A CIA whistleblower and ex-Marine Corps captain are among the outspoken leaders of a campaign to stop the US bombing of Syria before a “nuclear apocalypse” erupts out of the conflict with Russia.

The National Press Club in Washington, DC on Tuesday hosted a conference of five speakers opposed, morally and legally, to US intervention in Syria, especially the use of US warplanes and drones. Their presser centered around a petition addressed to Defense Secretary James Mattis and Congress.

Matthew Hoh, a former Marine captain who later became the top civilian representative in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, before resigning in 2009 in protest of former President Barack Obama’s “surge” of the war there, warned that much more is at stake in Syria than simply violations of international law.

“We are on the brink with a war with Russia,” Hoh said, noting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had at least invited Russia’s military into the country.

The petition, which was launched over a month ago, surpassed its goal of 60,000 signatures. By Tuesday evening, the count was at 68,643.

The message to Pentagon chief James Mattis and Congress reads: “We urge you to immediately remove all US military planes from Syrian skies and keep them out of that country’s airspace.”

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