Ten Years After, and Somewhere Bin Laden is Smiling

Ten Years After” was the name of a popular blues-rock band in the late 60s fronted by guitar legend Alvin Lee. One of their hit songs was entitled, “I’ld Love to Change the World” the lyrics of which often fret about appropriate responses to social problems.

Today is the 10th anniversary of “9/11” and somewhere Osama bin Laden is smiling. Thanks to the “delusive thinking” that shaped the responses and reactions — self-destructive ones — to the event, al Qaeda has achieved many of its goals, including bringing some parts of the Western Alliance to the brink of bankruptcy by chasing this Questing Beast and Hydra called “war on terror,” not to mention the cost in perverting and suppressing (if not permanently annulling) many of their own founding values they were ostensibly out to “defend” against terrorism.

In Canada, the Rideau Institute released a report on “the cost of 9/11” to Canada. Interested readers can retrieve it here.

Assessments from other sources, including the saner parts of the conservative press, paint a similarly bleak picture of the cost of our responses to terrorism, and how framing those responses in terms of a “global war on terror” (which, where not delusional, was probably deliberate) has drastically increased the cost of 9/11 to those states affected by it while weakening their capacity to respond to other global developments.

Michael Scheuer, interviewed in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on “imperial hubris and the war of terror“, highlights some of the deficient and self-destructive responses to 9/11. Scheuer headed up the “bin Laden unit” at the CIA before resigning in protest against the policies of the Bush Administration and especially the invasion of Iraq. He has been a vocal critic of the “war on terror” ever since.

Jonathan Manthorpe, writing in The Vancouver Sun, has a similar assessment of the deficiency of the responses to 9/11. In “Exhausting victory for America in the War on Terror” Manthorpe highlights the costs of those responses and concludes:

So it may well be that the way the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush chose to respond to the terrorist attacks a decade ago – grasping it as an opportunity to confront America’s current and possible future enemies – will be seen in hindsight as the beginning of the end of U.S. global primacy.

Lawrence Wright, commenting on the financial site Bloomberg News writes in “Two Questions at the Heart of Bin Laden’s Jihad” concerning the responses to 9/11

“The crippling economic effects of such vast expenditures — not to mention the loss of American lives — have not only undermined our society, but also weakened our standing in the world and diminished our future. This was bin Laden’s goal.”

Even at The Financial Times, Matthew Green writes revealingly of the “Response that opened deadly Pandora’s box“. (The full article is quite excellent)

“Osama bin Laden’s dreams of establishing a global Islamic caliphate are dust. Only a handful of his longest-serving lieutenants are alive or at large. Fears that al-Qaeda might stage an even more horrifying reprise of the 9/11 terror attacks have so far come to nought.

Failures, perhaps, but in Afghanistan and Pakistan the chain of events triggered by the fall of the twin towers has cost the west far more dearly than even the man who reinvented terrorism might have hoped.”

Cited in The Hindustan Times, former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel offers up a similar assessment in “Trusting Musharraf was a strategic error” as was the invasion of Iraq. And not just “strategic errors,” but even self-destructive ones.

In an interview with The Globe & Mail, (“America’s real war: Confronting the jihadist belief system“) even former head of US Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, lamented how the “war on terror” — particularly Guantanamo — has led to a loss of American prestige and has “impacted America’s brand”, as he put it (not to mention things like Abu Ghraib and the invasion of Iraq. Yet he still speaks and thinks in terms of “war”, you will note).

One of the most vocal critics of the Bush Administration and the attack on Iraq, Nobel Prize winning economist Joe Stiglitz, offered up in Al Jazeera this reassessment of his earlier analysis (with Linda Bilmes) published in The Trillion Dollar War. In “The Price of 9/11” he writes: “President George W Bush’s response to the attacks compromised the United States’ basic principles, undermined its economy, and weakened its security” and concludes that “it pays to think before acting.”

(Although, for another analyst, Robert Jensen, it was precisely too much thinking — what we’ve called “legacy thinking” — that was the chief delusion that led to the present debacle. See “The imperial delusions of the United States“).

Also in Al Jazeera, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser comments on “America’s self-inflicted decline” as fatefully linked to inappropriate responses to 9/11, particularly the War on Iraq. Commenting on the present fiscal crisis in the US, Fraser implicates the “war on terror” as a major irritant:

“The United States’ current fiscal problems are rooted in a long period of unfunded spending. Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the manner in which he conducted the “global war on terror” made matters much worse, contributing to a totally unsustainable situation.”

In an article published in The Guardian on the theme of “Falling Hawks”, and critical of Christopher Hitchens’ own responses to 9/11 (“Christopher Hitchens and His Critics“), Jonathan Freedland speaks to the very issue that I previously referred to as “the Hydra” of “threat conflation and inflation” in earlier posts:

“…post-9/11 thinking has led to grave and lethal misjudgments. The greatest of these is agglomeration, lumping disparate and complex threats under one easy heading “

Finally, on a theme or narcissism near to that of the Chrysalis itself, Guardian columnist Gary Younge questions “Can the United States move beyond the narcissism of 9/11?” and raises again the question of inappropriate and self-destructive responses born of delusive thinking.

There is a near consensus in the press about the failure of appropriate thought and action in response to 9/11 which have had “blowback effects” and perverse outcomes that are typical results of “deficient rationality”, as Gebser describes it. These retrospective references far from exhaust what is presently available on the internet either.


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