In the decade that followed the worst terrorist attack on US soil, Washington waged its War on Terror, aimed at preventing a 9/11 from ever happening again. But critics say conflict has become an obsession, with a price tag of billions of dollars.
It started as a War on Terror, spawned by the deadliest terrorist attack in history.
“Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the enemy. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime,” then-President George Bush said in his September 20, 2001 address to a Joint Session of Congress.
But the circle of America’s enemies grew quickly and included nations that had nothing to do with 9/11.
They were defined by George Bush as “the Axis of Evil”.
“Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since 9/11, but we know their true nature, North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens. Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom. Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror,“ President Bush stated in his annual State of the Union address in 2002.
Two years after 9/11, the US invaded Iraq, on the grounds that it had weapons of mass destruction and was doing business with Al-Qaeda, grounds which proved to be false.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died since the invasion.
“They used the moment in the wake of 9/11 to divert from Afghanistan, our real target – should have been our real target – and go to Iraq,” Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief-of-staff, says. “It also was the low hanging fruit, North Korea was far more dangerous, but too difficult. A hundred thousand casualties were predicted on both sides would be destroyed. And Iran was too difficult – 70 million people not fractured like the Iraqis and the Sunni and Shiite and Christians and others.”
As for the motives behind invading Iraq, some talk oil.
“Iraq is sitting on probably 200 billion barrels, maybe 300 billion barrels – that is Iraq’s on oil report. Maliki [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] plans to be a 13-million-barrels-per-day production capacity in seven years. It will be more than Saudi Arabia. Now you know why Dick Cheney went to war in Iraq,” Lawrence Wilkerson says.
Others blame America’s self-assigned role as the world’s policeman.
“The driving idea behind it is that hegemonic stability. The idea that the world is going to be more secure place over all if there is a unipolar world and remaining superpower,” Mark Rigstad, a professor from Oakland University, says. “Much of what has happened post 9/11 in the name of responding to 9/11 has been used as a pretext.”
As terrorism was no longer the only reason for landing on Washington’s enemy list, the US had even more far reaching plans on the table.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he urged the Bush administration to bomb Syria at one time, because of its alleged nuclear weapons program, – a move which, experts say, would have had disastrous effects on the region.
President Obama was elected on hopes that he would end the seemingly endless wars overseas, which most Americans are opposed to, but he continues. And adds one more: another oil-rich nation, Libya. This time in the name of removing an evil dictator.
Some worry Syria could be next.
“We have an executive power which is beyond any check by the people, by the Congress, by the courts…for war. We can go to war at the flip of a coin. We have reached the point now when the president can kill people for state purposes anytime he or she feels the need,” Lawrence Wilkerson says.
Since 9/11, America’s War on Terror has crossed many borders – from Pakistan, to Yemen and other countries. The chase for a handful of terrorists ended up turning the lives of entire nations upside down – hundreds of thousands of innocent lives taken by the decade of constant war. Many worry that a tragedy, as great as 9/11, has served as a pretext for an even greater tragedy – one that has no end in sight.