(This commentary piece also appears in THE VETERAN, 2001 (Volume 31, Number 1).)
Vietnam Veterans Against the War Statement on September 11 Attacks
The terrorist attacks on September 11 horrified and outraged people throughout this country and the world. Within hours, the World Trade Centers' twin towers and part of the Pentagon lay in flaming ruins with many thousand injured, missing or killed. Firefighters, EMS workers, police and ordinary citizens mounted a heroic rescue effort but sadly, the death toll is now approaching 7000**.
After the initial shock and disbelief wore off, angry voices began calling for retaliation and revenge. The President declared war against international terrorism and Congress quickly voted to give the White House unrestricted authority to respond. But who was responsible? Who are we going to war with?
Government spokesmen quickly pointed the finger at the Al Qaeda network and its leader, Osama bin Laden, living in Afghanistan. The President demanded that the Afghani government surrender bin Laden and his lieutenants or face attack while the Pentagon began deploying troops, aircraft and ships to the region.
Events are moving quickly and directly toward major US military action against Afghanistan. It is time we take a look at the road the government is taking us down. Will war bring those responsible for these criminal attacks to justice? Can massive military action protect us from further attacks?
We agree with Congresswoman Barbara Lee that "military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States". The use of massive military power will only escalate the cycle of violence, spreading more death and destruction to more innocent people with no end in sight.
Afghanistan has already been destroyed by 20 years of foreign occupation, civil war and religious repression. Both the British and Soviet armies were unable to conquer that country. We see many parallels between Vietnam and Afghanistan but the lessons we should have learned from the war in Vietnam are being ignored today.
We are an organization of veterans of the armed forces of this country. We have been to war and have seen what military power can and cannot accomplish. We know what war does to those who fight it and those who live where it is fought. We hear our government loudly pledge support for our servicemen and women as they are sent into battle but have seen it turn its back on many when they returned, suffering physical and mental wounds, from the Vietnam and Gulf wars.
We speak out of duty to our country and the world, solidarity with those serving in the military and love of our families and friends when we take this stand:
We condemn the criminal attacks of September 11 and demand that those responsible be held accountable and brought to justice.
We mourn for the victims and offer our heartfelt sorrow and sympathy to the families and friends of those we lost.
We condemn bigotry and violence against Arabs, Muslims and immigrants which threaten these communities because of their race, nationality and religion.
We oppose efforts to curtail our basic civil liberties and democratic rights and must defend the Constitution from those who are undermining it.
We do not believe that militarism and war will provide justice or security and oppose major US military intervention in Afghanistan or other countries.
On a more fundamental level, our country has to address the reasons behind the violence that has now come to our shores. The seeds of this anger and hatred were sown over many years.
For over a century, Western corporations have dominated the Middle East to profit from its oil. For the last 50 years, the United States has supported Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands and has helped prop up corrupt regimes in some Arab countries. The continued American troop presence in Saudi Arabia and the suffering of the Iraqi people under economic sanctions has added to this resentment.
As long as US foreign policy continues to be based on corporate exploitation and military domination, we will continue to make more enemies in the poor, underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. We can achieve enduring security and lasting peace only through domestic and foreign policies based on social and economic justice. That will come about only when the American people demand it.
September 27, 2001
** under 3000.
"Estimated number of Afghan civilians killed by U.S. bombing last year: 3950" - Harper's Magazine - March 2002, Harper's Index page 13
Commentary on VVAW.org: