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About Tallahassee Network for Justice and Peace

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Elaboration of Principles
Oppose more violence. For the sake of global peace and justice, we stand for a measured response that will seek out and punish only those who are responsible for these horrible crimes. The U.S. should seek justice in accordance with international law and the United Nations Security Council or other appropriate international agencies. 

Resist racism. We must stand together against racial and religious discrimination. Americans and law enforcement agencies must not racially profile, target, or defame Arab-Americans, Muslims, or other groups as a result of the terrorist crimes.

Protect civil rights. We must not let the criminals win by allowing our Congress to pass repressive legislation. Curtailing free speech, freedom of assembly, and due process in the name of fighting terrorism only cripples our democracy.

We Stand for Peace and Justice

Commentary on international developments

General Commentary by TNJP members, Sept. 26, 2001
Americans stand together in condemning the horrible crimes committed against the United States on September 11, 2001. The terrorist network behind these crimes against humanity must be exposed and brought to justice. There is, however, room for disagreement as to how to accomplish this goal. President George W. Bush, in his address to the nation on September 20, all but declared war on Afghanistan should the Taliban government not turn over suspected terrorists to the United States. The Tallahassee Network for Justice and Peace along with like-minded groups around the nation believe that a war against Afghanistan would result in many innocent civilians killed. Furthermore, war would undermine the global struggle against terrorism by alienating predominantly Muslim nations. Instead, the United States should pursue justice in accordance with international law and international agencies. It is the terrorists who must be punished, not the innocent people of other nations.
"Patriotism and Pacifism," by Jan Rogers, Nov. 1, 2001
The idea that the only "true" patriot is one will to pick up a gun is incorrect. I have encountered people who feel that one who does not support war, or even questions the actions and policies of his/her government, is not a true patriot. I disagree with this. I believe that one who chooses a path of non-violence, or one such as myself who believes in self-defense but seeks peaceful solutions, or one who believes that governmental actions and policies should be closely scrutinized, is also a patriot. I believe that in order to preserve the rights we possess under our Constitution, every citizen must make himself/herself aware of what the government is doing, not just here at home, but abroad as well. From my point of view, American citizens have oftentimes taken their liberties for granted and failed to fulfill their duties as citizens -- to be informed, to communicate with elected representatives, and to ask questions. The events of Sept. 11 suddenly jolted Americans into looking into what might be the root cause of such an event. We must be free to express our different opinions - without harassment, ridicule, or threats. 
"The Illogic of War," by Roger Peace, Nov. 1, 2001
If the goal of the United States is to create an effective, global anti-terrorist network, the current strategy of bombing Afghanistan is counterproductive. 

The decision for war. On September 20, nine days after the horrendous terrorist attacks in the United States, President George W. Bush declared in a nationwide address that the Taliban government of Afghanistan must turn over to the U.S. Osama bin Laden and other suspected terrorists or face the wrath of the United States. Bush said that he would not negotiate with the Taliban government. Taliban leaders, for their part, asked for evidence of bin Laden's involvement in the terrorist crimes of September 11th and said they would only hand suspected terrorists over to an international agency. 

With his ultimatum unmet, President Bush decided that the Taliban government must be removed by force. On October 7, U.S. warplanes and cruise missiles attacked Taliban military sites and suspected terrorist training camps. At the same time, U.S. cargo planes dropped thousands of U.S. meal packets to help feed Afghan refugees fleeing the bombing. After destroying all known military sites, the U.S. began on October 30 to bomb concentrations of Taliban troops. A number of errant bombs were reported to have killed an undetermined number of civilians. 

The Bush administration's bombing strategy is linked to a wider political strategy aimed at weakening the Taliban government and encouraging its opponents to overthrow it. Presumably, the new government would allow U.S. forces to thoroughly search Afghanistan for suspected terrorists. Thus far, however, the Taliban remains firmly in power while its opponents remain weak and divided. The one rebel group that has the military potential for taking power, the Northern Alliance, is unacceptable to most Afghans, as it is composed of different ethnic groups than the Pashtun majority and its previous rule from 1992 to 1996 was marked by widespread abuse and repression. 

