We all remember the scenes. The scenes of brave NYC firefighters tackling the ferocious flames. The scenes of the Manhattan skyline overwhelmed by thick smoke and ash. The scenes of screaming, panicky relatives rushing towards the Twin Towers in the hope of finding their endangered kith and kin. We all remember where we were.
I was just eleven at the time and recall hearing about the terrible atrocities during what had been an ordinary afternoon at school. It was only when I arrived home and viewed the shocking images that I began to fully comprehend the seriousness of what had occurred. 3,000 individuals lost their lives that day and America was about to journey down a path of self-destruction and annihilation. Ten years on, it is imperative that we assess America's adverse response to the unjustifiable attacks in order to understand why these so-called 'terrorist' threats persist today and remain a lingering concern.
Thus far, America has retaliated by claiming the lives of over 1,000,000 people around the globe. Wars - some blatant, some covert - in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen have allowed the US to flex its militaristic muscle and send a message to the world; 'We are not to be messed with'. Ironically, President Barack Obama took home the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples".
This, to the man who doubled US troops on Afghan soil and trebled the aerial bombardment of both Pakistan and Yemen. If that is strengthening international diplomacy then great, but the reality is that Mr Obama - through the use of drone strikes - has created far more jihadis then he could ever have envisaged. If anything, he has played right into the hands of al-Qaeda.
Osama bin Laden once stated that his main goal was to make "America bleed profusely". He was referring to both loss of life and bankruptcy. In the aftermath of 9/11, America finds itself in the midst of a financial crisis and has lost somewhere in the region of 6,000-7,000 troops.
This begs the question, has it all been worth it? At a White House function held shortly after the assassination of Bin Laden, President Obama declared, "The world is safer. It is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden". With so many troops and resources sacrificed, can America really claim that the world is a safer place? Yes, Bin Laden was a vile man. Yes, Bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands, but does Obama not also fit this description? A recent study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that some 168 innocent, defenceless Pakistani children had been killed as a result of America's relentless drone assaults following 9/11 - 56 of them during Obama's tenure. Would the mothers of those children not claim that the world would be safer were Obama to be assassinated?
Not only were the aerial offensives on Pakistan and Yemen increased following al-Qaeda's attack on the World Trade Centre, America also invaded Iraq. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, during a visit to Camp Victory in Iraq, told troops, "The reason you guys are hear is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked". This clumsy admission reignited the nonsensical debate over non-existent links between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
The reality is, America has been able to extend its rapacious ambitions as a direct result of 9/11. Unlawful invasions are justified as a requirement in the so-called 'War on Terror'. Obama even had the audacity to claim that the recent Norway massacre provided further evidence of the need to suppress terrorism. Excuse me! Is he honestly suggesting that the actions of a lone Christian far-right extremist like Anders Behring Breivik are representative of the equally abhorrent but altogether different endeavours of Islamic fundamentalists? This was nothing more than ludicrous, ill-timed, anti-Islamic propaganda from our Nobel Peace Prize winning president.
Aside from the sickening concept of anti-Islamic/anti-Muslim propaganda, let us take a look at the other negative effects that have materialised within western culture following the deplorable attacks of 9/11. Succeeding Operation Neptune Spear - the mission that orchestrated the death of Osama bin Laden - were scenes of celebration and euphoria in Times Square and Washington; thousands of American citizens united in their joy of the news of Bin Laden's demise. Now I am not saying that the relatives of the victims of 9/11 had no right to feel some form of vengeance and retribution, but was it decent and moral of ordinary Americans to rejoice in the manner in which they did? Did that not make them every bit as bad as the Taliban, who routinely exult in the killings of innocent soldiers? Surely the best punishment for Bin Laden would have been to stand trial and face a lifetime of imprisonment. In order to claim a moral high ground, you must practice what you so ardently preach.
Another horrible side-effect of 9/11 is America's willingness to support repressive regimes in order to contain terrorism. Continual support is offered to Israel's abominable government and is justified by claiming that they help to restrain the spread of Middle Eastern terrorism. Whilst verbal condemnation has been offered of President Assad's rule in Syria, noticeably no action is being taken. In the eyes of Israel and the US, a freed Syria offers more of a threat. The fear that al-Qaeda could proliferate there and the fear that Hezbollah could gain in strength and momentum has resulted in a western reluctance to intervene. They are willing to give President Bashar al-Assad as much time as possible to get his country back in order, regardless of how many innocent Syrian's die in the meantime. America would sooner Assad remain in power, but of course, they cannot merely come out and state this. Another ugly by-product of 9/11 is Obama's whiter-than-white reputation; this is purely erroneous.
Since stepping into power, President Obama has merely continued President Bush's flawed foreign policies. Rather than tackling the recruitment centres for jihadists - which should have been the first priority - Obama is merely helping them to flourish. Each and every time he OK-ed a drone strike, he essentially assisted in the multiplication of anti-American Muslims. Rather than show remorse for the loss of innocent lives, President Obama chooses to mock the victims. Last year, he rather sickeningly joked about drone strikes when addressing a function in which the Jonas Brothers were in attendance; threatening to send a Predator Drone if they approached his daughters. This kind of nonchalant attitude is detrimental and leads to the kinds of scenes we witnessed following Bin Laden's killing.
So what has America actually achieved as a direct consequence of their response to 9/11? Over a million victims - every bit as innocent as the victims of 9/11 - have lost their lives. Moreover, millions of other people are living under corrupt, immoral dictatorships that are actively supported by the US. Furthermore, the attitude of America has broadened to other parts of the western world; Britain and France to name a few. Their actions in Iraq have led others to believe that it is alright for foreign forces to invade innocent countries in order to secure resources - oil, gas etc - in the knowledge that it has transpired before and gone unpunished. The only way to target jihadis is to precisely aim at eroding their enrolment incentives. Give disenfranchised Muslims a reason to support the US as opposed to killing their families and expecting them to be fine with that. Thus far, all of America's responses to 9/11 have been extremely damaging and have not had the desired effect. Quite the opposite.
To make this world a truly safer place, we - the western world - need to break our addiction to oil and sincerely support a free world in which masses hold the power; not a tyrannical beast. President Obama needs to immediately bring to an end America's ill-judged 'War on Terror'. It has caused nothing but grief and suffering and is unceasingly utilised as a justification for racism and warmongering. Only then can we begin building a planet whereby nations can exist peacefully, side by side, trusting in one another. Whether this can happen in our lifetime is doubtful, especially whilst America continues to use 9/11 as an excuse to reap havoc across the globe and place millions of innocuous lives at risk, all in the name of justice.