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What is an appropropriate response?
Political and philosophical considerations after the attack on the Word Trade Center

Chorus of Sanity: a collection of personal statements

Greg Nees, Hazel Henderson, John Atlee (by way of Tom Atlee)...

[To] President George W. Bush
The White House Washington, DC
September 13, 2001

Dear Mr. President,

I am a former Marine Corps sergeant who served his country well and was 
honorably discharged in 1970. I have never written such a letter before and I 
pray that it will somehow get through the bureaucratic filters to reach you. 
Like so many Americans, I was appalled and shocked by the death and destruction
we witnessed two days ago. I am now coming out of my shock and am very concerned
about the grievous state in which our country and the world find themselves. We 
have suffered a horrible attack and far too many of us have suffered and died. 
I am greatly saddened and sickened by the carnage and suffering of the victims 
and their families. I know you too are suffering and I can feel your anger and 
frustration as well as your desire for active retaliation and I understand it 
well. It is a natural and justifiable reaction to such a heinous criminal act.

And yet I would counsel you to proceed carefully. I fear we are in a perilous 
situation and a mistake on our part could easily widen the already huge spiral 
of violence in which the world finds itself. Mr. President, you now have the 
great opportunity to prove to the world that the United States is more than 
just a great economic and military power to be feared. It is up to you to show 
all of the world that the United States is also a law abiding and civilized 
country which can be trusted to follow the laws of the world as well as let 
itself be guided by the wisdom of human understanding and compassion.

I urge you to use all legal means at your disposal to determine who perpetrated
this horrible crime and to bring them to trial before the appropriate court. Let
them indeed find the justice the world awaits and needs. But I beg you, let not 
one more innocent life - be it American, Israeli, Palestinian or any other - be
lost because of this horrible crime. Too often our bombs and weapons have taken 
the lives of innocent victims. I believe the military euphemism is "collateral 
damage" but in reality it is manslaughter if not outright murder. What right 
can we claim that allows us to take more innocent lives? Is that not also a 
form of terrorism? Should we lower ourselves to the level of those who attacked
the World Trade Center or should we stand tall and take the legal and moral high

You have chosen to describe this as an act of evil. I fear using such 
inflammatory language will only worsen the situation. Such language will all 
too easily incite a lynch mob mentality, when what we need is the compassion 
which Jesus taught as well as the cool reason which will help us reach our true
goals of global peace, prosperity and democracy for all people of the world. 
Lead us, Mr. President, with dignity and wisdom and do not pander to the 
primitive parts of our beings that are all too powerfully calling out at this 
moment. Show the world that you too are a leader with the greatness, strength 
and courage to seek true understanding and restorative justice, just as Nelson 
Mandela did in South Africa.

Rather than characterizing the attack as an act of evil, I see it as a terrible
last act of desperation by people who believed they had no other way to make 
themselves heard than to resort to violence and mayhem. It is absolutely 
critical that we see not only their willingness to use horrible, illegal means,
but that we also hear their desperation which makes them view such means as the 
highest form of heroism including the sacrifice of their very lives. As a 
former Marine, I know what it means to be willing to sacrifice one's life for a
cause one truly believes in. While I see these people as horribly misguided, 
hate-filled and desperate, I do not believe they are cowardly or evil.

If we are to truly resolve the hatred and violence, we need to understand that 
in their eyes, they see themselves as a tiny, heroic David fighting against a 
huge, monstrous Goliath who seeks to kill them and their way of life. We 
certainly need not agree with their views, but we must understand them if we 
ever hope to achieve a lasting peace and not a world that is locked down and 
bereft of all the civil rights and freedoms we cherish so highly.

