14 years ago today, then-President George W. Bush declared a 'War on Terror' in response to the September 11 attacks in the USA which killed 2,966 victims and 19 hijackers.
Bush's war on terror kicked off with the bombing of sites in Afghanistan as he pursued Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist group, Al Qaeda, who had claimed responsibility for the attacks. Al Qaeda was allegedly based in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. When the Taliban refused to give up Al Qaeda, the bombings started.
Two years later, Bush expanded the war on terror to include an invasion of Iraq on the auspices of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. This was broadened to include the false claim that Iraq was in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The reasons for the invasion contradicted UN and US intelligence reports that Iraq had no WMDs and warnings that there was no evidence of links between Hussein and Bin Laden (1).
To help justify the invasion, Bush created an idea of an 'Axis of Evil', which included Iraq, Iran and North Korea, while declaring a 'Coalition of the Willing' for any nation that supported the USA's invasion. The war in Iraq did eventually topple dictator Saddam Hussein, however, it came at a cost.
Back in 1991, when the USA and other nations retaliated against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein was left in power because of credible warnings that to topple him would cause a power-vacuum and result in complete anarchy and the rise of terrorist groups vying for power. George W. Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, was president at the time.
In 2003, George W. Bush ignored these warnings and made the completely puerile comment, 'this the man who tried to kill my dad' (2), unleashing an invasion and occupation that would result in the predictions of 1991 coming true.
Iraq had no links to Al Qaeda. In fact, Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, hated each other.
The overthrow of Hussein was a Pyrrhic victory. There was no point taking down Hussein's government if it was to be replaced with something worse. Those who thought Hussein was as bad as it got, greatly underestimated the devastation, destruction and sheer malevolence that was to replace him.
Hussein, a Sunni, was replaced by a Shia government which sought retribution against the Sunnis for their brutal treatment under Hussein. Under the new government terrorist groups gained a foothold. Something that Hussein hadn't allowed.
Al Qaeda in Iraq was established. Just one of many terrorist groups.
Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis were killed. Far more than Hussein had been responsible for.
And then there was ISIS.
Neighbouring Syria degenerated into civil war and saw a number of rebel groups gain traction there as well, many of whom were engaging in terrorist actions against the government and civilians; many of whom were being funded by the USA (3) and the UK. As usual, the thinking that the enemy of my enemy is my friend saw the funding of rebel groups opposed to Syria's Assad government which did nothing but give strength and power to terrorists. Giving money to terrorists, is no way to wage a war on terror.
Al Qaeda in Iraq joined forces with terrorists and the most infamous of modern terrorist groups was born. ISIS: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (amongst other names). ISIS declared a new caliphate and unleashed a wave of terrorism, kidnappings and brutal, public executions across Syria and Iraq, and have now extended into Afghanistan while exporting terrorism on a global scale through online and direct recruitment campaigns.
It justified war crimes such as the illegal detention and torture of captives in Abu Ghraib prison (4) and Guantanamo Bay (5). The captives, while charged with various terrorism offences, most were not found guilty of crimes. Why? Because they had been arrested on the flimsy and often contrived evidence. Many of them were innocent. The war on terror saw gross human rights abuses for political reasons, not to stop terrorism.
The War on Terror broke international laws on war and torture, committed atrocities and rather than stopping terrorism, fuelled it. In addition to its military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the USA has launched illegal drone attacks and military operations in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, often resulting in the death or injuries of innocent civilians.
|A Yemeni boy walks past a mural depicting drone strikes in Yemen. Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images|
George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Australian Prime Minister, John Howard and other leaders who joined the 'Coalition of the Willing, all spouted the falsehoods and propaganda that resulted in these illegal actions. The destruction of Hussein's government (as brutal as it was), directly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and to the rise of ISIS.
To state that the Middle East has always been at war with itself is to completely disregard the affects of Western involvement. What is often forgotten in this statement is that Europe has been a bloodbath for centuries, with war after war waged. Yet for centuries, the Middle East was relatively stable with most of its wars fought against European invaders.
The state of affairs in Iraq and Syria are not the product of centuries of Middle Eastern fighting, but instead are the result of ongoing Western imperialism, capitalism, greed and hegemony.
The West cannot solely blame the Middle East for the problems it faces today considering that much of it is because of Western invasions, political interference and funding and support of various despots such as Hussein, the Shah of Iran, Muammar Gaddafi, the House of Saud, Egypt's Mubarrak and Morsi. The list goes on.
The West can't blame Islam for terrorism considering the amount of money that so-called Christian nations, particularly the USA and UK, have funnelled into rebel or terrorist groups throughout the world in order to bring about political change favourable to the West and at the expense of innocent civilians (6). The rise of Al Qaeda and the Taliban was directly the result of US funding of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s (7).
The War on Terror is not about stopping terrorism, but about shoring up American hegemony across the globe. It is about instigating a 'perpetual war' as George Orwell described in 1984, his dystopic novel of global authoritarianism.
The War on Terror is a war of propaganda. A war that demonises Islam. A war that characterises Muslims as terrorists. It is a war that justifies racial profiling. Only last week, a 14 year old Muslim boy was arrested for bringing to school a clock that he'd built because teachers thought it was a bomb(8). Meanwhile, white Americans can roam the streets with impunity, carrying firearms.
The War on Terror is the perfect perpetual war. It is ill-defined, vague with shifting scope and allows the demonisation of anyone who dares oppose it while enabling the establishment of authoritarian rule.
At the Nuremberg Trials held after World War II, Nazi leader Herman Goering stated:
'Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger. It works the same way in every country'.
The War on Terror is making the world more dangerous with less freedom as governments' convince citizens of the need to introduce authoritarian, fascist laws in the name of security against terrorists ... the same terrorists the USA and its allies have been sponsoring.
1. John C. Conyers Jr and Elizabeth Holtzman, 'The Constitution in Crisis: The High Crimes of the Bush Administration and a Blueprint for Impeachment', 2007, Skyhorse Publishing.
2.Sydney Morning Herald, 'Saddam tried to kill my dad, says Bush', http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/09/27/1032734315453.html, 27 September 2002.
3. Darren Pope, Examiner.com, 'Declassified DIA documents reveal Obama administration ordered CIA to train ISIS, http://www.examiner.com/article/declassified-dia-documents-reveal-obama-administration-ordered-cia-to-train-isis, 29 May 2015. Accessed 20 September 2015.
4. Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, 'Torture at Abu Ghraib', http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/05/10/torture-at-abu-ghraib, 10 May 2004. Accessed 20 February 2015.
5. Wikileaks, 'WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Files on All Guantánamo Prisoners, https://wikileaks.org/gitmo.
6. William Blum, 'Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II', Updated edition 2008, Common Courage Press.
7. John K. Cooley, 'Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism', 2002, Pluto Press.
8. Mark Pesce, ABC, The Drum, 'Ahmed Mohamed arrest: We should nurture the kids with the clocks', http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-18/pesce-we-should-nurture-the-kids-with-the-clocks/6786638, 18 September 2015. Accessed 20 September 2015.