Monday, November 12, 2012

Thoughts on War and Peace (September 11, 2007)

This is a reprint of last year's September 11 blog. I think it's still absolutely valid, perhaps even more so, with the threat of war with Iran looming on the horizon. Somehow as nations make war against what they decry as evil, evil seems to thrive (on both sides of the conflict) while so many innocents are killed or horrendously maimed for life. Young men who are just beginning to find their place in the world are taken from their families - and far too many never return. September 11, 2006: In my request to September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows for permission to use the following statement, I wrote: "I am troubled by our president's empire-building... but I'm even more troubled by the people whose comments I read advocating bombing Middle Eastern countries back into the Stone Age. The brother-in-law of my matron of honor (at my wedding in 2000) was one who lost his life at the Pentagon in 2001. I continue to grieve for all of those who died and were injured, physically, mentally, and spiritually, as well as for those who lost loved ones. But I don't believe that more violence against innocents will solve the problem." I've just received permission: "Absolutely, spread it far and wide." So here it is, the point of view expressed by many families who are at the heart of the matter. My sincerest wish is for peace in our time. September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows 9/11/06 Statement On September 11th, 2001, members of our families became civilian casualties of terrorism. And while we grieved their loss, we were seized by the urgent desire to spare other families, in any part of the world, the suffering that we were experiencing. In expressing these desires, we heard from others who saw us as kindred spirits. They were from places like Israel and Palestine, Japan, Northern Ireland and South Africa. Each had suffered a similar loss - ”from the terrorism of war and atomic weapons, to the terrorism of state-sponsored violence. Hearing from them, we learned that we were not alone. We also learned that the deaths of our family members, although unique in circumstance, were far from unique in human history. The means were different, but the results were still the same: innocent people dying, families torn apart, traditions and histories cut short. We came to see our losses as happening in a bigger context, one that cut across national boundaries and the confines of time. From those who reached out to us after 9/11, we developed a sense of responsibility to all those who suffered as the result of 9/11: immigrants and other people perceived to be terrorists, targeted by hate crimes and hateful legislation; those who suffered in terrorist attacks from Bali to Beslan; those killed in the train bombings in Madrid and London; and those in Afghanistan and Iraq who continue to suffer under occupation and the terror of war. Today, five years after September 11th, 2001, we see clearly that civilian casualties overwhelmingly have been the common denominator in all that has taken place. We see that the path we have taken has created a world that is less safe, less humane, and less likely to survive. Where we saw children in mortal danger from unexploded cluster bombs in Afghanistan, we now see children in mortal danger from cluster bombs in Lebanon. Where we saw the brutality and inhumanity of Saddam Hussein, we now see the same brutality and inhumanity occurring under U.S. occupation, in Fallujah, in Haditha, in Abu Ghraib. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.... The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation." We have seen those words become a sad reality. In the days immediately following September 11th, 2001, the world came together with a sense of mutual humanity and mutual purpose. Five years later, we are in a death spiral of increasing violence, increasing terrorism, and increasing civilian casualties. In the days immediately following September 11th, Iranians risked negative consequences by holding spontaneous candlelight vigils for those who had died in America. Five years later, Iran is in the crosshairs of America's next war. In the days immediately following September 11th, the United States could have asked the world to do anything for us. The U.S. government has instead generated anger, fear, death, and profound grief. On the fifth anniversary of September 11th, 2001, we believe it is time for America to end the cycle of violence. It is time for the United States to become a positive force in world affairs. The hope we felt from those who reached out to us - ”those who had, like us, been touched by terrorism, violence and war, continues to resonate. These people, who have been so deeply affected by loss, have a wisdom from which we continue to benefit. It is their wisdom, their strength, and their stories that have kept us going. And it is their wisdom, their strength, and their stories that we hope to share with people across the United States. This year, we have brought to the U.S. 30 people from around the world who have been personally affected by terrorism, violence and war and have chosen to break the cycle of violence. All of us have chosen acts of peace rather than acts of violent revenge. Together, we will create an international network that will share ideas, initiatives and actions. This network will become one of many new efforts to do what the United States could have, and should have, done five years ago: join in common purpose with the rest of the world to end the scourge of civilian casualties - ”the lost children, broken families and futures that have always been the unacknowledged byproducts of violence and war. As we did five years ago, and as we do today, we stand in solidarity with those ordinary people whose lives have been permanently transformed by violence. We pledge to continue that journey of transformation from pain to promise, from fear to fellowship. Martin Luther King, Jr. identified the choice as being chaos or community. Five years after September 11th, we have seen enough of chaos. It is time for each of us to create community with our counterparts from around the globe, and to create a safer and more peaceful world for everyone. September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows used by permission

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