The Irish Anti-War Movement

‘War on Terror’ an insult to the memory of the victims of 9/11

‘War on Terror’ an insult to the memory of the victims of 9/11

Jim Roche

The 9/11 attacks were horrific crimes that rightly garnered widespread sympathy for the American people around the world.


The US Government’s response was swift, decisive and appallingly stupid as it attacked and invaded two of the poorest countries in the world – Afghanistan and Iraq. It ignored the deep fears and wishes of millions of people around the world who protested on 15 February 2003.


The communal grief and sympathy for those killed and bereaved on 9/11 was wilfully exploited by a Neo-Conservative agenda in order to wage terror on a massive scale, premised on the extreme ideology of the now defunct Project for the American Century (PNAC), through which Messrs. Rumsfeld, Wolfovitz, Cheney et al. had argued repeatedly for regime change in Iraq. The real aim of PNAC of which it boasted quite openly was to seek global hegemony by the United States – a flawed policy that confused dominance abroad with security at home.


The farcically named ‘War on Terror’ has caused immense suffering to millions of people. Premised on disinformation, false claims and a desire for world dominance it has involved the corporate theft of resources, the misuse of reconstruction funds, illegal rendition and torture (as in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib), an assault on civil liberties, the gross vilification of the Islamic religion, the stoking of ethnic tension and hatred, indiscriminate bombings and shootings, the use of cluster bombs and white phosphorous, the cowardly use of Drone planes and thousands dead, injured and displaced.


Take for example the violence visited on a medium sized town of 350,000 people, on the Euphrates River west of Baghdad in Iraq’s Anbar Province between April and November 2004. As unembedded journalist Dair Jamail relates in his book “Beyond the Green Zone” the response to the killing of four private Blackwater military contractors by insurgents was a siege and assault by US forces in a surge of collective punishment. US forces declared a curfew and refused the evacuation of the wounded and the ingress of medical aid while snipers shot from the minarets of Mosques at anything that moved including women and children. Ambulances were not immune, their targeting often killing the wounded inside. Hospital doctors confirmed that 20-30% of victims’ wounds were the result of sniper fire – often from dum dum bullets.

Almost every family in this city lost a member. The Vice Chair of the City Council noted that “often whole families were wiped out”. The total number of dead is disputed but ranges from 6000 to 12,000, the majority being old men, women and children. The numbers killed was so great and so frequent that residents converted a soccer stadium into a cemetery, often burying their dead first in their back gardens before transferring the bodies to the stadium after fighting subsided.


Mike Marquez of the Guardian, noted that the city’s compensation commissioner reported that “36,000 of the city’s 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines". Patrick Cockburn of The Independent called it “a city of ruins” and reported also on the dramatic increase in cancers, birth defects and infant mortality, more than that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 as a result of the use of chemical weapons.


The city is Fallujah. Strangely its name and imagery is not etched in our memories like the Twin Towers are. Likewise in Barack Obama’s escalated ‘Afpak Drone War’, where estimates claim between ten and twenty five civilians are killed for every combatant in drone strikes, we will never know the names of those villages or people, nor will their memory ever be commemorated with documentary programmes. This year is set to be the bloodiest yet in America’s longest ever foreign war in Afghanistan. Yet our Government treats its main protagonist to an uncritical establishment fest here in May without any concern expressed for the victims of his foreign policy.


The human and financial cost of these wars has been colossal. Estimates of numbers killed inevitably vary from Jason Burke’s (author of ‘The 9/11 Wars’) 250,000 with at least 750,000 injured for both wars, to The Lancet’s estimate of over a million civilians killed in Iraq alone. Even taking Burke’s lower estimate this represents 85 times the number of people killed in the 9/11 attacks which is shocking. As many as 7,500 coalition troops have been killed with tens of thousands badly injured – equally shocking and unacceptable. The financial cost of these wars to the US alone is between $1.28 trillion and $4 trillion. That’s an awful lot of jobs, schools and health programmes.

And as Robert Fisk noted last week, nobody is asking the necessary question of why a group of middle eastern men would want to fly planes into towers. Palestine perhaps?

By any analysis the horrific, unjustified suffering inflicted on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq is a deep insult to the memory of those killed on 9/11. As we this week remember the victims of 9/11, let us spare some thoughts also for the victims of Bush, Blair’s and now Obama and Cameron’s wars. Ireland should call for these wars to end, withdraw those Irish troops serving in ISAF in Afghanistan and end the stopover facility to the US military at Shannon Airport. It’s the least we can do.


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