Proxsa Home | 9-11 Resources

Title/Description: Some more reasons not to go to war
Author/Source: Compiled from Miscellaneous Sources
Date: September 2001



President Bush has made it clear that the US will retaliate with military force. But more violence will not break the cycle of bloodshed, nor will it lessen the destruction and loss of life in New York and Washington. The US historical record is full of misguided retaliatory attacks, such as the 1986 bombing of Libya, which only succeeded in killing dozens of civilians and the 1997 bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant that manufactured most of that impoverished country's antibiotics and vaccines. The only aim served by a military response is revenge. And what's needed now is not vengeance, but justice. Those of us concerned with justice -- for the victims of these attacks and for people worldwide -- must work to ensure that any US response respects international human rights standards and civil liberties at home.


Why would people want to wage this attack against the United States? President Bush informed us that we are under attack "because we love freedom and prosperity." In all likelihood, we are under attack because US policies have denied freedom and prosperity (and even subsistence) to millions of people around the world.

Consider the historical record: Since World War II, the US has bombed 26 different countries. Throughout the 1970's and 1980's, the US killed more than two million people in Southeast Asia and supported death squads across Central America, including a policy of genocide in Guatemala. Ten years of US bombing and sanctions against Iraq have left more than a million people dead, including 500,000 children. Successive US administrations have commandeered the oil resources of the Middle East, leaving most people impoverished and suffering under authoritarian regimes. The US provides the funds and political backing for Israel's 34-year illegal occupation of Palestinian land and gives diplomatic cover to Israeli human rights violations.

The United States is the biggest arms dealer in the world, supplying weapons that are aimed mainly at civilian populations. US economic policies have caused a sharp rise in poverty and inequality around the world, while lining the pockets of US corporations. And since George W. Bush came to power, US arrogance and militarism have increased dramatically. Nothing justifies arbitrary attacks against civilians, whether in New York and Washington or in Baghdad and Belgrade. Defending this principle entails an honest appraisal of the underlying reasons for such attacks.



In a just world, the accomplices of the people who committed this act would be brought to justice. (In point of fact, the people who actually did it are dead.) But we don't live in a just world. In the world we live in, bringing those responsible to justice will almost certainly be a case of the cure is worse than the disease.

Most importantly, retaliation continues and reinforces the cycle of violence. Far from guaranteeing the safety of U.S. citizens and residents, it puts us more at risk. The lessons of the Israeli government's attempts to crush the Palestinian struggle in the occupied territories over the last thirty-five years prove this. Neither collective punishment nor precisely targeted assassinations of leaders have stopped the struggle. New fighters come forward and desperation gives rise to anti-civilian tactics.


Another reason is the law of unintended consequences. The best recent example of this is Osama bin Laden himself. As is well known, at least in the movement, bin Laden is a direct product of the U.S. program in the 80s.  There are less obvious examples. Suppose the U.S. forces Pakistan to allow U.S. troops to be based there for military operations. Mass public support in Pakistan for Taliban-style Islamic fundamentalism could lead to the overthrow of the government. Alternatively, the Pakistani government could respond to the contradiction by trying to deflect mass anger into nationalism through a sharp escalation of its long struggle with India. The result? A showdown between two extremely hostile governments, both headed by religious fundamentalists, both with nuclear arsenals.


Perhaps the lesson to be learned from Oklahoma City is that our country did not take the bait. The U.S. did not declare war on McVeigh and his network of extremist fellow-travelers. The Bill of Rights and civil liberties were not trampled on the path to increased security. Instead, McVeigh and his accomplices were dealt with as a democracy deals with mass murderers. They were apprehended, prosecuted and punished after being given trials, lawyers, the right to confront witnesses and challenge evidence. The armed fanatics who sympathized with McVeigh were not all hunted down and destroyed, but they’ve certainly been quieted. Many of us abhor the death penalty that was given to McVeigh, but the rule of law prevailed.

It’s appalling how little mainstream media have discussed relying on the rule of law -- international law -- to pursue the foreign terrorists. Few reports have pointed out that there is one body under international law that can authorize military action: the United Nations Security Council. If the U.S. has strong evidence against Osama bin Laden and associates, and Afghanistan continues to refuse extradition to the U.S., the U.S. could present its case to the Security Council, which could authorize the equivalent of an international arrest warrant.


In 1982, invading Afghanistan was ”a violation of every standard of decency and international law.”  The Afghans bled like other humans.  And they had “the right to be free of foreign interference.”  Apparently, the rules have changed.

March 10, 1982: A Proclamation By the President of the United States of America

In December 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan without provocation and with overwhelming force. Since that time, the Soviet Union has sought through every available means, to assert its control over Afghanistan.

