Kristopher Morgan, June 30, 2017
“The Wise Warrior Avoids The Battle”
(Sun Tzu, The Art of War)
I had just started my senior year in high school. As I entered my Criminal Justice classroom, I observed my teacher frantically searching for a socket to plug in our television. As the screen turned on, what I saw was unreal, a skyscraper with smoke pouring out of it. I stood there in disbelief, unable to register from any of my remaining senses, as I watched the World Trade Center twin towers collapse. For the time being, I felt numb, thinking I had been dreaming. As the day wore on, I experienced a series of feelings ranging from fear and sadness to anger and confusion. Whatever doubts that were still in my mind about joining the military had vanished. My generation’s Pearl Harbor happened just six weeks before my 18th birthday and I was mad as hell. This is just my personal story, but during my time in the Army, I met many who had similar experiences.
The narrative, as I understood it at the time, was very simple. The United States had been minding its own business, and on September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda, under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, orchestrated a terrorist attack that resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths. I did not fully understand why this happened, but the fact that it did happen was enough for me. The people in those buildings were innocent office workers. They were not in the midst of any battle and had attacked nobody. Only a madman would even consider taking such an action. On October 7, 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom began in Afghanistan, as it was believed bin Laden was hiding along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. By the following February, my Army papers were signed; I left that June. Having been raised to believe in the best of my country, I never questioned the official story, at least not until the second invasion of Iraq was under way.
On March 19, 2003 President George W. Bush declared war on Iraq. In the declaration he stated: “Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens peace with weapons of mass murder.” Paying serious attention to politics for the first time in my life, you can imagine how it felt later when no WMDs were found. Inspectors consistently failed to find such weapons. Indeed, on April 25, 2005 NBC News reported the CIA had issued a final report stating no WMDs were found in Iraq. Upon hearing this news, I noticed something strange. President Bush did not fall back on his position. He began claiming that Iraq had connections to terrorists, but the evidence did not support this story either. In 2008 CNN reported that Iraq under Saddam had no connections to Al Qaeda, according to the Pentagon. Already refusing to reenlist, I decided I was not willing to be part of a war effort with a president in office who seemed to say anything to get support for the war in Iraq. This finding signaled my mistrust had guided me well. In light of this, I decided to do my own research into Al Qaeda, Iraq, and the United States. If you have not researched these topics for yourself, and are merely listening to the media, please take the time to do so. We owe it to ourselves to know our enemies.
Al Qaeda is Formed
It all started with the Soviet/Afghan war, which lasted almost a decade (1979-1989). In 1988 Al Qaeda was formed to aid in the effort to destabilize Soviet forces. According to The Guardian, “11 AUGUST 1988 Al-Qaeda is formed at a meeting attended by Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Dr Fadl in Peshawar, Pakistan. The creation of the group brings together extraordinary Saudi wealth, the expertise of a lifetime Egyptian militant, and a philosophical foundation for jihad from a Cairo intellectual.” This is towards the unexpected end of the Cold War, so guess who helped pay some of the bills? In a 1998 NBC article titled Bin Laden Comes Home To Roost, Michael Moran explains how Bin Laden was running an organization known as Maktab al-Khidamar (MAK) which “was nurtured by Pakistan’s state security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the CIA’s primary conduit for conducting the covert war against Moscow’s occupation.” By Christmas day 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and Al Qaeda found themselves with a new opponent.
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm
On August 7, 1990, in response to Iraq’s attempt to annex the oil-rich land of Kuwait, 500,000 troops were sent to the Arabian Peninsula to defend Saudi Arabia against an attack from Iraq. Kuwait was a major supplier of oil to the United States. Saddam’s goal of annexing them would have caused a dramatic shift of power in the region. Operation Desert Storm is the code name of the first Iraq war. Lasting 43 days, from January 17 until February 28, 1991, environmental damage was great as Iraqis destroyed oil fields in Kuwait after retreating, and lost lives ranging in the hundreds of thousands. The United States lost only 148 soldiers. While the war itself had ended, Iraq fell under heavy sanctions and was even intermittently bombed throughout the 1990s.
First applied in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the sanctions on Iraq are quite possibly the worst evil that have been imposed on any country in recent history. Restricting food, medicine, arms, and investment, estimates showed over half a million Iraqi children died as a result by 1995. Whether or not these figures are inflated is up for debate, but imagine the world’s surprise to the response Madelyn Albright gave when questioned on 60 Minutes:
Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”
By 1997, UNICEF reported 32% of children under five were malnourished, an increase of 72% since 1991.
