11 Relatives speak out against war
by Voices in the Wilderness UK and ARROW
of Kelly and Ryans Visit
Excerpts from Kelly's speech
No. 13 - Six Months on: the victims
Kelly Campbell lost her brother-in-law
Craig Scott Amundson in the Pentagon on September 11th 2001. Together
with other September 11th relatives, she travelled to Afghanistan
in January 2002 on a mission of peace and reconciliation. Kelly
is a key figure in Peaceful Tomorrows, an anti-war network of
September 11th relatives. Their
website is www.peacefultomorrows.org
Kelly visited the UK with Ryan Amundson, Craig's brother, in February
'Wars are poor chisels for carving out
peaceful tomorrows’ Martin Luther King, Jr.
On September 11 Craig Scott Amundson was
killed while working in the Pentagon. In February, his sister
in law, Kelly Campbell and his brother, Ryan Amundson, travelled
to the UK to speak about their own reactions to the 'war on terrorism'
and their actions for peace in the months that have followed.
“One of the hardest days was the day we had
a memorial service for Craig in his home town. We gathered with
his friends to tell Craig stories and to talk about who he was
and what an important person he was to all of us. And as we were
preparing to go to the memorial service we turned on the television
and that's when we learned that our government had started bombing
in Afghanistan. And for me that was such a difficult day because
I knew that there were other families for whom that day was their
Kelly continues: “As the weeks and months went by, we didn't hear
much about those families. And yet we continued to hear our stories.
We have felt the sympathy and the human connection with other
people all over the world who care about us. But I kept wondering
about those Afghan families and who was caring about them”.
In November, Kelly Camp-bell and Ryan Amundson joined a small
group who had lost relatives on September 11 on the Walk for Healing
and Peace. Under the banner ‘Our grief is not a cry for war’,
they covered the distance between Washington DC and Ground Zero,
New York, stopping to talk to the communities through which they
passed, expressing their determination to talk of alternatives
In January this year, Kelly and three other relatives undertook
another mission for peace and reconcilitation, this time to Afghanistan.
They met Afghan families whose lives had been blighted by the
US bombing and they spoke against the continuing cycle of violence
to US and Afghan politicians and officials. Kelly has a photograph
of 6 year old boy. “His name is Fardeen. And he lives in Kabul
about a kilometre away from the airport. So when the bombs fell
on his neighbourhood, all the neighbours thought, well, they're
trying to bomb the airport but apparently they've missed. On the
day that the bombs fell in his neighbourhood, this little boy
stopped talking. And he also stopped walking. He has reverted
to an infantile state. He has to be carried around. He's starting
to act more like a baby. And this is in a country where there's
virtually no mental health care available.
“I met an eight-year-old boy who was missing part of his hand.
He told us that he had been playing near his house with his ten-year-old
friend, and that his friend had seen something yellow and picked
it up and he had shouted "No! Don't touch it!" And he watched
his friend explode and die. And he's in the hospital missing part
of his hand”.
Kelly spoke of a conversation she had with her two year old niece
Charlotte, Craig's child, in which the little girl’s knowledge
of her father's death was clear. “It made me think about how I'm
going to explain all this to Charlotte some day, and what action
has our Government taken to respond to Craig's murder. As far
as I can tell, the main action that they've taken is to kill more
innocent people and to give more children horrible stories to
During their stay in Afghanistan, the relatives met people who
had approached the US Embassy for help after losing their houses,
livelihoods or families in the bombing. They were turned away
and one woman who had lost all but one child was dismissed as
a beggar. The relatives held a press conference outside the Embassy
highlighting the desparate situation that many Afghan people have
been left in and they were able to get some assistance for them.
They also delivered messages from American school children to
which young Afghani girls responded with both a plea that they
not be forgotten and an enduring faith in the citizens of the
The long term committment of the relatives has led them to establish
September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. The title
comes from the Martin Luther King quote - a message that the 20
or so families involved are taking around the US through speaking
tours and press conferences. The group seeks to create a safe
and open dialogue on alternatives to war and the search for justice,
create a commonality with all people affected by violence and
work against erosion of civil liberties and other freedoms at
home as a consequence of war.
They are currently calling on the US government to conduct a study
of civilian casualties and to establish an Afghan Victims Fund
to compensate the 'sister families' of Afghan victims. “Afghan
relief organizations suggest an average grant of $10,000 to rebuild
homes, restock possessions, secure adequate medical and psychological
care, or compensate for the loss of breadwinners and caretakers.
Assuming 2,000 families seek compensation, this would amount to
a meager $20 million. Twenty million is less than one day's military
expense during the bombing campaign, which cost $30 million a
Fearing that a positive response from the US government will be
some time coming, the group have started the work themselves.
As among those most affected by the events of September 11, the
relatives are determined that their voices will be heard. “The
greatest honor to my brother's life would be that his death would
mark the end of this vicious cycle of violence. Stopping terrorism
requires fundamental social and economic changes. The current
strategy of reliance on violent force does not address these essential
aspects. The Bush Administration should concentrate more on exploring
alternatives to an ineffective, counterproductive, and vengeful
Report by Emma Sangster, first printed
in Non-violent Action
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