September 11, 2002: Time to Remember Globally
September 19, 2002
On this first anniversary
of the horrible acts of violence that took the lives of more than 3,000 people
on September 11, 2001, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear
War (IPPNW) joins the rest of the world in pausing to reflect on the lessons of
terrorism and war. Our first thoughts must be for the families and loved ones
of the victims of that day, who were from more than 40 countries and who included
hundreds of self-sacrificing rescue workers. Sadly, those who lost their lives
on September 11 represent only a fraction of those who have been killed and injured
as a result of armed violence, including acts of terrorism, on a global scale.
Although this unprecedented act of mass murder on American soil was carried out
in an especially dramatic way, the events of September 11 were characteristic
of the armed violence that has made the 20th century and the first years of the
21st the bloodiest period in human history.
In this violent world, the
distinction between terrorism and war is often impossible to grasp.
Israel and Palestine, acts of terror and reprisals on both sides have become almost
commonplace; Russia has defined Chechnya as a terrorist state and launched a war
which has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians over more than a
decade; the 20-year war in southern Sudan has taken the lives of more than two
million people and has left another four million displaced. India and Pakistan
have threatened each other with a nuclear war that could immediately kill 12 million
people and render much of South Asia uninhabitable for generations. To this list
we must add also Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan, Uganda, Angola,
Somalia, and many others.
For some, terrorism is a daily fact of life that
goes unnoticed by the media or global decision makers. A young IPPNW physician
in the Philippines has described his encounters with a grieving mother who had
just lost her two sons after their house had been indiscriminately fired upon
by the military because of its proximity to the house of a suspected Muslim "terrorist."
Who is the terrorist?
The events of September 11, 2001 must be seen in
their global context:
- All of the great threats that humanity faces
transcend national boundaries. Weapons of mass destruction, landmines, small arms,
and global environmental damage, all driven by global inequities and the yawning
gap between the Global North and the Global South are threats that require international
cooperation, the strengthening of international institutions, a just and equitable
economic order and of the rule of international law. None of them can be addressed
by a single nation, no matter how powerful.
- The risk of nuclear war continues
to threaten human survival. The casualties resulting from even a single nuclear
explosion would overwhelm the medical facilities in any city on Earth. The use
of nuclear weapons is morally indefensible, and the International Court of Justice
has declared their use and threatened use illegal. Yet nuclear weapons remain
part of the military strategy of many nations, and deliberate use of nuclear weapons
remains an ever-present threat.
- Current military conflicts are characterized
by civilian casualties, whether deliberate or unintentional. The global proliferation
of small arms and light weapons has caused unspeakable carnage in both armed conflicts
and domestic violence. Small arms target particularly the most vulnerable populations
- the economically depressed and politically unstable.
- With the adoption
of the Mine Ban Treaty the toll exacted by antipersonnel landmines has diminished.
But many key nations, including the US and Russia, still refuse to sign the Treaty,
while landmines continue to devastate the lives of individuals, families, and
whole societies. This is an inexcusable humanitarian tragedy.
- The increasing
gap between the rich and the poor of the world is the critical fuel for global
conflict and must be narrowed. This will require that developed nations increase
their contributions to international development and aid, and forgive indebtedness
in the developing world.
- World military spending, estimated at $839 billion
in 2001, would transform the world if it was channeled instead to meeting the
social needs of the poor and deprived.
The Bush administration
has transformed its legitimate pursuit of the September 11 perpetrators and their
supporters into an open-ended "war against terrorism," and threatens unilateral
war against Iraq, a country that has not been implicated in the attacks against
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
suggests that the civilian population of Iraq will once again bear the brunt of
such a war. Between 2,500 and 3,500 civilians were killed by air strikes during
the 1991 US-led Gulf war; another 111,000 civilians (70,000 of them children under
15 years of age) died as a delayed result of the bombings; and more than 500,000
children have died as a result of post-war economic sanctions. We make no apologies
for the oppressive and often brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, an
unprovoked, pre-emptive military invasion of a sovereign state is a clear violation
of international law and is in the best interests of neither the Iraqi people
nor the world community. It is not even in the best interests of the American
people, who may be visited with new acts of terrorism in retaliation.
recognize that nuclear proliferation is a global menace. Although the Bush Administration
has not yet produced evidence that Iraq is on the verge of producing nuclear weapons,
there is also no reason to believe that Iraq has set aside its ambitions to possess
weapons of mass destruction. In either case, the surest way to keep nuclear weapons
out of the hands of governments with nuclear aspirations, non-state actors, and
even terrorists, is for the US and the other nuclear nations to completely eliminate
nuclear weapons from their military arsenals and to place all nuclear materials
under international control. The World Court issued a clear opinion in 1996 that
the use or even the threatened use of these ultimate weapons of terror is a violation
of international law. All of the nuclear weapon states that are party to the Non-Proliferation
Treaty are obligated to pursue complete nuclear disarmament and have recently
recommited themselves to an "unequivocal undertaking" to do so.
this first anniversary of the events of September 11, IPPNW recommits itself to
the goals of nuclear disarmament, the prevention of war, and non-violent resolution
of human conflicts. Dealing with political, social, and economic injustices which
are the root causes of armed violence; promoting respect for human rights, democracy,
and good governance; ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources; and
investing in education and health care rather than in weapons are the only effective
paths to true security for all people. The lesson of September 11 is that our
collective survival depends upon forging co-operative, just, and equitable relationships
with each other; in rejecting war; and in pursuing non-violent resolutions to
inevitable conflicts. The alternative is a world perpetually divided, bloodied,
and quite possibly destroyed by our failure to appeal to what is best in our humanity.
call upon responsible leaders to take the following steps to reduce the likelihood
of future acts of indiscriminate violence:
of the use and possession of nuclear weapons by all States, particularly by the
declared nuclear weapons states in order to fulfill their legal obligations under
Article Vl of the NPT, and negotiation and adoption of a Nuclear Weapons Convention.
to and strengthening of the chemical and biological weapons conventions by all
nations and groups, and implementation of effective verification mechanisms where
- Collection and reporting by health professionals
of accurate data on small arms injury and death, including what is available from
official records and health institutions, and education of peers and policy makers
about prevention; assurance by governments that researchers will have access to
data; support for a convention on arms brokering and an international framework
agreement on arms transfers.
- Universal accession to the
Mine Ban Treaty, accelerated mine clearance, and long term funding of victim rehabilitation
programs, to end this disgraceful chapter in human cruelty.
reordering of global economic priorities including a redirection of global resources
away from militarism and war toward unmet social needs and the cancellation of
the unpayable and uncollectable debts of developing countries.
cooperation to find and bring to justice those who perpetrate such acts as were
committed in the United States on September 11, 2001.