27 February, 2024


America Marks 20 Years Since 09/11 Attacks: Some Apt Lessons For Sri Lanka!

By Mohamed Harees –

Lukman Harees

In 1990, Charles Krauthammer declared a “unipolar moment,” arguing that “the center of world power was the unchallenged superpower, the United States.” To many observers,  the despicable attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which left nearly 3,000 people dead in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, too appeared to highlight America’s “unipolar moment”. With seemingly uncontested power, it set out to reshape the world order, with  President George W. Bush declaring in its immediate aftermath, that the world was either with America or against it. Even that day, how many of us knew that the road would soon lead to Iraq and Afghanistan and even beyond?

As the Americans began to raise the question its’ government : Why the hell did you let this happen?’, many conspiracy theories began to emerge. Jonathan Kay, a Canadian journalist, published Among the Truthers“, a n interesting chronicle of, among other things, post-9/11 conspiracy theories. Many of these theories may sound  outlandish on their face, such as claims that the twin towers were brought down by controlled demolition, that airplanes never struck them, that Flight 93 landed in Cleveland rather than crashing in a Pennsylvania field, and so forth. But many analysts also claimed that the very outlandishness of these claims was itself part of a conspiracy to obscure what really happened on 9/11. 

Disturbing questions about the official account have been raised not only by the four aircraft crashes of 9/11 but also by President Bush’s behaviour on that day. There were calls by critics for Bush to be impeached for sitting and doing nothing for so long, when he was at an event in a primary school in Florida, after been advised that the US was being attacked on a scale never seen before. Some aspects of this game changer event in the US are worth stressing at this point, while drawing  parallels with Sri Lanka’s game changing equivalent event- the barbaric 21/4 terror Easter Sunday terror attacks in 2019. 

War on terror as a ruse to promote US military adventurism!

All things considered, what allowed the War on Terror brand to succeed was the decades of work in the political, news media and cultural spheres that had primed the American public to accept war as the appropriate response to 9/11. Thus, the “terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event” as it was later described by CentCom Commander General Tommy Franks, served to galvanize public opinion in support of a war agenda which was already in its final planning stage. The creation of so-called monsters clothed in Islamic garb, which became global threats too, such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, could also be traced back to the military and economic strategies of the West. The Bush administration thus exploited the new phase of the “war on terror” to expand its overwhelming military advantages over the rest of the world, and to move on to other methods to ensure global dominance? If the plotters had not pulled off 9/11, many security and foreign policy experts still believe it would only have been a matter of time before they managed something else. Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, feels it is questionable whether the US hawks would have won the day on Iraq without the “extreme shock” of 9/11. But he notes that much else in the broader world picture would have happened regardless. The Obama and Trump administrations too followed suit, declaring the whole world as a battlefield, vastly expanding the use of armed drones that began during the Bush administration.

Parallel with Easter Sunday Attacks and Post-era: Consider how the present rulers, in concert with some higher ups in the previous regime conspired to exploit this disaster, and consequent anti-Muslim hysteria  and use racism to come to power, citing national security fears and alleged rising Islamic expansionism. 

Failure of the US Islamophobia/ Military Project – War on Terrorism

American writer Phyllis Bennis, for example, then said  that 9/11 has resulted in “foreign policy imposed on the rest of the world through an unchallenged law of empire.” The Bush administrations so-called “war on terror”, however became a pretext for a more aggressive imperialism. US launched an international war on terrorism defined by military intervention, nation building, and efforts to reshape the politics of the Middle East. As of now, however, it has become crystal clear that the American strategy has destabilized the Middle East while doing little to protect the US from terrorism, with its global image taking huge dip in diplomatic terms.  Ironically, nearly 20 years later, the world gleefully watched as the so-called sole superpower’s military mission in Afghanistan – which began less than a month after 9/11 – came to a bloody and chaotic conclusion.

As Michael Meacher says in his article in Guardian UK (06/09/2003), titled ‘This war on terrorism is bogus; ‘This is a blueprint for US world domination. But before it is dismissed as an agenda for rightwing fantasists, it is clear it provides a much better explanation of what actually happened before, during and after 9/11 than the global war on terrorism thesis’. This can be seen in several ways.

