Robert Grenier wrote an insightful piece on the US’s initial reaction to 9/11 on Al-Jazeera English. He says:
“What the president failed to take into account was that with al-Qaeda, the struggle would never be just about terrorists or the willingness of states to confront them. Terrorists cannot long survive in societies which fundamentally reject them. If the US were actually to lead a global movement against terrorism, it would have to find a way to appeal to the many Muslims, including majorities in many countries, who then sympathised with al-Qaeda’s struggle, even as they rejected al-Qaeda’s tactics. It would have to find a way to respond to the young Pakistani Muslims in my own son’s grade school class, many of them from the most privileged families, whose reaction to 9/11 was to say “Now you know how it feels”.
“Those were the things I wished to say in that imaginary message to the White House. But prescribing policy is forbidden to intelligence officers, whose role is to inform policy, or to carry it out. And while those rules may have been bent beyond recognition in the case of Afghanistan, where a hitherto obscure field operative was actually asked to recommend policy to the White House, it was hardly an open invitation. As I knew in my heart at the time, the “other half” of the War on Terror was simply not to be.
For the US to assume genuine moral leadership of a War on Terror, it would have had to confront the conundrum at the heart of its policy, to try to reconcile the fact that some of its most prominent “allies” in the struggle against terror were themselves at base the prime instigators of global terrorism. For all that the Bush Administration would speak in later years of a “War of Ideas”, it brought nothing to the fight, other than the self-deluding notion that antipathy towards the US in the Muslim world was based on some colossal misunderstanding.”
For a retired CIA veteran to come to the heart of what has happened in the “war on terror” movement is astounding. The Bush administration, it seems, sentences a people to never-ending racism, hatred and indeed, terror in a different kind of way. The assumptions that people now make when they see a “bearded, brown person” are to do with the media-fed ideas on terror, which imagine that every Muslim is a fundamentalist, every Muslim woman is oppressed and every Muslim man a terrorist.
To reiterate something rarely said in the media, this is not true.
Islam has degrees of faith, much like any other religion. People follow them as much as they choose to. As we’ve seen with the Arab Spring, it was the US that often financed and facilitated dictators in the Middle East, because of their interests being close to their own. They choose to allow atrocities to happen, all for access to Middle Eastern oil.
Today’s media is focused on what is happening in Libya. “It is a revolution,” they say, “and we are helping them.” The British and the Americans are deeply vested in the shifting movement. Gaddafi is to face trial in Libya, and these countries get to say they helped unseat a dictator. Again. Whether Libya will go the same way as Egypt, when the general outcry was that “this wasn’t the revolution they wanted” but instead a Western-imposed democracy, remains to be seen. However, we have to hope that Orhan Pamuk’s brilliant quote, “Can the West endure any democracy achieved by enemies who in no way resemble them?” does not resound truthfully in our ears again.
The fighting today over Gadaffi’s last remaining stronghold continues, as does the scandal which links British and Libyan secret services, under his rule. It is a well known fact that torture is used in secret prisons around the world. The fact that Western powers condone it is not unsurprising, either. The fact that documents that prove the truth of this have been revealed, is surprising. Yet, it will not impact what is overtaking Libya today. The background behind this “war” is what matters; the US is intervening to unseat a dictator who they initially put in place, all in favour of getting to Libya’s well-stocked oil reserves.
The media focus matches this continual hypocrisy. Why are the atrocities that are being conducted in Syria as this is being written not brought to the frontline? The humanist approach that provides reasoning for the many wars going on around the world apparently does not apply to a country where people are being killed daily. Arab leaders are attempting to stop the bloodshed, yet the only action offered by Western powers is as it is currently being termed, “a war of words.”
I appreciate that Western powers cannot engage in every war, help (if that’s what you can call it) every human rights atrocity that takes place around the world, yet the nature of how they pick and choose who to help is clearly all to do with aid politics. Nothing is done for free, of course, and yet the decision to allow a country’s population to languish under bullets and torture seems far more cold-blooded than one would expect. Although sanctions are being put in place, will they really make enough of an impact on Syria’s economy to stop the bloodshed? The Syrian people seem unwilling to have Western intervention change the course of their revolution as it did in Egypt and Libya. The fact that violence spiked during the Red Cross visit seems representative of this. Although Cameron claims that the situation in Syria is different, the “moral imperative” approach still applies. The lack of intervention has only increased the crackdown in Syria. The solution it seems is for foreign help which does not include the West, something which seems alien to most interventionist wars, yet in this case seems to provide a solution to help the peoples of Syria, without losing the integrity of their revolution.
The rhetoric surrounding the “war on terror” continues, and yet, the terrors perpetrated by the apparent victims of this war are far more note-worthy. Coming up to the tenth anniversary of 9/11 would perhaps give the United States a moment to reflect, think back on the last ten years, and perhaps figure out what is slowly leading their country into economic decline and international disrepute.