The Resource Center of the Americas is the Minneapolis-based nonprofit publisher of AMERICAS.ORG (www.americas.org). It is devoted to the notion that every person in this world is entitled to the same fundamental human rights, and their starting point is learning about the peoples and countries of the Americas.
This article appeared in www.americas.org, November 2001.
Seven simple principles to achieve peace in the context of the terrorist attacks.
With profound sadness and humility, we have sought to make sense of the September 11 tragedy and this month’s U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan. Those who died in the United States represent a cross section of the human community: 4,000 people from more than 80 nations, people of nearly every ethnicity and religious belief, wealthy individuals and people with very little, including low-wage immigrant workers. Now the U.S. government is adding to the list of victims, bombarding a country whose people already live in misery after decades of war. The cycle of violence is overwhelming.
The United States is not the hemisphere’s first country to suffer from terrorism. As we remember the dead of September 11, 2001, let us also remember those who died in the military coup in Chile of September 11, 1973. Let us remember the victims of death squads in El Salvador and Haiti, the victims of massacres in Guatemala, the victims of paramilitary and guerrilla violence in Colombia, the victims of rightwing and military violence in Chiapas, the victims of the military dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Uruguay. Each one of these deaths was devastating to the family and community left behind.
And, as we mourn, let us not forget that terror has been tolerated, funded and even encouraged by the U.S. government. This is no excuse for what happened September 11, but understanding the context of the violence is crucial. For a path forward, we offer seven principles:
1. Seek justice, not vengeance. We call on the United States to respect the norms and procedures of international law. Work with allies and supporters throughout the world, find the perpetrators, root out their networks and bring them to justice, but do not punish innocent civilians for the actions of others. Bombing is no solution and only creates more fear, anger, alienation and violence.
2. Defend the civil and human rights of Muslims and people perceived to be Middle Eastern. Attacks and discrimination against people who follow Islam or are (or appear to be) Arab must not be tolerated. Build understanding and connections with all people who may be targeted and defend their lives, property and integrity.
3. Defend immigrants. All immigrants, not only people of Middle Eastern descent, are at risk of becoming targets of revenge, violence and scapegoating. With the current hysteria in the United States, we must protect the human rights of immigrants. We must also continue to press for a federal immigration policy that addresses issues concerning the millions of undocumented people living within our borders.
4. Protect civil liberties. At times of national uncertainty and fear, we must guard against an erosion of civil liberties. The right to dissent is fundamental to our democracy, and alternative voices are necessary when the push for a national consensus is so strong. Congress must deliberate carefully when considering expanding the powers and budgets of national security agencies. The failure to protect civil liberties now may have serious consequences for the future.
5. Tell the truth about U.S. foreign economic policy, and build an based on human rights and social justice. The Resource Center gives voice to people who have been marginalized, silenced and ignored. We have shone a light on U.S. government support for anti-democratic governments and state-sponsored terror against civilian populations. We have exposed U.S. government tolerance of the wrenching violence of poverty throughout the hemisphere. We need to continue to focus on history, context and root causes if our nation is to move toward the future without repeating the mistakes of the past.
6. Build and strengthen mechanisms keep the peace, address poverty solve common problems. The United States, especially under President George W. Bush’s administration, frequently has chosen to ignore, disparage or abandon multilateral institutions set up to solve problems that affect the world community. We must strengthen bodies such as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. We must support agreements that address global problems.
7. Nurture tolerance and -cultural understanding. The Resource Center builds respect among various peoples and cultures. That work has never been more important. To heal as a nation and as individuals, we must continue coming together across racial, ethnic, religious and cultural divides. We must listen to one another’s point of view, working together to build a world free of fear, hatred and intolerance. We join with peace-loving people everywhere who seek a solution that affirms justice, protects human rights and allows healing.