July 22, 2004

9/11: Everyone To Blame

(Except all the US governments who sold Osama the weapons and trained his men, of course). That's the finding of the 9/11 Commission Report into the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington of September 11, 2001.

The sad irony of all of this is that the US seems to have learned little about why terrorists wish to attack them (and their allies), and looked to throw blame around to whomever they think could have stopped this one incident. To believe this is not an appeasement of terrorism - it is an understanding of how the world works right now. One only has to look at the present situation in Iraq - the world's safest haven for terrorists - to see the true outcome of US foreign policy.

The Report is right that no one single person is to blame, but it casts the net of failure so widely that it is impossible to establish where the true fault lies - and where policy should be modified. It isn't really about the CIA - although they made mistakes. It isn't about the Clinton government - although it made mistakes too. It isn't even about the Bush administration (although how it could miss a report, dated September 10th, entitled "Al-Qaeda Plans to Attack US with Hijacked Airplanes", I really don't know).

The devil is in the details of course. That missed report. The failed CIA security checks on known terrorists. Failure to make the link between members of the cell, even when some had been arrested. Missed forged documents. However, while the details may well be devilish - they do guide us away from the real truth.

The truth is that 35 years of militaristic, interventionist and hypocritical US policy that sought to divide and rule, came home to roost that day in September. Successive Presidential administrations ordered military interventions in conflicts all over the globe - normally seeking to install despotic dictators, they saw as being anti-communist, pro-American or open to exploitation. The result - lots of guerilla armies, trained, weaponised and empowered. Norriega, Pinochet, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are just a few on many names I could list. The common ground? All received training, funding and/or military help from the US.

The question, after a report such as this, would normally be 'what lessons are there to learn?' The Commission recommends a centralisation of intelligence under a cabinet-level Intelligence Director. Of course they would - when decentralised government agencies make mistakes, governments always seek to take control. It's not the answer, never has been.

There has already been a security lock down - ethnic profiling, biometric testing, arrest, detention and torture. All in the name of security and the War on Terror. It's a war that will never be won until the West, as a whole, unites in its attempt to redefine its relationship with the Muslim world. Military intervention, brutalisation of 'suspects' and the lowering on moral and legal standards only alienates those countries, and communities who we, the West, need to hold an olive branch out to.

Will there be another 9/11? Almost certainly. Nothing and nobody can be protected totally. We have already seen a catastrophic series of attacks in Madrid. There will be others, no matter how many people we kill, countries we invade or suspects we beat to death. Let's redress how we fight this 'war' - because using the fist is not, and will never, work.