The world and particularly the Americans are remembering, with teary eyes, those 3,000 lives lost fifteen years ago in the most unfortunate terror attacks in the beginning of the current century. The attacks on the icons of America’s economic and military powers, World Trade Center and Pentagon, were unique in the sense that these changed the world order instantly. The change did not take place due to the terrorist attacks; the world was changed by exaggeration of threat and massive, and needless, reaction and fury of the sole super power.
Within a period of one month, a punitive attack of combined forces of the West was launched on Afghanistan which toppled the government of Taliban. This attack was another unique in the sense that it caused the terrorists to heave a sigh of relief. They were not angered by the attack, they were jubilant. By the hindsight, it has now been revealed that this was what al Qaeda was asking for. It had successfully provoked the US to enter the land where two earlier super powers, Britain and USSR, had lost their pride and glory. After ten years, one trillion dollars in direct war costs having gone down the drain and thousands of lives lost, al Qaeda is many times stronger and formidable. The US has gained nothing except for finding and killing OBL, who was only a figurehead. The COO of al Qaeda is alive and kicking and so is his ideology of conquering the world and a growing bunch of ideologues.
The massive damage caused by the US attack on Afghanistan is collateral damage. Whether it fits into the calculation of loss of human lives depends upon who got killed. By American definition, those locals who died during the war on terror constituted collateral damage. Lives lost in collateral damage outnumber those lost on 9/11 many times over but this loss is not as significant as of those 3,000 lives. The entire region has become instable giving al Qaeda an excellent opportunity to advance its agenda. The war between the US and a handful of terrorists has assumed the status of a crusade which has given some legitimacy to the killing and mayhem perpetrated by the terrorists. They are fighting this war from the position of an equal number.
It is now time for introspection, if not for the humanity, at least for the benefit of American people who are generally internationally naive. They suffer, and will continue to suffer, international hatred for no fault of theirs, but for the fault of those who take decisions for them. Technically, these decision-makers represent Americans but their arrogant mindset does not represent the mindset of common Americans.The question that the American people should be asking themselves and their leaders is whether that bunch of transnational thugs who perpetrated 9/11 deserved the amount of response that the administration of that time gave? This did nothing except to promote public perception of al Qaeda as a force to reckon with. In order to understand the impact of ill-advised wastage of power and resources of the sole super power, just try to evaluate the power and influence of al Qaeda now as compared to ten years ago. Today, it is a dreaded force which the combined armies of the world, with state-of-the-art fighting technology at their disposal, have failed to weaken, let alone eliminate.
The reaction of the US administration to 9/11 attacks was as extremist as the attack itself. And the media painted the terrorists as such a threat that it unnerved those who were responsible to take crucial decisions.According to The National, the gruesome purpose of that carefully staged media spectacle was to amplify the significance of Al Qaeda thousands of times beyond its actual power in the Muslim world, and it worked: mediated through real-time television and the responses of US leadership, September 11 turned Osama bin Laden’s diminutive network, in the minds of a fearful American imaginations, into a menacing juggernaut.
The climate of media-fuelled fear after the attacks allowed an imperial minded extremist element in the Bush administration to march America off into two wars that did nothing for America’s security, but have already cost the lives of more than twice as many Americans as died on September 11, as well as killing hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis, and accelerating US economic decline by adding more than $1 trillion to its fiscal burden even as the Bush administration handed trillions of dollars of tax revenues back to the wealthiest Americans.
The fundamental assumptions that America’s survival was threatened by a little known terrorist organization, and that the only acceptable response was an expeditionary war against all who would challenge its writ in the region was flawed from the very beginning.
This response not only pitched the American nation against the whole Muslim world, it glorified the gory act of terrorism. Additionally, it gave rise to many conspiracy theories and made the world whole lot more insecure and much more unsafe. The ideology of al Qaeda, at least in the Muslim world, remained a useless commodity which no one was prepared to buy. This ideology entails takfeer i.e. declaring the opponents as infidels deserving death and sanctioning khuruj i.e. revolt against established order even in the Muslim world. This ideology is in conflict with the fundamental injunctions of Islam which does not allow revolt against established orders. This was sanctioned by a cleric of 14th century promoting Hambli views, a religious minority within Islam. This ideology has no appeal for the majority of Muslims.
However, the way al Qaeda fought NATO and forced US to leave Afghanistan has raised questions about the ability of modern armies to fight terrorists. It has opened up discussions on the validity and relevance of their doctrine.
Famous consumer advocate, Ralph Nader has drawn some lessons from 9/11 which in his view, Americans must have learned. In an article titled,The Empire is eating Itself, he has suggested to recognize — or unlearn — those reactions and overreactions to 9/11 that have harmed the country. Some of his other suggestions are:
- Do not exaggerate our adversaries’ strength in order to produce a climate of hysteria that results in repression of civil liberties, embodied in the overwrought USA Patriot Act, and immense long-term damage to our economy. Consider the massive diversion of trillions of dollars from domestic civilian needs because of the huge expansion and misspending in military and security budgets.
- Do not allow our leaders to lie and exaggerate as when they told us there were funded, suicidal and hateful al-Qaeda cells all over our country. They were never here. Actually, the wholesale invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan became recruiting grounds for more al-Qaeda branches there and in other countries.
- Do not create a climate of fear or monopolize a partisan definition of patriotism in order to silence dissent from other political parties, the citizenry or the unfairly arrested or harassed.
The Americans have suffered the consequences of exaggerating al Qaedathreat in more than one way; in losing their civil liberties, their core values, their tax-payers’ hard-earned money and their peace at home. The rest of the world shares these sufferings. Those innocent non-combatant civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan who lost their lives in needless wars in the past decade will haunt the collective conscious of American people for the decades to come.