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9/11 and the "War on Terrorism": Facts and Myths

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A recent New York Times article examined how Arabs in the Middle East don't believe the official story of what happened on September 11, 2001 and are rather apt to think the U.S. government itself had a hand in the terrorist attacks. The title of the article dismisses the notion, reading "9/11 Rumors That Become Conventional Wisdom." But what the Times fails to recognize is that behind many myths often lies an element of truth.

The article begins, "Seven years later, it remains conventional wisdom here that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda could not have been solely responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that the United States and Israel had to have been involved in their planning, if not their execution, too."

This is the talk, the article notes, in Dubai, in Algiers, in Riyadh, and in Cairo. A Syrian man living and working in the United Arab Emirates told the Times, "I think the U.S. organized this so that they had an excuse to invade Iraq for the oil." 

This kind of thinking, the Times tells us "represents the first failure in the fight against terrorism - the inability to convince people here that the United States is, indeed, waging a campaign against terrorism, not a crusade against Muslims."

No, the U.S. is not waging a crusade against Muslims. But neither is it waging a campaign against terrorism. No doubt, Ahmed Issab, the Syrian quoted above, could point out to the Times that this is one of the biggest myths of them all, as the case of Iraq clearly demonstrates.

Iraq has repeatedly been called "the central front in the war on terrorism" by President Bush and others. And it certainly became so, as was well predicted would occur – as a result of the U.S. invasion.

To speak of myths that have become conventional wisdom, take the notion that there was an "intelligence failure" leading up to the war on Iraq. This is pure nonsense. There was no intelligence failure. The simple fact of the matter, easily demonstrable, is that U.S. government officials lied about, misled, spun, and exaggerated the "threat" posed by Iraq and it's alleged WMD and supposed ties to al Qaeda. To document the deceptions employed is beyond our purposes here; suffice to say that there never was any credible evidence that Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction, or that it had any sort of operational relationship with al Qaeda. Many people, myself included, were saying that for many months before the U.S. invaded, and time certainly confirmed the truth of what we were trying to warn others about

How can one argue that the war against Iraq was waged to combat terrorism? What evidence is there of this? We have only the declarations of benevolent intent from the same people who engaged in a campaign of deception to convince the American public of the necessity of the war in the first place. Sure, they say it's a "war on terrorism." But statements of intent are not evidence. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who terrorized his own people. But the U.S. didn't care about that. After all, our government supported Saddam during his most heinous crimes; including when he "gassed his own people," killing 5,000, in the village of Halabjah.

Moreover, it was well predicted by every competent analyst that invading Iraq would only cause more resentment towards the U.S. and hatred of its foreign policies. A war in Iraq would be a "poster" for al Qaeda, many experts noted, and recruitment at militant schools and terrorist training camps would only increase as a result. The world would become an even more dangerous place and acts of terrorism would only increase.

It would have been welcome had such dire predictions been wrong. But they weren't. Acts of terrorism worldwide have increased considerably since the "war on terrorism" began. A great many of these terrorist incidents have occurred in Iraq, a country where such heinous crimes were virtually unknown prior to the U.S. invasion. 

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Jeremy R. Hammond is the owner, editor, and principle writer for Foreign Policy Journal, a website dedicated to providing news, critical analysis, and commentary on U.S. foreign policy, particularly with regard to the "war on terrorism" and events (more...)
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