Twenty years after the events of 9/11, 2001, and in the midst of the messy withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, it seems appropriate to question the validity of the so-called “War on Terror”. The Costs of War project estimates that America’s 20-years of wars, initiated with the supposed intention of fighting terrorism, have killed almost a million people, displaced 37 million, and have cost the U.S. government 8 trillion dollars. If the intention of these wars was to reduce terrorism, they have failed, since every bomb dropped on civilian populations has produced more terrorists. If the intention was to enrich arms manufacturers, the “War on Terror” has succeeded,
But is the threat of terrorism real? Or is it like the barking of a dog driving a herd? The threat of catastrophic climate change is very real indeed. The threat to future global food security is real too. Already 11 million children die every year from malnutrition and poverty-related causes. The threat to human civilization and the biosphere posed by a possible Third World War is real. The threat of exhaustion of non-renewable resources and economic collapse is real. The dangers associated with our unstable fractional reserve banking system are also real. Besides these all too real threats to our future, the threat of terrorism is vanishingly small.
Millions starve. Millions die yearly from preventable diseases. Millions die as a consequence of wars. Compared with these numbers, the total count of terrorist victims is vanishingly small. It is even invisible compared with the number of people killed yearly in automobile accidents.
The official story of 9/11 is untrue
There is strong evidence, available to everyone who is willing to look at it on the Internet, which shows that the official version of 9/11 is untrue, and that the U.S. government made the disaster worse than it otherwise would have been in order to justify not only an unending “War on Terror”, but also the abridgment of civil liberties within the United States. But very few people wish to challenge the official version of the attack on the World Trade Center. Those who accept the official version are. by definition, respectable citizens, while those who challenge it are “leftists” and “probably terrorist sympathizers”. As George W. Bush said, “You are either for us, or you are against us”.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks seems to have been to inquire from his advisors whether he was now free to invade Iraq. According to former counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, Bush was “obsessed” with Iraq as his principal target after 9/11.
The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was a guest at a private White House dinner nine days after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Sir Christopher Meyer, former UK Ambassador to Washington, was also present at the dinner. According to Meyer, Blair said to Bush that they must not get distracted from their main goal – dealing with the Taliban and al-Quaeda in Afghanistan, and Bush replied: “I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.” Faced with the prospect of wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Blair did not protest, according to Meyer.
During the summer of 2002, Bush and Blair discussed Iraq by telephone. A senior official from Vice-President Dick Cheney’s office who read the transcript of the call is quoted by the magazine Vanity Fair as saying: “The way it read was that come what may, Saddam was going to go; they said that they were going forward, they were going to take out the regime, and they were doing the right thing. Blair did not need any convincing. There was no `Come on, Tony, we’ve got to get you on board’. I remember reading it and then thinking, `OK, now I know what we’re going to be doing for the next year.’”
On June 1, 2002, Bush announced a new U.S. policy which not only totally violated all precedents in American foreign policy but also undermined the United Nations Charter and international law. Speaking at the graduation ceremony of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point he asserted that the United States had the right to initiate a preemptive war against any country that might in the future become a danger to the United States. “If we wait for threats to fully materialize”, he said, “we will have waited too long.” He indicated that 60 countries might fall into this category, roughly a third of the nations of the world.
The assertion that the United States, or any other country, has the right to initiate preemptive wars specifically violates Chapter 1, Articles 2.3 and 2.4, of the United Nations Charter. These require that “All members shall settle their disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace, security and justice are not endangered”, and that “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.” The UN Charter allows a nation that is actually under attack to defend itself, but only until the Security Council has had time to act.
Murder and torture in the name of fighting terrorism
With the end of the Cold War, a new justification for the colossal U.S. military budget had to be found. The answer was the “War on Terror”. No matter that terrorism is a crime committed by individuals rather than by nations, and that police action rather than war is the appropriate answer. Whole nations were accused of “sponsoring terror”, and invaded. Furthermore, individual terrorist suspects were extrajudicially murdered, for example through drone strikes. Large-scale torture programs were also initiated and justified by the excuse that any method can be used when “fighting terror”.
Of course, the effect of innocent people killed in drone strikes, and the effect of torture programs, was not to reduce the number of terrorists, but to produce more of them and to strengthen their fanaticism. But that was fine with the government, since the real aim of the “War on Terror” was not to end terrorism, but to justify obscenely bloated military budgets.
Progressives can save America
This article has been unsparing in its criticism of America’s “War on Terror”. But America is full of good people. Although an enormous river of money from the military-industrial complex (and other corporate oligarchies) controls many corrupt politicians, progressives are fighting back. We must unite behind progressives and combat militarism, not only in the United States but also throughout the world.
A freely downloadable book
My book, which examines the consequences of the “War on Terror” in more detail, may be downloaded and circulated free of charge from the following link:
Other books and articles about global problems are on these links:
I hope that you will circulate the links in this article to friends and contacts who might be interested.