While many of our fellow Americans are celebrating the fact that U.S. forces have killed Osama bin Laden, we at Peaceworks, while eager to see all who’ve committed heinous crimes brought to justice, will only celebrate steps taken to end the violence that 9/11 has been used to justify.
The crimes of September 11, 2001 were horrific and certainly it was appropriate for our government to seek to apprehend the perpetrators. This said, 9/11 in no way justifies the invasions, occupations or counterinsurgency wars fought in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Both of these wars have been costly and tragic in every dimension imaginable. And neither effort has reduced terrorism. Rather, we have created more victims, made more enemies and spurred cycles of violence. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, millions of people have been displaced from their homes, and trillions of dollars that could have gone to useful purposes have been squandered. The money has been borrowed, rather than taxed, so future generations have been saddled with the burden of paying for these wars, as well as with the responsibility for caring for the injured, disabled and traumatized.
When the United States attacked Afghanistan, our government said we were there to get bin Laden. Now, Osama bin Laden is no more and we have the opportunity to begin the orderly, but accelerated withdrawal of U.S. forces from that country, as well as Iraq. This should be done in conjunction with all-party talks that bring together all Afghan factions and all neighboring states to discuss an inclusive settlement.
As our government’s actions have led to the destruction of much of Afghanistan’s infrastructure, it would be most appropriate for the United States to provide significant reconstruction aid. This will be both far more helpful, and also far less costly than the war, which is now costing U.S. taxpayers $2 billion each week.
There really is no reasonable justification for a continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. This seems like an excellent time to take the advice Senator George Aiken, a Republican from Vermont offered regarding the Vietnam War, “Declare victory and get out.”
We should also note that Peaceworks supports all reasonable efforts to bring those accused of acts of terror to justice. To us this can only be done through the courts and legal system, not by killing an accused criminal. We are disappointed that a concerted effort was not made to arrest Osama bin Laden. This said, it is time to move on.
After nearly ten years, we have a unprecedented opportunity to make a new start. We urge all of our fellow citizens to take action now to encourage both the Obama administration and our elected senators and representatives to embark upon a new path, one that prioritizes cooperation, mutual, verifiable disarmament and sustainable development all around the world. A nation as powerful and influential as ours is uniquely positioned to initiate such an effort. It will take millions of us all across the nation making our voices heard to accomplish this, But what effort is more important or timely? If not now, when? If not us, who?