Seven years after 9/11, shouldn’t Americans ask if there was a better way to respond to those attacks? After all, look at where we are today as a result of how President Bush chose to respond to 9/11:
1. A perpetual “war on terrorism” being waged by U.S. personnel all over the world.
2. A military invasion of Afghanistan that killed countless Afghanis despite the fact that U.S. officials never provided evidence, as they promised, of complicity by Afghani government officials in the 9/11 attacks. Despite the fact that the invasion succeeded in effecting regime change in Afghanistan, it failed to accomplish its purported purpose — the capture of Osama bin Laden. The U.S. Constitution was violated with President Bush’s failure to secure the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war. The occupation of Afghanistan is indefinite. Intended to protect the U.S.-installed regime, the occupation continues to kill countless Afghanis, including innocent women and children, thereby fueling anger, antagonism, and rage, guaranteeing an indefinite supply of recruits for al-Qaeda and a perpetual threat of terrorist counterstrikes.
3. A military invasion and indefinite occupation of Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. The Constitution was violated with the president’s failure to secure a congressional declaration of war. The invasion and occupation have killed or maimed more than a million people. Millions more have been sent into exile. The entire country is destroyed. The operation has fueled tremendous anger, antagonism, and rage, guaranteeing an indefinite supply of recruits for al-Qaeda and a perpetual threat of terrorist counterstrikes.
4. The U.S. government now wields the arbitrary and dictatorial power to take foreigners suspected of terrorism into custody as “enemy combatants” and deny them due process of law, trial by jury, and other fundamental procedural rights as well as subject them to torture, sex abuse, humiliation, and other cruel and unusual punishments.
5. The U.S. government now wields the arbitrary and dictatorial power to take Americans into custody as “enemy combatants” and treat them accordingly, including torture and sex abuse and indefinite detention.
6. The U.S. government now wields the arbitrary and dictatorial power to attack or bomb people in any country in the world, including Americans, so long as suspected “terrorists” are being targeted.
7. The U.S. government, especially through the CIA, now wields the power to enter into any country in the world, including the United States, and kidnap people and then rendition them to secret prisons or brutal foreign regimes for the purpose of torture.
8. The U.S. government, especially through the NSA and private telecommunications companies, now wields the power to spy on Americans, monitoring their emails and telephone calls and the power to grant immunity to private companies who participate in such misconduct.
Was there another way after the 9/11 attacks? Yes. U.S. officials could have handled the matter in the same way they handled the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center — as a criminal-justice matter rather than as a military matter.
Even though it took two years to bring him to justice, Ramzi Yousef was ultimately arrested in Pakistan, extradited to the United States, prosecuted in federal district court, convicted of the 1993 WTC terrorist attack, and sentenced to federal prison. No U.S. military bombing campaign was ever carried out against the Pakistani people.
If warrants for the arrest of bin Laden and other people accused of the 9/11 attacks had been publicly issued, the entire world would have been on the lookout for the suspects. While there would have been no guarantee that bin Laden would have been arrested, at least he would have been isolated and would have found recruiting to be problematic, especially given the worldwide sympathy for Americans that existed after 9/11 and before Bush embarked on his military crusades.
There would have been no invasions or occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. The countless Afghanis and Iraqis who are now dead at the hands of the CIA and U.S. military would be alive. Those who are now maimed would be whole. Those who have fled these countries would still be in their homes. The horrible anger, animosity, and rage currently exhibited toward the U.S. government (and the United States) as a result of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq would be absent. Recruiting for al-Qaeda would be problematic.
There would be no Gitmo, no “war on terrorism,” no torture and sex abuse, no cancellation of habeas corpus and due process of law, no “enemy combatant” doctrine, no attacks on civil liberties, no kidnapping, no rendition, and no spying on Americans.
There would likely have been a reexamination of U.S. foreign policy by the American people, given that its pro-empire, pro-intervention policy in the Middle East was the motivating cause of the 9/11 attacks in the first place.