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The 9-11 Bombings are not Acts of War
The 9-11 Bombings are Crimes Against Humanity

Members of the United States government have contrived many misrepresentations and sins of omission about the events of 11 September 2001. As the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL, a Quaker lobby) observes, "The events of September 11, as destructive as they were, did not constitute an act of war directed against the U.S. by another nation. . . . The greatest threat to the continued existence of a free and democratic U.S. will not come from al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein. Rather, it will come from U.S. leaders who are willing to sacrifice those values to achieve other goals." [1]

Benjamin Ferencz was the United States Chief Prosecutor at the Einsatzgruppen Trial of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials of World War II Major German War Criminals.[2] He sought to establish a legal precedent that would encourage a more humane and secure world in the future. Ferencz clarifies the FCNL's assertion that the 9-11 bombings were not an act of war:

"What has happened here is not war in its traditional sense. This is clearly a crime against humanity. War crimes are crimes which happen in war time. There is a confusion there. This is a crime against humanity because it is deliberate and intentional killing of large numbers of civilians for political or other purposes. That is not tolerable under the international systems. And it should be prosecuted pursuant to the existing laws. . . . We shouldn't let them kill our principles at the same time they kill our people. And our principles are respect for the rule of law. Not charging in blindly and killing people because we are blinded by our tears and our rage. . . .

"We must first draw up an indictment of the crime and specify what the crimes were, listing all the names of the related organizations. Not merely the direct perpetrators are responsible but all those who aided and abetted them before or after the crime. These should be listed and described. And then a demand made pursuant to existing United Nations resolutions, calling upon all states to arrest and detain the persons named in the indictment so they can be interrogated by U.S. examiners. . . .

"I realize that [the judicial process] is slow and cumbersome but it is not inadequate. I say to the skeptics, Follow your procedure and you'll find out what happens. You have seen what happens. We will have more fanatics and more zealots deciding to come and kill the evil, the United States. We don't want to do that. We want to uphold our principles. The United States was the moving party behind the Nuremberg Trials and behind insisting upon the rule of law. . . .

"We're not re-writing any rules. We don't have to re-write any rules. We have to apply the existing rules. To call them "terrorists" is also a misleading term. There's no agreement on what terrorism is. One man's terrorism is another man's heroism. . . . We try them for mass murder. That's a crime under every jurisdiction and that's what's happened here and that is a crime against humanity." [3]

It is not accidental that the Bush administration's response to the bombings was to label it an act of war and to label the perpetrators as terrorists. These assertions were deliberate. In doing so, the greatest opportunity to resolve this terrible crime through respect for and adherence to the rule of law was squandered. As Benjamin Ferencz points out, to call them terrorists is also a misleading term because there is no agreement on what terrorism is. To many people, the fact that the United States is the largest arms manufacturer and supplier in the world makes America the most dreaded terrorist of all. Beyond pandering to people's grief, fear, and anger, what interests have been served by committing the United States to a open-war economy and purpose? Mislabeling the perpetrators of these crimes as terrorist serves to confuse people's understanding of the situation. What interests are served by obfuscating these issues?

On 14 September 2001, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) was the one solitary dissenting voice in Congress against giving Bush Jr. full Congressional approval for carrying out his War on Terrorism. She expressed her reasoning and concerns in a responsible, mature, and thoughtful manner:

". . . I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States. . . . However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. There must be some of us who say, let's step back for a moment and think through the implications of our actions today -- let us more fully understand their consequences. . . . I do not want to see this spiral out of control. This crisis involves issues of national security, foreign policy, public safety, intelligence gathering, economics, and murder. Our response must be equally multifaceted. We must not rush to judgement. Far too many innocent people have already died. . . . [W]e must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes. In 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to "take all necessary measures" to repel attacks and prevent further aggression. In so doing, this House abandoned its own constitutional responsibilities and launched our country into years of undeclared war in Vietnam. At this time Senator Wayne Morse [cast] one of the two lonely votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. . . . Senator Morse was correct, and I fear we make the same mistake today. And I fear the consequences. I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with it in the very painful yet beautiful memorial service today at the National Cathedral. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, `As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.'" [4]

Last April Rep. Lee received the Wayne Morse Integrity in Government Award for 2002.[5] In 1964 when Senator Wayne Morse voted against the Tonkin Gulf resolution -- giving President Johnson full power to wage war in Vietnam -- he stated, "I believe that history will record that we have made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the United States. I believe that with the next century, future generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress which is now about to make such a historic mistake."

Whether or not the Tonkin Gulf incident was a fabrication,[6] the ensuing U.S. military involvement in Vietnam was a tragic mistake. Today, an open-ended war against an unspecified enemy in the name of eradicating terrorism from the face of the earth is only about war. There is no pursuit of peace or creative resolution to conflict in such an agenda. It is critical to be clear about the fact that, although most will argue we are "at war," the 9-11 bombings were not an act of war. We are confronted with a crime against humanity and must not fall into the trap of framing this situation as a justification for making war. Erroneously labeling this as a war only further escalates the seige mentality that has been engendered by a succession of "wars" including the War on Poverty, the War on AIDS, the War on Drugs, and now the "war" on terrorism.

We examine here how reclaiming and emphasizing the fact that the 9-11 bombings were crimes against humanity and not an act of war is not simply an intellectual exercise in semantics but rather a struggle for the spirit and hope of what this nation-state symbolizes in its most hopeful expression. We are facing the greatest challenge ever to the preservation and continuity of the constitutional system of liberties and the cherished Bill of Rights, the foundation of our nation.

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