Take this opportunity to educate yourself of the facts surrounding the rise of Radical Islam, Neo-Conservatism, and the Politics of Fear. It may change the way you view the attacks of September 11, the subsequent “war on terror,” and the never-ending wars in the Middle East.
For those largely unfamiliar American Politics, you’ll be surprised to learn how long notorious figures of the George W.Bush administration, namely Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, have been on the political scene.
The BBC Documentary Series: The Power Of Nightmares
Part 1 – “Baby it’s Cold Outside“
Part 2 – “The Phantom Victory”
Part 3 – “The Shadows in the Cave”
Summary/explainer courtesy of CBC’s The Passionate Eye:
Part 1 – Baby It’s Cold Outside
Sayyed Qutb: Father of Radical Islam
In the 1950s Sayyed Qutb, an Egyptian civil servant was sent to the U.S. to learn about its public education system. As he traveled around the county, Qutb became increasingly disgusted by what he felt was the selfish and materialistic nature of American life.
When he returned to Egypt, Qutb turned into a revolutionary. Determined to find some way to control the forces of selfish individualism that he saw in America, he envisioned an Arab society where Islam would play a more central role. He became an influential spokesperson in the Muslim Brotherhood but was jailed after some of its members attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Nasser.
In prison a more radical Qutb wrote several books which argued that extreme measures, including deception and even violence, could be justified in an effort to restore shared moral values to society. He was executed in 1966 for treason in Egypt. But his ideas lived on and formed the basis of the radical Islamist movement.
Leo Strauss: A Neo-Conservative
At the same time Leo Strauss, an American professor of political philosophy, also came to see western liberalism as corrosive to morality and to society. Like Qutb, Strauss believed that individual freedoms threatened to tear apart the values which held society together. He taught his students that politicians should assert powerful and inspiring myths – like religion or the myth of the nation – that everyone could believe in.
A group of young students, including Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Fukuyama and William Kristol studied Strauss’ ideas and formed a loose group in Washington which became known as the neo-conservatives. They set out to create a myth of America as a unique nation whose destiny was to battle against evil in the world.
Both Qutb and Strauss were idealists whose ideas were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world. The two movements they inspired set out, in their different ways, to rescue their societies from this decay.
By creating an alliance with the growing Christian fundamentalist movement in America the neo-conservatives rose to power during the Reagan administration. Senior American civil servants and politicians came to believe their view that the Soviet Union was an evil force against which the U.S. should be presented as a force for good.
The neo-conservatives turned to fear in order to pursue their vision and created a hidden network of evil run by the Soviet Union that only they could see. They used anti-communist propaganda which included Donald Rumsfeld’s over-estimation of Soviet military technology and the William Casey led CIA assertion that various terrorist organizations were backed by the Soviet Union to further their cause.
At the same time, the Islamists faced a refusal of the masses to follow their dream and began to turn to terror to force the people to “see the truth”. Underground Islamic leaders like Ayman Zawahiri, who would become a mentor to Osama bin Laden, ordered the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in an attempt to shock the masses into seeing their version of reality.
Afghanistan: A Battleground
In 1979, Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan. War in this remote country marked the beginning of key battleground in the Cold War and an extraordinary alliance between radical Islamists in Afghanistan and around the world and the neo-conservatives in the U.S.
Washington provided money and arms including Stinger missiles capable of shooting down Soviet helicopters. But it was Islamic Mujahideen fighters who would fire them. Among the many radical Islamists drawn to Afghanistan was a young, wealthy Saudi called Osama Bin Laden. Long before 9/11, he was seen by neo-conservatives in Washington as one of their foot soldiers, helping fight America’s cause.
After nearly 10 years of fighting, Soviet troops pulled out of Afghanistan and shortly afterwards, their own government collapsed.
Both the neo-conservatives and the Islamists believed that it is they who defeated the “evil empire” and now had the power to transform the world.
The neo-conservatives – determined to push on with their agenda – were convinced that there were other evil regimes that needed to be conquered in order to spread democracy. So they turned their focus to Saddam Hussein, who had just invaded Kuwait. But at the end of the first Gulf War, President Reagan was not in power and the neo-conservatives no longer had a leader that shared their vision. Once Kuwait was secured, President George HW Bush called a halt to the fighting.
The neo-conservatives turned to the religious right and began a campaign to bring moral and religious issues back into the center of conservative politics. And they invented a new enemy, Bill Clinton, focusing on the scandal surrounding him and Monica Lewinsky.
Meanwhile, the Islamists descended into a cycle of violence and terror to persuade people to follow them. They launched attacks against the leaders of the Arab world – in Egypt and Algeria – to overthrow what they believed were corrupt regimes. Then they began using bloody terrorist attacks to shock ordinary people into rising up.
But both groups failed in their revolutions. The neo-conservatives did not succeed in their attempt to impeach Bill Clinton because polls showed that Americans simply didn’t care about the moral issues involved. And the Islamists – lacking the popular support to topple regimes across the Arab world – returned to Afghanistan.
