Syria on the Brink


Thank you for your call for “the Obama administration to re-examine its flawed strategy of…actively and unconditionally supporting the Syrian rebels” [“Syria’s Deepening Crisis,” Sept. 10].

This strategy has its origin in the neocon redoubts of the Bush administration. John Bolton in 2002 suggested the establishment of an Islamic emirate, as was indeed proclaimed in Homs earlier this year. “Which Path to Persia?”(Brookings, 2009), produced by neocons from the Bush administration, advocated the construction of a false narrative of unarmed democracy demonstrators being killed by snipers as they protest peacefully. And when it happened, the rebels said they were government snipers.

“Regime change” has been the mantra of the Obama State Department, too. So much so that before any investigation, it orchestrated the departure of all Western diplomats from Damascus less than twenty-four hours after the Houla massacre of 108 civilians on May 25. Subsequent investigations have shown that the rebels, not the government, were responsible for the massacre: (1) Bild correspondent Jürgen Todenhöfer accused the rebels of “deliberately killing civilians—presenting them as victims of the government.” This “massacre-marketing strategy,” he said, was “among the most disgusting things that I have ever experienced in an armed conflict.” He was in Syria, but not embedded with the rebels like most Western journalists; (2) Alfred Hackensberger of Die Welt noted that Taldo, the subdistrict of Houla where the massacre occurred, had been under rebel control since December. Of course, no retraction or apology has been heard from Secretary Clinton.

It is increasingly clear from numerous videos that, for the rebels, massacre is standard procedure—the video shot by the Free Syrian Army on July 31, in which fifteen members of the Bedouin Al-Berri family are lined up against a wall and executed, is only one of many.



Who Is the Fairest Trader of All?

Oakland, Calif.

I appreciate Scott Sherman’s efforts to provide clarity about the changes occurring in fair trade standards [“The Brawl Over Fair Trade Coffee,” Sept. 10]. Unfortunately, Fair Trade USA’s motivation behind these changes has been misrepresented. I would therefore like to clarify our intent in innovating the Fair Trade model and ultimately redirect the conversation toward a more constructive, solution-oriented, impact-focused dialogue.

There are 2 billion people living in extreme poverty; fair trade reaches less than 1 percent of them. We’re proud of all that has been accomplished since Fair Trade USA was founded in 1998, helping farmers and workers earn more than $225 million in additional income. But that is simply not enough. There are many who believe that fair trade can and must do more if we ever hope to make a significant dent in global poverty.

That’s why we’re carefully implementing a series of pilot programs to determine best practices for delivering more impact to more people. Although we’re only beginning, we’ve learned so much. Respected NGOs like Catholic Relief Services and United Farm Workers are supporting our efforts in the field. Leading companies like Whole Foods and Green Mountain Coffee are excited to buy the coffee and help expand that that impact. Most important, hundreds of farmworkers and small farmers are participating in the pilots, looking to fair trade to help improve their lives and their communities.

In the end, we are all fair traders, bound by a common vision of a more just and sustainable world. It’s time to focus our energy on the amazing work occurring within this movement, to collaborate to reach the majority of businesses that have not yet embraced certification, and to celebrate the diversity of approaches that are needed to deliver more impact to more farming families.

President and CEO, Fair Trade USA