WASHINGTON — Family members who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack rejected President George W. Bush’s attempt to use the fifth anniversary of the tragedy to rally support for his Iraq war.

Bush pleaded for national unity in support of the war policy during a visit to “ground zero” in New York and in a televised speech from the Oval Office.

But Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband died in the World Trade Center (WTC), told Chris Matthews on MSNBC Sept. 10 that she was deeply disappointed that Bush botched the capture of Osama bin Laden and dragged the U.S. into the Iraq war, allowing bin Laden to escape.

David Potorti, who lost his brother in the WTC bombing, told the World he agrees completely with Breitweiser. “There was no connection between the Sept. 11, 2001, attack and Iraq. The war has been a hopeless exercise of power and a terrible waste of lives and money.”

Potorti is the director of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. In commemoration of the fifth anniversary, the group brought people from around the world who suffered personally from terrorism to New York for a weekend conference. The meeting established a new International Network for Action and Policy Change to “break the cycle of violence by creating an organization devoted to healing, reconciliation and peace.”

Said Potorti, “Five years after Sept. 11, we’ve seen the limitations of our military actions which have often provoked more violence, more civilian casualties and more anti-American sentiment than before. It’s time we listened to those who have been most affected by terrorism, violence and war and learn how they have successfully promoted conflict resolution in their own countries and communities.”

Delegates came from Rwanda, Afghanistan, Algeria, Israel, Palestine, Indonesia, Spain, Japan, Italy, South Africa, Ireland and Russia. Potorti said, “We found out how important it is to make that person-to-person contact. You can talk to someone from Rwanda by e-mail. But there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings. It brings us back to our united humanity and getting the work done.”

He added, “I think Sept. 11 was an invitation for us to join the rest of the world. The rest of the world knows what terrorism is. I think we remain stuck in anger to avoid dealing with our grief. When we hear other people’s stories of grief, it is a catalyst for opening up our hearts so that we can move on to do good works.”

Bush tried in his speeches to “make the case that there are dangerous people in dangerous places” who must be destroyed with military might, Potorti said. “We think it is better to look at courageous people in dangerous places who are working for peace.”

Meanwhile, across the nation, thousands joined in “9/11 Call for Freedom from Fear” rallies and vigils initiated by the Friends Committee on National Legislation. “The ‘war on terror’ isn’t working,” said Robin Aura Kanegis, FCNL campaign director. “We call on congressmembers … to reject the failed policies … and develop new policies to protect the people.”

More than 200,000 people signed petitions demanding that ABC cancel the airing of a scurrilous docudrama, “The Path to 9/11,” that blames Democrats for failing to apprehend the 9/11 terrorists during Bill Clinton’s years in office. The petition blasted the film for advancing the Republican right’s “cheap, callous, political agenda just in time for the election.”

Tom Kean, co-chair of the 9/11 Commission and a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from New Jersey, served as a consultant in the film, which fabricates incidents that never happened and puts words in the mouths of then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger that they never said. ABC went ahead with airing the two-part program, interrupting the second segment to splice in Bush’s Oval Office speech.