In September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger jets. They flew three of them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The fourth was retaken by the passengers and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. These things we know. Since then, much has transpired. For example:
- The US invaded Afghanistan, the nation that had harbored the terrorists and their mastermind, Osama bin Laden. The war has not been uniformly well managed and attempts to install a stable self-government have so far failed. Many experts argue that our efforts there have been woefully counterproductive.
- Using falsified evidence and outright lies, the US government engineered the invasion of Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the attacks (or, for that matter, any meaningful export of terrorist activity). Estimates of Iraqi deaths resulting from this invasion: more than 1.35 million, many of them women, children and other innocent civilians.
- We have yet to apprehend bin Laden. Most attribute this failure to a significant mishandling of operations in Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan, where the terrorist leader is believed to have been holed up.
- As part of the 9/11-inspired “War on Terror,” the US government embraced the use of torture and “rendition,” a practice whereby suspects are removed to proxy states that have no compunctions against using torture as an information (and all too often, disinformation) extraction tactic.
- The US turned its detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay into an extra-Constitutional prison where those suspected of aiding our enemies could be held indefinitely without due process.
- At Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, US military personnel engaged in a program of abuse and dehumanization of detainees unprecedented in our history. The resulting scandal, complete with pictures, represented a global embarrassment for America and its armed forces.
- The scope of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan provided the Pentagon with the opportunity to employ massive numbers of mercenaries, euphemistically referred to as “contractors,” the most notorious of which worked for a firm called Blackwater. The firm’s CEO, Erik Prince, is a wealthy religious extremist closely allied with a variety of Christian Dominionist groups.
- American citizens responded to the attacks with increasing levels of racism (against Arabs, and indeed, anyone who appeared to be of Middle Eastern or even Indian extraction) and a rash of hate crimes.
- A recent Washington Post report detailed the massive expansion of the security state apparatus in the wake of 9/11. According to this study, “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.” It characterizes this explosion as an “alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight” and notes that the system’s “effectiveness is impossible to determine.” Some details:
- Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
- An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
- In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.
- The National Security Agency, with the aid of multiple corporate telecommunications carriers, embarked on a widespread surveillance campaign against American citizens that directly violated the dictates of the United States Constitution.
- Plans by an Islamic organization to build a community and cultural center near the site of the fallen World Trade Center led to widespread controversy. One of the organizations responsible for fanning the flames was FOX News, which is owned, in large part, by the Saudi prince who is financing the Islamic Center.
- On the eve of this, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, a small-time fundamentalist preacher in Gainesville, Florida sparked an international outrage with his announcement that he would mark the occasion by burning copies of the Quran. After garnering unprecedented levels of attention from political organizations, religious organizations, the media and even US President Barack Obama, the Quran burning was finally canceled.
Over the course of the past nine years a question has been asked over and over, and I believe the answer is now clear: yes, America, the terrorists are winning.