Defeated, the Islamists formed a new strategy. In the late 1990s Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and a follower of Sayyid Qutb, paid the Taliban to allow them to recruit and train Islamist fighters for attacks on a new enemy – the U.S. The new jihad would be against the source of corruption itself.
Zawahiri and bin Laden began to implement their new strategy in the late 90’s. Suicide bombings outside American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania attracted the attention of the West. And the neo-conservatives now had a new phantom enemy.
Then bin Laden funded a plan first proposed by an Islamic militant, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. On September 11th, 2001 19 hijackers brought down the World Trade Center, killed thousands of Americans and shocked the world.
But the attacks had another dramatic effect: they brought the neo-conservative agenda back into the forefront.
Part 3 – The Shadows in the Cave
In the wake of the shock and panic created by the devastating attack on the World Trade Center, the neo-conservatives reconstructed the radical Islamists in the image of their last evil enemy, the Soviet Union.
They created a sinister web of terror run by Osama bin Laden from his lair in Afghanistan. And they were able to convince George W. Bush to begin a “War on Terror”.
The war in Afghanistan removed bin Laden’s main source of recruits, but the U.S. military and the Northern Alliance also captured and killed many people in the Taliban camps that had nothing to do with bin Laden’s goal.
The story circulated that bin Laden and the core of al-Qaeda had retreated to a complex in Tora Bora, but an exhaustive search revealed no sign of an underground fortress.
The arrests of various groups of suspected terrorists in the U.S. following the September 11 attacks failed to find any substantial evidence of terrorist sleeper cells. Similarly, in the UK, arrests under new terrorism laws have resulted in only three convictions of Islamists, all for fundraising or possessing Islamist literature.
Much of the media coverage of potential terrorist attacks also became highly speculative and sensational. There were reports that al-Qaeda was poised to use a radiological weapon, referred to as a “dirty bomb”, which would kill thousands of people. But nuclear scientists argued that this was a false threat. They said that a “dirty bomb” wouldn’t kill many people from fallout because the radioactive material would be spread thinly by any explosion.
Still, the neo-conservatives had found they could use the threat of Islamist terrorism and claimed that they had found hidden links between al-Qaeda and their old enemy, Saddam Hussein. Iraq became an important enemy against which to unite the U.S., and other politicians such as Tony Blair who wanted to play an important role in protecting their countries from attack.
Politicians and counter-terrorist agents have decided that they must be pro-active in imagining the worst possible attacks and in stopping those who seem likely to carry out attacks. They are convinced that it’s the only way to save the world from a looming catastrophe.
Further viewing: 2011 Maddow/Engel Documentary – Day Of Destruction, Decade of War
This Is What War Looks Like – The aftermath of the 9/11 attacks took photojournalist Kate Brooks to Afghanistan and Pakistan to cover the fall of the Taliban.
Those Who Face Death – Photojournalist Kate Brooks spent the decade after 9/11 photographing the U.S. military struggles and political upheaval in the Greater Middle East. The following collection is from her time in Iraq in 2003-2004.
Fareed Zakaria – Reflections on 9/11 and its aftermath
Juan Cole – A tale of two Afghan Leaders, before and after 9/11
Noam Chomsky – The Imperial Mentality and 9/11
Foreign Policy Mag – The Black Hole of 9/11
A Television News Archive – Understanding 9/11
Foreign Policy Mag – The 9/11 Anniversary Reader: FAIL edition
Foreign Policy Mag – 9/11 from Arab Shores
Globe & Mail – The Muslim world’s 9/11 generation emerges from a long shadow
Al Jazeera – The Decade of 9/11: war without end
Slate – Trutherism 2011: The Rise and Fall of the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory
Doug Saunders – Al-Qaeda’s zealots of yesteryear turning to politics, democracy
The Nation – The Years Since 9/11: A Lost Decade
Mother Jones – Patriot Acts
Paul Krugman – The Years of Shame
The Atlantic – The Soldier and the Rap Star: A Tale of Two Post-9/11 Students
Michael Ignatieff – 9/11 and the age of sovereign failure
Daily Mail UK – The 9/11 victims America Wants To Forget – the 200 jumpers who’ve been ‘airbrushed from history’
Alternet – “I Stayed to Fight” — Being a Muslim Immigrant in Post 9/11 America
Reuters – Decade after 9/11, Afghans languish in Pakistan
The Independent – 9/11 lost decade: The American dream, and the missing years
Reuters – Iraq: Victim or beneficiary of September 11 attacks?
Washington Post – Public sees wars in Iraq, Afghanistan as least effective means of reducing terrorism
New York Times – One 9/11 tally – 3.3 Trillion
National Geographic Channel – 9/11 and the American Dream (Phenominal footage of the day’s events)
Raw Story – Paul Simon performs ‘The Sound of Silence’ at Ground Zero
Eminem – Mosh