Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Revolving Around US: The World View of the War on Terror

It seems a bit rash to believe that a country fighting against global terrorism could be looked down upon. However, due to the process the United States has gone through to engage with countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, the wont-take-no-for-an-answer attitude showing boldly when President Bush ignored the lack of a United Nations mandate, America is now viewed as irresponsible, carefree, and overall, quite unpleasant to deal with.

The War on Terror began in the immediate months after the events of September 11th, 2001. Troops from the Unites States, along with its major allies, began to bomb, invade, and occupy Afghanistan, as well as hold place in Afghanistan’s surrounding countries in what was known as Operation Enduring Freedom. The invasion started with an ultimatum issued by President Bush to the Taliban, noting five points the Taliban must fulfill:
• Deliver to the U.S. all of the leaders of Al-Qaeda.
• Release all imprisoned foreign nationals.
• Close immediately every terrorist training camp.
• Hand over every terrorist and their supporters to appropriate authorities.
• Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps for inspection.
At this point, Bush’s approval rating, along with his national and international support, was running high. However, things took a turn for the worse when the United States thought it best to invade Iraq.

In 2003, President Bush and United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair set to invade Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction, and in turn, free the Iraqi people from a fearless dictator. While a 2004 CBS poll shows that 64-percent of citizens supported military action in Iraq, 63-percent suggested Bush find a diplomatic solution rather than engaging in war, and 62-percent believed the threat of terrorism would increase in a time of war. Former US allies including France, Canada, New Zealand and Germany publicly opposed the war, as well Rome—which held the largest anti-war rally in history on February 15th, 2003. However, nothing swayed the opinions of the United States. Bombing of Iraq began on March 19th, 2003, and concluded on May 1st, which began in the era of US Occupation in Iraq.

Nearly seven years later, there is still no trace of weapons of mass destruction, and the United States is still occupying Iraq. It has been clear that Americans have grown skeptical of their own country, and the extent they went to in order to go to war. But how has the rest of the world responded to the Unites States’ discouraging behavior?

In 2004, Kofi Annan—United Nations Secretary-General—told BBC, "[F]rom our point of view and from the Charter point of view, [the war] was illegal." Paul Reynolds of BBC News suggests that the United States, especially during the Bush administration, has been running on fear. “Fear is a powerful motivating factor. Fear after 9/11 led to the Bush doctrine of the pre-emptive strike.” Owen Fay of Al Jazeera reports that Pakistanis see the United States as their biggest threat, noting, “when respondents were asked what they consider to be the biggest threat to the nation of Pakistan, 11 per cent of the population identified the Taliban fighters, who have been blamed for scores of deadly bomb attacks across the country in recent years…18 per cent said that they believe that the greatest threat came from neighbouring India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan since partition in 1947…[and] an overwhelming 59 per cent of respondents, said the greatest threat to Pakistan right now is, in fact, the US.”

Professor Erica Frank went so far as to say that the War on Terror hurts Americans at home just as much everyday. Frank suggests funding towards the war diverts aid from healthcare, which is then leading to more and more deaths at home. She calculated that nearly 2,000 more people died on September 11th of serious illness than in the World Trade Center attacks, a number that is recurring each day, leading to a growing number of curable yet untimely deaths. But it’s not just politicians and professors who doubt the United States’ efforts.

A survey conducted by the BBC shows that 53-percent of United Kingdom citizens believed the UK was losing the war on terror, and that 56-percent of westernized countries were losing the war overall. Frank Gardner, security correspondent for the survey, believed the response was in part due to the fact that “it was difficult to define what ‘victory’ in the so-called war on terror meant.”

Alaa Bayoumi of Al Jazeera suggests that while America has taken large steps in the right direction, the Muslim World and the United States have still not learned the most critical lessons from September 11th. In his article, Missed Lessons of 9/11, he speaks to Burhan Ghalioun, a professor of political sociology at the Sorbonne in France, who states "America was wrong in believing that the terrorist movements are expressing animosity against the West and are not, rather, an expression of the social, economic, and political problems of the Muslim world.”

It doesn’t help that the United States military is milking its soldiers for everything they’ve got. With volunteer soldiers at its lowest point since Vietnam, the Army’s tank is low on fuel. “America's retreat was not based on rational calculations,” says Ghalioun. “It was the result of the failure of the strategy of pre-emptive wars on terrorism and the lack of any other alternative. America no longer has a comprehensive strategy when it comes to terrorism or any other issue.”

Not only was the War on Terror executed poorly on the battlefield, but also behind closed doors. After the events the likes of Abu Ghraib, the United States’ legacy of torture—or “enhanced interrogation” techniques—is still haunting the US to this day. Many also seem to believe that Obama has done little to fix this since his stay in office. The belief is that so much of Obama's plan is that “we'll do it smarter. You can trust us.” But many agree this is still not acceptable.

It doesn’t help that the officials responsible for much of the torture haven’t shown any remorse. Human Rights groups around the globe want top officials like Rumsfeld and Cheney to be prosecuted for their actions. According to Mark LeVine, writer for Al Jazeera, “most activists agree that if Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and White House lawyers such as John Yoo and Jay Bybee are not called to account for their actions while in power, future administrations will feel confident that they can resume now discredited practices without fear of prosecution.”

So how does one end—or attempt to fix—one of the most unpopular wars in history? There aren’t many quick fixes. Many believe that pulling out of Iraq will leave the country somewhere between anarchy and a faux Democracy. Others believe that there is no other solution but to pull out, seeing as the country is in financial shambles and other issues, such as health care reform, have begun to come forth. Add to all this a concern that either way, the end of the war will give way to more terrorism, and you’ve got quite the conundrum. Perhaps only time will tell whether this war was justified or not. But as of right now, the War of Terror is being written into the history books as a negative marker in history, all across the Globe.

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