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Politicans, Americans learned little from 9/11 attacks

The Champagne Socialist

Fourteen years after 9/11 and the “War on Terror” is still a disastrous failure.

After those attacks, the names of al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were on everyone’s lips. But now, it's ISIS and its shadowy “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that has everyone spooked. The two jihadi juggernauts are famously hostile to each other, particularly after bin Laden’s May 2011 assassination. This crippled al-Qaeda and allowed al-Baghdadi to step in to expand operations in a dismembered, post-invasion Iraq. “We do not acknowledge this Caliphate, and we do not see it as (a) Caliphate on the prophetic method. Instead, it is an emirate of taking over without consultation,” complains al-Zawahiri in a recent broadside. Nevertheless, al-Zawahiri has also urged cooperation in “fighting the Crusaders, the secularists, the Nusayris and the Safavids, despite my not acknowledging the legitimacy of their State ...” And, Al-Qaeda’s making a wise choice here. Though always a scourge, a “non-state” agent like them never controlled anything really like a “state” in the conventional sense. Neither did the Taliban after they were bombed out of Afghanistan and into the neighboring Pakistani mountains, nor did al-Shabaab in Somalia nor Boko Haram in Nigeria. ISIS on the other hand, owns a Mesopotamian territory across Iraq and Syria, administering religious courts, basic social services, their own currency and an army numbering in the tens of thousands. With Iraq in tatters and sectarian tensions stoked between Sunni and Shia, ISIS has found a breeding ground in Iraq even after years of occupation by the United States. Nice job, Dick and Bush.

The dismembering of Iraq and Afghanistan under the occupation of the U.S. and its allies has turned them into hotbeds of terror, where jihadis recruit, gather and train. From 1987 to 2001, the State Department’s own “Patterns of Global Terrorism” documented terrorism’s steady decline worldwide. There were 665 incidents in 1987 to only 355 incidents in 2001. And, although there was a dip in the years immediately after 2001, the 2004 report showed that attacks increased to 2,177 and kept increasing. Yet, it didn’t include attacks on U.S. and allied troops in Iraq. Suicide bombings, non-existent in recorded modern Iraqi history, reappeared only after the occupation. As reported in National Geographic in 2013, a PLOS Medicine survey found that half a million Iraqis died between 2003 and 2011, while the London-based Opinion Research Business put it at some 1.2 million dead civilians. As for the displaced, in 2007, the United Nations estimated the number of Iraqi refugees to be some 4 million, including some 1.2 million in Syria. With 80-90 percent of these displaced people settling in Damascus, demands for services and necessities increases, further straining Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime and paving the way for its collapse.

The rise of ISIS alone ought to make the case for the War on Terror’s failure. Insistent on a regime change policy, the West and its allies, namely Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the oil-rich Gulf states flooded Syria with weaponry after it descended into civil strife months after the March 2011 uprising. Under the pretense of aiding a “moderate” opposition, the kings and emirs of Arabia backed Sunni extremists groups against the Shia-dominated though secular Assad dictatorship which was backed by Russia and Iran. These groups adhere to the austere Wahhabi movement of Sunni Islam, born in eighteenth-century Saudi Arabia and the official ideology of the absolutist monarchy today. Admittedly, the U.S. has a history of giving guns to medieval-minded Islamists the world over, starting with the anti-Soviet Afghan mujahideen during the Reagan years and even today with Libyan militias after Obama decided to contravene Congress to militarily intervene in Libya’s iteration of the Arab Spring. Indeed, the 9/11 Commission’s report, citing the CIA, has already concluded that al-Qaeda’s support comes from “a variety of donors and fundraisers, primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia.” Now, the Saudis with billions of dollars of U.S. arms are currently bombing Yemeni rebels as well, some years after suppressing a pro-democracy movement in neighboring Bahrain. So with Gulf/Saudi money, extremist, misogynistic and violent Wahhabi-oriented Islamists gather strength in whatever place the West tears up — be it Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Nigeria, even with an increased U.S. presence on the African continent.

As for the home front, U.S. Muslims have faced nothing but popular and institutionalized bigotry. Three young Muslims were shot by a white man last February in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, over a “parking dispute,” while Islamophobes protest outside a Phoenix, Arizona, mosque and Southern gun-owners declare their shops “Muslim-free” zones. Ironically, the violence of ISIS is taken as an excuse for such hatred even though Muslims are the vast majority of their victims. The Public Polling Policy found that most of the supporters of the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump believe that Obama is a foreign-born Muslim turned Manchurian candidate. Another contender, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee accused Obama of stabbing Jews and Christians in the back and giving Muslims a “pass” back in February. Meanwhile, offshore on noted Stalinist hells hellscape Cuba, Obama has yet to close the torture site at Gitmo or even bring the Bush administration officials who allowed for such practices to happen to justice.

And really, I wish I had the space to continue here. The 9/11 attack was a tragedy, and that can’t be denied. We had the sympathy of the world that sunny day, and by launching this war on a nameless, ever-present evil, a war on countries abroad and marginalized communities at home, we squandered that goodwill. We’ve learned nothing from 9/11.

Jose Sanchez is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history with a minor in political science. His column, “The Champagne Socialist,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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