Peaceful Tomorrows 9/11/04 Statement
September 11th, 2004
Nearly three years ago, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows was born out of a shared belief that America’s military response to the 9/11 attacks which took our loved ones’ lives would result in the deaths of countless innocent civilians and increase recruitment for terrorist causes, making the United States, and the world, less safe and less free for generations to come.
Today, as we commemorate September 11, 2004, we find that our worst fears have been realized. The terrorism of September 11th has been neither neutralized, nor ended, by the terrorism of war.
Since our bombing and military action in Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of more than 130 American troops and an estimated 4,000 civilians – and compounded by our failure to rebuild that broken nation–we have seen the return of Taliban warlords, the departure of relief agencies, and the continuing deaths of American service people and innocent civilians. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has acknowledged that he is seeking the support of former Taliban officials in an effort to stabilize the political process. Osama bin Laden remains at large, and al-Qaeda remains a potent terrorist force, as evidenced by the March 11 train bombings in Madrid, Spain.
Our illegal, immoral and unjustified invasion of Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the September 11th attacks, has cost the lives of 1,000 American troops and an estimated 12,000 Iraqi civilians, while leaving tens of thousands of others physically and emotionally traumatized. Today, our continuing occupation, our failure to provide basic services like electricity and water, and our torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib has turned Iraq into a focus of anti-American sentiment where a new generation of terrorists is being recruited from around the world.
In Guantanamo, approximately 600 detainees from 40 countries remain incarcerated without charge and without access to lawyers. Those who have been returned to their home countries attest to conditions that violate the Geneva Conventions and our own democratic principles. In America, the USA Patriot Act gives government free reign to surveil law-abiding citizens. Restrictions on peaceful protest mock our Constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly. Meanwhile, bias crimes and discrimination continue to cast a shadow over our nation.
That all of this has been done in the names of our loved ones who died on September 11th makes the suffering of their innocent counterparts around the world even harder to take. When actions that are making the world less secure are carried out in the name of US security, we must reconsider the true sources of the security, freedom, and respect we once commanded around the globe.
Is the source of our security and freedom the exercise of overwhelming military power? Have we found security and freedom by dividing the world into “us and them,” and labeling entire nations “evil”? Three years ago, the French declared, “We are all Americans,” and Iranians held spontaneous candlelight vigils for our dead. Today, American prestige is at an all-time low. Friend and foe alike tremble at the sense of exceptionalism that drives America to conduct pre-emptive war.
And what example have we set by our use of violence as a tool for addressing complex grievances? In the past week, heartbreaking pictures of children abducted and killed in Russia remind us that terrorism against civilian populations, which did not begin on September 11th, has not abated as a result of our actions since then. In Iraq, abductions of more than 40 civilians from nations including Japan, Jordan, Italy, China, Ukraine, South Korea, Egypt, Nepal, India, Kenya, the Philippines, Bulgaria and our own have escalated the level of human suffering.
On September 11th, 2002, we urged America to participate fully in the global community, by honoring international treaties, endorsing and participating in the International Criminal Court, following the United Nations charter, and agreeing in word and action to the precepts of international law. Today, we redouble our call for America to return to full membership in the community of nations.
We call for an end to war as our nation’s one blunt instrument of foreign policy in our increasingly complex world. We recognize that our freedoms and security derive not from politicians or the Pentagon, but from our Constitution, and call on all Americans to rise in its defense against the triple threats of fear, lies and ignorance.
Finally, we draw hope from those around the globe whose historical experiences of terrorism and war have brought them not to a place of vengeance, but to a commitment to creating a peaceful world. They include victims of the violence in Israel and Palestine; families of victims of the Bali nightclub bombing; family members of those killed in Oklahoma City; atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki; those who survived the bombing of Guernica, Spain and Dresden, Germany; those affected by terrorism in Kenya; Cambodia; Chechnya; South Africa; Northern Ireland; Bosnia; Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Through their witness and their efforts towards reconciliation, they have demonstrated that peace begins in the heart of every individual, and that people united have an unparalleled power to change the world.
Every day, we choose to create the world we want to live in, through our words and through our actions. Today, we reach out to others around the world who recognize that war is not the answer. Today, three years after September 11th, we continue to choose peace.
–September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows