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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 108

9/11 - The September Morning that Changed Our World (Part II Continued)

By Dr Palitha Kohona

President Bush, whose presidency was sinking into oblivion, was given a massive opportunity to boost his standing that morning and he and his advisors grabbed it with gusto. His bold and firm statements gave a sense of confidence and reassured a nervous nation. His address to the Congress was inspiring and provided firm leadership to the nervous country.

The United States will henceforth be uncompromising and defiant in confronting terrorism. His approval rating soared to 90% Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Opportunity made Bush. He emphatically declared on TV, “Freedom, itself, was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended. I want to reassure the American people that the full resources of the Federal Government are working to assist local authorities to save lives and to help the victims of these attacks. Make no mistake - The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts”.

His contribution to the restoration of confidence was electric. In a firm and immediate legislative response to the terrorist threat, the US enacted a series of laws giving wide powers to the security establishment. The Homeland Security Act of 2002, created the Department of Homeland Security. Congress also passed the USA Patriot Act, intended to help detect and prosecute terrorism and other related crimes.

Civil liberties groups have criticized the Patriot Act, saying it allows law enforcement to invade the privacy of citizens and that it eliminates judicial oversight of law enforcement and domestic intelligence. However, the law makers placed national security above these concerns. In an effort to effectively combat future acts of
terrorism, the National Security Agency (NSA) was given broad powers, including warrant less surveillance of telecommunications.

In response to requests by various intelligence agencies, the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court permitted an expansion of powers by the U.S. government in seeking, obtaining, and sharing information on U.S. citizens as well as non-U.S. persons from around the world.

On June 6, 2002, Attorney General Ashcroft proposed regulations that would create a special registration program that required males aged 16 to 64 who were citizens of designated foreign countries resident in the U.S. to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), have their identity verified, and be interviewed, photographed and fingerprinted.

Called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), it comprised two programs, the tr
already in the U.S., known as the "call-in" program. 762 suspects were also taken into custody in the United States following 9/11. Global politics would also be seriously impacted by the US reaction t9/11 and its crusade against terror. The US declared war on terror and under a re-invigorated George Bush, successfully mobi
against terrorism.

The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, would closely ally himself with Bush. (60 UK citizens perished in the attacks). NATO declared that Article 5 of the NATO agreement was satisfied, making the US war on terrorism the first time since its inception that NATO would actually participate in a "hot" war. The UN General Assembly expressed its deep sympathy with the US and the 9/11 victims.

The Security Council adopted Res 1368 on 12 September condemning the attacks on the US and recognizing the right of self defence against acts of terrorism. On 28 September, the Security Council adopted Res 1373
under Ch 7 of the UN Charter, an unprecedented act of international law making, obliging member states to undertake a range of detailed measures proactively against terrorism. Crucially, Res 1373 was not focused only on Al Qaeda but on international terrorism.

The world body set far reaching precedents for the international community as it responded to the terrorist attacks on the US.

After the 9/11 attack, the phrase the “Bush Doctrine”, was used to describe the policy that the United States adopted, asserting the right to secure itself against countries that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups, and was used to justify the 2001 war in Afghanistan.

The Bush Doctrine became strongly associated with the administration's decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The Doctrine was reflected in the National Security Strategy of the United States, of September 17, 2002. “The first duty of the United States Government remains what it always has been: to protect the American people and American interests.

It is an enduring American principle that this duty obligates the government to anticipate and counter threats, using all elements of national power, before the threats can do grave damage”.

American diplomacy and influence, coupled with an uncompromising leadership, was successful in galvanising the international community to take action within days of 9/11.

The rest of the world, especially countries such as Sri Lanka for whom terrorism was almost a daily experience, had not been able to command such a reaction. Perhaps due to a lack of dedicated and committed personnel, an absence of conviction and a policy of appeasement followed by the leadership at the time. Importantly, Res 1373 did not pay much attention to human rights in the context of terrorism.

