september 11 world trade center bin laden terrorism

The US is a hammer, the world is a nail
cia taliban

End the First War of the 21st Century!

Eight years ago I wrote the following -- on September 13, 2001 -- and posted it on the Henry George Institute's website. Emotions were running high, both from the horrifying event of two days previous, and -- I was somewhat surprised to recall -- concerning the "legitimacy" of a chief executive who had been installed in office by the US Supreme Court calling off a duly ordered recount of votes. But, be that as it may: as we look into the abyss that promises to become US policy toward the war in Afghanistan in 2009, I find that I have not one word to take back.

by Lindy Davies

The First War of the 21st Century

The attack on the World Trade Center was characterized as despicable and cowardly. Despicable, yes, horribly so: but cowardly? I don't think so. To willingly give one's life for a cause is not cowardly. Immoral, yes -- and probably insane -- but not cowardly. I'm not just parsing words here; the distinction is important. If, as seems likely, Osama bin Laden is the mastermind of this horrible act, then it is clear that he has been able to gather, far beyond his own inherited wealth, substantial human and political resources into a terrorist network capable of pulling off such a sophisticated and devastating exploit. There had to be a large, well-coordinated team in the field. The September 11th attack wasn't just well thought out -- it was executed with deliberate precision (as were the simultaneous attacks on the two African embassies, attributed to the bin Laden team).

So, assuming that evidence continues to point to bin Laden, we must ask ourselves, who is this guy, and how did he become so influential? His fame began when, with help from the CIA, he led resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He is characterized as an evil genius -- even worse, perhaps, than Saddam Hussein! -- implying that if we could just kill him, like the Monarch of the killer bees, his followers would lose all power and focus.

But it ain't so, and that should by no means come as a surprise to us. Osama bin Laden recruits his people -- soldiers willing to die for their cause -- from among the millions upon millions of people who loathe the United States.

Although our "President" fatuously and stupidly described the coming war as a "struggle between good and evil", these millions upon millions of people who loathe the United States are not all bad people. Osama bin Laden is, as far as I can tell, a very bad person indeed. But his troops, who believe in their cause enough to die for it, are not. The Catholic church canonizes and reveres its martyrs -- and the USA reserves most special honor for those who are killed in the defense of their country --even, perhaps especially, when their country sent them to die in pointless, fruitless "police actions". So why should we disparage these pilots, just because they had no F16s or cruise missiles? There is, in the final analysis, really no such thing as "terrorism"; there is only war, which is always horrible and always kills innocent people. There is also no such thing as a "war crime"; all war is criminal. The only difference is that some nations have very large armies and very devastating weapons, and therefore can afford to pay lip service to such notions as "rules of engagement" -- but only, to be sure, while the "doctrine of overwhelming force" is working in their favor.

The first thing out of our "President's" mouth were words of revenge, and he has now called the coming retribution "the first war of the twenty-first century". But we all cannot help but wonder who W is chiefly going to command his troops to fight against. Against the bin Laden network? Good luck. It won't stop with Afghanistan. There are reports that bin Laden has people in Iran, in Syria, in Morocco, in Miami, Florida -- in a great many places. Who shall we bomb, occupy, conquer? Ourselves? In a way, I wouldn't be surprised if bin Laden (if he is responsible) were still working for the CIA, because this tragic event seems to have so lavishly given the "Bush administration" what it wants: a chance to go somewhere and make war.

Let's not be confused about this: if the United States -- as now seems inevitable, with polls showing 90+ per cent in favor - - proceeds to go and Kick Some Towelhead Butt, then there will be more terrorist attacks. The bin Laden network will have plenty of volunteers for glorious martyrdom. And those attacks will be against not just the US but also our NATO allies, who officially view themselves as allied with, and indeed part of, the Great Satan.

Is there a way out? There is, but it demands a policy shift so drastic, so fundamental, as to be utterly unprecedented in US history; it demands consistency with the Founders' rhetoric on basic human rights; it demands a complete re-thinking of our nation's policy toward the Middle East. Israel should be secure, yes -- but the Palestinians should also have self-determination, and Israel/Palestine should be governed by a secular state that guarantees basic human rights to all its people -- and among those rights must be the people's equal and undeniable right to the land. The United States, having never secured that most basic right for its own people, is scarcely in a position, politically, to demand that other nations do so -- yet that is where we must begin.

A Finished War in the 21st Century?

So now -- after eight years, and epic histories of pointless trauma -- the Obama administration is saying we should finish the job in Afghanistan, after having wasted so much time and effort on Bush's Iraq thing. Right. Well, I'm bringing up old stuff to point out the obvious: that the US invasion of Afghanistan makes no more sense now than it did on September 13, 2001. We should pull all our troops out of Afghanistan immediately.

But what about the Taliban? Well, WHAT about the Taliban. Does anyone think people like the Taliban? Are they on the side of prosperity? stability? opportunity? Let's not lose sight of a key fact: the Taliban derive support from the presence of an invading power. The more force that power projects, the more secure the Taliban become.

Lately we've been told that the US, recognizing these things, plans to change its strategy: to stop robot-bombing supposed Taliban strongholds (because, jeez, every time we do, they claim we've killed another 30-50-100 innocent children!) and start doing nice things, building schools, roads, public health clinics. The problem is that whenever we start doing those things, we have to pay protection money to the Taliban, or they'll send in suicide bombers to blow up our nice projects (hey, I never said the Taliban were nice people). I'm not sure the folks in Sicily ever really liked the Mafia, either -- but they did maintain a strong presence there, for quite a long while.

But we're told we can counteract that, by winning "hearts and minds." Right. Look: we don't know anybody in Afghanistan (we didn't know anybody in Vietnam, either). We've been there eight years, and we still don't know anybody. Here is the CIA World Factbook's note on languages spoken there: "Afghan Persian or Dari (official) 50%, Pashto (official) 35%, Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 11%, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4%, much bilingualism." Now, consider the fact that, at the height of the Iraq effort in 2005, one in every 120 US military personnel in Iraq spoke some Arabic. How likely is it that enough US soldiers are keyed in to Afghan local nuance for them to win any "hearts and minds?" When they went there thinking they were most likely Al Quaeda terrorists who hate America? If we send another 20-50-100 thousand soliders (or contractors -- another abomination of the Bush years that Obama has not seen fit to stop) over there, they'll be just another huge cohort of clueless grunts in a land full of Towelheads who hate them.

We should not do that. The United States should pull 100% of its troops and contractors out of Afghanistan immediately.

I guess I have to admit a certain personal pride in my -- despite the awful unthinkableness of what had just happened -- having insisted, two days after "nine eleven" that the Georgist remedy was the only true way to bring the situation to a workable resolution. That's the part I most want to NOT take back. You see, imperialism is all about control over land -- and the United States of America has no room to talk. I was talking with a Georgist friend of mine recently. I said that perhaps Obama feels he mustn't oppose the Afghanistan thing, for fear of losing his domestic agenda. My friend said, "Now, what Democratic president does THAT remind you of...?"

Mr Obama, the truth can set even the Democratic Party free. We need to get the hell out of Afghanistan, NOW. It may be that, without a Geoist viewpoint, you'll never be able to understand the real urgency of this -- but that doesn't make it any less true.

Also see:


Deeper powers shape presidential policy

Wars on peoples, including on Americans

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