Parallel with Easter Sunday Attacks and Post-era: Consider the failure of the racism and Islamophobia project, close to 2 years in power. The post developments are exposing the real culprits who were responsible for allowing this disaster happen. The emperor’s clothes of the present rulers  stand exposed, sending their popularity ratings down the cliff.  Still masterminds are not identified.

Failure to take any pre-emptive measures to take prior warnings seriously

First, it is clear the US authorities did little or nothing to pre-empt the events of 9/11. It is known that at least 11 countries provided advance warning to the US of the 9/11 attacks. Instructive leads prior to 9/11 were not followed up. During the presidential campaign Trump said, “George Bush had the chance, also, and he didn’t listen to the advice of his CIA.” That was correct. Bush was given numerous, detailed warnings that Al Qaeda planned an attack. In a New York Times Op-Ed, Kurt Eichenwald offered new evidence on this front. Throughout the spring and summer of 2001, Eichenwald claims the CIA presented the administration with compelling evidence that al-Qaida operatives were in the United States, that they were planning a major terrorist attack intended to produce mass casualties, and that this attack was imminent. In response, the Bush administration did nothing. Indeed, the administration’s level of inaction was so negligent that senior intelligence officials actually considered resigning, so as not to be in a position of responsibility when the attack took place.

Parallel with Easter Sunday Attacks and Post-era: There was clear evidence that the previous rulers and their law enforcement/intelligence agencies knew beforehand about the attacks and were criminally negligent in not taking any action to prevent them. There was also evidence of complicity of the authorities with the alleged attackers too. 

Myth of an outside enemy and Muslim bogeyman to justify its military overtures

The “War on Terror” was used as a pretext to conquer new economic frontiers and ultimately establish corporate control over Iraq’s extensive oil reserves. Little did the public realize that a large scale theatre war is never planned and executed in a matter of weeks. The decision to launch a war and send troops to Afghanistan had been taken well in advance of 9/11. After 9/11, the campaign of media disinformation served not only to drown the truth but also to kill much of the historical evidence on how this illusive “outside enemy” had been fabricated and transformed into “Enemy Number One”. The myth of the “outside enemy” and the threat of “Islamic terrorists” was the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s military doctrine, used as a pretext to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Without an “outside enemy” like a Muslim bogeyman, there could be no “war on terrorism”, the entire national security agenda would collapse “like a deck of cards”. It is however a myth to say that Islamophobia sprang up only after 09/11 attacks.

Parallel with Easter Sunday Attacks and Post-era: The attacks were used and exploited liberally and strategically to whip up Islamophobia and anti Muslim hatred which served the political conspirators well to gain power. Muslims became the ‘outside enemy’ of the Sinhalese.

Failure of US to capitalize on the global support earned after 09/11

The world followed in expressing their solidarity with America including China, Russia, Iran and Palestine. It would have been a brief moment of American moral supremacy. Yet by launching armed aggression, first against Afghanistan and then against Iraq, America wholly squandered this gain. The aggression led to a tide of anti-Americanism and surge of support for fanatical Islamism across the Muslim world. The wars cost tens of thousands of lives and caused mass destruction. The billions of dollars expended on them was financed largely from borrowing, which in turn has destabilised the world economy.9/11 changed America fundamentally, far more so than outsiders realised at the time. America’s response to 9/11 was uniquely unilateral in nature.The twin impulses of post-9/11 America—to carry the war on terror well beyond those immediately responsible for the 9/11 attacks and to do so largely on its own—marked U.S. policy for the next several years.

