Five Years Later: The Lesson of September 11, 2001.


The September 11, 2001 attacks were an act of terrorism, which is hardly unique in war as the United States knows too well, but were in reaction to American foreign policy in the Middle East and not an initiation of conflict with the U.S. They had little to do with a generalised assualt on our "values" and putative democracy. The attacks were part of a preexisting struggle, had precedents with the 2000 attack on the destroyer, U.S.S. Cole, and the August 1998 embassy attacks in African nations Tanzania and Kenya. Al Qaeda was the product of years of American and Israeli imperialism and colonialism in the region and must be seen as part of a longstanding conflict. Its genesis can be traced to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and subsequent actions of aggression by the Zionist entity and its patron the United States.

The “enemy” is not Islam. The enemy is not “terrorism” because this is a tactic of warfare, that may include a guerilla asymmetrical strategy of insurgency, and not a substantive ideology or motivating force. Thomas Oliphant, a liberal columnist for the Boston Globe, substitutes for Mark Shields frequently as a commentator on the "Newshour with Jim Lehrer." He repeatedly demonstrated the vital center's ideological hegemony in his assertion on the September 8 broadcast that the lesson of September 11 was the existence of a vicious “enemy” in radical Islam. He claimed this war has no end and will be of indefinite duration; he apparently believes in a Manichaean struggle between good and evil. Such liberal assessment is unfortunate because what we have among the elites is a general lack of reflection and humility on why nineteen young and vibrant persons would commit suicide in flying aeroplanes into major architectural symbols of the U.S.: The Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The focus should not merely be on killing the ”enemy” but in altering our policy to reduce the threat and reach a reconciliation with the “enemy.” Americans are not good at this; they believe in the supremacy of their firepower and construe negotiations as appeasement, reconciliation as weakness and rapprochement as pusillanimity.

If the U.S. were more rational and more ethical it would consider adopting the following recommendations as an alternative to merely relying upon brute force and torture to resolve its incessant conflicts with its latest “enemy.”

1) Remove all American military forces from Iraq within a reasonable period of time, up to twelve months, as the following diplomatic tracts and actions begin.

2) Remove all military assets from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the former being the land of the holiest sites in Islam at Mecca and Medina.

3) Recognise Hamas as the legitimate parliamentary majority in Palestine.

4) Seek a multilateral dialogue between Hezbollah, which is a major political, social and military force in Lebanon, the Lebanese government, Syria, Israel and the U.S..

5) Seek a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East that would include not only Iran but also the State of Israel.

6) Condemn Israeli actions in Lebanon that were appropriately labeled war crimes by Amnesty International.

7) Incorporate the Saudi plan for Israeli return of occupied lands in the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria, in return for peace and diplomatic recognition from all Muslim states in the region.

8) Close the death camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

9) End the threats on the life of Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders and seek negotiations with them. This may commence initially with back channels and secret diplomacy through Pakistani or even Taliban intermediaries, but it is counterproductive for the U.S. to dismiss Al Qaeda as evil fascists who are beyond the pale of civilisation. That is insulting, arrogant and contrary to the obligation and responsibility of a great power to seek conflict resolution.

10) Be aware of inflammatory rhetoric. Do not match Al Qaeda’s rhetoric with threats and bombast. Seek conflict resolution not dehumanisation of the Bush administration's, but not the people's, adversary.

It is clear that the lesson of September 11 has not been learned. The lesson is the U.S. will increasingly pay a heavy price for its imperialist ambitions and that the lack of humility and the capacity to analyse the sources of conflict with major components of the Islamic world will lead to an endless clash of civilisations that is both unnecessary and a monstrous disregard of the Earth’s more pressing needs for freedom, human rights, nutrition, education and health care.

Osama Bin Laden and Dr Ayman Al-Zawahiri

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