WASHINGTON (RNS) Sixty leading intellectuals from the left, right and center have signed a letter supporting the war on terrorism, saying the military campaign is both "morally permitted" and "morally necessary."

The 10-page statement, issued Tuesday (Feb. 12), seeks to explain to the rest of the world -- especially Muslims -- why the U.S. military campaign is justified. While the scholars readily admit the failings and excesses of American society, they said certain American values are universal values.

In speaking specifically to Muslims and the Arab world, the letter says, "We are not enemies but friends. ... Your human dignity, no less than ours -- your rights and opportunities for a good life, no less than ours -- are what we believe we're fighting for."

Signers spoke frankly against growing Islamic militancy, calling it a "violent, extremist and radically intolerant religious-political movement that now threatens the world, including the Muslim world."

The letter is the latest in a series of statements that have garnered widespread support in defense of the war on terrorism. Earlier statements include "Deny Them Their Victory," drafted by social and religious progressives, which gained thousands of signatures, and a statement approved in November by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops.

The newest letter, coordinated by the Institute for American Values, found support across the ideological spectrum, drawing democratic socialist Michael Walzer of Princeton University on the left to Jean Bethke Elshtain, a moderate conservative ethicist from the University of Chicago.

The statement pulls together centuries of "Just War Theory," the political and moral parameters that form a framework for military combat. The letter said the "first and most important reply to evil is to stop it," and called the terror network a "clear and present danger to all people of goodwill everywhere in the world, not just in the United States."

"Such acts are a pure example of naked aggression against innocent human life, a world-threatening evil that clearly requires the use of force to remove it."

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