16 September 2016 – AIUSA Event
Terry Rockefeller's speech at the AIUSA Event
"Thank you – everyone for being here and for your concern about these vital issues.
My sister Laura worked in the theatre in NYC. On September 11th 2001, she had a day job managing a seminar on information technology. When the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, Laura was on the 106th floor.
In the weeks following Laura’s death what I expected from my government was a commitment to discovering the truth about those who were responsible for the 9/11 attacks and an assurance that they would be brought to justice. I wanted everything about the hijackers investigated in transparent, public proceedings. I wanted their accomplices and financial supporters identified, captured, and tried in open courts.
But, 15 years ago, the dominant narrative was one of FEAR, VIOLENCE and REVENGE. Well-meaning people frequently said to me, “Don’t worry. We’re going to get ‘them’ for you!” That was not at all what I was thinking or feeling. My deepest wish was “Please, do not let this ever happen again to another person – not in the US, not anywhere.”
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows organized in 2002 hoping to counter the narrative of revenge. We believed that the facts about why and how 9/11 was carried out could help us prevent future attacks. We believed not only family members, but all US citizens, indeed the entire world – should watch the United States respond to this horrific crime with respect for the highest standards of law. We joined together because we rejected violence and we believed that the rule of law is one of the greatest forces for NONVIOLENCE that humanity has evolved.
As we began to learn about the black sites and torture, I realized that powerful people in my government did not agree that a fair and open trial of the 9/11 suspects was a priority. I felt profoundly betrayed. In 2009, our brief hope that the 9/11 proceedings would be moved to Federal Court was swiftly dashed. And so today, 15 years after 9/11 we have neither truth nor justice.
The slogan of the Military Commissions at Guantanamo, where five 9/11 suspects may eventually be tried, is “Fairness, Transparency, Justice.” Yet virtually no one is aware of the pre-trial hearings that have been going on for four years. There are profound tensions between the government’s claims concerning “National Security” and the requirements of a fair trial – discovery, attorney-client privilege, hearing evidence in open court. The issue of torture hangs over everything.
While no one can predict with certainty, we will likely observe the 20th anniversary of 9/11 before a trial commences.
Despite Congress having passed acts creating and then refining the Military Commissions, they are a judicial system that is still being invented. I want to tell one story – by no means the worst example of irregularity and unfairness but one that I found profoundly insulting. Last summer the prosecution proposed taking victim impact statements from family members, in open court with the press present, in advance of a trial or a verdict. It appeared that that most basic principle – “innocent until proven guilty” – did not apply and that family members’ pain was to be showcased to somehow compensate for the failure to conduct a trial.
Thankfully the judge denied this request by the prosecution. My colleague Julia Rodriguez is going to talk about the Commissions in greater depth. Let me just say, all of us should to be concerned that justice for 9/11 respects the highest standards of the rule of law because it is not about who the perpetrators are, it is about who we are and what we stand for.
Tragically, the US has not done any better at advancing the security of people around the globe. As early as October of 2001, the founders of Peaceful Tomorrows were expressing opposition to war in Afghanistan in our loved ones’ name because of the inevitable, civilian casualties. The invasion of Iraq – aggressively promoted on the first anniversary of 9/11 – attracted hundreds of new family members to our organization. We sent a delegation to Iraq in January of 2003 to meet with civilians and hear their concerns. Our initial contacts failed within months of the invasion, but since 2007, working in partnership with European civil society organizations, Peaceful Tomorrows has been supporting human rights defenders in Iraq. They include trade union leaders, women’s rights advocates, journalists, and Iraqis from all walks of life who are protesting their own government.
Amidst news of the Arab Spring, what is rarely reported here is that since 2011, Iraqis have held massive, nonviolent, street protests in Baghdad and elsewhere, to denounce rampant corruption and sectarianism in their government, failure to provide basic services (electricity and water), and the lack of security. There is a tension between the protests and current efforts to oppose ISIS. The Iraqi government and even US Vice President Biden when he visited Prime Minister al-Abadi say the protests should stop until ISIS is defeated. But the protesters argue that it is exactly the divisive and corrupt sectarian government that the US installed in Iraq that led to the rise of ISIS, and dismantling the discriminatory, sectarian system is part of what is required to ensure that ISIS can be effectively addressed and that another terrorist organization does not arise in its place.
