With rituals underway to mark the tragedy of 9/11, an international network of human rights organisations and advocacy groups have launched a 5-month long campaign to commemorate 20 years since the launch of the global War on Terror.
Under the theme “The International Witness Campaign” (IWC), initiated by UK-based CAGE, it involves over 40 global partners from over 13 countries and marks its launch to coincide with America's final exit from Afghanistan.
The timing converges perfectly with the end of the longest war in US history. Indeed, as historians and commentators reflect on the futility of America's destructive wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, the International Witness Campaign will feature activities highlighting the impact and failures of the War on Terror.
Fuelled by neocons and right-wing extremists, the unforgivable hate-speech characterizing an Islamophobic narrative became synonymous with the War on Terror.
Language of hate to demonize victims of the American empire became shorthand script for architects of the War on Terror.
And shamelessly embraced by self-proclaimed “analysts/experts” as well as by embedded journalists, resulting in racial and religious profiling.
While global attention is fixed on Afghanistan as American troops were airlifted from the “graveyard of empires”, it allows us to revisit devastating effects of invasions and occupations during the last 20 years since 9/11.
The IWC press release announcing its launch correctly states 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.”
Disproportionate power wielded by the US and riding on the angry emotions generated by 9/11, it embarked on executing plots to force the world to side with it.
Overnight America rammed through the UN Security Council a series of resolutions to legitimize its aggressive wars.
One such resolution obligated member states to implement counterterrorism legislation setting the scene for a global War on Terror.
The results have been devastating.
“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.
Globally, failed wars have seen the devastation of entire nations through direct invasions and proxy wars causing the deaths of over 800k and the displacement of 37 million people,” announces the IWC statement.
At the heart of the initiative stand the millions of people affected across the globe and the voices of survivors of the abuses.
It will seek to chart the globalisation of the War on Terror, in the context of solidarity, justice and dialogue.
Muhammad Rabbani, Managing Director of CAGE said: “We are proud to launch the International Witness Campaign alongside our global partners. This is a poignant moment to reflect over the devastation the War on Terror has caused over the last two decades.
“All efforts to move forward must 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.”
Mansoor Adayfi, who spent nearly 15 years in Guantanamo and is currently The Guantanamo Project Coordinator for CAGE said: “Since my release from Guantanamo Bay, where I spent nearly 15 years without charge or trial, I have been advocating for its closure and for an end to the hostility that gave birth to Guantanamo. Those responsible for the lost years of my life must also be brought to account.”
That the War on Terror has failed miserably except leaving a trail of devastation, broken lives, murders, massacres and countries in ruin is evident in Afghanistan.
America’s insatiable hunger for imperial hegemony lies in ashes.
NATO allies including Britain and by extension client-regimes in the Arab world not excluding the settler colonial regime Israel, are left gasping in exasperation for they realize that time for accountability has arrived.
The International Witness Campaign seeks no less than to ensure that demands for justice are met as its growing list of human rights partners across many capitals of the world begin mobilising.
Iqbal Jassat is Executive Member, Media Review Network, Johannesburg, South Africa