The impact of the September 11's terror attack on the World Trade Centre in New York twenty years ago sent shock waves across the globe. America was traumatised. After it overcame the trauma, the world saw a wounded, angry America that was hell-bent on revenge. And so started the War on Terror (WOT). And it was this new kind of war launched by the world's mightiest nation that changed the way wars were fought by nations in the past. For in those wars there were visible frontiers between the warring nations. The frontiers were physical. The new kind of war, the WOT, on the other hand, had no physical boundaries. In the Cold War era, for example, there was the big divide between the capitalist West and the socialist East. That dividing line between the NATO forces of the West led by the US and the Warsaw Pact forces of the East led by the then-Soviet Russia was clearly visible. And the two superpowers, the US and the Soviet Russia, were supposed to be the final arbiters of the proxy wars that both were waging across the globe. But the 9/11 had no clearly identifiable rival of the US, the lone superpower, since, by then its arch rival, Soviet Russia, had collapsed under its own weight.
So, who was this perpetrator of ultimate terror in the heartland of Western ideals-capitalism, democracy and freedom? There was no more any superpower as the rival. The enemy now was terror, the looming formless, borderless monster. As such, as there was no definite frontier, the wounded superpower could strike anywhere to punish its perceived enemy. Osama bin Laden was learnt to be the monster, terror in human shape. And poor Afghanistan, which had just emerged from the Soviet-imposed decade-long war got landed with yet another war as it was said to be hosting the terrorist monster. So, the Taliban, then in power in Afghanistan, were to pay the price. The rest is history.
Twenty years on-how has the WOT fared?
France 24 in its August 26 report quoted Assaf Moghadam, senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel as saying: "The objectives that it set for itself were unachievable. Terrorism cannot be defeated. The threat is constantly evolving."
The same report mentioned the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)'s 2018 estimate on the number of active terror groups created so far worldwide. It was 67 and the number was at its highest since 1980, the study further went. But what was the ideology behind the terror? The question is germane to the issue at hand because the wars that came immediately before the WOT were professed to be fought for 'freedom' against its main enemy of the time, the ideology of 'communism.'
Then, what is the ideology of terror? Columbia University Professor and public intellectual, Edward Said, described it five days after the 9/11 attack in his September 16, 2001 article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, titled, 'Islam and the West are inadequate banners': "This is a war against terrorism, everyone says, but where, on what fronts, for what concrete ends? No answers are provided,except the vague suggestion that the Middle East and Islam are what 'we' are up against, and that terrorism must be destroyed."
But what has been the net achievement of this new war as far as it was fought in Afghanistan? To all intents and purposes, it is back to square one. The Taliban who fell with the first salvoes of the WOT are back. So, what have the champions of this long-drawn vaguely defined war to say about its unsuspecting victims, hundreds of thousands of them? What would they say to the families devastated by the war?