Have we learned anything?
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Twenty years ago, at the time of the 9/11 attacks, American Renaissance was a monthly newsletter. The attacks were the cover story, with the title, “Will America Learn its Lessons?”
I noted that the 19 hijackers all entered the country legally and attracted hardly any attention, even though some of them couldn’t speak English. There were already so many Middle-Eastern Muslims in the country, they blended right in. When some of them overstayed their visas, no one cared. Twenty years ago, I was naïve enough to think that this band of murderers might jolt the country out of idea that diversity is strength.
I wrote: “If, because of these terrible attacks, the country manages to turn a calculating eye on the costs and benefits of playing host to millions of Arabs, the red-ink dead-loss bottom line should raise questions about other groups. What earthly good do Cambodians, Nigerians, Guatemalans, Haitians, and all the rest of them do the country?”
Silly me. Just a few days after the attacks, President George W. Bush visited an Islamic center to proclaim how wonderful Muslims are, and to remind us that Islam is a religion of peace.
Later, at a joint session of Congress, the president said something so abysmally stupid it was clear he wouldn’t learn anything: “They hate right what we see in this chamber–a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms–our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.” [[14:49 – 15:15]]
Are we really supposed to imagine Osama and the boys saying to each other, “Those Americans have so much freedom, we’ll just have to kill them”? Both before and after the attack, bin Laden explained why he wanted us dead. Wikipedia lists his “Stated Motives,” and right at the top is “Support of Israel by United States.”
He also didn’t like America soldiers on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia or sanctions against Iraq.
Whether or not they were justified, not even to acknowledge bin Laden’s stated grievances was borderline psychotic. Mr. Bush and his pals claimed the attack had nothing to do with anything we might have done. It was because we are so wonderful. And so, just a week after the attack, Congress gave up the power to declare war, and voted to let the president kill anyone he likes, whenever he likes, so long as it’s part of the War on Terror.
And we did a heap of killing. The Watson Institute at Brown University figures that the human cost has been somewhere around 900,000 people dead, including about 15,000 Americans and another 15,000 NATO allies.
But think of all those hundreds of thousands of Middle-Easterners we killed. If their families didn’t hate us before the War on Terror, they hate us now.
We had some justification to invade Afghanistan. It refused to hand over bin Laden. But as soon as we had chased him out of the country we should have left. Instead, we spent 20 years, trying to teach Afghans how to vote and wear bikinis. Just weeks before the collapse, our embassy was reminding them that June was LGBTI Pride month. There was even a street mural in Kabul of George Floyd saying, “I can’t breathe.” What on earth do gay pride or George Floyd mean to Afghans?
It’s bad enough having the American way of life shoved down our throats. How do you think Pashtuns and Tajiks liked it?
But the real crime was invading Iraq. We claimed President Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons to use on us. Or was it chemical weapons. Or maybe biological weapons. The UN sent inspectors who could go anywhere and look at anything. They found nothing. But we knew better, so we sent in the air force. And we sent in the tanks. And we wrecked not only the Iraqi army, we overthrew Saddam Hussein, the only guy holding the country together, and wrecked the place.
And remember Jessica Lynch? She was the lady whose convoy took a wrong turn and blundered into an Iraqi attack. She was knocked out when her Humvee crashed into the back of a truck. The press claimed she fought off a battalion of snarling Iraqis before she was captured. Pure rubbish. The Iraqis took her to a hospital, where we claimed they tortured her. More rubbish. We sent in a completely unnecessary special forces team to rescue an utterly phony hero.
Of course, we never found any weapons of mass destruction, because there never were any. We wrecked a perfectly good country for no reason.
At the Nuremburg Trials after the Second World War, we hanged Germans for a crime we had just invented: “waging aggressive war.” If ever there was an aggressive war, it was our invasion of Iraq. But did George W. or his Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld or Vice President Dick Cheney or any of his gang of neo-con war mongers ever say “Sorry,” much less swing for it? Of course not. This is the sort of thing you get to do when people attack you simply for being wonderful.
Another perfectly good country we wrecked was Libya. Muammar Gaddafi had run the place since 1969 and was no threat to us, but in 2011 we decided he had to go. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thought it was all such fun. [[0:03 – 0:08]]
And now, after battling terror for 20 years in Afghanistan, we have scampered off and the Taliban are back. And how many of the 22,000 Humvees, 8,000 trucks, and 634 M1117s and 169 M113s, and all this other great stuff that we gave them over the years did we leave behind? No one knows.
The boys in pajamas are sure to enjoy their sporty new M1117s with their 40 mm grenade launchers and .50 caliber machine guns. The M113 is a fully tracked armored personnel carrier – perfect for zipping down to the mosque for Friday prayers.
And look at all the aircraft we gave them. One hundred and nine helicopters and 65 airplanes, including four C-130 transports. How many were we too stupid to fly out before the Taliban waltzed in? Nobody knows.
Of course, the boys in pajamas don’t know how to use this stuff, but maybe the Chinese will come shopping for bargains.
Is anyone going to take the blame for any of this – or even admit it was a catastrophe? Of course, not. When you’re so wonderful that people attack you for it, you can kill people and waste money all you want.
The Watson Institute says we have splashed out $8 trillion fighting terror.
If we had kept the money and declared a dividend, it would be $25,000 for every American man, woman, and child. That’s $100,000 for a family of four.
And let us not forget all the shiny new surveillance and security we got after 9-11 — the FISA Courts, and the domestic spying. Now, the government can decide you’re a bad guy and just kill you. In 2011, we blew this guy to bits in a drone strike. Anwar al-Awlaki was a US citizen. We also killed his buddy, Samir Khan, also an US citizen.
No due process for terrorists.
The funny thing is, we kill Muslims by the truckload overseas, but we can’t get enough of them here in America. We’ve already had four in Congress, and just this week “Biden asked for funding to help bring 95,000 Afghans to the US.” How much funding? $6.4 billion.
But even the Washington Post wonders who’s slipping through. Do you think the bunglers who couldn’t even fly helicopters out before the Taliban got them know who’s climbing into those evacuation planes?
Remember “green-on-blue” attacks? That was when Afghans we trained opened fire on our boys.
2019 was the deadliest year for insider attacks in Afghanistan. One hundred seventy-five killed, 85 wounded.
Men we trusted with weapons used them on us. But who cares if a few of them end up here?
Meanwhile, the Post notes that the Afghan crisis wreaked havoc on Northern Virginia hospitals. So many sick Afghans poured out of those planes that hospitals filled up and had to turn away Americans.
It’s just possible that after this humiliation, we will pull back a little from the Middle East. But the War on Terror will go on because we have found new enemies – maybe even worse ones — right here at home. In May, we learned that “Top law enforcement officials say the biggest domestic terror threat comes from white supremacists.”
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been called a white supremacist. Does that mean that, just like my fellow American Anwar al-Awlaki, there’s a Hellfire missile out there with my name on it? When you’re ruled by the most wonderful people in the world, you never know, do you?