9-11

August, 2002 

Nearly one year has passed since that sunny day in September when a small group of men hijacked four commercial aircraft and turned them into terribly effective bombs directed against the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The attacks killed thousands of people and sent millions more in this country and around the world into a state of collective shock.

Now, one year later, this country prepares to commemorate the attacks on their first anniversary. It is appropriate that we take the time to remember the thousands of innocent victims of the attacks, and to provide support for their surviving family members.

Those in control of our government and major media will likely also use the occasion to trumpet the accomplishments of our nation's response to the September 11 attacks…the so-called "war on terrorism." Here we will part company with the official commemoration of September 11, as we do not believe that the war on terrorism has created a more secure environment in the U.S. or in the rest of the world.

Marooned in an airport on September 12, 2001, peacemaker and writer John Paul Lederach penned the following words of wisdom:

…If indeed this is a new war it will not be won with a traditional military plan. The key does not lie in finding and destroying territories, camps, and certainly not the civilian populations that supposedly house them. Paradoxically that will only feed the phenomenon and assure that it lives into a new generation. The key is to think about how a small virus in a system affects the whole and how to improve the immunity of the system. We should take extreme care not to provide the movements we deplore with gratuitous fuel for self-regeneration. Let us not fulfill their prophecy by providing them with martyrs and justifications. The power of their action is the simplicity with which they pursue the fight with global power. They have understood the power of the powerless. They have understood that melding and meshing with the enemy creates a base from within. They have not faced down the enemy with a bigger stick. They did the more powerful thing: They changed the game. They entered our lives, our homes and turned our own tools into our demise.

We will not win this struggle for justice, peace and human dignity with the traditional weapons of war. We need to change the game again…

Sadly, if Lederach writes a sequel to these words one year later, he will likely find that our government has done precisely what he feared…it has found and destroyed territories and camps and wreaked havoc among the civilian population of Afghanistan. It has divided the world into friends and enemies under the slogan, "You're either with us or with the terrorists" and has shown itself ready to sacrifice our cherished civil liberties in the tragically ironic quest to eliminate "enemies of democracy and our way of life."

We renew Lederach's call to "change the game" and invite you to create dialogue and discussion in your community about how such a change can bring real security to our lives. We hope that as you reflect on September 11, one year later, you will take seriously our contention that creating real security for ourselves and our families involves respecting and enhancing human rights-including social, economic and cultural rights-rather than trampling them.

Over the past year, many of our fellow citizens have taken up the challenge to redirect our country's response to September 11 through activism in their communities and at the national level. We applaud those efforts to swim against a powerful tide of conformism, and seek to support them through our "Rethinking Global Security" campaign. This educational initiative seeks to bring the perspective of our international development and human rights work to the challenges of building sustainable peace.

We also have two security-related workshops: Extending Rights, Building Security Workshop and Global Security: Options Beyond War Workshop Curriculum.

On behalf of the people with whom we work in Brazil, East Timor, Eritrea, Haiti, Mexico and Palestine, we invite your comments on "Rethinking Global Security" and we thank you for your own work to create security through justice and enhanced human rights.