There’s Plenty of Blame to Go Around

Here’s an interesting perspective on September 11 and the War on Terror, from the Nation:

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda launched its four-plane air force against the United States. On board were its precision weapons: 19 suicidal hijackers. One of those planes, thanks to the resistance of its passengers, crashed in a Pennsylvania field. The other three hit their targets—the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and the Pentagon in Washington, DC—with the kind of “precision” we now associate with the laser-guided weaponry of the US Air Force.

From its opening salvo, in other words, this conflict has been an air war. With its 75 percent success rate, Al Qaeda’s 9/11 mission was a historic triumph, accurately striking three out of what assumedly were its four chosen targets. (Though no one knows just where that plane in Pennsylvania was heading, undoubtedly it was either the Capitol or the White House to complete the taking out of the icons of American financial, military, and political power.) In the process, almost 3,000 people who had no idea they were in the bomb sights of an obscure movement on the other side of the planet were slaughtered.

. . .

If you really want to experience shock and awe, however, think about this: Almost 15 years have passed, and that air war has never ended. In Afghanistan, for instance, in just the first four years of the Obama administration (2009–12), more than 18,000 munitions were released over the country. And this year, B-52s, those old Vietnam workhorses, retired for a decade in Afghanistan, took to the air again as US air sorties there ramped up against surging Taliban and Islamic State militants.

. . .

That the Bush administration’s shock-and-awe strikes and the invasion/air war that followed were neither precise nor effective in the short or long run is now obvious. After all, American air power is still blasting away at Iraq today. The question is: Shouldn’t it be self-evident that an air war, which went on through at least 2010, was taken up again in 2014, has helped turn embattled Iraqi cities into rubble, and shows no sign of ending any time soon, is barbaric?

It’s clear that, while there is no way to adequately count all civilian casualties from America’s 21st-century air wars, “towers” of dead noncombatants have been piled atop one another in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This next-to-eternal version of war, with all its destructiveness and “collateral damage” (which a few organizations have tried their best to document under difficult circumstances), should be the definition of state barbarism and terror in a world without mercy. That none of this has proven effective in the very terms that the bombers themselves set seems to matter little indeed.

Put in more graphic fashion, does anyone doubt that the Kurdish wedding slaughter (assumedly by an Islamic State suicide bomber) was a barbaric act? If not, then what are we to make of the eight documented cases—largely ignored in this country—in which US air power eviscerated similar wedding parties in three countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen) between December 2001 and December 2013, killing almost 300 celebrants?

The author presents an interesting, thought-provoking, argument which asks us to step back from our prejudices and examine our notions.

Read the whole piece at

The article originally appeared on

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