On the anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11 in New York when the landmark Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were brought down with the use of civilian planes as bombs, along with the simultaneous attempt on the Pentagon Building, one reflects on the horrific event with its 3000 plus causalities, and its aftermath.
The attack was precipitated by the desire of Islamic extremists to strike back at the United States, on its home soil, for what they perceived to be a long history of exploitation, and constant military, social, commercial and religious persecution by an Imperialist-America against Islamic countries, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East. The cause took on the aspects of a holy war, a ‘Jihad’, for the death and destruction of Muslims on their home soil, by America and the West.
In addition, America’s unwavering, unjudgmental, financial-diplomatic and military support of an increasingly encroaching, aggressive, humiliating Israel, towards the Arabs/Muslims people, inflamed the most extreme of the militant groups that wanted to strike back, and on 9/11/2001 they did, horrifically.
On September 11th, 2001, a coordinated attack with two planes brought down the Twin Towers, another plane damaged a part of the Pentagon Building, and another crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Altogether, over 3000 people were killed, including rescue workers, and many more were injured - including family, friends and fellow citizens that were scarred for their life. The perpetrators were 19 men - 15 from Saudi Arabia, 2 from United Arab Emirates, 1 from Lebanon, and 1 from Egypt – purportedly all claimed allegiance to the extremist group Al Qaeda, headed by Osama Bin-Laden.
The trauma and the deep scars left on America by ‘9/11’, as the attack has come to be universally known, are still raw today.
Before 9/11, America’s sense of inviolability had been damaged only once before, by the pre-war surprise attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. That ‘act of war’ had taken approximately 2400 American lives.
This attack not only shattered America’s sense of inviolability once again, but since World War II, its growing and entrenched sense of invincibility, particularly because the surprise attack had been carried out not by a Nation State, but by a motley bunch of miscellaneous non-State actors. That aspect of the attack scored a direct hit on the psyche of the whole Nation and its core identity. America suddenly felt exposed, naked and vulnerable, and in a sense, has never been quite the same again.
America had reacted to the Pearl Harbor attack with righteous outrage and a national determination to defeat Japan in an open conventional war. In eventually doing so, the Country had felt noble vindication in a response that was obviously justified, and had gained an unquestionable victory that had a satisfying, honorable feel to it, in spite of the additional human and financial costs.
Even the use of two atomic bombs at the end of the war to ensure Japan’s unconditional surrender, has been justified repeatedly, by the seeming reasonable assumption that the use of those nuclear weapons had hastened the war’s end, and therefore had saved many more American and possibly Japanese lives.
But this time it was different.
Post 9/11, America’s shock and outrage was predictable and deep, and also generated a lot of paranoia which is as fresh today as it was then. This attack had hit America at its psychic core, its vulnerability suddenly laid bare, and its response to the attack was in part justifiable and predictable, additionally highly questionable and in hind-sight seemingly bizarre and unjustifiable.
The administration of the day, with George W. Bush as President, after they recovered from the shock, declared an all-out ‘war on terror’, and promised to hunt down any and all terrorists plotting to attack America on its home soil, or on foreign soil by attacking its embassies, interests and assets, and people (Americans abroad). This war on terror was launched immediately and is still on-going today.
This much was predictable and justifiable, but then the administration veered sharply off-course and started building a bizarre case for attacking whole countries that really had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The rhetoric shifted dramatically from ‘finding those who were responsible and bringing them to justice’, to finding and destroying ‘weapons of mass destruction’, overthrowing ‘evil regimes’, ‘exporting democracy and freedom’, ‘equality and justice’ and other such noble endeavors. Not only did the message get incredibly confused, but so did the mission. The rest, as they say, is history.
America attacked Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen and threatened Iran. Countries that did not have anything to do anything with the 9/11 attack.
The countries from where the perpetrators had actually come from, Saudi Arabia (15 of the 19), United Arab Emirates (2), Lebanon (1), and Egypt (1), were not touched. And while we certainly are not condoning any attacks on any of these countries, we also believe that in attacking and destroying Iraq on false premises, and by going on an all-out war in Afghanistan (which has become America’s longest non-winning war to-date, over 16 years and counting), rather than just hunting terrorists taking refuge in Afghanistan, America lost its way and the moral high ground, and its justifiable claim to honorable justice.
These 9/11 triggered wars have cost hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians’ lives (in total well over a million) in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan, and the causalities are still climbing as the fighting is still ongoing. It has also cost the U.S. well in excess of $8 Trillion to fight the ‘war on terror’, which is still not won.
One of the big problems with these ill-conceived and poorly justified wars is that they have killed over a million civilians who had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack. The number of innocent dead and injured in the ‘war on terror’ are horrific enough, but over 10 Million more people have been displaced from their homes and countries. This continuing and rising toll on innocent human lives is breeding new resentments, and possible fresh recruits for extremist groups who are happy to exploit America’s heavy-handed, unjust, and imprecise response to the 9/11 attack that killed about 3000 people.
By using the 9/11 attack as an excuse to wage an all-out war on the wrong countries and the wrong people, instead of just addressing the terror groups and the causes of the resentments, America itself shifted the focus from its honorable and justifiable actions required in face of such an attack, to putting itself in an untenable position of waging war on false pretenses and for the wrong reasons.
These wars on terror, to-date, have cost America its credibility, many more American lives, vast sums of money, and any chance of an honorable and satisfactory victory in the pursuit of rightful and noble justice. At the same time, the wholesale death and destruction wrought by America, in pursuit of vengeance and other ulterior motives, has given even more fodder for extremist recruiters to recruit additional bitter and grieving people who have been tragically wronged by America by becoming party to the limitless ‘acceptable collateral damage’ in its extensive overt and covert military operations that never ends. 9/11 wounded America deeply, and since then America has been biting and re-wounding itself.