by Joseph Gerson
The fall of the government in Kabul was inevitable, and these last 20 years, with all of their death, suffering and wasted resources have been beyond tragedy. On September 11, 2001, we called together our initial meeting of what became United for Justice with Peace and called for a vigil in Copley Square in Boston the next evening. At 2 p.m. on the 12th, Copley Square was closed off as the police searched for accomplices and evidence related to the September 11 attacks (2 of the planes took off from Logan Airport in Boston). We thus moved the vigil to Harvard Square, where 700 people held a silent vigil that evening
The statement we distributed that evening follows below. Note the sentence ” Military retaliation and war will only add to the carnage killing and maiming of still more innocent civilians.”
Two weeks ago, I spoke via zoom with a young Afghan who had served as an interpreter for USAID in Afghanistan. He was eligible for a visa to come to the United States but planned to remain at great risk to pursue developmental work for women’s rights and democracy. It was a heartbreaking conversation.
I also have a bitter memory of being invited to be the sole critical voice in a Harvard Kennedy School symposium about the Afghanistan war in October or November, before we held a massive peace conference at Tufts University with a waiting list to get on the waiting list. The Harvard session was chaired by Samantha Power (later Obama’s U.N. ambassador), who did her best to humiliate for my criticism of what I predicted would be a disastrous war.
As I write, I also want to celebrate the vision and courage of the women and men of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, who were equally clear that “War is not the answer!
Quoting Pete Seeger: “When will they ever learn?”
Boston-Cambridge Vigil Statement, September 12, 2001
We gather in this silent vigil to grieve loss and suffering beyond comprehension. Our hopes and prayers are with those who have been injured and with all those who have lost or continue to wait news of loved ones and friends. We encourage mobilization of personal and public resources for the relief and support of the victims and their families
We fully condemn yesterday’s criminal and indiscriminate attacks which cannot be justified in any way. Violence is not the answer. An eye for an eye leaves us all blind. As our nation begins to respond we believe more deeply that ever that peace and democratic process are the only way forward. Military retaliation and war will only add to the carnage with the killing and maiming of still more innocent civilians.
Reliance on the international community, on U.S. and international law, diplomacy and exploring all roots and causes of yesterday’s attacks are the path to true security. Further militarization of our society, scapegoating others, and additional restrictions on human rights and civil liberties in the U.S. will have dire consequences and must be resisted.
Join us in healing and ending the cycles of violence and retribution.
— American Friends Service Committee, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Cambridge Peace Commission, CPPAX, Boston Mobilization for Survival, Women’s Action for New Directions, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, World Federalists of New England.