Yesterday, millions of Americans cheered on as John Bolton was forced to resign from his position as National Security Advisor in the Trump cabinet. Bolton was considered by many to be hawkish and has even been called an outright warmonger. Today honors the memory of the famous attack against the United States in New York that kicked off the War on Terror that we are still fighting today.
Conspiracy theories aside for the moment, the attack demanded action from the U.S. and its allies to take down the terrorist organization that planned and carried out this horrific attack that will live on in infamy. The problem is that it should have been over by now, and should never have shifted the ways that it did. The U.S. had a simple mission with the war on terror: Take out Al-Qaeda. That simple mission had nothing to do with the “weapons of mass destruction” that were “found” in the possession of other states. It had nothing to do with Yemen, or Libya, or Syria today. What was sold as a mission in the name of justice became little more than another justification for continuous war.
One of the biggest issues with the war on terror is the cost. On the financial side, the “war” has cost the U.S. taxpayer approximately 5.6 trillion dollars as of 2017 according to the Watson Institute. This accounts not only for the general costs of pay and equipment, but also the additional resources taken by Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and the DoD. More importantly, in my opinion at least, is the cost in human lives. Approximately 480,000 to 507,000 lives were lost, and the lions share of them were civilians.
We can also look at the damage to domestic citizens as well. The Patriot Act, the Protect America Act, NSA’s surveillance programs, the TSA in general. After the war of terror began the civil liberties began to be eroded at a never-before-seen rate, and the public ate it up and allowed it with next to no resistance. On top of the invasion into the privacy and damage to our rights these pieces of legislature allowed, it also set the precedent for what the government can get away with against its population.
Lastly, I would like to point out the unintended consequences that the war on terror has had. Former President Barack Obama was on record as saying the ISIL’s formation was a result of the invasion of Iraq.
Looking further, we can see how terrorism expands not solely from religious extremism, but also as a direct response to the military actions in their countries. The IRA is a prime example of this, but keeping with the Middle East theme we can see Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which formed in 2007, was a direct result of NATO actions in the area. Al Shabaab in Somalia could, and has, been interpreted as a response to Kenyan and Western-supported African Union’s forces entering the country. The argument has also been made and reinforced by Robert Pape, director of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, in his book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism that suicide bombings, and terrorism, in general, is largely increased when a local populace is faced with ever-increasing military occupations.
This is the 18th anniversary of the attack against America, and it marks an equal amount of time spent in perpetual war. As we’ve seen above, the war on terror has costs more of our freedoms, our tax funds, and human lives than it ever should have, all while contributing more to further terrorism than it cures. This is not how we should be honoring the victims of this monumental tragedy, and there is truly no argument left that can justify our further participation in the bloodshed.