Saturday 25 November 2017

After ten years, the wars have yielded only more troubles

If the attacks were treated as a crime and not as an act of war, it would be a very different world today, writes Ivor Roberts

It was a crystal clear day in New York. As I sat in my Dublin office transfixed by the appalling events unfolding on my TV screen, I couldn't help noting the contrast between what seemed the most beautiful of early autumn days and the grotesque images of twin towering infernos in New York and of those falling to their deaths among the 2,977 innocent victims on that day of 9/11. A date which will live in infamy, to use Roosevelt's phrase at the time of the last major attack on the US, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour 60 years earlier.

For the victims' families and friends, of course, life changed utterly. For the rest of us, we had the feeling that we were about to witness the much-heralded clash of civilisations as the US President George W Bush declared his war on terror, or at least a decades-long clash between freedom and terror. The "war" on terror was not a helpful concept. War never is. It raises terrorists to the status of (in this case, holy) warriors -- the IRA knew all about this -- and of course it's absurd to declare war not on a country but on what is after all a technique. It makes much more sense to treat what happened as a crime and to act accordingly.

But there were no shortages of wars. One justified, as in the case of the initial attack on Afghanistan and on the Taliban who had been accommodating hosts to al-Qaeda. One illegal, as in the case of Iraq which had nothing to do with the events of 9/11. It diverted disastrously the necessary resources away from Afghanistan at precisely the moment when there might have been a chance of settling the hash of the Taliban and rounding up most of al-Qaeda. Despite losing many of its leaders including its icon, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda is now a widely disseminated franchise with branches in what used to be the Caliphate, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and other parts of the Middle East.

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