Posted by: ourvoicestogether | September 11, 2007

Six Years Later: A Challenge to Ordinary Citizens to Become Part of Counterterrorism

Today is the sixth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Terrorism remains the most immediate external threat to the security of our country; the National Intelligence Estimate released this summer finds that al Qaeda has regrouped to pre-9/11 strength and is preparing again to strike the U.S. Experts are also saying that the core group of people around Bin Laden is rejuvenating while new, angry young sympathizers are getting more numerous.

Terrorism is a tactic used by extremists to coerce opponents and to gain supporters. We know that terrorist tactics lose their ability to coerce if they lose their ability to recruit.

Over the past six years we have focused more on the coercion side of the equation. Experts are now turning to the recruitment side. What can we do to help stem the flow of willing recruits?

Terrorism expert Robert Pape observed that “An individual can die; only a community can make a martyr.” The new Army and Marine Corps’ Counterinsurgency Field Manual, written in part by General David Petraeus makes the same observation. The Manual stresses that “At its core, counterinsurgency is a struggle for the population’s support. The protection, welfare, and support of the people are vital to success.”

Three years ago, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission put forth similar ideas. Chapter 12 of the Commission’s report contains their recommendations for a global strategy to fight terrorism, including that we:

  • use all elements of our national power and influence in “more than a war on terrorism,”
  • “offer an example of moral leadership in the world,” and
  • “be generous and caring to our neighbors.”

When we unite people, terrorists can’t isolate communities in order to use them as a base of support. The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization Terror Free Tomorrow has found that humanitarian missions and reaching out to our neighbors abroad is changing popular opinion. In public opinion research conducted in predominately Muslim countries, Terror Free Tomorrow found that 71% of bin Laden supporters in Indonesia and 79% in Pakistan said they thought more favorably of the United States as a result of American humanitarian assistance in their countries following the Indonesian tsunami and Pakistani earthquake. It’s not only much harder to brutalize those who have reached out to you; the building of schools or clinics represents an alternative vision of how energy and power can be directed.

Our Voices Together is a network started by 9/11 families and friends who are choosing to respond to terrorism with positive global outreach. We believe that citizen diplomacy is critical in the war on terror.

We are not so naïve as to believe that such efforts are the single antidote to terrorism. The work our law enforcement, intelligence, military, diplomats and others are doing is vital. However, citizens also have a critical role. The war against terror is a long one, and as American families reach out to families around the world, we can help make better, safer world.

Sally Goodrich’s son Peter was killed on United Airlines Flight 175 on 9/11. Sally wanted to respond with the kind of love and cross-cultural exploration that Peter had shared with the world. She raised $250,000 to build a girls’ school in Afghanistan which opened in the spring of 2006.

Susan Retik was pregnant when she lost her husband on 9/11. She and Patti Quigley, who was also pregnant and widowed on 9/11, started an annual bike ride from Ground Zero to Boston to raise money for Afghan widows.

Liz and Steve Alderman lost their son Peter at the World Trade Center on 9/11. They established the Peter C. Alderman Foundation to relieve the suffering of people affected by torture, terrorism and war. They opened clinics in Cambodia and northern Uganda in 2006 and are providing indigenous caregivers with the tools to treat post-traumatic depression.

Eric Gardner’s brother Jeff died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. The Gardner family established a scholarship in his name for college-aged participants in Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village program.

Joyce Manchester and David Stapleton were friends of Leslie Whittington, who was killed with her husband and their two children on 9/11. David and Joyce have formed a giving circle through Our Voices Together to support girls’ schools and save the lives of women and children in Afghanistan.

Claudia Merritt’s best friend was Norma Steuerle, who was killed on American Airlines Flight 77 on 9/11. As an ordained minister, she believes very strongly in the power of interfaith dialog to create a safer, more compassionate world and is the secretary for Our Voices Together.

Six years later we cannot change the past, but together we can shape the future. What have you done since 9/11/01 to build a safer, more compassionate world? Write a comment and let me know.



  1. From Laura Sierra:

    I started before 9/11 , I just try a bit harder now. our budget is tight , so I click to donate at several sites. I donate books etc. to 2 of our local schools and encourage my friends and family to do the same.we donate to the foodbank and to services for the blind and value village.

  2. From Carly Ritter:

    I became involved with an organization called The Garden of Forgiveness, ( seeks to teach forgiveness as a strategy for healing and conflict transformation. To break the endless cycle of violence and revenge, to achieve a lasting peace, there must be forgiveness: an intentional decision not to repay violence with violence. Forgiveness does not mean we condone horrific actions, and we must still protect ourselves and work in every way to eliminate terrorism. So we educate about this strategy for peacemaking, and plant gardens of forgiveness–physical spaces where people can reflect on their role in creating a peaceful world through the power of forgiveness.

  3. From Sherri Moses:

    I didn’t know about where the blankets where going, I found out about it later.

    Before 9/11, I had been crocheting blankets for an organization called Project Linus. They give blankets to people in hospitals, nursing homes etc… I had managed to crochet around 15 blankets to that point only to discover later that they had gone to the child survivors of the tragedy.

    We are not wealthy people, but when we have more than we need, or when their is a specific need, my family does what is called for. For the hurricane in New Orleans, or food drives or if a neighbor needs a hand, we do what we can to help.

  4. From Berry Lee:

    Recently I blogged on AOL that all the other points of view ., all the other religions and philosophies are not “just groping in the darkness.” In other words Christianity here in the US isnt the only way to go!! (as many seem to still believe) My favorite quotation is JFK’ ending to his inaugural
    address: “On this earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

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