIVERSITY
October 20, 2019


Notes from the Chair:


Re: Syria the Tragedy Continues

It has been personally alarming for me to follow the destruction of Syria resulting from a tragic civil war, ISIS insurgency and most recently the Turkish invasion in the wake of Trump’s decision to pull out. Becky will provide some insights into the civil war but I want to shed some light on a country that could have been unique in the Middle East.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s I had occasion to travel to Syria frequently. Prior to WWII, Syria was a French protectorate. Following the war, it tried to be a democracy but after numerous military coups, an alignment with Egypt and destructive war with Israel, Hafez Assad took over and killed or scared off his opposition. The Russians became their main ally. I was working on a development project which keyed off of my company’s natural gas discovery. In the 80’s and 90’s the country was quite western in dress and attitude, allowed under the absolute rule of Hafez Assad. Syria was sorely short on electricity with rolling blackouts an everyday occurrence. There were military on almost every corner with machine guns and our office had a soldier out front when it was open. I never knew if he was guarding us or protecting us. I can say that I routinely jogged early in the morning in Damascus and never felt threatened. You were safe as long as Assad didn’t want to get you. Our local workforce was extremely well educated. They typically spoke French, Arabic, English and many spoke Russian. I was able to travel throughout the country and had a chance to visit amazing archaeological and historical sites in places like Palmyra and Damascus. 

For a brief time in the early 1990’s Turkey and Syria decided to get along. My company would generate electricity from the natural gas. The electricity would be distributed in Syria and also sent to Turkey in exchange for much needed access water resources. Unfortunately, prior to reaching a final deal a dispute arose between Turkey and Syria and entire World Bank supported project evaporated. The rulers let their people down because they were corrupt, arrogant, distrustful and uncaring. Of course, the loss of this project is nothing in comparison to the evil Bashir Assad has inflicted on his own people.

Here in the United States, we must be ever vigilant to guard against the corrupt influences that have become commonplace since Donald Trump took office. Turning Texas Blue must be more than just a hopeful phase. Also, we must always work with people of goodwill who care about our nation and the world.

Kevin Henning
Kendall County Democratic Party Chair

There has been no greater champion for freedom and democracy Elijah Cummings.
 As Nancy Pelosi said “he was our North Star”. 


So how did the USA get involved
in Syria ?


Until recently the American-led intervention in the Syrian Civil War 
refers to the  United States -led support of  Syrian opposition  and the  Federation of Northern Syria  during the course of the  Syrian Civil War . Led by the United States and its allies; United Kingdom France Jordan Turkey Canada Australia  against the  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant  (ISIL) and  al-Nusra Front  since 2014.

Background of war:
March 2011   Syria’s   government, led by Pres.  Bashar al-Assad , faced an unprecedented challenge to its authority when pro- democracy  protests erupted throughout the country. Protesters demanded an end to the authoritarian practices of the Assad regime, in place since Assad’s father,  Ḥafiz al-Assad , became president in 1971. The Syrian government used violence to suppress demonstrations, making extensive use of police, military, and paramilitary forces. Opposition militias began to form in 2011, and by 2012 the conflict had expanded into a full-fledged civil war.

By the summer of 2011 Syria’s regional neighbors and the global powers had both begun to split into pro- and anti-Assad camps. The United States and the European Union were increasingly critical of Assad as his crackdown continued, and U.S. Pres.  Barack Obama   and several European heads of state called for him to step down in August 2011. An anti-Assad bloc consisting of Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia formed in the last half of 2011. T he United States, the EU, and the  Arab League   soon introduced sanctions targeting senior members of the Assad regime.
Meanwhile, Syria’s long-standing allies  Iran  and  Russia  continued their support. An early indicator of the international divisions and rivalries that would prolong the conflict came in October 2011 when Russia and China cast the first of several vetoes blocking a UN Security Council Resolution that would have condemned Assad’s crackdown.
From early on, the uprising and the regime’s response had a sectarian dimension.
Violence escalated and the country descended into civil war as rebel brigades were formed to battle government forces for control of cities, towns and the countryside. Fighting reached the capital Damascus and second city of Aleppo in 2012.

June 2013 , the UN  said 90,000 people had been killed  in the conflict.

August 2015, that figure had  climbed to 250,000 , according to activists and the UN. The conflict had become more than just a battle between those for or against Mr Assad. It had acquired sectarian overtones, pitching the country's Sunni majority against the president's Shia  Alawite  sect, and drawn in regional and world powers. The rise of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) added a further dimension.

UN had evidence that all parties to the conflict have committed war crimes - including murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearances. They also accused civilian suffering - such as blocking access to food, water and health services through sieges - as a method of war. The UN Security Council demanded all parties end the indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas, but civilians continued to die in their thousands. Many killed by barrel bombs dropped by government aircraft on gatherings in rebel-held areas - attacks which the UN said constitute massacres.