It was also not 9/11 but the invasion of Iraq that set in motion the real changes. Toby Dodge, of the LSE and the International Institute for Strategic Studies says, ‘it was the war in Iraq that imposed such serious and lasting strain on transatlantic relations, and on relations within Europe.If the transatlantic relationship was born in 1945, it died on 9/11. The fact [is] that Le Monde could say on its front page, ‘We’re all Americans now,’ and that the US could then so completely squander that with bombastic, imperialist incompetence”

Grave Post 09/11 Implications

The world became much more vulnerable. The biggest difference for the world can be found in the sector of that morning’s greatest failure, airport security. Wars and violence became commonplace. Millions died mostly in Muslim countries due to US imposed wars, boycotts, sieges and drone attacks. Terror groups found followers relatively easily. Islamophobia and anti Muslim hatred and violence increased exponentially all over the world. Among all the implications of 9/11, the fall of the Twin Towers reportedly made the media stand tall in shaping/controlling public consciousness and interests, opinion, using their vigorous horns to blast that Arabs and Muslims became nuisance to peace and the security of the planet.

Parallel with Easter Sunday Attacks and Post-era: All post-Independence governments virtually lost all historic opportunities to unify the country and work towards creating an inclusive Sri Lanka. Today, Sri Lanka has become a divisive nation, due to the racist and majoritarian policies of the government. Rogue sections of the mass media have made Muslims, Christians and Tamils look like aliens. National security fears which this government exploited to come to power backfired and the rule of law, and social justice have become more elusive to the ordinary Sri Lankans. Mutual hatred has even polluted the lives of our younger generation.

Post Script: Most Americans living in Post 09/11 era, are tired of it all: roughly two-thirds say the war wasn’t worth it. Yet the national mood of fatigue and apathy is a poor guide to America’s future role in the world. Its capabilities remain formidable and its strategy can be retooled for the 21st century, provided the right lessons are drawn from the post-9/11 era. The Sri Lankans too have similarly grown weary of various political conspiracies to provoke racism and bigotry for vested political interests to come to and retain power, judging by the frustrating mood after two years from the most barbaric terror attacks in its soil. Both US and Sri Lankan experiences in their post-attack phase underlines the inherent dangers of allowing their governments and political leaders to act without public accountability and underscores the imperative need for consistent public activism to hold their rulers to account.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    I haven’t seen any Muslim columnist here write about the New Zealand knife attack.
    Too bad that doesn’t fall under Islamaphobia.

    • 3

      Islamophobia would certainly have got a boost after the New Zealand knife attack if not for the Highly Professional and No nonsense manner the New Zealand PM, Jacinda Ardern handled the matter.

      Sure, Islamophobes the world over must have been very disappointed by her Exemplary action.

  • 5

    For the 2,000 Americans killed by Sunni Muslims, USA killed over 2 million Sunni Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, etc.

    Peace in any of these countries was never the agenda. It was only the selling point. USA and the others achieved what they always wanted.

  • 2

    – President Abraham Lincoln

    “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

    So how did it happen or let it happen

  • 4

    The author highlights the parallel between 9/11 in USA and 4/21 in Sri Lanka. Do we have an answer?We will never find an answer in Sri Lanka similar to many other questions.

  • 4

    Lukman Harees,
    “All post-Independence governments virtually lost all historic opportunities to unify the country and work towards creating an inclusive Sri Lanka.”
    Can you please tell us what are the historic opportunities that the Governments virtually lost to unify the country and work towards creating an inclusive Sri Lanka?
    Please do not evade answering the question.

    • 1

      “Can you please tell us what are the historic opportunities that the Governments virtually lost ?”
      The answer to the question lies in the fact that you yourself prefer not to live here. Don’t be a hypocrite.

  • 5

    “All post-Independence governments virtually lost all historic opportunities to unify the country and work towards creating an inclusive Sri Lanka.”
    Tamil and Muslim writers always put the blame on the Governments (Sinhala majority) that ruled Sri Lanka for failing to unify the country and work towards creating an inclusive Sri Lanka. Tamils and Muslims do not want to admit the failures in their part that became stumbling blocks to unify the country and work towards creating an inclusive Sri Lanka.

    • 2


      So what? Do you still want your country to be the entire island? As long as you want the entire island, you will not have peace and they will not have peace.

      Accept the fact that the 3 tribes cannot live peacefully and with dignity in one nation. Until then SL will be in misery.

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