The U.S. assassination of Osama bin Laden announced on Sunday night continues the violence initiated by al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States and the reciprocation of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, which fields the largest team of registered peace lobbyists in Washington, DC and was founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
While many people in the United States may feel closure or vindication in the death of the man who claimed to be the intellectual author of the September 11 attacks, for many others it is a failure of imagination and of political will that led to answering violence with more violence.
FCNL believes that war is not the answer, and perpetual violence is not the answer. The costs are too high. Tens of thousands of people have been killed or wounded in the past decade, and more than $1 trillion has been spent by the United States alone. The United States has violated civil liberties and held political prisoners without trial.
Killing Osama bin Laden will not end violent extremism. The groups that Bin Laden worked with will remain. The war in Afghanistan continues. Troops remain in Iraq. As FCNL’s Jonathan Evans and others have noted on our blog, killing the al Qaeda leader goes against Friends’ testimonies and appears to violate international law.
Change is Coming
Change is coming to the Middle East. Most significantly for those of us in the FCNL community, the most powerful forces changing the political structures in the Middle East are the non-violent, inclusive mass movements that have already overthrown two authoritarian governments and are making change happen in several additional countries.
This is the moment to open a new chapter in U.S. foreign policy in the greater Middle East. This is the time for the United States to respond with solutions that don’t perpetuate violence, but rather build on the non-violent transformation occurring in the Greater Middle East. You can help encourage Congress to start this conversation by asking some key questions.
Will the administration and Congress take a hard look at the failed war policies of the last ten years? Although the United States entered Afghanistan in pursuit of Bin Laden and al Qaeda, 9-1/2 years later Bin Laden wasn’t found in that country, but rather living comfortably near the capital of one of the United States’ closet allies in the region. U.S. intelligence officials say there are fewer than 100 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan today.
Congress and the administration can look back at the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and other bipartisan experts that all identified greater diplomacy, development, and international cooperation as the tools most likely to address the threat of extremist terrorism.
We at FCNL will urge Congress to focus in the next few weeks on a serious reexamination of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The United States needs to abandon the current war strategy and adopt a new strategy focused on:
- beginning a significant withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan
- halting offensive operations against the Taliban
- engaging Afghan parties and Afghanistan’s neighbors in negotiating peace, and
- channelling U.S. development aid for reconstruction through Afghan, multilateral, and other civilian humanitarian organizations.
Contact your representative and senators today. Let them know what you think about the death of Osama bin Laden. Then ask your representative and senators to begin a fundamental review of U.S. policy in the region.