As we approach the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it is important to take a hard look at the direction our country has taken since these tragic events occurred.
The United States has attacked Afghanistan and driven the Taliban regime from power. In the process, we killed some 3,000 to 5,000 civilians, more than died at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The US has not been able to locate and capture Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Reports from Afghanistan are that the US-backed regime there controls little more than the city of Kabul, and warlords are in control of the rest of the country.
The United States has also attacked Iraq, but with neither evidence of a link between Iraq and the 9/1l terrorists, nor with the sanction of the United Nations. The US preventive war against Iraq killed some 6,000 to 8,000 civilians, about twice as many as died at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Since this war, it has come to light that in making its case for war, the Bush administration used false intelligence to inflate its claim that Iraq posed an imminent threat of using weapons of mass destruction against the United States.
The US has not been able to locate and capture Saddam Hussein or the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. Nor have any of the purported weapons of mass destruction, which supposedly made the Iraqi threat so imminent, been found. There is a strong sense that the Iraqi people are opposed to US occupation of their country, and American soldiers are being killed on an almost daily basis. Most recently, saboteurs have also been attacking the Iraqi oil pipelines.
In addition to the price in American and Iraqi lives, the occupation of Iraq is costing US taxpayers nearly $4 billion each month, adding to the over $450 billion projected deficit in the US budget this year. There is no clear plan for US withdrawal from Iraq, and the administration will not predict how long American troops are likely to remain or how much the occupation is likely to cost in total. US corporations, with links to the Bush administration, are being given lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure and manage its oil production.
We still have no authoritative public report on the intelligence failures that led to 9/11. No one has been dismissed and no blame has been laid at the feet of the intelligence community. The impression from the Bush administration is that the lead up to 9/11 was just too difficult for the intelligence community to handle, due to the paucity of communication within and between agencies and the need to actually connect some dots. The families of the 9/11 victims, along with the rest of the American people, are still waiting for clearer and more complete answers to why our intelligence failed so dramatically.
In a Congressional study related to intelligence failures, much of the important information has been kept from the American people by the Bush administration, including 28 pages on the role of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi leadership and members of Congress have pleaded that this information be released to the American people, but to no avail. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated, “My judgment is 95 percent of that information could be declassified, become uncensored so the American people would know.”
Since the war in Afghanistan, the United States has held prisoners, including US citizens, in a manner that defies the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners. The administration, aided by the Congress, has instituted the USA Patriot Act, which restricts the civil liberties of all Americans. The administration has put forward further legislation that provides even more drastic restrictions on our liberties.
The trends do not bode well for America. In two years, the country has engaged in two wars, at least one of which was clearly illegal under international law. The administration has engaged in a clear pattern of deception. Our wars have killed at least three times the number of innocent civilians as died in the 9/11 attacks. The individual thought to be principally responsible for 9/11 remains at liberty, while the liberties of Americans have been restricted. The goodwill with which America was held throughout the world in the aftermath of 9/11 has been squandered. We are viewed by much of the international community as bullies who use military force in defiance of international law and make our own rules when it suits us.
Our soldiers continue to pay the ultimate price for the arrogance of this administration. Mr. Bush, in the safety of the White House, challenged the militants attacking American troops in Iraq with the rash and taunting remark, “Bring ’em on.” This remark drew many negative responses from the troops stationed in Iraq and their families.
Two years after 9/11 Americans do not appear to be safer from terrorist attacks than they were before 9/11. We have a new bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, and a system of color-coded warnings, but these do not seem to be effective barriers to terrorist threats. There is no reason to believe that terrorists hate America because they envy our way of life, as Mr. Bush says, and every reason to believe that terrorists oppose our political and economic policies, particularly in the Middle East.
To end the threat of terrorism, the United States needs a return to decency and the values that make this country strong. We need to reconsider the morality, legality and consequences of our policies. This would require a major reversal of the Bush administration policies that have cynically used 9/11 in seeking to achieve its ideological goals of global military dominance, control of oil, and financial gain for an elite few. On the positive side of the ledger, there are increasing signs that Congress, the media and the American people are awakening to the dangers of these policies and vocally and actively opposing them. It is none too soon to reassess and reverse the path we have taken since 9/11.
DAVID KRIEGER is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is the editor of Hope in a Dark Time (Capra Press, 2003), and author of Choose Hope, Your Role in Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age (Middleway Press, 2002).
He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.