Honor 9/11 Victims With Actions for Peace | Opinion

The September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows organization was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote: "Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows." Only through actions for peace can we save future generations from tragedy.

As we remember the loss of nearly 3,000 people from 20 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, we also mourn 13 U.S. soldiers killed in a terrorist attack last month in Afghanistan. The soldiers were evacuating civilians from Kabul after the Taliban takeover.

Twenty years of war did not bring Afghanistan stability and peace. The war cost thousands of lives of both soldiers and civilians. The September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows were right to call for "nonviolent and reasoned responses to the terrorist attacks." More people should have listened.

Only through non-violent means can we achieve peace in Afghanistan. President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Kabul back in 1959 on a goodwill tour and was greeted with cheers. What Eisenhower and King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan said that day could offer us some guidance: "It is imperative that international disputes are settled by peaceful means and further concurred in the need for world peace, especially so as to enable the energies of mankind to be channeled into constructive pursuits of development and human fulfillment."

Tragically, in the decades following Eisenhower's visit, Afghanistan became a giant battlefield experiencing an invasion by the Soviets and a civil war. The warfare created the conditions for terrorism to thrive, leading to the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S. war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

But the way forward in Afghanistan is not through war. Never ending conflict and massive military spending cannot win peace ultimately. Remember after World War II, it was the humanitarian spirit of the Marshall Plan that ultimately won the peace in Europe and prevented another war. Eisenhower also warned of the dangers of increased military spending and influence of the military industrial complex which could lead to foreign interventions.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is over after 20 years with the final withdrawal of troops. We need to remain engaged with Afghanistan diplomatically and through humanitarian aid. Those are the pathways to peace.

Flower placed on 9/11 memorial
A flower is placed on a name at the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero on Aug. 31, 2021, in New York City. Shahar Azran/Getty Images

The coming months are critical as Afghanistan is in danger of chaos after the fall of the government to the Taliban. The country is also experiencing a severe drought, food shortages and the spread of COVID-19.

Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world. There is a danger of famine in Afghanistan if food aid is not provided to villages that become inaccessible during winter. Relief agencies like the World Food Program, CARE, Save the Children and Catholic Relief Services urgently need funding to save Afghans from hunger.

We can each do something to help whether it's donating to charities in Afghanistan or helping people leave the country and resettle. We must not forget them even when Afghanistan someday fades from the headlines.

Peace must be our goal in other parts of the globe too. Let's not forget the tragic civil war in Yemen currently underway. We must never again enable such civil conflicts by providing weapons like we did to the Saudi Arabian led coalition fighting in Yemen. That has prolonged a war and put Yemen on the brink of famine. Terrorist groups have thrived in the chaos.

World Food Program trucks
World Food Program trucks set off from Kabul in May to take wheat flour to the provinces of Khost, Wardak and Ghazni. It is crucial that food aid be supported by the international community as hunger escalates in Afghanistan. Arete/Andrew Quilty/WFP

We must be peacemakers everywhere around the globe, instead of starting wars and selling arms. Peace actions must guide us as we remember and honor the victims of 9/11.

William Lambers is the author of the Road to Peace and partnered with the U.N. World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger. His writings have been published by The New York Times, Newsweek, History News Network and many other outlets.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.