An Inclusive Litany


From a symposium of novelists and essayists (a.k.a. "griots, teachers, and critics") on the question of how to respond to the terrorist attacks, organized by Rachel Neumann and eventually published in the Village Voice, October 9, 2001:

Isabel Allende, author of Portrait in Sepia:
A massive Marshall Plan for the third world is required to help diminish the gap between rich and poor. The "gated community" mentality will not keep the underprivileged subdued and invisible.

Howard Zinn, author of The People's History of the United States:
Treat this as if a criminal is taking refuge in a neighborhood of poor, desperate people who will not give him away. Try to apprehend the evil one. Don't bomb the neighborhood, but clean it up with food, jobs, good housing, and health care, in order to get at the root of terrorism and eliminate the pool of desperation from which terrorists are recruited.

Eduardo Galeano, author of Upside Down:
In the battle of Good versus Evil, it is always the common people who fill the graves. Contempt for the popular will is one of the many common threads between state terrorism and private terrorism. In Porto Alegre, at the beginning of the year, the Algerian revolutionary leader Ahmed Ben Bella warned, "This system, which has already made the cows mad, is driving the people mad." And the madmen, mad with hate, act exactly the same as the power that produces them.

Katha Pollitt, Nation columnist and author of Subject to Debate:
What if the U.S. offered to lift nonmilitary sanctions on Iraq in return for Osama bin Laden, who would be tried at the international criminal court? As for Afghanistan, perhaps the most miserable place on earth at the moment, the government should take the money it would spend on bombs and soldiers and use half of it to help the wretched Afghan people and support those among them who favor democracy, human rights—especially women's rights and ethnic cooperation—and the other half to Pakistan in return for withdrawing its support for the Taliban.

Robin D.G. Kelley, history professor, NYU, and coauthor of Three Strikes:
In 1932, a group of French and Caribbean Surrealists got together and wrote a brief called "Murderous Humanitarianism," vowing to change "the imperialist war, in its chronic and colonial form, into a civil war." I say the same thing: We need a civil war, class war, whatever, to put an end to U.S. policies that endanger all of us. Imagine a U.S. foreign policy committed to real democracy in the world, ending poverty with no strings attached or profit motive, respecting Islamic concerns regarding Western occupation of sacred land. Rather than beat up a whole nation, we could identify and isolate those directly responsible and bring them to trial and, as we should have done with the Confederate South, make them liable for damages by seizing assets.

Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed:
I don't know how you wage war against one person; it doesn't make sense. I can imagine a commando-type raid to capture Bin Laden, then a trial, with evidence, before the world court. But that would not address the vast global inequalities in which terrorism is ultimately rooted. What is so heartbreaking to me as a feminist is that the strongest response to corporate globalization and U.S. military domination is based on such a violent and misogynist ideology.

Alice Walker, novelist:
In a war on Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden will either be left alive, while thousands of impoverished, frightened people are bombed into oblivion around him, or he will be killed in a bombing attack for which he seems quite prepared. But what would happen to his cool armor if he could be reminded of all the good, nonviolent things he has done? Further, what would happen to him if he could be brought to understand the preciousness of the lives he has destroyed? I firmly believe the only punishment that works is love.

Noam Chomsky, linguistics professor, MIT:
When the U.S. launched a murderous terrorist war against Nicaragua, Nicaragua did not set off bombs in Washington but took the matter to the World Court, which ordered the U.S. to cease its "unlawful use of force" and to pay substantial reparations. The U.S. responded by escalating the terrorist attack. Nicaragua approached the Security Council, which called on all states to observe international law (vetoed by the U.S.), and then went to the General Assembly, which passed a similar resolution (again vetoed by the U.S.). No one will stop the U.S. if it follows the procedures that it blocked in the case of Nicaragua.

Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent, Al-Hayat:
For this global struggle against terrorism to succeed, it needs to be deep and thorough not broad and shallow. The administration must dare to tell Israel it has to end its settlements and occupation. The Arab and Islamic world must self-examine and recognize the need for democratic processes. The American public needs to learn foreign policy, not only to know the enemy, but to learn about the world as the U.S. shapes up new bilateral, regional, and global relations.

Naomi Klein, author of No Logo:
The left needs to reject, once and for all, the label "anti-globalization." As Bush forces the world to join America's war, sidelining the United Nations and the international courts, we need to become passionate defenders of true multilateralism. What we are seeing is not a global response to terrorism but the internationalization of one country's foreign policy objectives. This is the trademark of U.S. international relations, from the WTO negotiating table to Kyoto. We can make these connections not as "anti-Americans" but as true internationalists.

Rabbi Robert J. Marx, president of National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice:
How can we declare to the nations of the world that they are either for us or against us, while we demonstrate our contempt for the world by greedily devouring its resources, by refusing to join the Kyoto Environmental Pact, by rejecting the 1972 ban on biological weapons, and by refusing to join the world court. Above all, we need to begin to feel that we are part of the world, until now we have been spared its pain. Now we need to share its sacrifice.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk and author of Anger:
Face what you think is the cause of your suffering and say: I know you must have suffered a lot in order to have done such a thing to us. Have we contributed to your suffering? If you say this sincerely, it is not a lack of courage but a courageous act.

Vivian Gornick, author of The Situation and the Story:
A military strike? Where? What? When? Above all, against whom? If you hit them in Iraq, they'll re-group in Libya. if you squash them in Libya, they'll rise up in Afghanistan. They have struck us, and in their strike announced: We'd rather die—and take you with us—than go on living in the world you have forced us to occupy. Force will get us nowhere. It is reparations that are owing, not retribution.

Danny Hoch, actor:
If the U.S. attacks another nation, we are guaranteed the murder of millions on U.S. soil. I know people that were killed on 9-11 and I am crushed. But I hold the U.S. government responsible, not the Arab world. Stop terrorism, save lives, stop pillaging the world, you supposedly elected f***ing assholes. Guaranteed to work or your money back.

Bernardine Dohrn, director of the Children and Family Justice Center [and former leader of the terrorist Weather Underground]:
Nothing justifies the unspeakable attack against human beings. And if our rejection of terrorism encompasses all forms—individual, group, and official—we are obliged, even amid tidal waves of sorrow and solidarity, fury and fear, to openly reckon with U.S. interventions, tyranny, and terror. No aggrandizement of American power will yield safety or security. We need to strengthen our longings for peace and our active resistance to xenophobia. Can we choose to share our fate with other peoples on the uneasy terrain where equity and justice are the only possible paths to peace?

Suheir Hammad, poet:
Before any military action is ever taken anywhere, all citizens of the world will recite the pledge below:
Me, I pledge my allegiance
to the love of all of humanity
and to the aspirations we all share
one species
one blood
one love
one destiny
one love
one destiny
under all manifestations of god
with liberty and
medicine and shelter and
food and self-determination and freedom of religion and freedom of expression and freedom of movement and love and justice
for all.

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