The nefarious project ended in abysmal failure because of its innate criminality.
“At the end of the 20th century, the United States bestrode the world like a colossus. We had no military or economic peers, and our ideological victory over the antagonists of liberal democracy seemed total. September 11 changed all this,” noted the Brookings Institute, an American think-tank.
It’s hard to disagree with this assessment even if we don’t exactly share the sense of chagrin from the loss of U.S. position. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and before the ascent of China as a global power, the U.S. seemed to enjoy a unique moment of unipolar dominance. But after 20 years of war in Afghanistan, which was supposed to be the primary revenge for the 9/11 attacks, the United States is seen to be a flailing, waning empire. It blew its moment.
A resurgent Russia and an ascendant China are proof of a multipolar world emerging, one where the U.S. is no longer capable of asserting its geopolitical will. That’s quite an amazing turnaround in a relatively short span of historical time.
The events on the morning of September 11, 2001, in the northeastern part of the United States, remain a source of controversy and intrigue. The official version, as told by the 9/11 Commission, is that four commercial airliners were hijacked by 19 Al Qaeda terrorists. Two flights crashed into the World Trade Center in New York; a third flight smashed into the Pentagon building in Washington DC, and a fourth jetliner was brought down in a field in rural Pennsylvania. It is thought the latter aircraft was intended to hit the White House or the Capitol but passengers onboard purportedly thwarted the hijackers’ plans. In all, nearly 3,000 people were killed in what was said to be the biggest terror attack on American soil. Up to 25,000 others were injured.
It is speculated that such a spectacular breach of U.S. national security must have involved a degree of insider assistance, either directly or indirectly through deliberate negligence to prevent the attack.
Several professional groups representing the expertise of thousands of aviation analysts, airline pilots, architects and engineers have also questioned the official narrative. In particular, it is doubted that commercial jetliners could have been flown with such precision under the physical conditions described. The footprint collapse of three towers at the World Trade Center (the third one was not even hit by a plane) also beggars belief that the buildings and their internal steel structures simply fell from the heat generated by exploding aviation fuel. There is plausible evidence from the expert analyses that the buildings were taken down by controlled demolition.
The horrific events of 9/11 provided the “Pearl Harbor” moment that a cabal of U.S. imperial planners had openly desired. The public revulsion could be tapped to project “full spectrum dominance” of American power globally. This not only entailed a license to wage military force across the globe without the bothersome legalities of the United Nations. It also gave a license to impose restrictions to civil liberties and democracy at home through various iterations of the Orwellian named Patriot Act and Homeland Security.
Less than a month after 9/11, the United States was at war in Afghanistan, ostensibly to defeat the Taliban Islamist rulers who were aligned with Al Qaeda. Washington was assisted from the outset by its trusty British accomplice. The rush to war smacked of expedience to demonstrate to the world the awesomeness of American military might or “full spectrum dominance”. It is doubtful that Washington expected to be stuck in Afghanistan for another 20 years – America’s longest war – which came to a shameful end only two weeks ago on August 30. In that two-decade period, the U.S. would embark on an orgy of military violence involving another disastrous war in Iraq and similarly destructive interventions in many other countries. At one point, during the former Obama administration, the U.S. was bombing seven Muslim nations simultaneously under the rubric of fighting a “war on terror”.
Thus, 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan bracketed a heinous era of wanton violations of international law and war crimes by Washington and its NATO allies.
But to what end, even by the official account of reasoning? Terrorism has spread to more countries than ever. This week, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned that Afghanistan could be a hotbed for terror groups in the near future. And that prognosis is after the U.S. spent $2 trillion on its 20-year war in Afghanistan causing millions of casualties.
This weekend, the new government of Afghanistan is to be inaugurated. It comprises senior Taliban figures some of whom were ousted from power when the U.S. invaded that country in 2001. In other words, after all the mayhem and suffering inflicted by American military occupation – not just in Afghanistan but in several other countries spanning Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe – the story has come full circle.
President Joe Biden declared the withdrawal of U.S. military from Afghanistan as “mission completed”. Biden is delusional. Afghanistan may recover in time with regional support from China, Russia, Iran and others. But right now, the country is worse off in terms of humanitarian conditions because of U.S. imperialist vandalism. Other nations have also been ransacked and wrecked during the 20-year orgy of violence. There is no mission completed. It is a mission aborted amid mounting chaos and defeat. Besides the American imperialists want to now focus on “great-power competition” with China and Russia.
The total financial cost of the U.S.’ “war on terror” is newly estimated at over $8 trillion. The waste in resources is reflected in the decrepit state of American (and British) society where public services and infrastructure are crumbling, and inequality and poverty are at record levels.
America’s “war on terrorism” has brought the once-respected United States into international disrepute. It is seen globally as a rogue state that is duplicitous and lawless, a criminal pariah that knows no limits of its barbarity. Its pretentious mantle for claiming leadership is torn asunder. Its claims of defending democracy, rule of law, and of being an indispensable power are a travesty.
The U.S. empire seized the 9/11 moment with a view to consolidating its global power as a presumed unipolar colossus. The nefarious project ended in abysmal failure because of its innate criminality. As we survey the ruins left in the wake of 9/11, Afghanistan and other American wars over the past 20 years, perhaps the most salient casualty is U.S. ambitions of imperial power. Ultimately, despite the unspeakable human tragedies, that is a good thing.