Islamic State  capitalized on the chaos and took control of large swathes of Syria and Iraq, where it proclaimed the creation of a "caliphate" in June 2014.
What began as another Arab Spring uprising against an autocratic ruler mushroomed into a brutal proxy war that drew in regional and world powers.
Iran and Russia propped up the Alawite-led government of President Assad and gradually increased their support. Tehran believed spent billions of dollars a year to bolster Mr Assad, providing military advisers and subsidized weapons, as well as lines of credit and oil transfers. Russia meanwhile launched an air campaign against Mr Assad's opponents

September 2014,   President Obama announced his intention to bomb ISIL targets in Syria and called on Congress to authorize a program to train and arm rebels who were fighting ISIL and the  Syrian  forces of Bashar al-Assad. During the Syrian Civil War, the U.S. initially supplied the rebels of the  Free Syrian Army  with non-lethal aid including food rations and pickup trucks—but quickly began providing training, money, and intelligence to selected Syrian rebel commanders. At least two U.S. programs attempted to assist the Syrian rebels. One was a 2014  Pentagon  program that planned to  train and equip  15,000 rebels to fight ISIL, which was canceled in 2015 after spending $500 million and producing only a few dozen fighters. A simultaneous $1 billion covert program called  Timber Sycamore  ran by the  Central Intelligence Agency  (CIA) was more successful, but was decimated by  Russian bombing  and canceled in mid-2017 by the  Trump administration .
April 2017, The  U.S.  missile strike on Shayrat Airbase was the first time the  U.S.  became a deliberate, direct combatant against the  Syrian  government and marked the start of a series of deliberate direct military actions by  U.S.  forces against the  Syrian  government and its allies in May–June 2017 and February 2018 .

October 2019 , President Trump said his administration had  continued the Syria fight only because of the IS threat . On Wednesday the president tweeted,  “We have defeated ISIS in Syria,”  and later U.S. officials said he had ordered a  full withdrawal of U.S. forces  there. The Pentagon said in a prepared statement that IS-held territory had been "liberated," but added that the U.S. would continue "working with our partners and allies to defeat ISIS wherever it operates." Officials refused to say when all U.S. troops would be out of Syria.

REACTION TO THE DECISION:
The decision has been met with  widespread condemnation  and only a smattering of support. Pentagon leaders were largely mum on Wednesday, adhering to the mandate that U.S. civilian leaders make policy and the military salutes and moves forward. But top defense officials have been blunt in recent assessments that the fight against the Islamic State is not over.



We have an office! 


It is located at 518 East Blanco, Boerne, next to and behind Mary’s Taco. We have immediate occupancy but will take a bit to get it ready. More details soon. We will be planning a grand opening and ribbon cutting in early November. Many thanks to our donors for making it possible. 


Seeking: Office Manager
 
Now that we’re about to lease our new office space, we are seeking someone to serve as Office Manager. Duties include:
 
  • Scheduling volunteers to work during all office open-hours (yet to be determined) and finding substitutes when needed
  • Training volunteers on office duties
  • Managing requests for use of office space for meetings, phone banks, etc. (most likely using an online tool called Skedda)
  • Ensuring office is clean and has adequate supplies
  • Coordinating any “special requests” with Deputy Party Chair Laura Bray
 
The Office Manager does * not * have to be present during all office open-hours; he/she just needs to make sure * someone * is there. Training will be provided.
 
If you’re interested or for more details, contact Laura Bray or 210-884-6843.

Seeking: Poll Workers for Election Day. 

Anyone interested in being a poll worker on Election Day, November 5, 2019 please contact Staci Decker Election Administrator ( staci.decker@co.kendall.tx.us ). 

Here is a link with the details:  http://www.co.kendall.tx.us/page/Elections.Pollworkers
The work pays $10 per hour and is a worthwhile activity in support Kendall County’s voting operations."


Announcing: County-Wide Polling
Places Available this November!


By Laura Bray, Deputy Chair, Kendall County Democratic Party

A common Election Day complaint is voters showing up at the incorrect polling place for their precinct. Few things frustrate election workers more than having to send someone away and hope that they show up later at the proper location.
This is a problem no more! The Kendall County Elections Department recently announced its acceptance from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office into the Countywide Polling Place Program for the November 5 Constitutional Amendment Election! During this election, any registered voter of Kendall County can vote at ANY polling location open within the county! Voters no longer have to go to a "designated location" on Election Day. Your CHOICE ......Your VOTE ......Your LOCATION!

For more information on the November Constitutional Amendment election, visit Kendall County Elections webpage.
(Non-Kendall residents can Google their county’s Elections page to find local details.)

Make a plan to vote, and encourage your friends to do so. It won’t take you much time, and you’ll have a voice in these important measures. 





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Your entire  donation  goes directly to Kendall County Democratic Party, except for a 3.95% credit card processing fee. The money we raise supports the Democratic Operations for Kendall County.  We need funds to open an Office , Train volunteers, “Get out the vote” efforts; Mailings, Posters, Advertising, etc. 

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"Chairman Cummings stood tallest and most resolute when our country needed him the most." Pres. Barack Obama
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