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Catholic Worker reflects on September 11 2001

Catholic Worker Press Release September 10, 2002, RE: September 11, 2001

I Have Heard Angry Rhetoric By Some Americans, Including Many Of Our Nation's Leaders, Who Advise A Heavy Dose Of Revenge And Punishment. To Those Leaders, I Would Like To Make It Clear That My Family And I Take No Comfort In Your Words Of Rage. If You Choose To Respond To This Incomprehensible Brutality By Perpetuating Violence Against Other Innocent Human Beings, You May Not Do So In The Name Of Justice For My Husband.

(Amber Amundson, Whose Husband, Craig Scott Amundson Was Killed In The Pentagon On 11 September, 2001.)

September 11 should be a time to mourn and remember those killed in the devastating terrorist attacks. But given that the military response to the terrorist attacks have in turn killed thousands more innocents and violate international law, it should also be a time for New Zealanders to demand that their troops be bought home and that the war against the Afghan people cease.

Despite alternatives to military action being available under international law, the US, riding the wave of worldwide sympathy for its victims of the attacks, justified its subsequent military action in Afghanistan as self-defence. New Zealand, in the hopes of finalizing a free trade agreement with the US, contributed its SAS troops.

According to the rules of International Law, any action of self-defence includes the requirement of being immediately subsequent to the attack in order to repel an attack. The problem with a terrorist attack is that after an attack, the immediate danger is over, thus any response becomes retaliatory, a reprisal, which is not permitted by International Law.

Another requirement of self-defence is that of proportionality. In Afghanistan, over 3000 civilians have been killed, villages, Red Cross buildings and wedding parties bombed. Thousands of bombs have been dropped all over the countryside of Afghanistan, escalating its humanitarian crisis. Troops remain in Afghanistan eleven months after they first entered. Such action cannot be described, by any stretch of the imagination, as proportional.

New Zealand, by initially sending and now refusing to recall its troops, is in violation of International Law and complicit in the continuing suffering of the children, women and men of Afghanistan.

If we are to do any justice to the memories of those who have died, we must take heed of the words of Amber Amundson and refuse to be complicit in any further killing. Otherwise we too, like the German citizens who did not challenge Nazism, will find ourselves answerable to future generations and be subject to the condemnation of international tribunals.

On September 11 2001, the Catholic Worker, a movement founded in New York City in 1933, will mourn the dead of September 11. We will also mourn those who have died as a result of the subsequent ‘war against terror’, a war that has already killed thousands more innocents.

Moana Cole.

Moana Cole is currently completing a Masters of Law research paper on the legality of the war against Afghanistan at Canterbury University.

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