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After terrorism, country must focus on peace

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After terrorism, country must focus on peace

By Toby Sackton / Lexington Justice and Peace Committee
Thursday, September 5, 2002

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and feel my country has been hijacked. The terrorists who crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center did not hijack it. Instead, our leaders have, by responding to terrorism in a radical and dangerous way.

After Sept. 11, our country pulled together in sorrow, grief, and mutual support. For a brief period, we felt closer in our communities, more aware of our need for each other.

Many of us in the Northeast were touched personally. My sister had the unbearable experience of watching the towers collapse with her next door neighbor whose husband was chief of security at Morgan Stanley, and who died in the attack. In her small town in New Jersey, six people were killed, two of them known to her. In the Follen Church congregation in East Lexington several people lost relatives or close friends. Many others here were directly touched. The enormity of our loss made us pause and remember ways we are all dependent and connected to each other.

But our leaders have abused the honor, caring, and heroism that poured forth from our countrymen. President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Attorney General Ashcroft, and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld have taken the tragedy of Sept. 11 and used it to impose anti-democratic military domination abroad and repression at home. They have turned our hurt on Sept. 11 into a cry for war.

We are not a fearful people. But our leaders have created fear by exaggerating threats. The "war on terror" is a big lie. It is not a war. It is no more focused or successful than the "war on drugs." Time after time "truth" turns out not to be true. Time after time, "evidence" turns out not to exist. The same is true of government statements about Iraq. There is no evidence that Iraq has ties to Sept. 11.

Ashcroft frightened us all when he went on TV last spring claiming to have foiled a radiological bomb plot. Later, sources told the Washington Post that Jose Padilla, the petty Chicago gang member accused by Ashcroft, was set up by misinformation and is not a threat.

After the attacks, the world was ready for the U.S. to lead an international coalition to prevent terror through collective action in accordance with international law. But Bush insisted on acting alone. Now he has carried unilateralism to an extreme. The U.S. has abrogated arms treaties, ignored the Geneva Convention, withdrawn from environmental treaties, and furiously attacked the International Criminal Court, all the while falling silent about human rights.

In Washington, conservative ideologues reject any limits on American power and lust for control of Arab regimes. They want to teach a lesson not just to Iraq, but to Iran and Saudi Arabia as well. No wonder the international community now sees us as a rogue state escalating danger and tension in the world.

Dividing the world into good and evil, and making war to eradicate evil, was not the leadership America needed after Sept. 11. We needed to understand the environment that produced the terrorists, and our own role as protector of despotic regimes. Now that we have been led so far down the road to war, the only way we can prevent catastrophe is vociferously to oppose war with Iraq. We can stand up for civil rights at home knowing we are strong enough to fight terrorism and preserve freedom at the same time.

The real way to remember Sept. 11 is to work for peace. We must take back our country from warmongers and anyone who tramples on our fundamental freedoms. Locally, the Lexington Justice and Peace Committee has organized vigils, educational forums, and actions all to bring the issue of peace to the forefront of our national debate.

In Copley Square on Sept. 10, the Committee will participate in a memorial for all the victims of this war, including Americans, Afghans, Israelis and Palestinians, and Iraqis. We hope you will join us. Our cry of grief is not a cry for war.

Toby Sackton is a Lexington resident and member of the Lexington Justice and Peace Committee. He can be reached at tsackton@seafood.com. More information about the group can be found at www.lexingtonjpc.org.