9/11 was both terrible in itself and the catalyst for the destruction and horror to come, argues Chris Nineham
The events of 9/11 were terrible not just in themselves, as thousands died on the day, but because they presaged even worse levels of death and destruction in the years to come. The Stop the War Coalition was established just days after the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 2001. The billing for the first packed rally was 'stop the war before it starts'. Speaker after speaker there warned that the military response being planned by the US was bound to cause not just massive suffering but also chaos.
I don't suppose any of us realised just how much. Many of the deeply challenging problems we face today can be traced back to the decision pressed by the neocons to use 9/11 as an opportunity to go on the offensive in Central Asia and the Middle East. The first response was the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan. That war which has claimed uncounted lives, continues to this day, over four times longer than the First World War. The already war-torn country has been devastated and the hold of the Taliban on the country strengthened. Donald Trump's recent cancellation of peace talks with the Taliban shows even now the US can't break from the logic of war.
The Iraq war was a catastrophe on another scale. It led to the death of as many as a million and the forced migration of millions more. The offensive, grimly designated 'shock and awe', set the middle east on fire. That fire is still burning. Iraq remains fractured and largely dysfunctional. Syria, whose civil war was leveraged by the great powers, lies in ruins. The sectarianism that was stirred up by war and occupation is now hardening into a regional war line, a process that is of course only being encouraged by the West's backing of Saudi Arabia and Israel, its support for the war in Yemen, and its sabre rattling against Iran.
All of this has had global impact. Since the start of the so-called War on Terror, terrorist organisation has spread from a small base in Central Asia across an arc of thousands of miles from Karachi to Kinshasa and has of course become a threat in capitals across the West. Millions of war weary migrants have risked their lives in the biggest movement of human beings since the second world war. Desperate to bolster support for their unpopular wars, Western governments and media have spent years demonising and scapegoating Muslim populations, helping to create ideal conditions for the spread of far-right ideas and organisation.
Unbelievably, given this track record, the Western elites remain committed to war. It is great news that Donald Trump has despatched arch-neocon John Bolton, but we shouldn't forget that Trump admits to coming within ten minutes of launching a new war against Iran just months ago.
If the elites have learnt little from the last 18 years of mayhem, wider public opinion is a different matter. These disastrous experiences combined with mass campaigning have helped to create a solid anti-war majority in Britain, helped Jeremy Corbyn to win the Labour leadership and made it very hard for any government to launch further wars. As this month's Foreign Affairs magazine laments, the accumulated catastrophes of the War on Terror combined with Trump's disruptions have created a massive credibility problem for the US around the world. In a more and more challenging world, we need to remember that protest makes a difference, and organise more of it.
Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
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