The September 11 attacks created the "war on terror" which quickly turned into the "war on Islamic terror' fomenting anti-Islam bigotry both within the US and around the world. Right after the attacks, the national hysteria in the US was at a peak and thirst for blood palpable on the street. A plethora of images and comments churned out by the corporate media further added to the public outrage.
President George W. Bush's immediate response to the public outrage was by declaring a "crusade". But later President Bush responded to the 9/11 attacks by substituting the crusade for the "war on terror". Thus begins the "war on terror" as a conduit to endless wars starting with Afghanistan, then moving onto Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia, all Muslim majority countries and also all in the Middle-East or very nearby.
88 per cent of Americans supported Bush's war after the US started bombing Kabul. All 98 senators present including Bernie Sanders voted to bomb Afghanistan and in the House of Representatives the vote was 420 to 1.
The invasion of Afghanistan by the US and its foreign legion NATO in the wake of September 11 attacks was a complete fraud. Afghanistan did not attack the US. 15 attackers out of 19 were Saudis, not a single Afghan was among the attackers. Till today, the role of Saudi Arabia in the attack remains in dispute despite both the US and Saudi governments efforts to stymie it as an unresolved political issue.
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson former Chief of Staff to US Secretary of State Colin Powell in the Bush administration told Afshin Rattansi of RT (15 September) that 9/11 could be laid at the feet of Saudi Arabia which he considers as the biggest state sponsor of terrorism.
The 9/11 attacks were funded and executed by Saudi militants outraged by the presence of US troops on the "holy" land in Saudi Arabia and the US support for Israel, not because as Bush claimed that "they envy our freedoms".
In the aftermath of 9/11, the US failed to provide any smart narrative on the reasons for waging the war on terror nor made any serious investigation into the reasons for such terrorist attacks. Also, did not make any appraisal of its role in the wider world. Now after fighting the war on terror for 20 years abroad, the US is confronted with fighting home grown terrorism.
On Saturday a week before, former US President George W. Bush gave the main address commemorating the September 11, 2001 attacks at a memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Bush flanked by former Vice President Dick Cheney and current Vice President Kamala Harris declared "In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient united people".
President Joe Biden paid tribute to the victims of the September 11 attacks in a short video address on Friday a week before saying that the "central lesson" of 9/11 is that the national unity is America's great strength. Then he went on to say " to show everyone seeking to do harm to America that we will hunt you down and make you pay. That will never stop, today, tomorrow, ever from protecting America".
Vice President Kamala Harris also repeated the same talking points as Bush further emphasising the importance for unity and said "It (unity) is essential to our shared prosperity, to our national security, and our standing in the world".
The Wall Street Journal also agreed and wrote " The saving grace of 9/11 was the demonstration of American courage and resilience… But the country also united for a time in political purpose".
Meanwhile, the former democratic congresswomen Tulsi Gabbard used the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to further promote anti-Muslim hatred. She tweeted "it was the Islamist ideology that continues to fuel terrorist attacks around the world". Gabbard is also a strong supporter of fascistic Hindutva movement in India which fosters an ever more dangerous Hindu supremacist ideology and culture in India.
While Gabbard is considered as an ardent Islamophobe like Frank Gaffney, Robert Spencer and David Horowitz, but also the US corporate media mouthpiece the New York Times (NYT) remains in the forefront of spreading Islamophobia. According to a study carried out by a Toronto based consulting firm reveals that it (NYT) portrays Islam more negatively than alcohol, cancer and cocaine, among other benchmarked words. So, the war on terror still continues to be the war on Islamic terror. In fact, Islamophobia has become now the most socially acceptable form of racism in the US.
Afghanistan and Iraq were essentially intended to be what the Romans would call "exemplary wars". In the terminology of the US imperial playbook these countries were "rogue states", therefore needed military action to command greater loyalty from dependent governments or supplant them with more reliable ones.
The application of military force in Afghanistan and Iraq was also designed to make future application of force less necessary by creating fear and awe among its friends and enemies alike.
An anonymous White House official, widely believed to be Republican strategist Karl Rove told the New York Times Magazine, " We are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality" as an explanation for the invasion leading to the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. The comment was the pure manifestation of American imperial hubris so much so that he even went on to say "We're history's actors….., all of you, will be left to study what we do".
Two decades on after 9/11, that legacy of imperial hubris turns out in the imperial capital Washington as a bad dream. No wonder some pundits within the US now see something positive coming out the American debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq. They have destroyed the myth of American exceptionalism and its imperial hubris and will help America to become, hopefully, a normal country.
The invocation of "national unity" has been a hallmark of the commemoration of 9/11. But it has always been a myth. There were always public opposition to war in Afghanistan and Iraq within the US as were around the world in so many other countries.
Meanwhile, alternative narratives debunking the myth of "national unity" are also now being discussed in the American academia and public forums. Jenn M Jackson, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Syracuse University in New York found the 9/11 attacks in a racial context describing it an attack on White-American capitalism which White Americans fight to protect and Americans of different racial background were affected differently. She also questioned why so many pundits and correspondents still talk about it (9/11) even after 20 years.
Professor Jackson then further added " White Americans might not have felt true fear before 9/11 because they never felt what it meant to be accessible, vulnerable, and on the receiving side of military violence at home. But White Americans' experiences are not a stand-in for "America".
Indeed, it was fear that gripped the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In fact, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson in the same interview referred before told Afshin Rattansi that "fear and rage" drove the Bush administration's response to the 9/11 attacks. He then further went on to say that the US military industrial complex and its desire for endless war fueled the expansion of NATO.
Garrett M. Graff in his article titled "After 9/11, the US Got Almost Everything Wrong" published in the Atlantic Magazine wrote, "But after that second crash, and then the subsequent ones at the Pentagon and in the fields outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, our government panicked. There's really no other way to say it. Fear spread up the chain of command".
The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld adventure in Afghanistan was doomed from the beginning and the American defeat was inevitable because of what historian Paul Kennedy described as "imperial over-reach". Also, the US imperial system has become deeply corrupt so much so that the war was more about grift than about nation building or anything else.
The US response to the 9/11 attacks marked the height of a particular moment in its short but eventful imperial history to date. Now the US can no longer afford the costs of both expanding and maintaining an empire. President Biden exactly meant that while addressing the Americans on August 31, 2021 saying "things have changed in the last 20 years".