That year, the UN Treaty Event conducted by my office during the UN General Assembly, and a special event held in October, was focused specifically on encouraging wider state participation in the 12 UN treaties against terrorism.

These were exceptionally successful events with record participation by the international community, including by many heads of state, and contributed to further galvanizing global attention on terrorism.

Sri Lanka missed a golden opportunity to mobilize international support, strengthen its security forces and deal decisively with the LTTE post 9/11. Misguidedly believing that negotiations and appeasement would solve its terrorist problem, the then leadership of the country concluded a ceasefire agreement (CFA) with the LTTE in 2002 (without the concurrence of the President) and even recognized a part of the country as a no go area for its security forces. Obviously, no lessons were learned from the US example.

As a result the LTTE, blatantly used the CFA to further arm and strengthen itself in the area over which it was
given jurisdiction (it even developed an administrative structure with a police force and courts and naval and air capabilities) and persisted with its murderous terrorist campaign and the carnage continued for another eight years, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and military personnel.

The US, on the contrary, under President Bush opted for a devastating military response to Islamic terrorism which had deep roots and demanded the extradition of Osama Bin Laden who had been identified as the mastermind behind the attack on the World Trade Centre and the expulsion of Al Qaeda from Afghanistan. Although Afghanistan appears to have made overtures to discuss these demands, the US along with the UK launched a massive bombing campaign against Afghanistan followed by an invasion in October 2001, code named Operation Enduring Freedom (2001–14) and Operation Freedom's Sentinel (2015–present).

They were later joined by NATO countries and others, including Australia. While many criticized the invasion as inconsistent under international law, the US justified its action as self defence authorized under the UN Charter. In December 2001, the UN Security Council authorized the creation of an International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan.

As former President Musharaf describes in his autobiography, Pakistan was monstered in to supporting the US invasion with a threat of being bombed in to the Stone Age. Sri Lanka, among others offered logistical support to the US. The expected quick and clean conclusion to the war that the US launched in Afghanistan never eventuated. Although, Osama Bin Laden was killed only in 2011 in Abotabad, Pakistan by US Navy Seals. Sixteen years after the invasion, the US continues to be bogged down in Afghanistan.

Dr. Palitha Kohona, who was at that period of time, was Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative at the Sri Lanka's UN Mission, New York – a person who was at the vicinity of Tower attack one of our living witness to human catastrope, brings to our memory the September 11 attacks (also referred to as 9/11) were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Additional people died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks.

The Taliban remains unconquered. Over 4000 Americans and allied troops have died and in excess of 19,000 have been injured. It is likely that a major withdrawal will occur soon despite the fact that the Taliban remains intact.

Thousands of Afghan civilians (perhaps over 31,000) have perished. 62,000 Afghan national security forces have died and continue to be killed.

The cost to the US so far exceeds $737,592,000,000. Like an inevitable row of falling dominoes war after war began to engulf the US. The US with the UK, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq on 19 March 2003, ostensibly because Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, it was supporting Al Qaeda and terrorism and it was a threat to peace and stability of the region.

The UN Security Council was shown photographs in proof which later turned out to be bogus. France, Germany, Canada and New Zealand steadfastly opposed the invasion as there was no convincing evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (they have not been found still) and Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said "[F]rom our point of view and from the Charter point of view the war was illegal." Millions around the world, including in the US, rallied against it, to no avail.

The rally in Rome has even gone down in record books. The UK foreign secretary, Robin Cook, resigned protesting the invasion, as did Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the senior Legal Advisor.

Some have suggested that the real reason for the invasion was Iraqi oil and the need to dominate the Middle East, in the process remove a dangerous challenge to US allies, especially Israel. Iraq's leader, President Saddam Hussain, who was an undoubted irritant, was captured, hastily tried and executed while the country was engulfed in sectarian and anti-American violence.

