September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows was launched on February 14, 2002, with the hope that all of our nation’s powers — our political power, legal power, economic power and spiritual power — rather than simply our military power, would be brought to bear in ending terrorism. In the outpouring of support our nation received after the killings of nearly 3,000 people, we recognized a strength that went beyond military strength. In that international support, we recognized the common cause shared by almost everyone on the planet: the desire for peace, freedom and self-determination for themselves and for future generations.
In July of 2005, faced with the reality that American military superiority had brought peace to neither Afghanistan, nor Iraq- a nation which had nothing to do with 9/11- members of the Bush administration admitted that future efforts required "all instruments of our national power, all instruments of the international communities’ national power," adding that the solution is "more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military." The "war on terror," they said, is better called, "the global struggle against violent extremism."
We applauded the acknowledgement of reality represented by this change in language and strategy. And even though the President quickly backtracked from it, we believe that what was evident to us in 2002 is even more apparent in 2005. Starting two wars has nothing to do with ending terrorism. Neither does creating scores of civilian casualties, engaging in torture, ignoring the wishes of the majority of the world, marginalizing voices of moderation, crippling the US economy, continuing our dependence on foreign oil, or leaving our troops in harms’ way without an exit strategy.
As we said then, and continue to say today, it is time to acknowledge that an international problem requires a solution born out of international participation. It is time to demand more voices, more ideas, and more participation from everyone. It is time to reconsider whether the choices our nation has made since September 11th, 2001 have made us safer, have made us stronger, or have nurtured freedom at home or around the world.
A majority of Americans today believe it was wrong to go to war in Iraq, and that we should leave that country. A majority of Americans believe we are less secure as a result of that war. We are a part of that majority, and we welcome all of the new voices being raised in discussion about the policies of our nation. Active duty members of the military, veterans, and families of all backgrounds are speaking out, and their dialogue deserves a hearing.
But as ordinary Americans continue the historic democratic tradition of speaking truth to power, and demanding a responsive and representative government, what should be a rich discussion among all Americans has provoked some decidedly undemocratic responses. Free speech is being equated with treason. Criticism of the war in Iraq is being equated with surrender. Whistleblowers are being punished. The extremism we rightly criticize around the world cannot be tolerated here.
Four years after September 11th, it is still time to continue the process of healing, and to make America, and the rest of the world, a safer place. But safety cannot come at the cost of our own freedom and our democratic way of life. As we felt four years ago, and continue to feel today, we must not become the evil we deplore. Today, more Americans than ever before are speaking out against the direction our nation has taken since September 11th. We invite everyone to join this discussion, and ask that it be conducted with civility and respect. By honoring our Constitutional freedoms, our democratic traditions, and each other, we honor all of those who were killed on September 11th, 2001. Let their legacy be a better America and a safer world for everyone.
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows