16 years ago, the United States was attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists. 2,996 people were killed in what would be the beginning of the longest war in U.S. history. Hate for America goes back a long way in the Middle East. I am no historian. I know bits and pieces of what created this animosity, but not nearly enough to be able to say why. What I do know, is this terror group wanted to bring down the United States of America.
Today I want us to ask ourselves the question, “Who is winning the War on Terror?”
First, we need to define what “Terrorism” is. This can be difficult. Even the government waging the war can’t even agree on 1 definition (1). I am going to go with the Department of Defense definition which states, “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.”
Second, we need to ask ourselves, “Did the terrorists achieve their goals?” What did the attacks change politically, religiously, or ideologically? Most obvious is the United States went to war in Afghanistan and later Iraq and now wherever the government wants to go (2). 16 years later, 6,915+ lives later (3), we are still fighting in the Middle East, including Afghanistan. While it is not the first time we have waged war without a Declaration of War as prescribed in the Constitution, it should be noted that we are fighting an undeclared war. This war has cost the United States $2,125,700,000,000 (4). In response to the terror attacks on 9/11/01 the PATRIOT Act was passed. This legislation has been used to justify warrantless spying on American citizens in a number of ways (5). Later the USA Freedom Act would reinstate spying programs that expired (6). What has become known as Indefinite Detention has become a “legal” option under the NDAA (7). We have also set a precedent for assassinating American citizens (including minors) without trial outside the battlefield (8). This is just a few of the political changes that have been made as a result of the terrorist attacks.
Ideologically what has the terrorists accomplished? After we took out, either directly or indirectly, multiple secular leaders, the Muslim extremists have established their Islamic State where they are able to brutally enforce their beliefs on those stuck under their rule. The Taliban is still actively trying (often succeeding) to retake Afghanistan, while IS also works within the country. Control in Libya is a mess, some of which is under IS control (9). Syria is in the middle of a civil war that we have funded opposing sides (10) and IS has been involved in. We have managed to capture or kill many leaders and fighters of the different Islamist factions, but overall they are more powerful now than before 9/11/01.
Back to the original question of “Who is winning the War on Terror?” I would say that 3 groups of people are winning and none of them are the American people as a whole. The first group winning from the War on Terror are big government politicians who want more control over the American people. The second group are defense contractors who make fortunes off of an endless, borderless war. The third group of people winning the War on Terror, it seems to be the terrorists themselves. Not only in gaining territory, but also in the erosion of the very freedoms we claim to be fighting to defend. The Constitution is the document that outlines the formation of our government, but in the fight to defend it we seem to have destroyed it ourselves.
The American people are the single biggest losers of the War on Terror and on this anniversary of the attacks that started it all, I hope we can begin to reclaim our losses. We need to take a stand for our civil liberties. We need to call for a withdrawal of U.S. intervention overseas where there is no plan for success and no Declaration of War has been issued. We need to demand an end to the Federal and State reckless spending. In essence we need to embrace the Liberty that is the basis of our great nation.