The limits of war. It is possible that continued U.S. bombing along with limited U.S. combat missions and substantial U.S. aid to the Northern Alliance could succeed in ousting the Taliban government - at a cost of many Afghan lives and some American lives. Yet the U.S. may win the battle against the Taliban only to lose the larger war against terrorism. The U.S. may still fail to capture bin Laden and other terrorists thought to be hiding in Afghanistan. In the meantime, the U.S. will be responsible for establishing a new government in a foreign land full of violent tribal rivalries, murky ethnic politics, and starving refugees. The overthrow of the Taliban government is, after all, only a secondary objective - only valuable insofar as it allows the U.S. to capture of suspected terrorists. 

If the U.S. does succeed in capturing or killing Osama bin Laden through its military campaign in Afghanistan, the American public will no doubt be pleased. But the military precedent in this case may nevertheless undermine the wider global struggle against terrorism - for two reasons. 

First, Muslims in the area stretching from Northwest Africa to Southeast Asia generally oppose U.S. militarism in their region. More than a few governments have expressed concern that U.S. bombing attacks in Afghanistan are killing innocent people and creating hundreds of thousands of refugees, many of whom could die in the coming winter months. Three weeks after the bombing began, the president of Pakistan called for an end to it. 

Further U.S. military action will only further alienate Muslim and Arab allies in the region; and without their cooperation, our ability to gather intelligence and prevent terrorist acts will be sorely limited. The terrorists who hijacked the U.S. jets on September 11th were not from Afghanistan, but from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, countries allied with the United States. 

Should the U.S. lose the already tenuous support of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other predominantly Muslim nations, the U.S. will most assuredly fail in its primary objective -- to create an effective, global anti-terrorist network that can find and apprehend suspected terrorists, and anticipate and prevent terrorist acts in the future. 

The second downside of U.S. military action in Afghanistan is that it sets a dangerous and impractical precedent. The U.S. State Department currently lists Iran, Syria, and Iraq as "terrorist" states. Is the U.S. going to take military action against these nations as well? Suppose there is evidence that China is harboring international terrorists. Will the U.S. engage in a war against China, with its 1.2 billion people? The current war strategy against Afghanistan seems plausible to many Americans only because Afghanistan is weak, with no ability whatsoever to strike back at the U.S. 

Terrorism is a problem for all nations, not just the United States. Imagine that international terrorists attacked a major trade center in Belgium. Would it be advisable or feasible for Belgium to conduct a military attack on, say, Libya, for allegedly harboring terrorists? Or imagine if Japan were attacked. Would we approve of a Japanese attack on, say, the Philippines? 

The struggle against anti-terrorism must be global in nature, with nations sharing intelligence and cooperating in finding and bringing suspected terrorists to trial in international courts. The current U.S. war against Afghanistan has diverted attention from the necessary task of establishing an effective, long-term, global anti-terrorist network.

Potential repercussions of war. During the month of November, the Bush administration will no doubt push for victory over the Taliban government - by aiding the Northern Alliance and introducing U.S. troops as needed. This military strategy will increasingly come into conflict with the political sensitivities of U.S. allies in the region. If the war continues through the winter and into next year, the potential for further complications will markedly increase. Allied governments in the region, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, will be under increasing pressure from Muslim fundamentalists to break with the U.S.; and radical Muslim militants will increase their efforts to undermine or overthrow these pro-Western governments and establish Islamic fundamentalist regimes.

Should the government of Pakistan fall to militant fundamentalists, that nation's nuclear arsenal would fall into their hands as well. The potential for war with India - possibly a nuclear war - would increase, while cooperation with the West would diminish. Many of the training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which the U.S. has identified as bin Laden's training camps, have actually been used by Muslim militants to prepare for attacks against Hindus in the Indian state of Kashmir. 

