An Unlearned Lesson from 9/11

On a rainy morning on April 1958, in Washington DC, Ezra Pound -then a seventy-two year-old man- was declared “incurably insane” by Judge Bolitha J. Laws, who set him free. As he prepared to leave for Italy Pound declared, “Any man who could live in America is insane.”

I wonder what Pound –one of America’s greatest poets- would think today of the state of the country, which is suffering from a long blood-letting process resulting from unjust, unjustified wars. This situation is particularly evident when one returns to the US after staying from some time overseas. What one sees, as many friends told me, is an American government bent on an almost suicidal road to war.

It has been shown almost ad infinitum that following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to cite only the most important ones, that the climate of worldwide violence has increased substantially, and shows no signs of diminishing. And while we are justifiably horrified by the recent beheadings of two American journalists, we were not equally horrified by the killings by drones of whole families in countries overseas.

Nor we were equally horrified by the hundreds of Palestinian children and the destruction of thousands of homes of people fighting for the right to live in their own land. In the meantime, meretricious US politicians repeated like a mantra that they supported the right of Israel to defend itself, without any mention of Palestinians’ suffering.

In the meantime, few people seem to be concerned about the tortures and humiliations at Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan and so many other countries where prisoners were sent to be tortured by the US authorities. And while President Barak Obama has promised, even before being elected, that he would close Guantanamo this is yet to happen, and the issue has become one of the darkest episodes in the US’s moral history.

This is happening while more attacks are being carried out on Iraq and in Syria, the same rebels we have armed, are proving to be a nightmare for US forces and a huge hindrance to eventually reach peace in that region. In the meantime, the US intervention in Libya, rather than democratizing the country, has left a mess of deadly rivalries of conflicting armies without a solution in sight.

And while an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program is pursued, new sanctions were imposed on that country that in the least are an irritant and at most an obstacle to an agreement.

To add to this panorama of desolation, we see the slow disintegration of Ukraine, the hapless country in the middle of conflicting US and Russian interests. And rather than trying to calm the waters of dissent, the US is slowly encircling Russia through NATO, unconcerned that a similar situation on the US borders would be unacceptable to the US.

The “war on terror” has not defeated it but brought more terror to the world. As Rami G. Khouri, a contributing editor to the Beirut Daily Star, and a keen observer of international politics recently wrote, “Dear Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom: before you launch a new global war on terror and another coalition of countries to fight ISIS, please note that the last three decades of your global war on terror have sparked the greatest expansion of Islamist militancy and terrorism in modern history. This partly, maybe largely, because your military actions in Islamic lands usually destabilize those lands, allowing your enemies to organize and take root, and also provide the greatest magnet that attracts mostly fringe and lost young men to give meaning to their lives by joining what they see as a defensive jihad to save Islamic societies from your aggression.”

To continue the war on terror is thus not only counterproductive and will not bring peace to the world but will show, sadly, that the main lesson of 9/11 has not been learned.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a winner of an overseas Press Club of America award for an article on human rights.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”