Lessons for America

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11

Monday marks another anniversary of what has come to be known as 9/11, the day on which cities in the United States of America were attacked by hijackers using aeroplanes, in 2001. September 11, 2001 in some ways changed the United States as its President George W. Bush sought to re-assure his injured nation that it was still the world’s super power and that it would do everything to protect its people. In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush ordered his troops to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, ostensibly to crush extremists who posed a threat to US security and interests. But five years later, on Monday, the US is very much still a nation under threat and unsafe. The world’s super power is as vulnerable as ever despite its continued bombing of Afghanistan and Iraq and the overthrow of regimes in the two countries. Following 9/11, President Bush has sought to portray himself as the ‘war president’, a Winston Churchill of his time who would defeat Islamic extremists in the same way Churchill helped defeat Nazism or fascism. The US president has assumed a leading role in the war against terrorism. He has fashioned his foreign policy around the fight against terrorism. While Iraq, the showpiece of his so-called ‘war on terror’ is a mess with little success, Bush is undeterred by the failure of his war in that country. This week, the US president sought to reverse his dwindling political fortunes by acknowledging a secret that is no longer secret – the Central Intelligence Agency-run secret detention centres around the world. Bush also disclosed that he would soon put on trial those detained by the agency for terrorism. Belatedly, the president further announced a complete overhaul of US detention policies for those detained in connection with terrorism to keep in line with international and US laws – something that his administration initially resisted. And now, it turns out the US president has cost his close ally Tony Blair his job. Blair was this week forced to announce his departure date after an inside revolt from members of his party who partly have been unhappy with their leader’s close relationship with Bush and the war in Iraq. Five years on, it looks like President Bush has learned nothing from the debacle created by his foreign policy worldwide. If anything, the president seems to be determined to push through his agenda irrespective. The result as in the past will be a continued resurgence of extremism. There is hope though. Recent opinion polls in the US indicate that voters are disenchanted with Bush’s policies , particularly the war in Iraq. There is a shift, according to these polls, as voters no longer believe that Iraq is part of the war on terror. This, coming as it does ahead of the mid-term elections in that country, has shaken the very foundation of the conservative Republican Party which controls both houses of parliament. This may also explain Bush’s recent rhetoric on Iran and the drama involving the transfer of 14 men under CIA custody to the Guantanamo base in Cuba prior to their trial on terrorism charges. With his back against the wall in Iraq, the president is trying to present a strong face in order to preserve his legacy and to garner votes for Republicans during the mid-term elections. But this could become mission impossible unless the president re-thinks his strategy on Iraq and the war on terrorism. The president has to understand that extremism cannot be fought with guns because it is a battle of ideas. The planks on which his foreign policy rests should form the battleground and not Iraq or the Middle East. Bush has tried his bombs on Iraq for three years now and they have failed to end terrorism. He must now try the battle of ideas.