Should the Saudi government fall or be pressured to move away from its pro-Western position, U.S. oil supplies could suffer. The U.S. has maintained a military base in Saudi Arabia since 1990 in part to assure stability in Saudi Arabia. If fundamentalist opposition grows, however, the U.S. may find itself embroiled in a civil war to protect the ruling Saudi family. 

Israel, America's close ally in the Middle East, may also suffer should Muslim opposition to the U.S. war in Afghanistan increase. Of late, U.S. leaders have been encouraging Israel to avoid military retribution for Palestinian attacks and to pursue diplomatic avenues, but Israel is reluctant to do so. Israeli leaders say they are only doing what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan - rooting out terrorism. Hard-line Israeli policies against Palestinians combined with the one-sided U.S. war against Afghanistan could catalyze increased support for militant Palestinian groups, thereby undermining any possibility of peace. 

Alternatives to war. The U.S. should forego its military strategy of overturning the Taliban government and instead work through international courts and agencies to apprehend suspected terrorists. This would entail presenting evidence to an international court and creating an international team to negotiate with the Taliban government as well as other governments to turn over accused terrorists to the court. If negotiations failed, it would be up to the international community to pursue a common action, perhaps a military action, against the resisting government(s). Military action would thus not be precluded under international law, but it would be the last resort, not the first resort, and it would be undertaken in cooperation with the international community, not primarily a unilateral action undertaken by the United States. 

The benefits of approaching the problem of terrorism in this way would be numerous: lives would be saved and the U.S. would not be responsible for the killing of Taliban soldiers and innocent civilians; the U.S. would strengthen its ties with moderate governments in predominantly Muslim nations and dampen militant appeals in those nations, thereby enhancing stability in the region; the fight against terrorism would have a permanent locus, enabling cooperation among nations and providing continuity; and militarism would diminish in favor of resolving differences through international diplomacy and law. 

Some of the infrastructure for a global anti-terrorism campaign has been established and some will need to be established. Already underway is a permanent International Court of Justice, which will be able to bring to trial any person charged with committing crimes against humanity. Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic is currently being tried in a temporary international court of justice. On the drawing board is a proposal for a United Nations Rapid Deployment force, a 6,000 member UN police force that could be deployed within fifteen days of a Security Council resolution and would be limited to a maximum deployment of six months. (A bill in Congress, H.R. 938, calling on the U.S. to support the UN Rapid Deployment Force had 44 co-sponsors as of August 8, 2001.) 

The understandable response to the September 11th terrorist attacks among Americans is to want to see results - Osama bin Laden and other suspected terrorists captured or killed, the Taliban overthrown, and terrorist networks neutralized. The Bush administration has pushed military action and much of the public has endorsed this course of action, if polls are to be believed. Yet, it would be well to step back and take a longer view of the situation - in light of the long-term goal of creating an effective, global anti-terrorist network. 

The United States has a history of shortsighted policies that have come back to haunt us. In 1953, the U.S. helped overthrow the government of Iran, only to have the U.S.-backed government under the Shah of Iran overthrown by a radical Islamic regime in 1979. In the 1980s, the U.S. aided Iraq in its ten-year war against Iran, only to fight Iraqi forces after they invaded Kuwait in 1990. Also in the 1980s, the U.S. supported militant Islamic rebels fighting in Afghanistan against a Soviet-backed government. Among these "freedom fighters," as President Ronald Reagan called them, was Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Now, the U.S. has declared the Taliban an enemy with whom the U.S. cannot negotiate. 

Currently, the U.S. war in Afghanistan is undermining our long-term goals by alienating key allies, creating instability in the region, diverting attention the creation of a common infrastructure to fight terrorism, and setting a militaristic precedent whereby powerful nations feel justified in attacking weaker ones. 

It is not too late to reverse directions. The U.S. can halt the bombing, negotiate with the Taliban through Pakistan, and work through the UN Security Council to gain access to alleged terrorists hiding in Afghanistan. It is not our struggle alone. By supporting an international, criminal justice approach to terrorism now, the U.S. can set the stage for increased international cooperation in the future. This is not only a more humane approach; it is also a more effective one.

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