In The Looming Tower, the Pulitzer-winning history of al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11, author Lawrence Wright lays out how Osama bin Laden’s motivation for the attacks that he planned in the 1990s, and then the September 11 attacks, was to draw the U.S. and the West into a prolonged war—an actual war in Afghanistan, and a broader global war with Islam.
Osama got both. And we gave him a prolonged war in Iraq to boot. By the end of Obama’s first term, we’ll probably top 6,000 dead U.S. troops in those two wars, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. The cost for both wars is also now well over $1 trillion.
We have also fundamentally altered who we are. A partial, off-the-top-of-my-head list of how we’ve changed since September 11 …
- We’ve sent terrorist suspects to “black sites” to be detained without trial and tortured.
- We’ve turned terrorist suspects over to other regimes, knowing that they’d be tortured.
- In those cases when our government later learned it got the wrong guy, federal officials not only refused to apologize or compensate him, they went to court to argue he should be barred from using our courts to seek justice, and that the details of his abduction, torture, and detainment should be kept secret.
- We’ve abducted and imprisoned dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Guantanamo who turned out to have been innocent. Again, the government felt no obligation to do right by them.
- The government launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign implying that people who smoke marijuana are complicit in the murder of nearly 3,000 of their fellow citizens.
- The government illegally spied and eavesdropped on thousands of American citizens.
- Presidents from both of the two major political parties have claimed the power to detain suspected terrorists and hold them indefinitely without trial, based solely on the president’s designation of them as an “enemy combatant,” essentially making the president prosecutor, judge, and jury. (I’d also argue that the treatment of someone like Bradley Manning wouldn’t have been tolerated before September 11.)
- The current president has also claimed the power to execute U.S. citizens, off the battlefield, without a trial, and to prevent anyone from knowing about it after the fact.
- The Congress approved, the president signed, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a broadly written law making it a crime to advocate for any organization the government deems sympathetic to terrorism. This includes challenging the “terrorist” designation in the first place.
- Flying in America now means enduring a humiliating and hassling ritual that does little if anything to actually make flying any safer. Every time the government fails to catch an attempt at terrorism, it punishes the public for its failure by adding to the ritual.
- American Muslims, a heartening story of success and assimilation, are now harassed and denigrated for merely trying to build houses of worship.
- Without a warrant, the government can search and seize indefinitely the laptops and other personal electronic devices of anyone entering the country.
- The Department of Homeland Security now gives terrorism-fighting grants for local police departments across the country to purchase military equipment, such as armored personnel carriers, which is then used against U.S. citizens, mostly to serve drug warrants.
It is so frustrating to hear everyone cheer like we won something, we didn’t. Am I glad this scum bag is off the face of the earth and that he can no longer harm another human being? Fuck yes. Am I glad it cost over 900,000 lives to do so? No. He got EXACTLY what he wanted, even down to his death. As evil and maniacal as he was, he was still an intelligent man, and we did exactly what he thought we would. I only wish this could have happened before so many other innocent people had to die.