Ten years ago, an event happened that changed the course of history. The attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the crash of flight United 93, and the abduction of flight AA 77 mark a day of suffering. More suffering was to follow in the wake of the event: two wars and three far-flung military operations were launched in consequence.
In October 2001, the first war began, in Afghanistan, with bombing raids, followed by invasion, pacification, insurgency, strategic retreats, re-occupation, reconstruction, bribes, and assassinations. Ten years later, the war has expanded into the western parts of flood- and drought-stricken Pakistan.
In January 2002, the first overseas operation began, in the Philippines, with the deployment of military advisers to the Armed Forces of the Philippines for suppressing insurgencies in Basilan, Jolo, and other islands. In October of the same year, the second operation was launched, in Djibouti at the Horn of Africa, to check maritime traffic and disrupt insurgencies in the failing and failed states of Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. In 2005, the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative was added as a third operation, to train fighters in counterinsurgency warfare in eleven other African countries.
In March 2003, the second war began, in Iraq, under the pretext of securing weapons of mass destruction despite protests by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission that no search ever pointed to the existence of such weapons. Without the backing of the international community, despite countless reports that the Iraqi government had no connection to the terrorist attacks, and regardless of the largest peace demonstrations that were ever held on the planet, the U.S.government choose to go to war anyway. Since Turkey denied the US invaders any use of its territory, the invasion was launched from bases in Kuwait and vessels in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. armed forces and their mercenary contractors reached the Oil Ministry in Baghdad in April 2003 and believed the war to be over. A smoldering insurgency flared up in 2004 and erupted in two battles for Fallujah. The invaders installed a puppet regime in 2005, which led to civil war in 2006. This spawned a surge of American troops in 2007 and necessitated yet another try at foreign nation building from 2008 to 2010.
In 2011, U.S. finances are in shambles. The budget surplus that had been created right before the Republicans employed the terrorist attack as an excuse for wars (with the most immoral of them, in Iraq, also having been the most costly) changed into the worst deficit in U.S. history. The economic downturn began in 2008, with no end in sight. Now little money is left for greening the economy, for building mass transit systems, for planting wind-farms and distributing photovoltaics, and for climate-proofing the infrastructure. The oil dependence is worse than ever; the per capita carbon footprint remains the largest worldwide and grew even fatter in the past decade.
I wonder how future generations will assess the military response to the terrorist attack ten years ago. Chances are they will look back at it as a fateful mistake, and as a missed opportunity. Before the terrorist attack, before the military operations, and before the costly wars, the U.S. had the power to end its addiction to oil, an addiction that forced it to intervene in the politics of Arab oil nations, a colonialist interference which was in no small part responsible for the rage that wove the networks of the extremists. Ten years ago, the U.S. was wealthy enough to move beyond its fossil liability to postcarbon independence. Ten years ago, the U.S. had the chance to lead the world to a new era of innovation.
But instead of responding to the crime perpetrated by non-state actors with a police investigation, as would have seemed appropriate, all available resources were spent to exert military might in the far-flung regions that either did or did not harbor and house these or related actors. While it was hoped that doing so would not only enhance national security but also shore up American dominance over oil producers, the flow of money went just one way: from the wallets of U.S. workers into the coffers of military contractors and oil companies. Now the people's money is gone. And just as the rising concentration of greenhouse gases worsens the weather by the year, making our planet harder to live on, and just as other countries are extricating themselves from the suicidal lure of fossil fuels, thus helping to give the world's children a future, the U.S. is stuck in a tar pit.
Sixty-three months left.