Summary: Sixteen years later, with thousands of our troops dead in futile wars, few understand what happened on 9/11/01. It was a dagger at our minds, as are all effective 4GW ops. With a single strike al Qaeda changed America, the most powerful nation that the world has ever seen. Never before have so few changed so many with so little effort. We have crippled al Qaeda. But its leaders saw al Qaeda as the vanguard of the jihadist movement, not its body — and hence as expendable. Since 9/11 the jihadist movement has grown across the world, with no end in sight.
In previous eras decisive battles occurred where thousands fought to determine the fate of nations. 9/11 was a decisive battle of fourth generation warfare, as nineteen men with box cutters attacked our minds — exploiting our weakness and cowardliness to change the course of America. The multiple of force to effect is the greatest in history. Far greater than the nuking of Japan. Al Qaeda succeed not because of what they did — planes crash, buildings burn, life goes on — but because of what we did afterwards. As RJH said in the comments: “The purpose of an action is the reaction.”
Our foreign adventures helped set the Middle East aflame, as we invaded Afghanistan (because of the big lie) and Iraq (more lies), joined the Saudi’s war in Yemen, and helped destabilize other nations (e.g., Libya, Syria). Civil wars still burn in the nations we invaded and occupied and bombed. The more virulent and extreme Islamic State has replaced Al Qaeda. As we destroy that, a new and more virulent Jihadist 3.0 probably will arise somewhere.
At home the cancerous growth of the secret security services eroded away our civil rights (see this ACLU study) and altered our society in ways the Founders would consider abhorrent.
Obama institutionalized Bush Jr.’s policies, foreign and domestic, making them bipartisan policies — and so almost impossible to change. In 2016 Clinton proposed no reforms and continued her cheerleading for the War On Terror. Trump has made no reforms and expanded the war. No amount of national power can overcome failure to learn. We are like France during the Hundred Years War. Despite defeat in three great battles — Crécy, Poitiers, and Agincourt – the French couldn’t adapt to the new era of war. This might end badly for us.
“People, ideas and hardware, in that order!”
— Said by the late John R. Boyd (Colonel, USAF), quoted in Chet Richard’s Certain to Win. Al Qaeda applied this insight on 9/11. People willing to die to accomplish a brilliantly conceived mission — using our own hardware.
See America burning on 9-11-01.
Look not at 9-11 but forward, to see what we have become.
“We were attacked on 9/11 by a group of Saudis, Emiratis, and a Lebanese, led by an Egyptian. Which is why we’re at war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.”
— From DuffelBlog, one of America’s few reliable source of insight.
Ahead of the pack (as usual) in seeing this, in 2008 Tom Engelhardt discussed al Qaeda’s triumph in this excerpt from “Kiss American Security Goodbye: 15 Numbers That Add Up to an Age of Insecurity.
“The principle behind Tai Chi stayed with me — that you could multiply the force of an act by giving way before the force of others; that a smaller person could use the strength of a bigger one against him.
“Now, jump to September 11, 2001 and its aftermath — and you know the Tai Chi version of history from there. Think of it as a grim cosmic joke — that the 9/11 attacks, as apocalyptic as they looked, were anything but. The true disasters followed and the wounds were largely self-inflicted, as the most militarily powerful nation on the planet used its own force to disable itself.
“Before that fateful day, the Bush administration had considered terrorism, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda subjects for suckers and wusses. What they were intent on was pouring money into developing an elaborate boondoggle of a missile defense system against future nuclear attacks by rogue states. Those Cold War high frontiersmen (and women) couldn’t get enough of the idea of missiling up. That, after all, was where the money and the fun seemed to be. Nuclear was where the big boys — the nation states — played. ‘Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S. …,’ the CIA told the President that August. Yawn.
“After 9/11, of course, George W. Bush and his top advisors almost instantly launched their crusade against Islam and then their various wars, all under the rubric of the Global War on Terror. (As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld pungently put the matter that September, ‘We have a choice — either to change the way we live, which is unacceptable, or to change the way that they live; and we chose the latter.’)
“By then, they were already heading out to “drain the swamp” of evil doers, 60 countries worth of them, if necessary. Meanwhile, they moved quickly to fight the last battle at home, the one just over, by squandering vast sums on an American Maginot Line of security. The porous new Department of Homeland Security, the NSA, the FBI, and other acronymic agencies were to lock down, surveil, and listen in on America. All this to prevent ‘the next 9/11.’
“In the process, they would treat bin Laden’s scattered al-Qaeda network as if it were the Nazi or Soviet war machine (even comically dubbing his followers “Islamofascists”). In the blinking of an eye, and in the rubble of two enormous buildings in downtown Manhattan, bin Laden and his cronies had morphed from nobodies into supermen, a veritable Legion of Doom.
(There was a curious parallel to this transformation in World War II. Before Pearl Harbor, American experts had considered the Japanese — as historian John Dower so vividly documented in his book War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War — bucktoothed, near-sighted military incompetents whose war planes were barely capable of flight. On December 8, 1941, they suddenly became a race of invincible supermen without, in the American imagination, ever passing through a human incarnation.)
“When, in October 2001, Congress passed the Patriot Act, and an Office of Homeland Security (which, in 2002, became a “department”) was established, it was welcome to the era of homeland insecurity. From then on, every major building, landmark, amusement park, petting zoo, flea market, popcorn stand, and toll booth anywhere in the country would be touted as a potential target for terrorists and in need of protection. Every police department from Arkansas to Ohio would be in desperate need of anti-terror funding. And why not, when the terrorists loomed so monstrously large, were so apocalyptically capable, and wanted so very badly to destroy our way of life?”
9/11 put America on a dark path. None can see its end. But we still control our destiny and can step off this path. We need only open our eyes to see through the propaganda that clouds our eyes. The machinery bequeathed to us by the Founders remains idle but potentially decisive. It requires only our will and effort to empower it.
For ideas about what you can do see Reforming America: steps to new politics.
For More Information
- Lies about 9-11 that justified our invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.
- Thoughts about 9-11-01 by Rebecca Solnit — Remember what happened on that day, and imagine what could have followed if we had been wiser.
- The vital things to know about 9-11, painful and so seldom mentioned today.
- About the mysteries of the 9-11 attack — Articles questioning the standard story.
- Death celebrates 9-11. Can we stop and think before we walk further along the road of terror? — “The Uses of al-Qaida” by Richard Seymour.
- Bin Laden won, with our assistance. Our applause shows the scale of his victory. — About “Zero Dark Thirty”.
- It’s not too late to learn from 9/11. But soon it will be.
- Commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11 by understanding what followed.
Books to help you more clearly see our America.
All that has changed since these were written is that we have accepted the new America as our America.
Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World by Tom Englehardt (2014).
The United States of Fear by Tom Englehardt (2011).