Here’s a thoroughly humdrum figure from the post-9/11 world: this February an estimated 1,294 people were killed in Iraq and another 266 wounded, including ISIS militants, numerous civilians, Iraqi security forces, Kurds, and Turks. Few of them died in major combat, just low-level incidents, suicide bombings, and bodies found in mass graves. And keep in mind that that’s what passes for a peaceful month in the country George W. Bush invaded and occupied in March 2003. Since then, the violence there has never ceased, amid insurgencies, religious strife, the rise and fall (and rise) of terror groups, acts of ethnic cleansing, and other horrors without end. A number of Iraq’s major cities, including Fallujah, Ramadi, and its second largest urban area, Mosul, are little more than rubble today. Hundreds of thousands of its people, many of them civilians, have been killed and more wounded. In the last few years, an estimated 1.3 million Iraqi children have been displaced in the war against ISIS, even as the country remains deeply riven and without access to the funds necessary to truly rebuild.
And that, of course, is just one ruined land in the Greater Middle East, a region from Afghanistan to Libya increasingly filled with failed states, terror groups, and ruins as, almost 17 years after the attacks of 9/11, the Trump administration once again ramps up the war on terror (which should long ago have been renamed the war for terror). Today, TomDispatch regular James Carroll, a former columnist for the Boston Globe, leaves Donald J. Trump in the dust and returns to the fateful moments when all of this first began, when President George W. Bush launched what would be, to choose a word that has long been on Carroll’s mind, a “crusade” not just against terrorism but, as it turned out, against much of the Islamic world. Carroll, whose new novel The Cloister, is set against the age of the original crusades, takes in its enormity so many years later.