THE 9/11 attacks were horrific crimes that rightly garnered widespread sympathy around the world for the American people.
The US government’s response was swift, decisive and appallingly stupid as it attacked and invaded two of the world’s poorest countries: Afghanistan and Iraq. It ignored the deep fears and wishes of millions of people around the world who protested on February 15th, 2003.
The communal grief and sympathy for those killed and bereaved on 9/11 was willfully exploited by a neoconservative agenda in order to wage terror on a massive scale, premised on the extreme ideology of the now defunct Project for the New American Century, through which Messrs Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney et al had argued repeatedly for regime change in Iraq. The real aim of the Bush administration, of which it boasted quite openly, was to seek global hegemony by the United States – a flawed policy that confused dominance abroad with security at home.
The farcically named “war on terror” has caused immense suffering to millions of people. Premised on disinformation, false claims and a desire for world dominance, it has involved the corporate theft of resources; the misuse of reconstruction funds; illegal rendition and torture (as in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib); an assault on civil liberties; the gross vilification of the Islamic religion; the stoking of ethnic tension and hatred; indiscriminate bombings and shootings; the use of cluster bombs and white phosphorous; the cowardly use of unmanned drone aircraft; and thousands dead, injured and displaced.
Take, for example, the violence visited on a medium-sized town of 350,000 people on the Euphrates river west of Baghdad in Iraq’s Anbar province between April and November 2004. As unembedded journalist Dahr Jamail relates in his book Beyond the Green Zone , the response to the killing by insurgents of four private Blackwater military contractors was a siege and assault by US forces in a surge of collective punishment.
US forces declared a curfew and refused the evacuation of the wounded and the ingress of medical aid while snipers shot from the minarets of mosques at anything that moved, including women and children. Hospital doctors confirmed between 20 and 30 per cent of victims’ wounds were the result of sniper fire, often from dumdum bullets.
Almost every family in this city lost a member. The number of dead is disputed but ranges between 6,000 and 12,000, the majority being old men, women and children.
Mike Marquez of the Guardian noted that the city’s compensation commissioner reported that “36,000 of the city’s 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines”. Patrick Cockburn of the Independent called it “a city of ruins” and reported on the dramatic increase in cancers, birth defects and infant mortality, more than those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, as a result of the use of chemical weapons.
The city is Fallujah. Strangely, its name and imagery are not etched in our memories like the Twin Towers are. Likewise, in Barack Obama’s escalated drone war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where estimates claim between 10 and 25 civilians are killed for every combatant in such strikes, we will never know the names of those villages or people, nor will they be commemorated with documentary programmes.
This year is set to be the bloodiest yet in the US’s longest foreign war, in Afghanistan. Yet our Government treats its main protagonist to an uncritical establishment-fest here in May without any concern expressed for the victims of his foreign policy.
The human and financial cost of these wars has been colossal. Estimates of numbers killed inevitably vary, from that of Jason Burke (author of The 9/11 Wars) , 250,000, with at least 750,000 injured for both wars; to the British medical journal the Lancet ’s estimate of more than one million civilians killed in Iraq alone. Even taking Burke’s estimate, this represents 85 times the number of people killed in the 9/11 attacks, which is shocking.
As many as 7,500 coalition troops have been killed, with tens of thousands badly injured – equally shocking and unacceptable. The financial cost of these wars to the US alone is between $1.28 trillion and $4 trillion. That’s an awful lot of jobs, schools and health programmes.
And as the journalist Robert Fisk noted last week, nobody is asking the necessary question of why a group men from the Middle East would want to fly planes into skyscrapers. Palestine perhaps?
By any analysis, the horrific and unjustified suffering inflicted on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq is a deep insult to the memory of those killed on 9/11. As we remember them this week, let us spare some thoughts also for the victims of the wars waged by Bush and Blair, and now Obama and Cameron. Ireland should call for these wars to end; withdraw Irish troops serving in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan; and end the US military’s stopover facility at Shannon airport. It’s the least we can do.
Jim Roche is PRO of the Irish Anti-War Movement.