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Attacks in the U.S. - A Note from Nicolas de Torrente, MSF-USA Executive Director
September 18, 2001
Persons interested in volunteering their services—medical or nonmedical—may wish to refer to the following comprehensive lists of hotline numbers and contact details for agencies assisting in the emergency. These lists also include information about making donations.
Last Tuesday, unspeakably violent attacks were carried out on the United States: thousands of ordinary citizens were brutally massacred in a deliberate and calculated act of terror. We at Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are deeply shocked and saddened by these horrific events. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the victims of this catastrophe and to their families and friends. Our staff members and volunteers around the country and the world are deeply shaken.
In the hours following the tragedy, MSF extended an offer of support to the medical professionals and rescue workers assisting in the emergency. Our New York office staff, volunteering in whatever small ways they can, continue to witness the extraordinarily courageous and well-organized work being performed by thousands of rescue workers, medical professionals, firefighters, police officers and volunteers who have rallied to help in the relief effort. MSF knows well the depth of the generosity and volunteer spirit of Americans in coming to the aid of civilians harmed in disasters overseas, so we are enormously touched and moved, but not at all surprised, by the human solidarity displayed by New Yorkers and the entire country over the past week.
The attacks of September 11 are an all-out assault on our most basic humanitarian values. When civilians, wherever and whoever they are, become targets of violence, our common humanity is violated. A war on international terrorism has now been proclaimed, and military actions are being prepared. Will the response pinpoint those responsible for last week's terrible attacks? Or will it inflict death and destruction upon civilian populations?
Civilians must not be drawn into the broader confrontation. Their physical integrity must be respected and their basic needs attended to. This is the basic message of international humanitarian law, and it is a standard to be upheld. MSF's thirty years of field experience in civil conflicts around the world has taught us that too much human suffering has been inflicted upon innocent victims. The attacks on the United States join a sinister roll call of recent events where civilian populations have been deliberately targeted, from the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia to the indiscriminate bombing of Chechnya.
MSF seeks to act independently and with compassion for all those who suffer from war, famine, and epidemics throughout the world. With tensions escalating worldwide, however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to assist civilians caught in the midst of conflict. In Afghanistan for example, where hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have already been displaced by war and are suffering from hunger and disease, our teams throughout the country have been forced to withdraw due to fears surrounding attacks and reprisals. Although local Afghan staff are attempting to continue essential programs, we are deeply concerned about the plight of the hundreds of malnourished children in our feeding centers and patients in our medical centers. As impartial humanitarian assistance seeks to relieve human suffering, wherever it may be, it is important for us all to insist that it be respected.
The horrendous attacks on the United States deliver a sharp reminder that the life and dignity of ordinary citizens must be respected and shielded from the brutality of war and violence. The victims, their families and indeed all of us who believe in basic human values deserve no less.
Tags: September 11 Attacks