This year, the grim commemoration of the 9/11 attacks has sparked much soul-searching in the United States about how the country has squandered the international sympathy and solidarity expressed 20 years ago in continuing its “war on peace.” terrorism ”.
Immediately after the events of September 11, 2001, messages of solidarity poured in from countries as ideologically distant as Libya and Israel. The Iranians held a candlelight vigil and wreaths piled up at US embassies in many countries.
Saturday’s 20th anniversary is particularly poignant for Americans as it coincides with the Taliban’s resumption of power, the first target of the US response to the terrorist attacks, in Kabul after a modest US retreat from Afghanistan.
Of the questions the United States now faces: Was the “war on terror” worth it? Was this an overreaction? Has it really made the country less secure?
Al-Qaida’s coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and other targets left 3,000 dead and constituted the worst attack on American soil.
“The magnitude of it has made Osama bin Laden‘s threat to our country seem far greater than it was, in retrospect,” New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg said in an anniversary commentary. .
Even among America’s closest allies, there remains a perception that America’s declaration of all-out war only served to elevate the status of fundamentalist fanatics to that of warriors rather than murderous criminals.
The tactics of the “war on terror” were to provide fertile recruiting ground for the fundamentalist movements it sought to suppress. The al-Qaida eclipse saw the rise of ISIS even more ominous.
The United States has been spared any major Islamist attack for the past two decades, but terrorists have struck in the United Kingdom, France, Spain and elsewhere, and security agencies say terrorism continues to be a threat. chronic threat.
Meanwhile, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have left around 100 civilians dead for each of those killed on September 11, according to data from Brown University in the United States.
And the United States, which was overwhelmingly united in its response to the 9/11 trauma, is now deeply divided, including on issues arising directly or indirectly from the war on terror.
Garrett M. Graff, a 9/11 historian, is among those who think the United States has almost everything wrong in its response to al-Qaida attacks.
“The ‘war on terror’ has weakened the nation, leaving Americans more afraid, less free, more morally compromised and more alone in the world,” he wrote in The Atlantic magazine this month.
He wrote that a day that initially created an unprecedented sense of unity among Americans had become the backdrop for ever-widening political polarization.
A whole new generation has grown up at a time when suspicion between communities is more prevalent and tighter security oversight and militarized police are now the norm.
The brutal national response to 9/11 sparked skepticism rather than confidence in state policies and intentions. Some commentators even see the wave of conspiracy theories born of the 2001 attacks as the starting point of an era of “fake news”.
Some of the more bizarre theories, including those blaming the 9/11 attacks on the US government itself, have been fueled by the official lack of openness regarding the failure to uncover the al-Qaida plot.
Although official and unofficial autopsies on the events of September 11 have revealed a malfunction of a security apparatus that should have seen them coming, questions still remain about the attacks and the US response.
Threats from families of 9/11 victims to disrupt President Joe Biden’s presence at this year’s commemoration events prompted him to order government agencies to release some of the secret files on the al-Qaida plot.
There have been persistent allegations of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the attacks, although the Commission’s official 9/11 report, released in 2004, found no clear link to a foreign government. Riyadh responded swiftly this month with a preemptive reiteration of its innocence.
Whatever the secret files reveal, it is unlikely that they now provide more than a historic footnote to a terrorist attack that briefly united the world in solidarity with the victims and continues to haunt the United States. .
In his commentary in the New York Times, Goldberg wrote: “The attacks, and our response to them, catalyzed a period of decline that helped turn the United States into the degraded and half-mad power that we are. are today. “
Harvey Morris is a senior media consultant for China Daily UK. Opinions do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.