Letter to the editor: We must do more than remember

A firefighter emerges from the smoke and debris of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. — U.S. Navy/Jim Watson.

By Ed Flaherty, President, Veterans For Peace Chapter #161

Ten years ago, on September 11, 2011, I was invited to speak at a large community gathering at Iowa City City Park commemorating 10 years since the events of 9/11. Now, at the end of the war engendered by 9/11, we have the obligation to be truthful about these past 20 years, AND the opportunity to re-imagine how the U.S. can be a force for peace in the world. Following are the words I spoke 10 years ago.

The images of September 11, 2001 are etched in our minds. But we need to be more concerned with what we have done with 9/11 than with 9/11 itself. Yes, we mourn the loss of so many innocent victims, we laud the heroes of the firefighters and so many others, and we will always be outraged at the inhumanity of the attackers. But I don’t think that the 2,977 victims on 9/11 died to usher in a period of perpetual war. We must remember that the tragedy of 9/11 was used as an opportunity for war — how to initiate war on Iraq was on the lips of our leaders the day after. We need to add to our minds’ images the 6,236 U.S. armed services personnel who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 40,000+ who bear visible wounds, the 400,000+ who bear the invisible wounds of PTSD AND TBI, and, yes, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan dead. We must remember it all if we are to heal.

We must do more than remember. We must honor the victims of 9/11 by proclaiming loudly that the 10-year, $300 million per day war in Afghanistan, the longest in our history, has gone on long enough. Honor the victims of 9/11 by saying NO to a U.S. military budget that is nearly equal to that of all other countries combined.

In the words of President Eisenhower, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Or earlier words, “wheresoever your treasure is, there your heart is also.”

Wars are much easier to start than to end. Let us take up the heavy, sweet burden of waging peace.

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