Sixteen years ago on September 11, the way the world revolved changed drastically, politically speaking. Just, a second before the terror strike on New York’s World Trade Centre at 8.46 am Eastern Time, the world was moving on a positive direction with human rights and democracy dominating the political discourse. Then it all stopped, with the then United States President George W. Bush launching a war on terror.
Exploiting a wave of sympathy following the shocking terror attacks that the world witnessed live on television, Bush vowed to “smoke ‘em out of their holes”, referring to al-Qaeda terrorists. But, instead, he implemented a neocon white paper titled the Plan for New American Century. In the face of signs that the US-scripted global order was undergoing change to the detriment of the US national interest, the plan spelt out a strategy for the US to continue its military and economic dominance of the world.
The five years before 9/11 were perhaps the most enlightened period in post-World War II history, with world leaders taking many positive steps to ensure a rule-based world order in the aftermath of the horrible war crimes in Rwanda and Bosnia.
World leaders in 1998 adopted the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court to try war criminals. The same year, the European Court of Human Rights became a full time institution. During this period, hectic diplomacy was on course to make the toothless United Nations Human Rights Commission into a powerful Human Rights Council. US President Bill Clinton was close to working out a permanent peace deal between Israel and Palestine. He even signed the Kyoto protocol on climate change. On Iraq, the Clinton administration introduced the oil-for-food programme for Baghdad to sell oil to buy food and medicine, after it became clear that the US-sponsored international sanctions had killed a half a million children. The world was seemingly moving towards a fair global order, but the war on terror brought a halt to the march.
Such a rule-based global order is anathema to disaster capitalists. Peace will deal a death blow to the military industrial complex -- and also to the oil industry which profits from panic-driven price hikes.
Looking back down 16 years, the war on terror’s biggest beneficiaries were the arms manufacturers, Big Oil, and companies dealing in construction, insurance and private security. Disaster capitalism drives the war on terror. Way back in the 1950s, George Kennan, a US State Department expert on foreign policy, would advise new diplomats before they took up their postings: “…we have about 50 per cent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 per cent of its population… Our real task is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity….”
Although, by the turn of this century the US share of the global wealth has declined to 26 per cent and its population accounted for 4.6 per cent of the global population, there is hardly any indication that the US has moved away from Kennan’s advice. The war on terror is a means by which the US maintains this inequality and ensures the survival of greedy capitalism that thrives on other people’s misery.
When the war started, the enemy was al-Qaeda. But later, al Qaeda has become enemy in some places friend in other places. Today, there is another enemy -- ISIS, which owes its birth to the failed US policies.
The war on terror began in Afghanistan in October 2001, ostensibly to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but later the war assumed different names in different places with different goals. Ostensibly, regime change was one such goal, but in hindsight, it appears that the war was for oil on behalf of Shell, Chevron, and Exxon. It was also a war to set up more US military bases all over the world – and a war to provide construction companies such as Bechtel and Halliburton, where Bush’s Vice President Dick Cheney was once the CEO, multibillion dollar contracts.
Bush’s mad war, which Barack Obama continued, has devastated Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and parts of Pakistan, among other countries. What has Syria and Libya got to do with the terrorists who took part in the 9/11 attacks? Fifteen of them were from Saudi Arabia, which, according to a New York Post article this week, had allegedly financed a dry run of the terror attack.
The twists and turns reached ludicrous heights when Washington allied itself with al-Qaeda elements to oust Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi. In a botched attempt to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime, the US even armed and trained rebels who subsequently joined al-Qaeda and ISIS. In addition, underscoring the adage that one’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, the US is in an open alliance with Syrian Kurdish rebels, whom Nato ally Turkey has branded terrorists.
Lies and deception is the name of the game. Bush deceitfully took the war to Iraq claiming that Saddam Hussein was possessing weapons of mass destruction and behind the 9/11 terror attacks. The American public, still recovering from the 9/11 terror shock, overwhelmingly supported Bush. Although Bush could not find a single weapon of mass destruction even after the US invasion or a single piece of evidence to show Saddam’s links with the 9/11 attacks, the American voters re-elected him for a second term, provoking the British Daily Mirror to ask in a headline, “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?” It is a sad indictment on all Americans, though a substantial section of them were to later slam Bush for putting the country on a never-ending war that has tarnished America’s image.
Probably the same lot which elected Donald Trump in November last year reelected Bush in 2004. And perhaps to placate this neo-fascist voters that Trump has decided to send more troops to Afghanistan – a climb down from his campaign promise to end the US military role in that country.
The war on terror is today being waged for anything but to combat terrorism. It has only made the world a worse place than it was before. Post-World War II Europe was a peaceful continent, but it is today caught in the grip of ISIS terror. Pakistan was a terror-free nation before 9/11. Today it is paying a huge price for joining Bush’s war, in terms of loss of lives, economic growth and opportunity costs.
After more than 1.5 million civilian deaths, more than 8,000 US and Nato troop casualties in an expenditure of more than 1.7 trillion US dollars, the war on terror is far from over. Its biggest achievement was the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Its miserable failure in ridding the world of terrorism is rooted in its hidden objective of maintaining US military and economic dominance across the globe. It appears that the so-called war on terror will go on forever.