For over a decade before Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the United States had been bombing Iraq. Nick Turse wrote the following in 2011 to explain the situation:
“From 1991 to 2003, the U.S. and its allies conducted a low-level air war to enforce no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, while attacking Iraq’s air defenses and other targets. In February 2003 (still before OIF), the U.S. would, again, conduct a blistering “shock and awe” campaign and, by mid-April, Iraq had been subjected to 41,000 sorties and 27,000 bombs dropped. The U.S. air war would continue on as, year after year, U.S. planes attacked targets, killing enemy fighters and civilians alike.”
The no-fly zones were originally set up to protect Kurds in the North and Shiites in the South, and were enforced by U.S., Britain, and French forces.
The sanctions and Bombings of Iraq during the ’90s were a way of continuing efforts to control the country. Saddam Hussein’s attempt to annex Kuwait showed the world he was aggressive. Had he succeeded, Kuwait’s precious oil would have been under Saddam’s control, which could have given him the resources he needed to set his sights on Saudi Arabia, a major Western ally. The UN, lead by the U.S., targeted Iraq’s alleged WMDs through Bombings and inspections. In 1998, Iraq stopped cooperating with the UN commission to destroy their WMDs. Between 1998 and 2003 multiple bombing raids were conducted and President George W. Bush was outspoken about Iraq’s threat to stability in the region. Public support to launch a full scale invasion would not come until the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Al Qaeda in the 1990s
Al Qaeda launched two terrorist attacks prior to 1996. The first was the 1992 Yemen Hotel bombing, which targeted US soldiers on duty headed to Somalia, in which two Australian tourists were killed. The second was a bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993. Six people were killed and over 1,500 were wounded. It was not until 1996 that Al Qaeda made an official declaration of war on The United States. In that declaration, bin Laden made clear the reasons for going to war. The length of this article is too great to copy and paste it in its entirety, but I urge you to read the text in full. There is language in it about us refusing to go along with Sharia law and what not, but that is true for much of the world. So I shall share parts of the declaration that I think reveal why the US was targeted specifically:
Though it is towards the end, finishing with a powerful message in my opinion is the format for declaring war. Bin Laden wrote:
“The youths hold you responsible for all of the killings and evictions of the Muslims and the violation of the sanctities, carried out by your Zionist brothers in Lebanon; you openly supplied them with arms and finance. More than 600,000 Iraqi children have died due to lack of food and medicine and as a result of the unjustifiable aggression imposed on Iraq and its nation. The children of Iraq are our children. You, the USA, together with the Saudi regime are responsible for the shedding of the blood of these innocent children. Due to all of that, whatever treaty you have with our country is now null and void….”
Finishing a declaration of war talking about hundreds of thousands of dead children makes it easy to paint the US as crusaders, at the start, which he did:
“It should not be hidden from you that the community of Islam has suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Zionist-Crusaders alliance and their collaborators; to the extent that the Muslims’ blood became the cheapest and their wealth as loot in the hands of the enemies. Their blood was spilled in Palestine and Iraq. The horrifying pictures of the massacre of Qana in Lebanon are still fresh in our memory. Massacres in Tajikistan, Burma, Kashmir, Assam, the Philippines, Fatani, Ogadin, Somalia, Eritrea, Chechnya and in Bosnia”
After the declaration, in June of ‘96 a truck bomb killed 19 military members in Saudi Arabia and in 1998 embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania were bombed, killing 200 and injuring 5,000.
It is my sincere hope that, if anything, the reader understands the complexities on the issue of terrorism. Anyone who, for whatever reason, did not pay attention to Iraq in the 1990s, myself included, is now aware that there is a very complex history. The United States was not just strolling idly along until one day some crazy people flew some planes into two skyscrapers in New York. Bin Laden listed 11 other countries in which conflict took place. Now I’m not suggesting that something is good or bad based on what bin Laden said in his declaration of war, but if we are to be responsible, we should not get behind any war without at least being able to speak intelligently about the history involved. Unfortunately getting a truly complete historical account is beyond the scope of this article.
September 11, 2001
Now we revisit this sad day in history with a fresh perspective of events that lead to it. Al Qaeda had declared war on the U.S. five years before, citing several conflicts and concluding by highlighting the half-a-million dead children in Iraq. We revisit this tragic day keeping in mind that the CIA once used Al Qaeda as a pawn to battle Russian forces in Afghanistan as part of a Cold War operation. The United States also launched Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm as Saddam Hussein attempted to annex Kuwait and bring about a power shift in the Middle East. 500,000 American soldiers were sent to invade Iraq and defend Saudi Arabia from further Iraqi aggression. President Bush claimed Iraq had ties to the notorious terrorist group while trying to gain support for the war. Now, let’s recap the events of 9/11.
