With heavy hearts we see 20 years of lost lives and diverted funds based on the fiction that military force could solve the attack on the World Trade Center. Military force failed the USA in Vietnam. It has now failed the United States in Afghanistan. As much as ever, we need the promise of the United Nations.
Beyond retaliation, we based our military response on the mistaken belief that the sentinels of democracy – fair voting, equal education opportunities for females, open and secure exchange of ideas – could be imposed on another system. Our laudable aspiration for global democracy may be better achieved through strategic trade, educational exchanges, and diplomacy. We deserved to defend ourselves when we were attacked on 9/1l, but how? And against what?
Our collective response was misdirected in retaliating against Afghanistan, the alleged headquarters of Al Qaida, when the nationalities of the terrorists were 15 Saudi Arabians, two from UAE, one Egyptian, and one Lebanese. The popular response was also explosively retaliatory against anyone darker skinned or dressed in non-western attire.
Here in Providence, on Sept. 12, 2001, a U.S. citizen Sikh was pulled from an Amtrak train because of his skin color and attire, mistakenly targeted as a “terrorist,” threatened and detained. A south Asian professor at Providence College stopped wearing saris because she was verbally attacked on campus. Our ignorance of cultural norms for others and our bias against darker skin created a spike in hate crimes following the attack. Research shows a dramatic increase in incidents of hate speech toward South Asians and Muslims in the immediate four months following 9/11.
In the 20 years since the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we have mourned not only the catastrophic loss of 2,996 husbands, wives, daughters, sons, fathers, mothers, cousins and other loved ones in the initial air attack, but in the war since then we mourn more than 770,000 lives cut short – troops, contractors, national police, journalists and humanitarian workers, who were also loved ones.
Funding 20 years of military intervention around the world has cost us $5 trillion, reports the Cost of War Project at Brown University. Another trillion dollars will be needed to care for the veterans of these wars and the mental health needs of those afflicted with post-traumatic syndromes.
We appreciate our Congressional delegation’s support for diplomacy. We appreciate the support of Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Representatives Cicilline and Langevin for repeal of an outdated Authorization for the Use of Military Force created against Iraq, which will be a tool for diplomatic negotiations.
World trade, international travel, the appeal of high economic activity, and study abroad bring diverse benefits to Rhode Island. We are a microcosm of human beings trying to live meaningful lives and wanting the benefits of a peaceful world. At this 20th year of loss, may we turn from military force to the efficacy of aid-assisted diplomacy and the moral guideposts of our religious tenets as a way to progress through peace.
For the Providence Advocacy Team supported by the Friends Committee on National Legislation which works on peaceful solutions to international conflicts