In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a common argument for the attack on Afghanistan was that the United States needed to take action against those who attacked “us.” While the argument was ostensibly about disrupting the al-Qaida terrorist network, it often seemed to be more about revenge–“we’ll bomb them back to the stone age“–than it was about military strategy or national security.
At the time, there was relatively little opposition to the war. A few anti-war groups formed and organized against the war, but for the most part, they had little success in stemming the call for vengeance under the guise of patriotism.
However, running counter to this script was opposition from an unlikely source, families of 9/11 victims who were opposed to bombing Afghanistan. Some formed a group, September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. 200 family members directly affected by loss on September 11, 2001 are still organizing with the group and its steering committee is composed of spouses, siblings, and parents of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Over the past seven years of war, we’ve frequently heard the argument that Afghanistan is the “right” war as opposed to the “wrong” war in Afghanistan, that the terrorists who attacked and are planning future attacks are in Afghanistan. Even from liberals, progressives, and Democrats it is a common refrain and many see the Afghanistan War as justified even as public opposition grows.
9/11 Families Challenge Arguments for Afghanistan War
However, September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows–albeit not representative of all 9/11 families–offers an interesting challenge to this argument. The group not only opposed the initial attack, but has consistently organized against the Afghanistan War since 2001. All along they have opposed the use of the tragedy–and their grief–to fuel more death and suffering.
Late last year, the group released a report titled “Afghanistan: Ending a Failed Military Strategy” that opposed escalating the war:
“Concerns about the increased violence and lack of stability in Afghanistan have led many – including President-elect Obama – to call for an increased presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. However, the idea that more US troops are the answer to Afghanistan’s woes is misguided. Rather than a military escalation, what is needed is a shift away from militarism, toward diplomacy, aid and reconstruction.”
The report outlines ten reasons to oppose the war–ranging from civilian casualties to broken promises on reconstruction–and elaborates on these arguments. Throughout, it makes several compelling arguments to oppose the war. It takes on common arguments such as claims that the invasion helped women’s rights and shows those arguments to be false.
If Not Escalation, What?
The group outlines eight recommendations for changing U.S. policy:
- Set a swift timetable for the withdrawal of US and NATO military forces, to be substituted by UN forces for short-term security.
- Immediately cease air strikes on targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Support negotiations between all parties involved in the conflict, including Afghan women leaders.
- Reform humanitarian aid and reconstruction funding efforts to prioritize Afghan organizations over foreign contractors. Ensure that funded projects address the needs and requests of Afghans and are not simply pet projects of foreign donors.
- Invest in long-term aid that increases self-reliance such as sustainable agriculture efforts.
- Immediately discontinue the use of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which are costly, inefficient, and have militarized the aid process.
- Standardize, increase, and publicly document compensation to Afghan families and communities affected by US military actions.
- Sign the treaty to ban cluster bombs, pay for cluster bomb and landmine clean up in Afghanistan, and pledge never to use these weapons again.
Fighting the Escalation of the War
In the wake of the Obama administration’s efforts to escalate the war, the group has organized to oppose that plan. It is participating in a month of opposition to the war called by United for Peace and Justice by organizing meetings with legislators. So far, the group has met with staffers for Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy and Representatives Michael Capuano, Barney Frank, Ed Markey, Niki Tsongas and James McGovern and presented them with copies of their report.