Harry Browne’s Famous 9/12 Letter, with a Foreword from Scott Horton

On September 11th, 2001, in the aftermath of the most deadly foreign attack on the United States since 1941, then-recent Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne sat down and hammered out this simple and honest take on the situation. He warned that our government had surely provoked the attack through their wanton violence in the Middle East and that we should be careful not to overreact in a way that would compound our terrorism problem.

If Browne had won the election of 2000, September 11th almost certainly would not have even happened since he would have already removed the U.S. military from Saudi Arabia and ended U.S. support for Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians, the major motives of the attackers. If the attack had proceeded regardless, Browne’s War on Terrorism surely would have been over by Christmas 2001 and we would live in a very different, and much better, world today.

The Democrats aren’t even pretending to be antiwar anymore. They lead the War Party now. And the America First Republicans are late to the game and slow in coming.

It is up to us, the libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party of this country to take the lead of the antiwar movement, to finally bring an end to the War on Terrorism, Great Power Competition with the Eastern powers and the doctrine of American global hegemony before war finally destroys what’s left of our old republic.

Join the Libertarian Party in our fight to end US involvement in Yemen. Today, visit 1833StopWar.com to see how one phone call can add your voice to the support for the resolutions in front of the House and Senate. We’re also continuing the fight to pass Defend the Guard legislation in 50 states.
-Scott Horton
When Will We Learn?
By Harry Browne
Originally published on 9/12/01
The terrorist attacks against America comprise a horrible tragedy. But they shouldn’t be a surprise.
It is well known that in war, the first casualty is truth – that during any war truth is forsaken for propaganda. But sanity was a prior casualty: it was the loss of sanity that led to war in the first place.

Our foreign policy has been insane for decades. It was only a matter of time until Americans would have to suffer personally for it. It is a terrible tragedy of life that the innocent so often have to suffer for the sins of the guilty.

When will we learn that we can’t allow our politicians to bully the world without someone bullying back eventually?

President Bush has authorized continued bombing of innocent people in Iraq. President Clinton bombed innocent people in the Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Serbia. President Bush, senior, invaded Iraq and Panama. President Reagan bombed innocent people in Libya and invaded Grenada. And on and on it goes.

Did we think the people who lost their families and friends and property in all that destruction would love America for what happened?

When will we learn that violence always begets violence?

Teaching lessons

Supposedly, Reagan bombed Libya to teach Muammar al-Gadhafi a lesson about terrorism. But shortly thereafter a PanAm plane was destroyed over Scotland, and our government is convinced it was Libyans who did it.

When will we learn that “teaching someone a lesson” never teaches anything but resentment – that it only inspires the recipient to greater acts of defiance.

How many times on Tuesday did we hear someone describe the terrorist attacks as “cowardly acts”? But as misguided and despicable as they were, they were anything but cowardly. The people who committed them knowingly gave their lives for whatever stupid beliefs they held.

But what about the American presidents who order bombings of innocent people – while the presidents remain completely insulated from any danger? What would you call their acts?

When will we learn that forsaking truth and reason in the heat of battle almost always assures that we will lose the battle?

Losing our last freedoms

And now, as sure as night follows day, we will be told we must give up more of our freedoms to avenge what never should have happened in the first place.

When will we learn that it makes no sense to give up our freedoms in the name of freedom?

What to do?

What should be done?

First of all, stop the hysteria. Stand back and ask how this could have happened. Ask how a prosperous country isolated by two oceans could have so embroiled itself in other people’s business that someone would want to do us harm. Even sitting in the middle of Europe, Switzerland isn’t beset by terrorist attacks, because the Swiss mind their own business.

Second, resolve that we won’t let our leaders use this occasion to commit their own terrorist acts upon more innocent people, foreign and domestic, that will inspire more terrorist attacks in the future.

Third, find a way, with enforceable constitutional limits, to prevent our leaders from ever again provoking this kind of anger against America.


There are those who will say this article is unpatriotic and un-American – that this is not a time to question our country or our leaders.

When will we learn that without freedom and sanity, there is no reason to be patriotic?