by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of American Reporter Correspondenta
September 11, 2014
SAYING NO TO WAR. IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE ANYMORE?
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Thirteen years ago today, the so-called Global War on Terror began in response to the attacks on New York and Washington.
Thirteen years later, where do things stand?
The United States has spent more than $4.4 trillion to fight the Global War on Terror. We've spent more to fight against al-Qaeda than we did to defend ourselves against the Soviet Union.
Al-Qaeda never had a navy, an air force, or an army, let alone the thousands of nuclear weapons that the Soviets possessed at the height of the Cold War. Yet it is costing more to fight a relative handful of fanatics than it did to hold a global superpower in check.
In the process, we destroyed our civil liberties and created a massive surveillance state. We've let other national priorities - health care, education, maintenance of public infrastructure - go to hell while shoveling ever-more money at the military-industrial complex.
All to respond to an attack that was preventable, had not the Bush Administration ignored all the urgent warning signs in the summer of 2001 that a terrorist attack was going to happen.
We've spent $4.4 trillion to fight something that, on average, has killed less than 150 people a year in the United States in the last 15 years. Exclude the more than 3,000 lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and the the average drops to about two American deaths a year.
Why not a War on Automobiles, since they kill about 33,000 Americans a year? Or a War on Firearms, since they kill about 16,000 Americans a year?
Yet we as a nation remains so afraid of terrorism - a threat statistically on a par with bee stings. lightning strikes, and being crushed by falling furniture - that we are willing to destroy our nation in exchange for the illusion of safety and security.
Now we have the Islamic State - the perfect storm of foreign policy blowback. The barbarians that are rampaging though Syria and Iraq include fighters that were once trained by the United States, using weapons left behind by the U.S. occupation force in Iraq, and who are angry at the United States for invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and meddling in the affairs of other nations in the region.
The people who thumped the tub the loudest for invading Iraq and Afghanistan want the United States to go to war against the Islamic State.
They apparently learned nothing from the past 13 years.
Is the Islamic State brutal? Yes.
Are they an existential threat to the United States? Only if they get an army, a navy, and an air force. Like al-Qaeda. they don't have them and are unlikely to gain the military capability to attack the United States.
So, why does our nation have to go through this dance all over again - ginning up a war against an enemy that sits about 7,000 miles away from our shores and doesn't have a military force worthy of the name?
Again, it was the overreaction to 9/11 and the hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees created by the Global War on Terror that helped to create the jihadists that have sprung up from Libya to Yemen, from Syria to Pakistan.
Given that the Islamic State appears so extreme and so fanatical that even what's left of al-Qaeda has disowned it, and that many Muslims are offended by its ideology, the Islamic State could implode with little outside intervention.
It's safe to say nobody knows for sure what will happen next. But looking back at the effectiveness of the last 13 years of America's Mideast policy, one can see that continuing the same approach isn't the answer.
Yet President Obama is committing our military forces to another Middle East war. Riding a wave of manufactured fear, he thinks he has no choice.
He said on Sept. 10 that the U.S. "will degrade, and ultimately destroy [the Islamic State] through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy." He said that the mission is supported by our allies and that our nation will counter the threat "with strength and resolve."
While it is not a carbon copy of the disastrous wars of the Bush Administration, what President Obama, the man who won the Nobel Peace Prize, is about to give us is another new Middle East war.
The President does have a choice. He can say no to the fear-mongers and the armchair warriors and everyone else that thinks another open-ended, ill-defined, and unnecessary military adventure is just what the nation needs right now.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.