Political scientist Alexander Vedrussov on the lessons not learned from 9/11, and the real fight against international terrorism.
Exactly 17 years ago, a terrorist attack occurred that left an unprecedented number of victims and visible destruction in the business capital of the U.S. I remember very well the footage of the burning World Trade Center in New York, and the second airplane crashing into it on live television. How could this even happen?
There are still a lot of blank spots in the tragedy of 9/11, but by default, we all accept the official position of the American government. Based on this, Russian leadership initially decided not only to express its condolences to the American people and categorically condemn the terrorists’ actions, but also to fully support the large-scale retaliatory campaign launched by Washington against al-Qaida and the Taliban (organizations that are banned in Russia) in Afghanistan.
Russia, among other things, linked the U.S. war on terror to the hope that Washington would stop dividing terrorists into “good” terrorists and “bad” terrorists. At that time, our country had already experienced the horrors of terrorist attacks, and very much hoped that the U.S. and its allies would no longer support the militants operating in our territory and call them “rebels” and “freedom fighters.” It seemed that things would finally be called what they really are, regardless of the internal and global political environment.
As further developments showed, we were seriously wrong and clearly overestimated the good intentions of the American military presence in Afghanistan. Yet all these years, we conscientiously provided one of the transportation routes for Operation Enduring Freedom.* At one point, plans were seriously discussed for the creation of a U.S. (and NATO) logistics base in Ulyanovsk.
And how did the Americans finally return our endless gestures of goodwill? With groundless accusations that we supplied arms to the Taliban. Moreover, such accusations against our country didn’t come from someone at the level of political outsider like Sen. Ted Cruz, who even managed to accuse us of supporting the Islamic State (which is banned in Russia), but, for example, from the now-former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
We did not and do not divide terrorists into “real” and conditionally “moderate.” If someone blows up innocent people and cuts off their heads – in our view, this is something that must be destroyed, someone with which there are no negotiations (with rare exception).
The American approach is fundamentally different. Many terrorist groups perceive the U.S. as a situational ally, because it provides a geopolitical advantage to the U.S. (from the U.S. perspective). A vivid example of this hypocrisy is the Nusra Front (which is banned in Russia). It simply doesn’t make sense to us how one could unceremoniously support this branch of al-Qaida operating in Syria. The same international terrorist organization that is responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the deaths of thousands of Americans? And it’s not enough to just support them, but to openly threaten Russia and Iran with retaliation in the event of the upcoming liquidation of the final rebel stronghold in Idlib.
Current U.S. authorities persistently repeat the mistakes of their predecessors and exhibit certain inexplicable shortsightedness. They can’t help but know that “terrorist No. 1,” Osama bin Laden, by all accounts the personification of 9/11, was once supported by American intelligence agencies to fight against the Soviet Union.
Even after al-Qaida turned its weapons against those same Americans, the ideologue behind supporting the Afghan militants, Zbigniew Brzezinski, confidently said in an interview with The American Interest that he “would not hesitate to do it again.” In his opinion, the lives of thousands of innocent Americans were worth ensnaring the USSR in a trap and setting up its “own Vietnam War.”
As long as these people are making policy in the U.S., the world is simply doomed to remember the victims on such a sad day. And for a few peace-loving countries – they must do everything in their power to put an end to this geopolitical insanity.
*Editor’s note: Operation Enduring Freedom was the official name used by the U.S. government for the global war on terrorism. On Oct. 7, 2001, President George W. Bush announced the launch of airstrikes targeting al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.