EDITORIAL Here's the painful but undeniable truth: five years after a pair of airplanes flew into the Twin Towers in New York, killing almost 3,000 people, the world — and the United States — is a decidedly less secure place.
Sure, would-be terrorists can't carry box cutters (or toothpaste) onto planes anymore. It's harder to open cockpit doors. Some flights have fully armed undercover air marshals on board. Security screeners make passengers take off their shoes.
But the nation is bogged down in a deadly, pointless war, the Middle East is a powder keg — and all over the globe, the United States is increasingly seen as an enemy.
Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian of London on Sept. 11, described a fanciful interview with Osama bin Laden, in which he asked the secretive al-Qaeda leader how he was doing five years after the attacks. Fine, bin Laden says: the United States could have turned the attacks into a rallying point against terrorism but did exactly the opposite.
"Bin Laden need not have worried," Jenkins wrote. "He would agree, as did the CIA's al-Qaida analyst in Peter Taylor's recent documentary, that the Americans have done his job for him. They panicked. They drove the Taliban back into the mountains, restoring the latter's credibility in the Arab street and turning al-Qaida into heroes. They persecuted Muslims across America. They occupied Iraq and declared Iran a sworn enemy. They backed an Israeli war against Lebanon's Shias. Soon every tinpot Muslim malcontent was citing al-Qaida as his inspiration. Bin Laden's tiny organisation, which might have been starved of funds and friends in 2001, had become a worldwide jihadist phenomenon.
"I would ask Bin Laden whether he had something special up his sleeve for the fifth anniversary. Why waste money, he would reply. The western media were obligingly re-enacting the destruction and the screaming, turning the base metal of violence into the gold of terror. They would replay the tapes and rerun the footage ad nauseam, and thus remind the world of his awesome power.... As for European support for America's world leadership, that has plummeted from 64% in 2002 to 37% this year."
This will be the enduring historical legacy of the Bush administration: At last count, 2,996 dead or presumed dead at the World Trade Center. At last count, 2,668 US soldiers dead in Iraq. At least 41,650 civilian casualties of that war.
The goodwill of the world squandered. Endless enemies all around. And every Republican running for reelection to Congress will have to deal with that. SFBG