The Global War on Terror: consequence of 9/11

By Chinyere Ogwe

Ten years ago the devastating event of 9/11 took place, and since then it has had a huge impact, not just in the United States, but on a global scale on many factors such as health, economics and tourism.

One of the biggest (direct or indirect) impacts of 9/11 has been the Global War on Terror, waged only a month after the United States had suffered the attacks. The Global War on Terror started as a US military campaign in response to the terrorist attacks, and to put an end to Al-Qaeda as well as other militant, terrorist groups.  Announced by George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11, it still continues to this present day, ongoing in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Since its beginning, there have been many criticisms of this Global War On Terror, in particular its infringement on human rights, its reduction of the importance of civil liberties and its portrayal in the media. Most significantly perhaps, it has led to the existence of Guantanamo bay, created to detain those suspected to be involved in acts of terror.

The existence of the Guantanamo bay detention camp is surely one of the biggest controversies arising from the Global War on Terror. Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, 775 detainees have been brought to Guantanamo bay.  Most have been detained with little or no chance of a fair trial, and those who have been released have not been charged or deported back to facilities in their home countries.  The conditions at Guantanamo are abhorrent and a total disregard to civil liberties– Amnesty International has called the situation “a human rights scandal”.

Over the years there have been many reports of methods of interrogation involving acts of torture such as beatings, sleep deprivation, abuse of religion – particularly the deliberate destroying of the Qur’an – sexual degradation, forced drugging and threats.  All of which are completely unjustified, regardless of the information that is wielded through them.

The American government has continued to justify the use of these techniques: only last year, George W. Bush admitted that water boarding – a technique involving covering a person’s face and pouring water over them to give them the sensation of drowning – was used and had consequently helped to save other people’s lives.

Many human rights groups are outraged at the mere existence of Guantanamo Bay. These groups argue that the use of torture techniques is unjustifiable, immoral and goes against the civil liberties of detainees.  Many civil rights activists also argue that many of the rights of the detainees are constantly being violated.  These include the right to a fair trial, the right to be free from discrimination, the right to be free from being subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty amongst others.

Many detainees have complained that they had little or no rights while being kept at Guantanamo Bay.  Binyam Mohammed, a former detainee who was kept at Guantanamo for four years has described how he was mistreated: continuously tortured for forced confessions, he managed to survive the horrors of the camp, but has had to go through a slow recovery.

The image portrayed of the USA through Guantanamo bay is one of torture and brutality in the name of revenge for the attacks, freedom, democracy and the West.  Although during his election campaign Barack Obama promised to close it down, the detention centre still exists, and the controversies surrounding it continue.

Aside from Guantanamo bay, further controversy exists over other consequences of the 9/11 attacks, as for example the rationale behind the invasion of Iraq.  The US claimed that it had to invade Iraq to remove “a regime that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, that harboured and supported terrorists”.

The UK and the US continued to insist that there were weapons of mass destruction present in Iraq being developed by Saddam Hussein, when in fact there was little evidence to support this.  Nonetheless, the end result was the same, with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, regardless of there not being any weapons of mass destruction present.

Further justification provided for the invasion of Iraq, was to put an end to Saddam Hussein’s regime, but as we can see many years on, this has not been a straightforward success.  Many believe that these claims were exaggerated so that the UK and US could find a quick reason to justify their invasion of Iraq.  Furthermore, many believe that the United States overplayed the role of 9/11 as a way to gain some sense of moral justification for the current wars.

Some  have negatively viewed the war as a chance for the United States to gain control or access to oil in the Middle East.  Others have seen it more as a war against Islam as opposed to a war against terrorism itself, whilst some believe that the military campaign is making terrorism worse due to military occupancy.

Undoubtedly the 9/11 attacks were one of the most atrocious terrorist attacks in modern history, but the response lead by the Global War on Terror is just as brutal and atrocious, especially with the existence of places like Guantanamo Bay.

Though it is undeniable that the United States had to be seen as taking a stance and responding to the attacks, they way in which they did it can be questioned. Is the existence of Guantanamo bay really necessary? Were they too precipitated in their invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq? In some ways the reaction of the United States over the past 10 years may not be seen as an appropriate response to combating terrorism, but merely as an act of revenge by the American government.

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