On the anniversary of 9/11 we should mourn the dead of that day and of all the needless subsequent conflicts

Lindsey German

Exactly 19 Years ago today the world changed forever. Four planes were hijacked two of them flown into the twin towers of the World Trade centre in New York. Over 3000 died on that day, victims of an al Qaeda attack aimed at the heart of the US.

The response from then president George Bush was to start a ‘war on terror’ which has never ended and whose consequences are still far reaching. It was after these attacks that we set up the Stop the War Coalition. Our argument was simple: that however many were killed on that day, the response of war would bring far more deaths and instability across the world. In addition, this new war would not end terrorism but exacerbate it. It would also lead to greater levels of Islamophobia and an attack on our civil liberties.

We were not alone in our predictions. Many around the world – all horrified by the attacks and condemning them – also saw the development of a war machine would only further the instability that al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden had created. So an international movement was born but it faced an uphill struggle as the US received widespread support – including from Tony Blair – for the invasion of Afghanistan in October that year. The Taliban government, accused of harbouring bin Laden, was quickly overthrown.

The US then turned its sights to Iraq even though there was no evidence of any connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Despite a huge international movement against it, with an estimated 30 million marching worldwide on the weekend of February 15th, 2003, the war and invasion went ahead – and we know the devastating consequences.

Fast forward to today, and none of the problems identified then have been solved – indeed the world has become a more dangerous place. Terrorism has spread, countries like Afghanistan and Iraq – as well as Libya, Syria, Yemen – have been wrecked by war and intervention. The wars have achieved nothing. In Afghanistan the US and the government are in talks with the Taliban which remains a real force there. Libya and Iraq are wracked by war and instability.

The ‘refugee crisis’ where people flee in small boats has been fuelled by these wars.

Yet even worse conflicts loom. Whereas after 9/11 all the major powers backed the US in its invasion of Afghanistan (although not over Iraq), we see growing tensions with Russia and more recently China. The possibility of conflict between China and the US is real, as the countries compete economically and militarily. Any such war would be catastrophic even compared with the last two decades. There is already a new cold war between these powers, which can presage a hot war.

On the anniversary of 9/11 we should mourn the dead of that day and of all the subsequent conflicts. But we should also argue that the evidence since 2001 is of the failure of the ‘war on terror’ not its success.

11 Sep 2020 by Lindsey German

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