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Home / Press Release / Twenty years after 9/11, Human Rights First Urges Policies Reflecting a New Era
September 10, 2021

Twenty years after 9/11, Human Rights First Urges Policies Reflecting a New Era

WASHINGTON - Today, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Human Rights First issued 20 Years After 9/11: Rights-Based Policies for a New Era, a report detailing our priorities for moving beyond a post-9/11 world.

The report discusses how 9/11 defined U.S. national priorities, Human Rights First response and our focus on combatting discriminatory, xenophobic and inhumane practices and policies that the U.S. implemented under the pretext of a “Global War on Terror.”

“The premise of post-9/11 policy in the United States was that respect for human rights weakens national security. Today, from the streets of the United States to the villages of Afghanistan, the verdict on that approach is in,” said Michael Breen, CEO and President of Human Rights First.  “These short-sighted and counterproductive policies cost the U.S. and the world greatly.”

Human Rights First has worked throughout the evacuation of Afghanistan to address the direct, though delayed, results of decisions made by the U.S. government in the aftermath of 9/11.

HRF’s current leadership on Afghanistan includes:

  • Advocating for action by the Biden administration and Congress to keep American promises to our allies
  • Leading a coalition that produced a plan for a safe, orderly, rights-centered evacuation to U.S. territory
  • Collaborating with the NGO and veterans communities, Congressional offices, the State Department, and key players in Afghanistan inside Kabul’s international airport and elsewhere in the country to bring as many Afghans to safety
  • Producing guides to help trapped Afghans protect themselves
  • Standing up legal assistance for those arriving in the United States

“These policies have destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives, consumed trillions of dollars, flouted national and international laws, shipped billions in weapons to repressive regimes, provided succor to despots, alienated allies, severely damaged this country’s standing on the international stage, fueled conflicts and massive human displacement, contributed to militarized and violent policing in the United States, diverted resources from other national priorities and allowed Al Qaeda and its offshoots to flourish,” said Breen.

20 Years After 9/11: Rights-Based Policies for a New Era honors the 20th anniversary of 9/11 by issuing calls for action and accountability. 

The post-9/11 militarization of U.S. foreign policy, which targeted Black, Brown and Muslim communities abroad, also affected our domestic policies, particularly the increasing militarization of policing and immigration enforcement. In response, Human Rights First calls on the administration to:  

  • Address racial injustice in part by stemming the flow of military resources to law enforcement by freezing the 1033 and 1122 programs, ending the military’s role in immigration enforcement, halting federalize responses to Constitutionally-protected protests and addressing racism and bigotry in our armed forces; 
  • End “endless wars” by repealing long-standing Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs), reform the War Powers Act and adopt a rights-respecting approach to national security. 
  • Close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, where abuses have tarnished the U.S. reputation as a global leader on human rights and cease indefinite detentions;
  • Make minimizing and accounting for civilian harm in military operations a central element of U.S. foreign policy.