At 0819 am Flight attendants on board a Boeing 767 traveling from Boston to Los Angeles notified the FBI that the plane had been hijacked, just twenty minutes after takeoff.
0846 am The above flight is flown into floors 93-99 of the North World Trade Center building, killing everyone on the plane and hundreds in the building.
0903 am Hijackers flew a second Boeing 767, also traveling from Boston to Los Angeles, into floors 75-85 of the South World Trade Center building, again killing everyone on board and hundreds in the building.
0937 am Hijackers fly Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 59 passengers and 125 people at the building.
0959 am South Tower collapsed
1028 am North Tower collapsed
0520 pm Seven World Trade Center building collapsed.
The attacks took the lies of 2,977 people in total.
Who Were The Terrorists?
On December 13, 2001 a tape was released in which Osama bin Laden took credit for the attack. The actual Hijackers consisted of 19 people, 15 of which were citizens of our ally, Saudi Arabia, (as Bin Laden also was), one of Egypt, two of United Arab Emirates, and one of Lebanon. While bin Laden was the mastermind, the tactical leader of the attack was 43 year old Mohamed Atta, from Egypt.
A Brief Bio of bin Laden
Mastermind Osama bin Laden himself was born in 1957 and was the 17th out of 54 children fathered by Muhammad Awad bin Laden. Bin Laden’s father was a Yemeni immigrant who ran a billion-dollar construction company in Saudi Arabia. In 1979, after studying Public Administration and Economics at the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, bin Laden left for Afghanistan to join the battle against the USSR. He remained in the fray from 1979 until 1989; everything after 1989 has already been covered.
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11 signaled that Al Qaeda was willing to take the battle to the next level. Most Americans, myself included, were stunned. It wasn’t until well after my Army years that I learned there was actually a list of demands following the attack. We don’t read the list of demands so we know what we must do. We read them understand our enemies’ point of view, in hopes that we will be educated enough to design a world that is just for everyone. Below is a summary followed with a link to the text in it’s entirety.
The text begins with a lot of language about following Allah and fighting against evil forces in the world. Later bin Laden seeks to answer questions Americans seem to be pondering: “1) Why are we fighting and opposing you? And 2) What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?” He then goes on to answer question one.
“Because you attacked us and continue to attack us. You attacked us in Palestine. The British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews.” Language about Palestine goes on for several paragraphs. Then he discusses Somalia, Chechnya, Kashmir, and Lebanon. After which he takes issue with puppet regimes saying “Under your supervision, consent and orders, the governments of our countries which act as your agents, attack us on a daily basis. (The US installed the Shah in Iran in the 1950s).
Then he wrote about Iraq:
“You have starved the Muslims of Iraq, where children die every day. It is a wonder that more than 1.5mil Iraqi children have died as a result of your sanctions, you did not show concern, yet when 3,000 of your people died, the entire world rises and has not yet sat down.”
The answer to question two has two basic parts. First, they demand that the United States turn to Allah and follow Muslim law, which would mean no usury (interest on loan repayments), gambling, homosexuality, and so on… The second part is a call for our country to mind our own business; stop intervening in Middle Eastern affairs and stop supporting Jews over others who claim the holy land for themselves.
Again, we don’t want to know these things because we want to appease bin Laden, or whoever runs the show at present. We want to know these things to understand our enemy’s motives and to make sure our own actions are truly virtuous. The US is by far the most powerful country in the world, and that gives us the obligation as citizens to be careful in what actions we get behind. As we have seen with documented history and the declaration of war, along with this list of demands after 9/11, there is far more to the story of terrorism today than a group of crazy people flying some planes into the world trade center one random day because they hate freedom. They are blaming us for many things that would make us just as angry. Right or wrong, our officials have taken credit for them.
The aftermath of 9/11 was the invasion of Afghanistan and later Iraq. It was believed Osama bin Laden was hiding along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that Saddam Hussein either possessed WMDs, was a terrorist supporter, or both. As a result of these invasions, the United States has emboldened another enemy, ISIS, and has been involved in military operations all over the region in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia.
Who is ISIS
ISIS, according to Richard Allen Greene and Nick Thompson, is a group very similar to Al Qaeda that was formed in 2004. Like Al Qaeda, they had ties to Osama bin Laden and are identified as a terrorist organization. What makes them different, however, is their willingness to use more brutal methods and establish solid governing bodies. Once they dominate a territory they establish almost Western-like governing structures, with legislatures and governors put in place to rule.
