Ending their silence after a week of mourning the victims of terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, a broad range of religious leaders, social activists, entertainers, student organizations and business figures are beginning to publicly urge President Bush to show restraint in his response and to carefully calibrate the use of U.S. military power.
As part of the budding peace offensive, over 1,200 members of the National Council of Churches and a diverse coalition -- organized by Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover and Rosa Parks -- issued strong statementsyesterday noting that, while the attacks' perpetrators should be brought to justice, wholesale military action would incite more terrorism, not end it. Demonstrations and teach-ins are planned on scores of campuses today, and some of the groups that had geared up to protest the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Washington are joining forces, instead, in plans for a peace gathering here on Sept. 30.
Peace activists rally in Boston, Massachusetts, September 19, 2001 to oppose the war against terrorism declared by U.S. President Bush in response to the September 11, 2001 hijackings of four commercial airliners. Three of the airliners were crashed into the Pentagon near Washington and New York's World Trade Center. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Some protesters bring a special moral force to their argument. Judy Keane, whose husband, Richard, was killed in the World Trade Center during last week's attacks, spoke out against military retaliation during a prayer vigil that she helped organize near her home in Wethersfield, Conn., Sunday evening. The event drew more than 5,000 people.
"The World Trade Center [attack] was in retaliation for something else, and that was the retaliation for something else," she said in a telephone interview yesterday. "Are we going to continue this in perpetuity? We have to say at some point, okay, let's find another way of doing this."
Business executive and CNN founder Ted Turner argued against a military solution yesterday at the United Nations as he delivered a $31 million check to cover part of the United States' U.N. dues. "We should not, I don't think, go around and indiscriminately start bombing countries that we suspect the terrorists are in because there are terrorists everywhere, here in the United States," he said. "What were [Oklahoma City bombers] Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh but terrorists?"
The statement by the National Council of Churches declared: "We must not, out of anger and vengeance, indiscriminately retaliate in ways that bring on even more loss of innocent life." The coalition of more than 100 people organized by entertainers Belafonte and Glover and civil rights legend Rosa Parks said in a separate letter: "Our best chance of preventing such devastating acts of terror is to act decisively and cooperatively as part of a community of nations within the framework of international law."
Organizers say there is a fast-growing network of peace activists who will likely outnumber the demonstrators who rallied during the Persian Gulf War a decade ago. Student groups are planning peace demonstrations on 105 college campuses in 30 states today. More than 1,000 students and community members from nine Boston-area schools are expected to participate in noontime rallies that will converge in a march from Boston to Harvard Yard, while close to 3,000 are expected to march and mourn on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley.
"There's pretty much a consensus among students in this group [that] we want to prevent the continuation of the cycle of violence by averting war," said Brad Hornbake, 22, a senior at Emerson College in Boston.
Meanwhile, the Washington Peace Center, a pacifist and human rights group, is planning a major "peace event" in Washington on Sept. 30 as an alternative to the canceled meetings of the World Bank and IMF. Organizers stressed that the event will not involve any of the "confrontational tactics" that were used during previous meetings of the international agencies.
"We don't want the violence here to be perpetrated somewhere else," said Maria Ramos, a coordinator of the event. "The U.S. has the moral high ground now . . . . This is a time for building alliances based on law and strengthening international tribunals [for] cross-border terrorism."
Special correspondent Colum Lynch contributed to this report.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company