Thursday, 8 September 2011

What Could We Have Done Differently After 9/11?

After getting involved in a cracking debate initiated by Alan Stevens regarding the achievements or not of Tony Blair, I wonder what would be on most people's agenda if they could turn back time?

I reference this to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 tomorrow when nearly 3,000 innocent people so dramatically lost their lives. We can debate ad nauseum as to why such an attack took place in the first place but the beyond the incredible human tragedy that followed it triggered into action the most profound chain of events which took the 'free world' into conflict with two Sovereign Nations.

I would hasten to guess that many, like myself, had never heard of Osama bin Ladin and Al Q'aeda or that Afghanistan was the home to terrorist training grounds and plots against the West before 9/11. But within hours of the tragedies in the United States we became fully aware of this intelligence.

The Conspiracy Theorists might make you believe this has been a very convenient story that was trooped out rather too quickly for comfort in the wake of the atrocities. However, it seemed that such terrorist acts and the bodies behind it had been long suspected. In my mind at the time, and even today, this justified our decision to invade Afghanistan. Whether the result we have got was worth it is very debatable. Historians would have advised that not even the modern armies of the British Empire or the Soviet Union had achieved annexation of Afghanistan where only Alexander the Great had done so. Yet still we went in and fought people that in the early 80s we had actively supported (even armed and trained bin Ladin himself) in the Mujahideen's struggle against the Russians (such is the duplicitous nature of politics).

Today we have achieved no more than driving the Taliban into territories we cannot enter, lost a great deal of lives and have set up a corrupt and largely undemocratic Government. The end game is no closer, whatever that may have been.

Then there was Iraq. At the time, I felt strongly that Saddam was a spent force - a menace to himself and his people but safely annexed in his territory. Everyone knew he was not a supporter of bin Ladin and that he was not behind 9/11. More importantly, weapons inspector teams were on the ground and no WMDs could be found. All the evidence pointed to Iraq being nothing more than a dead state rather than a modern day threat to world peace, let alone be the 'Axis of Evil' that Bush described.

So, with the benefit of hindsight, what would we have done differently now that we know that the reasons for invasion were not what were used? Would the world have stopped the Bush/Blair Agenda? Would the army have done what it was asked?

Famously, US Marines in Iraq were asked by a reporter why they were there after the invasion. The answers were, 'Because of 9/11'. How let down must those forces have been when they knew Iraq had nothing to do with the atrocities of 9/11.

Our own Intelligence Agencies warned Blair that to invade would heighten the tension between the West and Fanatics and cause greater danger - yet still we went on. Could this have been the trigger for 7/7 in London?

So what would or should we have done differently? Was the chain of subsequent events that lead us to do actually the right course of action? Is the world a safer place because of what we have done or not? Do we feel comfortable that our Leaders then and now act in the interests of World Peace or just to ensure that we have the best access to the world's greatest practical asset - oil?

If we can tackle these questions today, perhaps we can then predict who is going to win the Rugby World Cup next.

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