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20 years of War on Terror hits Taliban roadblock- But has it ended?

Iqbal Jassat

As America licks its wounds following an embarrassing and humiliating retreat from Afghanistan, the hope that the futility of its disastrous two decades would result in a total drawing down of all its military engagements, may indeed be an illusion.

The reality is that while the Biden regime has withdrawn US troops, it hasn’t disengaged from pursuing policies cast in stone: “War on Terror”, being the bedrock of its fundamentalist militant ideology.

Intercept’s latest report reveals that America’s war on terror has killed nearly 1 million people globally and cost more than $8 trillion since it began two decades ago.

The source for the staggering figures is the landmark report issued a few days ago by Brown University’s Costs of War Project, an ongoing research effort to document the economic and human impact of post-9/11 military operations.

Though containing shocking details of an unending war, it is timely for many international human rights organisations, including Media Review Network, and headed by Cage Prisoners in Britain, who have partnered under the theme “International Witness Campaign” (IWC) to commemorate two decades of gruesome deaths resulting from the War on Terror.

Via a series of campaigns involving more than 40 partners across 15 countries, the IWC hopes to feature activities highlighting the impact and failures of the War on Terror.

In its announcement heralding the launch, the IWC claims that the pernicious rhetoric of the War on Terror has become a global phenomenon.

“The architects garnered public support by demonising Islam and constructed a framework of laws and policies that perpetrated injustice on an unprecedented scale against Muslim populations. The infrastructure of hate was then used to suppress dissenting voices and erode civil liberties for all. The surveillance state, securitisation and erosion of the rule of law are manifestations of the toxic campaign.”

It is thus crucial that the report — which looks at the tolls of wars waged in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and other regions where the US is militarily engaged — the latest in a series published by the Costs of War Project, provides the most extensive public accounting to date of the consequences of open-ended US conflicts in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa, referred to today as the “forever wars.”

“It’s critical we properly account for the vast and varied consequences of the many US wars and counterterror operations since 9/11, as we pause and reflect on all of the lives lost,” said the project’s co-director, Neta Crawford, in a press release accompanying the report.

“Our accounting goes beyond the Pentagon’s numbers because the costs of the reaction to 9/11 have rippled through the entire budget.”

If indeed the report accurately reflects the cost of lives lost, it is in the interest of America’s vast and diverse population to not only agitate against the power wielded by a capitalist elite in control of the military industrial complex, but to actively take steps to halt their operations.

The aftermath of 9/11 has been exploited to the hilt by Pentagon’s star-striped club of militants whose language of war came to an abrupt halt in Kabul.

However, the strident position adopted by Biden suggests that pulling troops out of Afghanistan doesn’t mean the War on Terror has ended.

It would, therefore, be a mistake to believe that the absence of boots on the ground signals the end, though it is a resounding defeat.

Many former US army officials have in fact warned that the war is not on hold. A recent Mint Press broadcast profiled Lawrence Wilkerson, retired US Army colonel who was Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell between 2003 and 2005.

In this role, he observed the rapid expansion of the Bush regime’s War on Terror.

A military veteran of 31 years, he has since become a vocal critic of American war machine and has warned that excessive militarism is undermining democracy at home, with a bloated and powerful national security state increasingly calling the shots in Washington.

“America exists today to make war. How else do we interpret 19 straight years of war and no end in sight? It’s part of who we are. It’s part of what the American Empire is,” he remarked last year.

Hence as partners of the International Witness Campaign, we share the commitment of a global network of human rights organisations to centre justice for survivors, accountability for the perpetrators and proceed with the dismantlement of the entire infrastructure of laws, policies and rhetoric that justified and prop up the War on Terror industry.

Iqbal Jassat is Executive Member, Media Review Network, Johannesburg, South Africa

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