This weekend commemorates the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Events that represent a point of rupture in world history and whose repercussions we have lived with for 15 years.
Fifteen years after Sept. 11, the air strikes launched by the United States under President George W. Bush in Afghanistan, and then in Iraq, continue virtually uninterrupted, setting a large part of the Middle East ablaze. Demilitarization is not on the horizon. Rather the contrary: The failure of the Anglo-American military strategy implemented in Iraq has had such a perverse effect there that, as things stand now, it has objectively contributed to nurturing the development of terrorist organizations and to fostering the rise of the Islamic State, which is an appallingly lethal and effective marriage of former members of Saddam Hussein’s fallen regime and of religious fanatics, dissidents from al-Qaida.
During the first days of the attack on Baghdad, beginning the night of the 19 to the 20 of March 2003, at least 8,000 so-called smart bombs and missiles were launched in less than two weeks on the capital in the hopes, no pun intended, of decapitating Iraqi leadership. Not a single leader would be killed: but civilians, yes – by the “dozens,” according to Human Rights Watch. “Collateral damage” would become the popular expression to cleanse Western opinions of the horrors spread by war as seen from above and afar.
Barely a month later, on May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush was on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Standing before a large banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished,” he announced that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” and that the United States and its allies had “prevailed.” History will never finish ridiculing this haste, when in fact his “war against terror” is a mire on his legacy.
The bombs have continued to fall. During the 18 months following the beginning of airstrikes against the Islamic State, in August 2014, bombs and missiles were launched in record numbers by B-1 American bombers in Iraq and in Syria to such an extent that at the end of 2015, their reserves were virtually exhausted. Current cost to public funds of these operations: U.S. $8.4 billion. And with what results?
In New York, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum was inaugurated by Barack Obama two years ago on the ruins of “Ground Zero.” The result is monumental and the homage paid to the victims is moving. But for those who have visited, it is difficult to leave without feeling that the representation of this catastrophe of historic proportions has reduced the tragedy to a gigantic headline – rather than a tragedy of serious and complex consequences on historical, geopolitical and social frameworks
Historical because the past 15 years gave rise, in the context of inconceivable violence, to a reconfiguration of the Arab-Muslim world and, given the mistake that was the war in Iraq and the lies used to justify it, to the relativization – salutary – of the role of the American Empire in world events. Geopolitical because today Syria is at the heart of a multidimensional conflict that is closed off on one hand by a battle for regional power between Iran and Saudi Arabia and, on the other hand, by traces of the cold war between Washington and Moscow. Social because Sept. 11 led to, in the name of domestic security imperatives, the Western world’s adoption of an array of laws that erode civil liberties and are detrimental, with the help of the technological revolution, to private life.
Madrid, London, Paris, Nice and all of the massacres committed in the Middle East: the events of Sept. 11 have preceded a never ending string of other attacks, no less worrisome. Public opinion is resigned to this dystopian picture. Observe the damage, but let us hope, a little, that the United States will one day voluntarily guide democratic movements and leave the bombs behind; that the ideological deception carried by the Islamic State will soon be stripped down; and that there will be other Arab Springs.