11 September 2013, 21:25

12 years of fighting terror: post 9/11 what has the US achieved?

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Today marks the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington DC. Those tragic events changed the world and went down in history as the deadliest terrorist attacks ever. In 2012, Islamist extremists launched a September 11 anniversary attack in which four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya, were killed in Benghazi. On the eve of the 12th anniversary of 9/11, the White House ordered the strengthening of security at US diplomatic offices abroad. George Kenney, writer and consultant and former career US foreign service officer, in an interview with the Voice of Russia shares his opinion about far the US will go in its struggle against terrorist groups.

12 years ago America initiated its global war on terrorism following the 9/11 attacks. How far did the United Stated go with their struggle against the terrorist groups? And what did they manage to achieve?

I think it is probably a mistake to date the American struggle with terrorism or American war-making activities from 9/11. After all, we had the First Gulf War, we had Kosovo. Before the global war on terrorism we had George Bush’s new world order. I think if you step back from it, the 9/11 attacks catalyzed a further development of a process that had already been underway for some time with the US expressing itself internationally through war-making, through trying to dominate affairs in the Middle East and so forth and this is not all in response to 9/11. What we are doing in a sense today would be very similar I believe even if 9/11 had not happened and so when you look at the US you have to ask yourself why is the US behaving this way. And I think in comparison with other countries around the world, in comparison with advanced democracies, the US is a very different kind of government where we are a sort of a category of one, all by ourselves. Our system is very dysfunctional, it is undemocratic in many ways, it is anti-democratic and one of the few ways that it has been expressing itself through military spending and then through military activities is to go around the world getting into wars and that is a problem not just from the point of view of what happens with terrorism, what happens in the Middle East, but really from the point of what happens in the relations between the US and all countries around the world.

How much does this war cost? In terms of money and people who died while fighting this war?

I can’t really speak to human lives and I think when we consider human lives, we really have to consider all the people that were killing and not just the Americans who have been killed. In terms of monetary cost, generally those are greatly underestimated. If you look at the Pentagon’s budget for example, it does not include categories that, in a normal country, would be considered part of their military spending; such as the cost of veterans administration’s hospitals, veterans’ benefits and so forth. All these costs are the long-term costs, we are spending trillions of dollars. The peak years for World War II associated costs for veterans were I think in the 1970s. We haven’t even reached the peak years for medical costs for the First Gulf War veterans. The overall cost of these wars goes well beyond the immediate expense for the bombs, the airplanes, the ships and so forth, it is in trillions of dollars. It is a huge cost. If you actually look at how much the US is spending, just on an annual basis, and account for all these things that are not part of the Pentagon’s proper budgets, but they are reported through statements of Office of Management and Budget on the White House website. You can see, if you add all these things up, that would be reasonably included in military activities, we spend well over 3 trillion dollars a year for military purposes, over 7% of American GDP, which is huge, way more than any other country in the world and it is a force that drives itself. If you have a country that spends so much on the military, then the political system and the military apparatus has to find some use for that spending. Otherwise, why have it?

Now 12 years later how do you see the situation? Do you think that anything has changed since America brought its troops first to Afghanistan and then to Iraq? Are there any signs of America’s vendetta abating?

Not much to be honest. I don’t think we can claim success in Iraq, I don’t think we can claim success in Afghanistan. There is a narrative that the White House would like to believe that we have achieved success, that we’ve had generals like David Petraeus come in and restore a workable program and defeat the insurgents but all those narratives, in my judgment, are false. Eventually we are going to leave Afghanistan and Afghanistan will go back to pretty much the way it was before we arrived. And the same thing for Iraq.

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