Months ago we saw magazine pictures of a young Palestinian child being cradled 
for hours in the arms of his father. Innocently caught in a gun battle the 
child died from bullet wounds and the father could not move to save him. Can 
you begin to imagine the anguish, pain and sense of injustice this father must 
have felt? As a father yourself, how would you have felt in such a situation as
the life oozed out of your child and you were pinned down and absolutely 
helpless? It is such intensely unbearable images and feelings that drive people
to such desperate measures as we witnessed on Wednesday in New York and 

In this moment of deep crisis, is also a moment of immense opportunity. I urge 
you to take this opportunity to move our world away from violence and suffering
and towards peace, freedom and abundance for all. Let these voices of 
desperation be heard and let the perpetrators have their day in court. Show 
them that we truly do believe in law and justice for all. Let us not make the 
mistake we did recently at Durban, but rather let us bring all voices to the 
table, even if they are screaming and telling the stories we would like not to 
hear. We are truly a superpower and we are too used to talking and expecting 
others to listen. Show the world that we are also strong enough to learn to 
listen. I know you are a Christian and I pray that you will indeed do what 
Jesus Christ counseled and not  rashly lash out in violence. May God give you 
the wisdom to find the great opportunity for peace that lies in this horrible 
tragedy. I hope that later in this century historians will look back and 
applaud your greatness of spirit and cool sense of reason that moved our 
globalizing world closer to justice and democracy for all.

Respectfully, Greg Nees

Excerpts from "MR. BUSH'S WIN-WIN OPTION"
by Hazel Henderson (edited by David Sunfellow)

Many policy pitfalls have been pointed out to President Bush as his team
crafts a response to the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001.  They
include the need to avoid any rapid retaliation with the use of force,
which might kill more civilians.  Afghanistan is already a wasteland of
poverty, drought and suffering - while Osama bin Laden's camps are mobile
and hard to detect.  Recruiting allies and NATO could lead to another set
of "us versus them" divisions that could further alienate many other
countries - and risk further terrorist acts.

President Bush can learn from his father and avoid such traps by uniting
the whole world to participate in curbing terrorism.  President Bush now
has $40 billion of discretionary funds granted by Congress. He could take
$1 billion of this and pay the USA's arrears owed to the United Nations and
to our allies for past UN peacekeeping actions, which were fully approved
by the USA.  Mr. Bush can properly bypass the Congress and cite our
national security in an Executive Order to pay the UN what we owe.

Why is this so necessary?  Because, like his father during the Gulf War in
1991, President Bush needs to create the very broadest coalition of support
for the US in dealing with terrorism.  Only the UN can deliver this: the
support of every country in the world via a UN Resolution.  Even our
approaches to Pakistan will need to be strengthened by support of all
countries - through a UN Resolution.

Such UN action will be swift and supportive of the US - since it can invoke
the power of international law and precedent.  Then a UN Summit on
Terrorism can be quickly convened - with the willing help of our European
and NATO partners and include every country wishing to be free of the
scourge of terrorism....

...[T]oday, many [international agreements] need to be ratified by the USA,
from the Kyoto protocols on global climate change to the International
Criminal Court.  We need INTERPOL and many other international agencies to
help catch Osama bin Laden and his accomplices.  Then these criminals can
be tried before the International Court in the Hague - along with Slobodan
Milosovic and others who commit crimes against all humanity.

President Bush's first months of unilateralism, during which he abrogated
no less than six international treaties, including his missile defense
threat to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, caused deep anger, even
amongst the USA's closest allies.  Mr. Bush needs them now - as well as all
other countries fighting terrorism.

Only the United Nations has a big enough tent to bring all countries to a
Summit on Terrorism, where all - including many sympathetic Muslim
countries - can shape a worldwide strategy to combat terrorists wherever
they are in our wired, global village.  Such win-win strategies will become
more prevalent as we all learn the lessons of global interdependence.

John Atlee writes:

"The problem is that there is not yet any credible international criminal court -- and war crimes court -- because the US is afraid that setting up such a court will put Americans at risk for things that we have done. If people's current anger and fear could be focused on changing this aspect of US policy it would be a huge step forward."
See also WFC Response, re: International Criminal Court

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