Sept. 11 Families Who Just Returned From Kabul Call on US Officials to Establish an Afghan Victims Fund

The US military’s catastrophic attack on an Afghan wedding party—which killed scores of innocent civilians, including women and children—is another gruesome example of why the US government should provide humanitarian assistance to people mistakenly hurt by US bombs, say Sept. 11 family members who just returned from Afghanistan. On Monday US warplanes mistakenly targeted a wedding party in the Kandahar region. Casualty estimates range from 40 people killed and 70 wounded to more than 120 people dead.

“After meeting so many wonderful Afghans in Kabul, yesterday’s bombing is shocking news,” says Myrna Bethke, a Methodist minister from Freehold, NJ who just returned from a two-week trip to Kabul. Bethke lost her younger brother, Bill, in the World Trade Center attack. “The survivors of the wedding party attack need help. The US government must do something to assist them and all the other innocent civilians killed during the military campaign. The killing of civilians must end”

“During our trip to Afghanistan, we heard heartbreaking stories of errant US bombs wrecking havoc on families,” says Kristina Olsen, a nurse and singer-songwriter from Newburyport, MA who also traveled to Kabul. Olsen’s older sister, Laurie Ann Olsen Neira, died on American Airlines Flight 11. “I don’t want suffering and violence to be perpetuated in the name of justice for my family. As more and more people are coming to realize, the foundations of a safer world will be built on compassion.”

Bethke and Olsen are both members of Sept. 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group of victims’ families dedicated to healing the wounds of violence. The organization is working with the international human rights group Global Exchange to establish a US government fund to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghan civilians hurt by the US military. Calls for creating an Afghan Victims Fund are gaining momentum. A recent poll by Zogby International shows that 69 percent of Americans think the US should, as a gesture of goodwill, offer humanitarian assistance to Afghan war victims. And in May 38 members of Congress signed a letter sponsored by Representatives Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) asking Congressional leaders to set aside $20 million in the upcoming budget for an Afghan Victims Fund.

To arrange an interview with Olsen, Bethke, or Global Exchange staffers have worked in Afghanistan, contact Jason Mark at 415-558-9490 or jason@globalexchange.org.

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