American Decline

The War on Terror: 20 Years of Bloodshed and Delusion

An investment of $6 trillion that produces an ROI of exactly zero is quite an…accomplishment.

By Tariq Ali, The Nation

From the beginning, the War on Terror merged red-hot vengeance with calculated opportunism. Millions are still paying the price.

The Taliban observed the 20th anniversary of 9/11 in startling fashion. Within a week of the United States’ announcement that it would withdraw its forces from Afghanistan on September 11, the Taliban had taken over large parts of the country, and on August 15, the capital city of Kabul fell. The speed was astonishing, the strategic acumen remarkable: a 20-year occupation rolled up in a week, as the puppet armies disintegrated. The puppet president hopped a helicopter to Uzbekistan, then a jet to the United Arab Emirates. It was a huge blow to the American empire and its underling states. No amount of spin can cover up this debacle.

A little more than a year before the 9/11 attacks, Chalmers Johnson, the West Coast historian and onetime supporter of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and a CIA consultant to boot, published a prescient book titled Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. The book, which was virtually ignored when first published but later became a best seller, reads as both an eerie prologue and searing epitaph for the past 20 years. “Blowback,” as Johnson warned,

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