The Afghan people have defied the Soviet Union and have resisted with a vigor that has few parallels in modern history. The Afghan people have paid a terrible price in their fight for freedom. Their villages and homes have been destroyed; they have been murdered by bullets, bombs and chemical weapons. One-fifth of the Afghan people have been driven into exile. Yet their fight goes on. The international community, with the United States joining governments around the world, has condemned the invasion of Afghanistan as a violation of every standard of decency and international law and has called for a withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Every country and every people has a stake in the Afghan resistance, for the freedom fighters of Afghanistan are defending principles of independence and freedom that form the basis of global security and stability.

It is therefore altogether fitting that the European Parliament, the Congress of the United States and parliaments elsewhere in the world have designated March 21, 1982, as Afghanistan Day, to commemorate the valor of the Afghan people and to condemn the continuing Soviet invasion of their country. Afghanistan Day will serve to recall not only these events, but also the principles involved when a people struggles for the freedom to determine its own future, the right to be free of foreign interference and the right to practice religion according to the dictates of conscience.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate March 21, 1982, as Afghanistan Day.  In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of March, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and sixth.

Ronald Reagan


War does not end the ‘cycle of vengeance’ as is historically seen in previous such ‘wars.’

War does not ‘target’ terrorists through air attacks; Civilians are the overwhelming casualties


1.       “It is also important that the United States not retaliate militarily in a blind, dramatic matter as has been done in the past. In 1997, in retaliation of the terrorist attacks of two U.S. embassies in Africa, the U.S. bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan which supplied more than half the antibiotics and vaccines for that impoverished country.” [FOIL edit. It may be added that the US voted against setting up UN and other commissions to inquire into the civilian casualties.]

2.       “The Clinton administration falsely claimed it was a chemical weapons plant controlled by an exiled Saudi terrorist. In 1986, the U.S. bombed two Libyan cities, killing scores of civilians. Though the U.S. claimed it would curb Libyan-backed terrorism, Libyan intelligence operatives ended up blowing up a U.S. airliner in retaliation.”

3.       “Military responses usually result only in a spiral of violent retaliation. Similarly, simply bombing other countries after the fact will not protect lives. Indeed, it will likely result in what Pentagon planners euphemistically call "collateral damage," i.e., the deaths of civilians just as innocent as those murdered in New York City. And survivors bent on revenge.”


(All quotes above from Stephen Zunes, a senior policy analyst and Middle East editor of the Foreign Policy in Focus Project. He is an associate professor of Politics and chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. This is an excerpt from an FPIF opinion piece published by the Baltimore Sun September 12, 2001. The entire article is available at


4.       “Where was the justified rage of commentators, analysts, and talking heads when the United States attacked civilians on a massive scale during the Gulf War, even referring to Basra, a city of 800,000, as a "military target." Where was it when they deliberately destroyed the water treatment systems of the country, and then spent ten years carefully rationing the chlorine needed to treat the water and the medicines that could be used to fight an explosion of water-borne disease, while over 1 million Iraqi civilians died?


(Quote from Rahul Mahajan, an antiwar activist who serves on the National Board of Peace Action and the Coordinating Committee of the National Network to End the War Against Iraq. (Identification only). He can be reached at Entire article at


 Reassuring words from governments going to war have never been truthful


1.       “Back in early August 1945, President Truman had this to say: "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, in so far as possible, the killing of civilians." Actually, the U.S. government went out of its way to select Japanese cities of sufficient size to showcase the extent of the A-bomb's deadly power. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hundreds of thousands of civilians died -- immediately or eventually -- as a result of the atomic bombings.”

2.       “While top U.S. officials spoke of fervent desires to protect civilians from harm in Southeast Asia, the Pentagon inflicted massive carnage on the populations of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon tirelessly proclaimed their eagerness for "peace with honor." Most of those who died were civilians.”

3.       When U.S. troops invaded Panama in December 1989, the USA's major media and policymakers in Washington ignored the hundreds of civilians who died in the assault.”

4.       Scarcely more than a year later, during the Gulf War, most of the people killed by Uncle Sam were civilians and frantically retreating soldiers. Pentagon officials quietly estimated that 200,000 Iraqis had died in six weeks. During the past decade, damage to Iraq's civilian infrastructure and ongoing sanctions have cost the lives of at least several hundred thousand children.”

5.       “In the spring of 1999, we were told, the U.S.-led bombing of Yugoslavia aimed only at military targets. The explanations were often Orwellian -- not just from the Clinton administration and NATO, but also from news media. Consider the opening words of the lead front-page article in the New York Times one Sunday in April 1999: "NATO began its second month of bombing against Yugoslavia today with new strikes against military targets that disrupted civilian electrical and water supplies..." The concept was remarkable: The bombing disrupted "civilian" electricity and water, yet the targets were "military" -- a very convenient distinction for PR purposes, but irrelevant to the civilians who perished due to destruction of basic infrastructure.”


“In human terms, the emerging U.S. military scenarios are ghastly….No amount of vehement denials can change the reality that huge numbers of civilians are now in the Pentagon's cross hairs.”


(All quotes from Norman Solomon: Killing civilians: Behind the reassuring words)