One Islamist terror outfit is being replaced with another. Islamist extremists change their signboards, strategy, and theatres of operation with the changes in the US and its allies’ new ‘ventures’ in new lands, and changes in their counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategies, writes Taj Hashmi
‘Is America Any Safer’ is the cover story of last September’s Atlantic magazine. The CNN and other media outlets since 2002 have been also commemorating the catastrophic terror attacks on the morning of September 11, 2001, and, one assumes, will do the same this year! Reflecting their collective paranoia or delusions of persecution, and exaggerated self-importance, American leaders, media, analysts, and laymen mainly focus on one thing only, with regard to 9/11: what went wrong with America’s intelligence! Most Americans believe that their country is not only invincible but also a beacon of hope and justice for humanity, theirs being ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ However, the politics of fear- and hate-mongering has impaired American minds, which only think Islamist terrorists are the only security threat to their nation.
Some Americans honestly believe there are evil people around the world who are jealous of Americans, and hate their freedom. Many Americans, like ignorant North Koreans, believe that the whole world is jealous of their country. After a decade of teaching security studies in America, both in military and civilian settings, I am convinced the average American politicians, intellectuals, and generals believe terrorism is an original sin, and terrorists kill for the sake of killing! The 10-year-old boy was exceptional. Moments after the second plane hit the Twin Towers, he quipped: ‘Why are they killing us? We must’ve done something wrong to some people, somewhere in the world!’
Sixteen years after 9/11, American media, politicians and analysts are evaluating what went wrong with American intelligence in 2001; and how much 9/11 cost to the economy and society; and what else America should do to defeat al-Qaeda, ISIS and of their ilk. There is no guilt, no remorse, no apology to the Muslim world for America’s illegitimate invasions, GTMO, and Abu Gharaib.
American bombs, guns, and drones, since Hiroshima, have killed more than 10 million unarmed civilians across the world. And who does not know this except the overwhelming majority of Americans? They know very little to nothing about their country’s covert and overt invasions of countries, and promotion of terrorist groups across the world. Americans somehow were instrumental in the creation of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the ISIS, directly or through its surrogates like Saudi Arabia. It is sad but true; in 2011 America turned a blind eye to Saudi invasion of Bahrain to crush the popular mass uprising of the Shia majority against the Sunni rulers of the oil-rich sheikhdom; and Saudi Arabia since 2015 has killed thousands of Yemeni rebels, with impunity.
America since 9/11 has confronted ‘the newfound fear’… sometimes heroically and sometimes irrationally, mostly by fear-mongering and demonising Muslims, Syria and Iran. Meanwhile, the country has spent $1 trillion on defending against al-Qaeda and the ISIS. ‘Has it worked?’ is the embarrassing question. While the state, the DoD, and Homeland Security agencies had been trying to defeat al-Qaeda, the more deadly ISIS emerged from ‘nowhere’ in Syria and Iraq. One is not sure if America’s Middle Eastern surrogates, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (which was in good terms with Washington until the abortive July coup in 2016) created the anti-Shia/anti-Iranian ISIS — with tacit US support! It raises two diametrically opposite questions: (a) has the ‘War on terror’ been lost? And (b) is the ISIS another US-sponsored false-flag operation?
The legacies of 9/11 haunt the world, and many Americans too. One knows about American and allied soldiers’ indiscriminate killing and mass arrests of civilians in Afghanistan in the first few months of the invasion in November 2001. Hundreds of ‘unlawful combatants’ from Afghanistan were tortured and kept behind bars at Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre for years. A couple of hundred detainees are still there without any charges and trials.
The way US General Wesley Clark (retired) publicly exposes the real motives of the American warmongers days after 9/11 is revealing. According to him, America did not invade Iraq in 2003 for defending democracy, freedom, or America’s Homeland Security, let alone 9/11: ‘About ten days after 9/11, I went to the Pentagon… and one of the generals called me in. He said, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq…. I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down government.”’ He also reveals Pentagon’s hidden agenda; invade seven countries in five years across the region, including Syria and Iran.
Since invading countries for the sake of invasions being the raison d’être — America’s mighty Military-Industrial Lobby loves mega wars in distant lands for the ‘profits of war’ — 9/11 had nothing to do with illegitimate wars and regime-changes in the region. This explains the US invasions and killing of millions in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, which are only comparable to illegitimate wars by Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo.
However, democracy and free press create problems, even for the American hawks. What fascist, communist, and military dictators got away with — the world hardly knew how many people Stalin, Mao, or Saddam Hussein killed during their heydays — was difficult for top warmongers like Truman, Johnson, Nixon, and Bush Jr to hide from their own people and the world at large. Thanks to William Assange and Edward Snowden, we know a lot about as to how Nobel laureate (in peace) president Obama, and his former hawkish secretary of state Hillary Clinton were directly responsible for thousands of deaths of unarmed civilians in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere.
The 16th anniversary of 9/11 is a time to reflect on as to how, despite being democracies, countries like America, Britain, France, Germany, and Australia get away with invading countries, and killing tens of thousands of unarmed civilians. It is time to demand the trial of all war criminals that invaded countries and killed millions of innocent people during the last seven decades — from Hiroshima to Helmand, Aleppo to Fallujah, Sana’a to Mogadishu, and Bahrain to Beirut — for the sake of justice, and just and durable peace. It is time to stop demonising Muslims, Arab or non-Arab. It is time to inform the misinformed in the west about the lies and deceptions their governments resort to justify invasions of countries out of sheer neo-imperialist design of plundering the weak and resource-rich countries in the Third World. American taxpayers must know that since 9/11, their government has plundered around $3 trillion from them in totally unnecessary and illegitimate wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere.
It is time to assert that America and its allies would be safe only when they would ensure other’s safety, freedom, honour and dignity. They must be told terrorists just do not drop from the heavens; terrorism is a weapon of the weak, and desperate people resort to terrorism as their last resort, not first choice; no religion permits killing of innocent people; only imperialists and neo-imperialists wage wars and kill innocent people. Apparently, America is safer than before while countries in the third world worry if they are the ones America contemplates invading next to bring ‘freedom and democracy’ à la Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya!
In sum, one Islamist terror outfit is being replaced with another. Islamist extremists change their signboards, strategy, and theatres of operation with the changes in the US and its allies’ new ‘ventures’ in new lands, and changes in their counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategies. With the defeat of the ISIS in Iraq and Syria, now we see the re-emergence of al-Qaeda in both these countries, and beyond. Afghanistan has almost been lost to the Taliban, who control around two-thirds of the country.
Thanks to the Myanmar’s military-backed regime’s genocidal acts in Arakan, Rohingya insurgents have re-surfaced with new name and enthusiasm. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army is posing new terror threats to Myanmar, and eventually to Bangladesh, because of the latter’s ambivalent and hostile policy towards the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Let us hope that the US and its allies do not take that long to discover their multiple Achilles’ heels, soaring in West Europe, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, especially Afghanistan, and Myanmar, quite for some time. Let us hope that the US under its ‘unpredictable’ president, who loves to be known as one, remains safe well beyond the 16th anniversary of 9/11!
Dr Taj Hashmi teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University in the US. He is the author of several books, including his latest, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan (Sage, 2014).
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