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War Is the Problem, Not the Solution

For Immediate Release:

War Is the Problem, Not the Solution: WRL Statement on Attacks on Afghanistan

On Sunday, October 7, without a declaration of war from Congress, George W. Bush took the United States to war, sending out bombs and missiles against Afghanistan, a country that had not attacked us. Those acts demand sober reflection and a careful examination of the facts and of the courses open to a more responsible administration than the one nominally headed by Bush.

There remain serious unanswered questions about the criminal attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that took thousands of lives. We do not want to engage in legalisms, but it is outrageous that the U.S. public finds itself at war without knowing the facts.

! How was it possible for the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA to have no advance knowledge of such well-coordinated attacks on U.S. targets? And why, even after the first jet rammed into the World Trade Center, did Bush continue to chat with school children in Florida while the Pentagon sat and waited until another jet struck it?

! If Osama Bin Laden is guilty of plotting the attacks (and certainly others are guilty in addition to the actual perpetrators, now dead), we demand that the evidence be presented to the U.S. public and the Congress of the United States, rather than to a British Prime Minister.

But, even if Osama Bin Laden is guilty, why resort to war in a situation where the attacks can do little except kill more noncombatants and deepen the Afghani refugee crisis? This military action is far too blunt to be effective.

We also call attention to the causes of the present tragedy, which go back to the Gulf War, to the U.S. support of the Taliban while it was fighting Soviet forces, and to other decisions made by current and past administrations. Bombing now only postpones a much-needed examination of U.S. foreign policy, which has been designed to serve the corporate interests of this country, not our own people or those of other nations. (In that light, we protest the cynicism of the meager release of food packages over Afghanistan. Five million Afghanis were fed by U.N. relief forces in the month before September 11; can 37,000 packages of Army rations dropped along with the bombs make a dent in the hunger of a people who were starving before the bombs began to fall?)

Finally, we point out that there were and still are other channels open for those who believe bin Laden is guilty. There are a range of international agreements and treaties that the U.S. government has signed that bind it to bring the charges before international tribunals rather than resorting to war (and others that so bind other nations but not this one, which has refused to sign them). The United States has once more rushed to war rather than seeking a peaceful resolution.

This war is being carried on without our consent. We encourage members of the armed forces to consider carefully their own role in a war which, despite its wide popular support at the moment, is a violation of our own constitution and of the charter of the United Nations. For our part, the War Resisters League will continue to protest and to educate, to rally this country to a thoughtful examination of the roots of this crisis and the alternatives to the bombing of a distant nation already in ruins from more than ten years of relentless military conflict. Our pain is not an excuse for war. The crime of the World Trade Center bombing is not a justification for the crime of taking civilians lives in a distant land. It is war which created Osama Bin Laden, and it is war which will win more recruits to the fanatic and reactionary positions held by his followers. War is not the solution; it is the problem.

We call upon the Congress of the United States to retake its rights and responsibilities, to place sharp and immediate limits on the powers of the Executive to conduct the present war, and to take the following steps toward a long-term solution of the crisis that faces us. There is no simple or quick answer to end terrorism, but over time the following strategies will be effective:

—Stop the bombing.

—Eliminate the roots of terrorism. The United States must change its foreign policy from that of supplying military equipment and supporting authoritarian regimes to one of investing (without strings) in the basic needs for food, shelter, health and education of the people of the world.

—Consistently condemn all terrorism, whether perpetrated by an individual or a state, by U.S. "enemies" or allies.

—Isolate the criminals. Terrorism depends on a supporting population and feeds on secrecy, whether theirs or ours. Rather than sending in the military, we need to undercut terrorism by exposing the lies terrorists spread and put them on open and fair trials. We must oppose calls for revenge, even against those who attacked the World Trade Center. Gaining the trust of the supporting populations in other countries will take time.

—End the arms trade. The United States is the world’s Number One arms merchant. Countries that should be investing in development for their people spend precious resources on weapons and end up in a cycle of debt to this country and other arms merchants. U.S. soldiers often find themselves fighting people armed with weapons stamped “Made in the USA.”

—Promote alternative energy and conservation. Reduce U.S. dependence upon foreign oil. Control of resources is at the center of the misguided U.S. policies in the Middle East.

—Stop the Star Wars missile defense program. Reduce the military. Stop spying. Being the world’s only superpower did not prevent the horrific attacks of September 11. If the U.S. government truly wants to promote peace, it must invest in peace, not war.

Contact: Chris Ney, 212-228-0450 October 12, 2001

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