US troops on occasion responded with extreme brutality, as illustrated by the Abu Graib photos. The UN's station chief, Sergio Vierra De Mello along with 19 UN staff, was killed in a bombing of the UN office.

I was to have joined Sergio that week. Over 4400 Americans have died in Iraq and a much larger number have been maimed.

Some estimates suggest an Iraqi civilian death toll exceeding 500,000. The cost to the US has been estimated to be over USD 2.6 trillion.

The Yasmin Sookas and Collum Macraes of this world are not seen wringing their hands in exaggerated agony and demanding justice for this carnage. Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, has blamed the 2008 recession mainly on the Bush administration's decision to wage war with borrowed funds rather than raised taxes.

And the chaos generated by the invasion has not come to an end. While terrorism has prospered and become more widespread, a new extremist Islamic group, ISIL, (ISIS), exploiting the chaos and anger that resulted from the invasion of Iraq, has emerged to challenge Western interests.

They even set up an Islamic Caliphate in the extensive lands that they controlled (in Iraq and Syria) which has required additional military action to counter, more civilian displacements, suffering and deaths. The Caliphate encouraged Muslim radicals from around the world, including from the West, to rush to its defence as well as undertake autonomous terrorist actions elsewhere to advance its global goals. Sri Lanka, after ten years of peace, was subjected to a horrendous and inexplicable act of terrorism by Islamic militants on Easter Sunday killing over 250 and drastically affecting its economy, in particular its thriving tourism industry.
The dead were mostly Catholics.

The invasion of Iraq was followed by NATO led military action in Libya in 2011, another oil rich Arab country. The US was again embroiled in the bombing of Libya. The Libyan leader, Qaddafi, who had earlier surrendered his nuclear material to the UN, was ousted and brutally murdered in public.

Today Libya is a splintered failed state, where terrorism flourishes and has become a jump off place for thousands of illegal immigrants to Europe.

In 2012 the US intervened in the Syrian internal conflict along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar and later Turkey. That conflict has for the first time attracted direct Russian intervention on behalf of the Syrian leader, Assad. Syria, which was a relatively liberal Arab state, has also been reduced to chaos and the ISIL's caliphate extended to large areas within it.

Syria is a major source of the thousands of refugees flooding into Europe. Yemen has also followed the path to sectarian violence.

The Houthi rebels control vast areas of the country and support former President, Ali Abdullah Saleh while Saudi and UAE planes bomb targets in the country in support of President Mansour Hadi. The civilian plight in Yemen is appalling.

The 9/11 attacks on the twin towers, whether orchestrated by Al Qaeda or, as some conspiracy theorists suggest, by elements intent on provoking US military intervention in the Middle East to advance their own interests, has had a multiple Medusa head of consequences. Some may not even have been remotely intended by the 19 Twin Tower jihadists. Islamic terrorism has become widespread and does not seem to abate. Volunteer jihadists operating independently have sprung up around the world undertaking terrorist operations.

It has now engulfed a nervous Europe as never before and South East Asia, including Australia. Sri Lanka itself has been a victim. A flood of refugees has engulfed Europe causing serious socio-economic challenges. Some members of the EU, including Hungary, have taken an abrasively independent line on refugees upsetting the unity of the organization.

Border controls have become rigorous and oppressive. Intrusive surveillance of individuals has increased. Much of the Middle East region which was relatively stable, even under obnoxious rulers, is now in chaos. Pro-Western Arab regimes live with an uncertain future.

The US has become bogged down in a Middle Eastern quagmire, bleeding it of its wealth and young men and women, unable to extricate itself. Ominously, a resurgent Russia has become a militarily active player in the region. If Al Qaeda, and its 15 Saudi born suicide bombers, sought to cause increased Islamic militancy and chaos and uncertainty in the Western world, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Dr. Palitha T. B. Kohona - a Sri Lankan born diplomat, was the former Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations.


- Asian Tribune -

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