Leading Institutions Support Groups Opposing a U.S. Military Response

Terrorism is a tool of fanatics. It is a tool we need to break.

A well-connected foreign policy institute is circulating among policymakers a petition urging the Bush Administration and Congress to do the opposite.

The petition, by Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIS), a joint project of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC), concludes:

“The greater part of victory [over terrorists] will come through our government addressing the policies, circumstances, and grievances that spark terrorist responses, particularly against America. Otherwise, for every terrorist network broken, another will take its place.”1

This would tell terrorists: Kill several thousand Americans, and America will do what you want.

Instead of making terrorists pay, we’d be making terrorism pay off.

A word for that is “surrender.”

The idea that violence is caused by injustice and can be cured by justice is not a new one, but it is naïve. It presupposes that all grievances are rational and that all parties define justice identically.

One of Osama bin Laden’s key grievances was America’s military presence in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War – which America undertook with the best of intentions, and with worldwide support.

Our actions were in pursuit of justice… yet Osama bin Laden did not call it so. What his ilk call justice is not in our vocabulary. Pursuing it is no option.

The petition opposes the “military response… foreshadowed by the militaristic language of Bush Administration officials.” Its backers propose to protect Americans from future attacks by using police and military agencies to apprehend the terrorists and prosecute them before international, but not U.S., courts. A “thorough and independent” (and thus, time-consuming) investigation into how terrorists succeed is sought before U.S. intelligence and military terrorist-fighting capabilities are increased.2

Continuing investigations are advisable, but we’ve known for years about some of our vulnerabilities to terrorists. Independent commissions on terrorism have already made recommendations – most of which we did not follow. We need not wait for another report before we act.

The organizations circulating this petition are supported by hugely influential groups, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the Worldwatch Institute, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Ted Turner’s Turner Foundation, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, the Dominican Sisters, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Men’s Wearhouse.

It is unlikely that all of these organizations agree with the petition. A representative of the AFL-CIO sits on the board of the IRC3 and on the Advisory Committee of FPIF,4 and the IPS lists the AFL-CIO and AFSCME as donors.5 Yet AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney swiftly and appropriately offered President Bush the union’s support in Bush’s response to the attack6 while knowing full well that Bush plans a military response. AFSCME’s website displays a red, white and blue banner headline: “Mourn for the dead; Fight for the Living”7 – hardly a pacifistic response. AFSCME, like other AFL-CIO unions, lost members in the attack – including Father Mychal Judge, the firefighter chaplain who died giving last communion to a victim. Judge was a member of New York City’s District Council 37, Local 299.8 More than one member of the Air Line Pilots Association, an AFL-CIO union, has been interviewed on television. The impression frequently given was one of wholehearted support for President Bush’s proposed military response.

Likewise, it cannot be presumed that most Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists support the views this petition promotes. The National Council of Churches, an umbrella group to which all three denominations belong, is circulating a petition that does not condemn a U.S. military response, counseling merely that Americans should not be motivated by anger and vengeance as our leaders determine an “appropriate response.”9

Nevertheless, the FPIF, IPS and IRC have a combined 64-year history opposing American military action. They don’t hide their view that the U.S. often is responsible for critical world problems. To work with these organizations for years, to sit on their boards, to give them hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding cannot simply be an accident.

It is, however, entirely possible that many of the organizations and individuals that have supported FPIF, the IPS and the IRC in the past have changed their views since September 11. More than one American has already done so.

If so, in light of the literally life and death nature of this issue, we should expect them to repudiate this petition and end their support to the groups promoting it.

America is in a battle. We didn’t ask for it, but we got it, and now we need to win it. We don’t need some of our biggest institutions undermining our will to fight – particularly if they believe we should fight and win.

Amy Ridenour is President of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank. 


1 Copy of petition e-mailed to author by Foreign Policy in Focus on September 18, 2001. As of September 19, 2001, a copy of the petition was available on the FPIF website at http://www.fpif.org/.

2 Ibid.

3 The Interhemispheric Resource Center web site at web page http://www.irc-online.org/bod.html, downloaded on September 18, 2001, lists the following persons with their affiliations as members of the IRC board of directors: Judy Austermiller, The Boehm Foundation; Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley; John Cavanagh, Institute for Policy Studies; Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Charlie Clements, Border WaterWorks; Phil Dahl-Bredine, Instituto Paz en las Americas; Mary Kelly, Texas Center for Policy Studies; Thea Lee, AFL-CIO; Antonio Lujan, Diocese of Las Cruces; Conrad Martin, Fund for Constitutional Government; Cheryl Morden, International Center for Research on Women; Debra Preusch, Interhemispheric Resource Center (ex officio); Frank I. Sánchez, The Needmor Fund; Bob Stark, New Mexico Community Foundation; Beth Wood, San Diego Union Tribune (emeritus).

4 The Foreign Policy in Focus website, at web page http://fpif.org/ad-com.html, downloaded on September 18, 2001, listed the following persons with their affiliations as 2001 members of the FPIF Advisory Committee: Alejandro Bendaña, Center for International Studies; Salih Booker, Africa Policy Information Center/The Africa Fund/ Amercian Committee on Africa; Robert Borosage, Campaign for America’s Future; John Cavanagh, Institute of Policy Studies; Kristin Dawkins, Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy; John Feffer, American Friends Service Committee; Hilary French, Worldwatch Institute; John Gershman, Institute for Development Research/Interhemispheric Resource Center; William Goodfellow, Center for International Policy; William Hartung, World Policy Institute; Michael Klare, Hampshire College; Thea Lee, AFL-CIO; James Lobe, Inter Press Service; Lora Lumpe, Amnesty International; Lisa McGowan, Solidarity Center, AFL-CIO; Cheryl Morden, International Center for Research; Prexy Nesbitt, Francis W. Parker H.S.; Carlos Salinas, Amnesty International USA; Sherle Schwenninger, World Policy Institute; Michael Simmons, American Friends Service Committee; Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch/Middle East; Julia Sweig, Council on Foreign Relations; Joe Volk, Friends Committee on National Legislation; Coletta Youngers, Washington Office on Latin America; Stephen Zunes, University of San Francisco.

5 Institute for Policy Studies 1999 Annual Report.

6 “Statement by AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney on September 11 Tragedies,” September 12, 2001, downloaded from the AFL-CIO website at http://www.aflcio.org/publ/press2001/pr0912.htm on September 19, 2001.

7 Appearing on the AFSCME web page at http://www.afscme.org/whatsnew/terror.htm, as downloaded September 19, 2001.

8 AFSCME main web page, http://www.afscme.org/, downloaded September 18, 2001.

9 The National Council of Churches petition, while not mentioning the term “military” explicitly, touches on the topic when it counsels: “But we must not, out of anger and vengeance, indiscriminately retaliate in ways that bring on even more loss of innocent life.” The petition therefore seems to allow for military action if it is undertaken with the goal of protecting innocent person from future terrorist attacks. It certainly does not rule it out. The NCC petition’s next sentence: “We pray that President Bush and members of Congress will seek the wisdom of God as they decide upon the appropriate response.” A copy of the full NCC petition and signers was available at the NCC website at http://www.ncccusa.org/news/interfaithstatement.html on September 19, 2001.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.