The protests have not stopped. The Iraqis understand, what we all should. There is not a choice: security OR human rights; long-lasting security lies WITH human rights – in Iraq – here – everywhere.
MATCHING GRANT OPPORTUNITY!
Peaceful Tomorrows has received a matching grant from the Institute for Socioeconomic Studies in honor of the 15th year commemoration. All donations received by October 31, 2016 will be matched (up to $20,000). Please encourage your family, friends, and networks to contribute so that we may make the most of this opportunity to advance our vital work.
Secure Donations through Network for Good
ANNOUNCING THE ACCLAIMED FILM: IN OUR SON’S NAME
Campaigns and Projects
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows Rule of Law campaign mobilizes and amplifies the voices of 9/11 family members who support closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, restoring the rule of law, and ending indefinite detention and other violations of human rights that have become an enduring legacy of the U.S. “War on Terror.” Our goal for this initiative has been to strengthen the reasonable voices of 9/11 family members who support the rule of law in all aspects of dealing with the perpetrators and accused perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. This includes the decision to conduct federal versus military trials, to close Guantanamo, to end indefinite detention, to end the military commissions, and related issues.
When the U.S. Kills an American Citizen
(This letter was published in the New York Times)
To the Editor:
Re “A U.S. Citizen, in America’s Cross Hairs” (front page, March 10), about the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen:
I am a United States citizen; I was born here and have lived here all of my 81 years. If I were a threat to this country’s safety, I would expect to be caught and brought to justice.
The idea that any president can kill an American citizen without a trial is abhorrent and frankly scares me more than any act of any “terrorist.”
Senator Rand Paul’s politics are not mine by any stretch of the imagination, but I applaud him for trying to make the American public aware of what those we elected are doing.
It is a disgrace.
New York, March 10, 2013
The writer, whose brother died in the World Trade Center, is a co-founder of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.
Starting in 2002, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows helped lead opposition to the war in Iraq. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, we looked for ways to remain supportive of the Iraqi people. As part of our solidarity efforts, we have helped to publicize the campaigns of the Iraqi nonviolence network, La’Onf, to let people know that Iraqi citizens have a vision for their country that includes peaceful relations among different religious and ethnic groups, equal rights for women, and human rights and freedom for all. We are also a member of the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, a collaboration between Iraqi and international NGOs to effect change that supports justice and democracy in Iraq.
In January 2002 four people who would soon become founding members of Peaceful Tomorrows traveled to Afghanistan to witness the consequences of U.S. military intervention, to express concern about the devastation of civilian casualties and to draw attention to the prospect that this war would increase terrorist recruitment. Peaceful Tomorrows members have continued to travel to Afghanistan, to speak out against war and violence in Afghanistan, and to build friendship and collaboration with civil society organizations in Afghanistan and elsewhere in support of peace for the women, men and children of Afghanistan. Peaceful Tomorrows works for an end to foreign military action and foreign military funding in Afghanistan, for a ceasefire and negotiated path forward, and for nonviolent and inclusive rebuilding and healing for Afghan society.
On Monday June 24, twenty-five members and religious leaders of the Metrowest interfaith community met with Wilnelia Rivera, the External Affairs Director for the Patrick administration to discuss the slight that the Islamic community felt from the governor’s office after the Boston Marathon Bombing. Other leaders present included Susan Thel of the Framingham Quakers, Michael Furstberg of the Workmen’s Circle, Dr. Asif Razvi of the ICB in Wayland, Mr. Anwar Kasmi, a board member of the I.S.B.C.C., and Shaheen Akhtar, leader of the Wayland interfaith book group. The issue was that the Muslim religious community felt slighted when a secular Muslim leader was selected to participate in the interfaith memorial service attended by President and Mrs. Obama, shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing. Their understanding was that an invitation had originally been extended to Imam Suhaib Webb, and was then rescinded the evening before. Read more
9/11 Stories: Our Voices, Our Choices