By Anas Mustapha, CAGE Communications and Content Manager.

The attack on the world trade centre and the response from the US and its allies have left millions killed, led to the rise of Islamophobia while domestically it saw the wholesale decimation of hard won civil liberties. The ‘War on Terror’ cannot be seen as anything but an abject failure. 

9/11 represents a pivotal moment in history. The devastating impact of the commercial airliners on the world trade centre echoes till this day.

President George W Bush began what we now recognise as one of the most disastrous wars in America’s history in the name of justice for the innocent victims of those attacks. Between 1.2 million and 4 million civilians, at least on last count, have been killed  by US-led post-9/11 wars and thirty-seven million people have been made refugees.

Al-Qaida may have ceased to exist in Afghanistan and its leadership decimated, but it’s offshoots have spread across the globe.

Changing the nature of “warfare” and lowering the bar for killing

In the wake of Bush, President Obama came in on the pretext of change. But instead of peace, Obama simply changed the mask. US warfare morphed from direct combat to the use of predator drones.

Drones repeatedly hit civilian targets causing death and carnage from the borders of Afghanistan-Pakistan to the desert plains of Yemen and beyond in Somalia.

The production of “kill lists” has also blurred the boundaries of “warfare” and lowered the bar for killing. For the victims of US policy this has been Obama’s enduring legacy.

President Trump, with his “American First” mantra, thought to cut his losses and pull the United States out of endless wars. He recognised that the Taliban remain the dominant force in Afghanistan and that after 20 years of war, they wanted a negotiated peace.

In fact, the Taliban have consistently called for negotiations, even before President Bush intended to invade the nation.

It is truly astonishing – but not unprecedented – that parties that were once enemy combatants are now equals around a negotiating table.

CAGE has been calling for accountability and an open and transparent negotiations  process, since we first began recording those who had disappeared in the wake of 9/11. Much of our earlier work called for this clearly, and despite being maligned for holding such a position, today we stand vindicated.

To forge ahead we must come to the realisation that the ‘War on Terror’ has been an abject failure.

An end to the “cold” war at home

While Afghanistan is now we hope firmly on the road to peace, the consequences of 9/11 on the domestic policies of the nations that led the “war on terror” live on.

The “war on terror” has taken a kind of perpetuity, morphing from hot to cold war against Muslims and others who challenge the status quo. It delivered huge profits to the military industrial complex and political victories to a new kind of nationalist.

In the UK, 19 years on, Downing Street launches anti-terrorism laws almost every year. These have had the effect to securitise all aspects of life, normalise ‘emergency law’ and institutionalise Islamophobia.

In effect, the domestic ‘war on terror’ has done the job of the enemies it allegedly sought to crush. Ripping up civil liberties, creating a police and corporate surveillance state, undermining the rule of law and compromising the judicial system have been the hallmarks of the domestic agenda. CAGE has documented this shift which exploited fears and prejudices towards minorities to achieve its aims. Our work calling for accountability and exposing injustice will continue unfazed by the smears and threats we face.

Our latest report commemorating 20 years since the Terrorism Act 2000 (TACT) is the only research based in both academic analysis and real-person narratives, which evidences the true impact of Britain’s “cold war” at home.

While we continue to keep our eye on abuse of due process at home, we must not forget those in Guantanamo and other secret prisons who still remain incarcerated.

The fact remains that 19 years later, not a single person has been convicted of anything to do with 9/11, despite the US and its allies throwing the world into a total and perpetual state of war and insecurity.

We must work to end this absurd spiral, and see an end to cycles of violence. The laws which have been passed in the name of this war must be abolished. If there is anything to learn from the Taliban – US peace deal, it is that where there is a political will, there can be real and lasting change.

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)