ISIS gained traction as a powerful force, a result of the invasion of Iraq. Generals in the Iraqi military were wise enough to know they would be quickly overpowered by US forces in conventional warfare, and their military was defeated in a matter of months. In fact, by April 2003, much of Baghdad had fallen into American hands. It was the occupation and nation building that has taken a decade and a half. The Iraqi generals, seeing they were not going to be successful, joined the ranks of ISIS, and they have been very effective. As Hendawi and Abdul-Zahra explained:
“Under its leader, Iraqi jihadi Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State group’s top command is dominated by former officers from Saddam’s military and intelligence agencies, according to senior Iraqi officers on the front lines of the fight against the group, as well as top intelligence officials, including the chief of a key counter-terrorism intelligence unit. The experience they bring is a major reason for the group’s victories in overrunning large parts of Iraq and Syria. The officers gave IS the organization and discipline it needed to weld together jihadi fighters drawn from across the globe, integrating terror tactics like suicide bombings with military operations. They have been put in charge of intelligence-gathering, spying on the Iraqi forces as well as maintaining and upgrading weapons and trying to develop a chemical weapons program.”
Conclusions: The Middle East and Terrorism
The Middle East is a very different civilization from the first world Western nations. Osama bin Laden spoke in his list of demands of the United States and its allies as agents of the Devil, attacking their countries directly and indirectly, as well as giving in to every known vice. Separation of Church and State does not seem to be as strong a value as it is here in the west. However, they do have legitimate reasons to be upset. They chose to declare war on the US specifically for reasons that surpass those which motivated us to occupy the entire region for a decade and a half. Whether the number of children who died in Iraq (over half-a-million) is accurate or not, sanctions were placed, they harmed the civilian population, and our representatives went on television in front of the world and said it was worth it. In their eyes, no matter what you think, the West is the problem in the world, which means no matter how hard we press, the terrorism problem is not going away. It will only intensify as long as warfare is the strategy.
Conclusions: American Foreign Policy
The United States has enjoyed the position of being the dominant power in the world ever since World War 2. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s fear of awakening a sleeping giant (as a result of the Pearl Harbor attack)) was far deeper than what would play out at the end of the war. Our position has not come without a price. That price includes choosing the military means to solve problems more eagerly. President George W Bush’s administration was tainted very much with intelligence failures because he was hasty in his decision making. In the age of widespread terrorism, the US government has grown exceedingly paranoid, has been openly keeping tabs on American civil communications, and all but embraced the use of torture despite it being a proven failed method of gathering reliable intel. My personal opinion is our politicians would welcome a world war to gain the honor and prestige associated with Former President Franklin Roosevelt himself, who was in office during WW2. The official narratives, with names like “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and “Operation Enduring Freedom”, always sound good.
Since it is the United States in which I live, I ask the readers to take action. It is not to join the military. It is not to go to an anti-war rally. It’s not to absorb or even believe a single word that has been written here. I ask the reader to do a little soul searching. Ask yourself the following questions: What do you really know about the relationship between the USA and the countries with which we are at war? Are you really ready to put your support behind the bombings and invasions that have continued since 9/11? Are you really ready to trust politicians to act responsibly and honorably in matters of warfare? Since none of us will ever know all the information available, trust is the vehicle which our politicians lead us to war. Are they worthy? Have you examined the knowledge you do or do not have? And finally, are your opinions motivated by propaganda that is designed to elicit emotional responses, or by the facts and theories about modern warfare and it’s effects on the world?
What You Can Do
Discovering the ideas of liberty and having the courage to participate in intellectual discourse can be a very empowering experience. Many who are touched by it believe we must be hasty and take every action possible, whether it’s phoning representatives, participating in protests, engaging in agorism, or even civil disobedience. Reader, what you do and how you choose to express yourself is a journey of self-discovery that would be a crime to rob you. Your personality and your talents are for you to discover. The only idea I wish to share is that your actions do not have to be extreme to spark change. Simply mentioning the complexities of the world when the topic of war comes up will signal any potential intellectual that there may be, dare I say, pre-9/11 history they haven’t examined. When you hear someone is going to join the military, just mentioning the fact that they could find themselves fighting a political war they don’t believe in could make a big difference without even inviting a debate concerning the current wars. Finally, never let anyone disarm your intellectual truths with emotionally charged statements like “you just hate America” or some similar claim. This is not about likes and dislikes, it is about truth. The destruction capabilities of the world’s nuclear arsenal are too great to stick our heads in the sand and ignore facts because someone insulted us.
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The author’s views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the entire Ask A Libertarian Team or its followers.