The images of September 11, 2001 are etched in the minds of almost everyone over the age of twenty. However, we need to be more concerned with what we have done with 9-11 than with 9-11 itself. Yes, we mourn the loss of so many innocent victims, we laud the heroes of the firefighters and so many others, and we will always be outraged at the inhumanity of the attackers. But I don’t think that the 2,977 victims on 9/11 died to usher in a period of perpetual war.
We must remember that the tragedy of 9/11 was used as an opportunity for war. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) was approved just three days after 9/11, with only one dissenting vote in Congress. (The lone dissenter, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, deserves an honored spot in history, along with Vietnam dissenters, Senators Morse & Gruening). We launched war on Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, even though 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Also, how to initiate war on Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, was on the lips of our leaders the day after 9/11. We need to add to our minds’ images the 6,888 US armed services personnel who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 52,000+ who bear visible wounds, and the 500,000+ who bear the invisible wounds of PTSD AND TBI. And, yes, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan dead. We must remember it all if we are to heal.
We must do more than remember. We must honor the victims of 9-11 by proclaiming loudly that the 15-year, $100 million per day war in Afghanistan, the longest in our history, has gone on long enough. Outside of Kabul, the Taliban have more complete control over the country than at any time. The US has spent more in inflation-adjusted dollars to create an alternative to the drug economy in Afghanistan that it spent on the Marshall Plan after WWII. Despite that massive expenditure, poppy production in Afghanistan is booming, providing the resource for 90% of the world’s heroin.
We must honor the victims of 9/11 by ending our military involvement in Iraq, which has spilled over into Syria. The visions of starving civilians trying to escape war, the visions of millions of refugees desperately seeking safety and a new life, and the visions of arms dealers with blood-soaked hands should compel us to demand that the US invest its considerable non-military power in an immense, renewed effort to bring about a cease-fire.
Honor the victims of 9-11 by saying NO to a bloated, unaudited U.S. military budget that is nearly equal to that of all other countries combined. By saying NO to drone assassinations. By saying NO to US Special Forces deployed in 134 countries. By demanding that Congress rescind the 2001 AUMF which has used the infamy of 9/11 to justify our perpetual wars.
In the words of President Eisenhower, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Or earlier words, “wheresoever your treasure is, there your heart is also.”
Wars are much easier to start than to end. Let us take up the heavy, sweet burden of waging peace.