The Guardian reported last week that a recently-declassified CIA Inspector General’s report from 2008 found that CIA officers at a covert detention site in Afghanistan used a prisoner, Ammar al-Baluch, as a “training prop,” taking turns smashing his head against a plywood wall and leaving him with permanent brain damage. Baluch is currently one of five defendants before a military tribunal at the US military prison at Guantanamo charged with participating in the planning for the September 11 attacks. The case has been stuck in the pre-trial phase for 10 years, in part because much of the information that the government wants to use against the defendants was collected using torture.
With his Executive Order redefining Afghanistan’s Fiscal Reserve as a slush fund to be disbursed on his whim and with the stroke of his pen, President Biden has taken what may well be the final step in an experiment gone amok. The U.S. first attempted to make Afghanistan into a Western democracy, instead installed a kleptocracy, made Afghans endure 20 years of violence and then left in a whirlwind of chaos. With Biden’s latest move to deprive Afghanistan of its monetary reserves, the nation is likely to come full circle, turning once again into a failed state that, in the absence of economic recovery, will become a breeding ground for extremism and the recruitment of terrorists.
The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) was a watershed conference for a number of reasons. Coming at the end of a decade-long series of gatherings of global civil society sponsored by the United Nations, the WCAR represented a continuation of a progressive trend, which brought thousands of activists together to participate in the NGO forum of a UN gathering and to participate, in a much-limited manner, in the official State proceedings. However, from the time that the WCAR was announced, it also became clear that this conference would be different. The explosive nature of the WCAR process became apparent at the first world preparatory meeting of activists and State representatives in Geneva in 1999.
The constant demand that we “Never forget!,” the events of September 11, 2001 is rather laughable. Forgetting is difficult after enduring 20 years of war propaganda. News stories about that day are plentiful albeit useless, that is to say they add nothing to our understanding of why the U.S. was attacked and depend upon sentiment, jingoism, and tried and true claims of exceptionalism to maintain fear, hatred, and support for war. The aftermath of September 11 gets surprisingly short shrift but it is just as important as the who, what, when, where, why, and how of that date. It was just three days later that the Senate and House of Representatives voted to begin what are now called the forever wars. On September 14, 2001 California’s congresswoman Barbara Lee cast the lone vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
The authorization for military use of force (AUMF), which gave President George W. Bush’s administration a blank check for war after the September 11th attacks, still has not been repealed. On September 14, 2001, Representative Barbara Lee cast the sole vote in the House of Representatives against the AUMF resolution. “However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint,” Lee declared on the House floor. “Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, let us step back for a moment. Let us just pause for a minute and think through the implications of our actions today so that this does not spiral out of control.” But very few representatives and senators contemplated what could go wrong if they voted for the resolution.
The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks that were used to justify multiple Middle Eastern interventions is a fitting occasion to consider the ultimate cost of military combat. Thanks to advances in military medicine, soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan have had a much higher survival rate, recovering from wounds that would have been fatal decades earlier in Vietnam. As a result, far more post-9/11 combat veterans carry wounds of war, both visible and invisible, for the rest of their lives. Many news reports cite the trillions of dollars that have been spent directly by the Department of Defense and related agencies on two simultaneous occupations and other global war on terror operations.
As the US Empire tries to leave its 9/11 warpath on Afghanistan & Iraq in the past, Abby Martin reviews the core lessons. "We've witnessed a striking conclusion to the Afghanistan War, where for twenty years the US fought to make the country a neo-colony for bases and resource extraction only to suffer a historic embarrassment. Two trillion dollars and tens of thousands of lives lost couldn't tamp down an insurgency that was bred by the CIA decades prior. As the war will fade into memory for most Americans, the Biden administration and the US government as a whole is already starting to rewrite the true legacy of the occupation. They want you to forget the real lessons of the post-9/11 warpath. Historical amnesia is the doorway to the new wars they want to wage."
Twenty years after 9/11, the war on terror has remade the U.S. into a far more militarized actor, both around the world and at home. The human costs of this evolution are many — including mass incarceration, widespread surveillance, the violent repression of immigrant communities, and hundreds of thousands of lives lost to war and violence. But of course, this militarization also has financial costs too. Over 20 years, the U.S. has spent more than $21 trillion on militarization, surveillance, and repression — all in the name of security. These investments have shown us that the U.S. has the capacity and political will to invest in our biggest priorities. But the COVID-19 pandemic, the January 6 Capitol insurrection, wildfires raging in the West, and even the fall of Afghanistan have shown us that these investments cannot buy us safety.
