9/11: the path not taken

Photo by National Park Service

Photo by National Park Service

After the 9/11 attacks, the whole world, including the Muslim world, sympathized with the United States.

The whole world, including the Muslim world, condemned the terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 innocent civilians.

The U.S. government had an opportunity to unite the world in bringing the Al Qaeda terrorists to justice.   This could have been a step to unite the international community behind a rule of law.

Instead the Bush administration chose to implement pre-existing plans to invade Iraq, whose leaders had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks.  The Obama administration has done likewise with Libya, Syria and other countries.

The result has been militarization of American life, eclipse of civil liberties and the deaths of many more innocent civilians in majority-Muslim countries than ever were killed in jihadist attacks on Americans and Europeans.

Even worse, a generation of Americans has grown up in which all these things are normal.

And jihadist terrorism, partly and maybe mainly as a result of U.S. policies, is stronger than ever before.

I plead guilty to not having seen this at the time.  I thought the invasion of Afghanistan was justified.  I didn’t see that it was possible to kill or capture Osama bin Laden without a full-scale invasion.

To my shame, even though I understand that Saddam Hussein was an enemy of Al Qaeda and that there was no evidence that he was developing weapons of mass destruction, I thought an invasion of Iraq might have a good result.

I thought that the Iraqis would be grateful for being liberated from a tyrant, and that Iraq could replace Saudi Arabia as the chief U.S. ally in the Middle East.

So I don’t blame Hillary Clinton or John Kerry very much for having voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq nor Al Gore for having favored an invasion of Iraq.  I do blame them for not having learned anything from their mistake.

The present U.S. military interventions in majority-Muslim countries have little to do with fighting jihadist terrorism.  The coming military confrontations with Russia and China have even less to do with terrorism.  But we Americans have become so accustomed to perpetual war that many of us have lost the ability to conceive of an alternative.


What You Really Should #NeverForget on 9/11 Day by Peter Van Buren.

The Consequences of 9/11 by Ian Welsh.  [Added 9/12/2016]

The Truth About 9/11 by Eric Margolis.

Bombs Away!  Their Precise Weaponry and Ours by Tom Engelhardt for TomDispatch.

Liberal Myths: Would Al Gore Have Invaded Iraq? by David Barouh for Counterpunch.  Probably “yes.”

How the War on Terror Fuels Trump by Sam Adler-Bell for Jacobin.

Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisers Are a Who’s Who of the Warfare State by Zaid Jilani, Alex Emmons and Naomi La Chance for The Intercept.

15 Years After 9/11, Can We Recover Our Republic? by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.


Muslim denunciations of Al Qaeda.

Muslims Condemn Terrorist Attacks.

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