On 9/11, longtime War Resisters League staff person David McReynolds, who had been active with the Committee for Nonviolent Action, wrote this from the WRL National Office AKA the “Peace Pentagon” which was only a mile and half north of the World Trade Towers. While we emphatically denounce all attacks on civilians and other forms of terrorism, these excerpts are also a painful and perceptive reminder of the United States’ central role in the proliferation of violence around the world and that war is never the answer.
As we write, Manhattan feels under siege, with all bridges, tunnels, and subways closed, and tens of thousands of people walking slowly north from Lower Manhattan. As we sit in our offices here at War Resisters League, our most immediate thoughts are of the hundreds if not thousands of New Yorkers who have lost their lives in the collapse of the World Trade Center. The day is clear, the sky is blue, but vast clouds billow over the ruins where so many have died, including a great many rescue workers.
In this piece that later became a Statement from the War Resisters League, they also recognized the deaths of innocent passengers in the other planes and that “We do not know at this time from what source the attack came.” But as an organization that believes that war is a crime against humanity, there was not a confusion about what was happening that included a prescient reminder about the prior U.S role in Afghanistan.
The policies of militarism pursued by the United States have resulted in millions of deaths, from the historic tragedy of the Indochina war, through funding of death squads in Central America and Colombia, to the sanctions and air strikes against Iraq. This nation is the largest supplier of “conventional weapons” in the world - and those weapons fuel the starkest kind of terrorism from Indonesia to Africa. The early policy support for armed resistance in Afghanistan resulted in the victory of the Taliban - and the creation of Osama Bin Laden.
And what do we do? The answer is the same now that it was 20 years ago:
Let us seek an end of the militarism that has characterized this nation for decades.
Let us seek a world in which security is gained through disarmament, international cooperation, and social justice not through escalation and retaliation.
We condemn without reservations attacks such as those which occurred today, which strike at thousands of civilians - may these profound tragedies remind us of the impact U.S. policies have had on other civilians in other lands.
We also condemn reflexive hostility against people of Arab descent in this country and urge that Americans recall the part of our heritage that exposes bigotry in all forms.
We are one world. We shall live in a state of fear and terror or we shall move toward a future in which we seek peaceful alternatives to violence, and a more just distribution of the world’s resources.
Photo credit: Michelle Williams, “Union Square Memorial 7,” https://mlwms.com/9-11/
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