Two hours’ drive from Kandahar, in the southern Afghan desert city where the Taliban were born and where Osama bin Laden maintained his operational base, a February 2001 wedding ceremony became the stage for bin Laden’s first public appearance in several years. Seated in the shade of palm trees was the Al Qaeda leader’s seventeen-year-old son, Mohammed, his father’s personal protector and likely successor. To his left was Mohammed Atef, an Egyptian comrade of Zawahiri who acted as the chief military strategist of Al Qaeda—the brains behind its operations. To Mohammed’s right sat his father, who smiled proudly as his son prepared to marry Atef’s fourteen-year-old daughter. Ahmad Zaidan, a correspondent for the Qatari outlet Al Jazeera, was ferried to the wedding with a camera crew in an effort to provide bin Laden with the publicity he had been denied by the Taliban.
The 2016 report was released late Saturday night under an executive order from President Joe Biden, who promised to make it public no later than the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that killed 2,977 people and injured more than 6,000 others. The 16-page document was a final inventory of circumstantial evidence and leads from the FBI’s investigation of Saudi ties to the plot; it was heavily redacted. Nonetheless, lawyers for families of the 9/11 victims, who are suing the Saudi kingdom in federal court, said the document provided important support to their theory that a handful of Saudis connected to their government worked in concert to assist the first two Qaida hijackers sent to the United States in January 2000. “This validates what we have been saying,” said James Kreindler, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs.
There were actually two Afghan wars. The first began within a few weeks of the 9-11 tragedy, when the US was attacked by Al Qaeda with the assistance of elements of the Saudi Arabia ruling elite. In the first war US forces invaded Afghanistan behind the excuse its mission and goal was to capture Bin Laden and deny Al Qaeda a base in that country, even though there is ample evidence the Taliban had offered to kick Bin Laden out in exchange for no US invasion. The Bush administration rejected the Taliban offer because its actual mission and objective was always greater than just capturing Bin Laden, or even occupying Afghanistan. The first Afghan war was over in a matter of a few months, when US forces drove the Taliban out of government in Afghanistan and into the countryside while sending forces of Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda retreating into the mountains bordering Pakistan
I was in Times Square in New York City shortly after the second plane banked and plowed into the South Tower. The crowd looking up at the Jumbotron gasped in dismay at the billowing black smoke and the fireball that erupted from the tower. There was no question now that the two attacks on the twin towers were acts of terrorism. The earlier supposition, that perhaps the pilot had a heart attack or lost control of the plane when it struck the North Tower seventeen minutes earlier, vanished with the second attack. The city fell into a collective state of shock. Fear palpitated throughout the streets. Would they strike again? Where? Was my family safe? Should I go to work? Should I go home? What did it mean? Who would do this? Why? The explosions and collapse of the towers, however, were, to me, intimately familiar. I had seen it before.
In the twenty years since September 11, 2001, our government has established dozens of laws, policies and programs ostensibly designed to prevent additional attacks on our nation. Some of those post-9/11 measures—such as increasing airport security and improving communication between federal agencies regarding potential threats—were reasonable, legal and successful in making us safer. But many other measures were as ineffective as they were unconstitutional. They undermined civil liberties, violated civil rights and harmed countless people—particularly Muslims in America—in the name of national security. Today, some of those programs have ended. Some of them persist.
Looking back on it now, the 1990s were an age of innocence for America. The Cold War was over and our leaders promised us a “peace dividend.” There was no TSA to make us take off our shoes at airports (how many bombs have they found in those billions of shoes?). The government could not tap a U.S. phone or read private emails without a warrant from a judge. And the national debt was only $5 trillion - compared with over $28 trillion today. We have been told that the criminal attacks of September 11, 2001 “changed everything.” But what really changed everything was the U.S. government’s disastrous response to them. That response was not preordained or inevitable, but the result of decisions and choices made by politicians, bureaucrats and generals who fueled and exploited our fears, unleashed wars of reprehensible vengeance and built a secretive security state, all thinly disguised behind Orwellian myths of American greatness.
Twenty years after 9/11, America is less safe, a deeply troubled country, ravaged by COVID, racism, inequality, extreme weather from global warming and political strife. Its political leaders have embraced an Orwellian approach to the truth in which war is peace and large segments of our society are polarized by widely divergent concepts of reality. On the afternoon of 9/11, with the American media joining with the leaders of the two major parties in banging the drum for war, I wrote one of the first statements calling for America to seek peace instead, to not turn our cries of grief into a call for war. Eventually, many joined with early voices such as those of the Green Party and the War Resisters League in warning that peace and freedom both at home and abroad would be undermined if the United States went to war instead of participating in international criminal prosecution of this crime against humanity.