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Two Decades under the Rule of the Great Killer

Two Decades under the Rule of the Great Killer

Monday, 13 September, 2021 - 06:45
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

If you are a child of the “terrible Middle East,” then it is not odd for you to sense that you have endured two decades under the rule of the great killed called September 11, 2001. I know, dear reader, that no one wants such a painful date to be etched in their memory. But it is a day that we cannot wash our hands clean of or disconnect our destinies from.


Times usually cools heated developments before they are eventually forgotten. That terrible day is still resisting time. It birthed armies of widows, bereaved mothers and orphans in its first strike. It then birthed a river of corpses in capitals and maps, the majority of which were located in their thorny region known as the Middle East. No country can claim that the repercussions of those attacks did not affect it, its agenda, fears and map of friends and enemies.


A river of corpses and more. It would have been difficult to imagine the American army descending on Afghanistan’s treacherous terrain without an excuse the size of the Taliban’s refusal to hand over the perpetrator who was residing on its territory.


It would have been difficult to imagine the image of an American tank removing Saddam Hussein’s statue from the Firdos Square without the American empire having been deeply wounded in its pride on that terrible day. It would have been difficult to imagine Saddam’s corpse swaying on the noose amid gratified cheers.


That day opened the door wide for a river of corpses that would never have happened without it. The corpse of Rafik al-Hariri. The corpse of Moammar al-Gaddafi. The corpse of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The corpse of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The corpse of Qassem Soleimani. The September 11 attacks flung the doors of hell wide open. Relentless strikes. Cold-blooded assassinations. Explosive belts. Justified and unjustified demands. Innocent groups pulverized by force. Groups that turn to darkness to fight oppression. The result is fractured maps, dismembered armies, factions, militias, mass graves and zones of influence scattered across maps.


The purpose of the September 11 attacks was to assassinate American dignity and might and the symbols of its power and success and to lure it into an exhausting fight like the one endured by the Soviet Union during its Afghan trip. The purpose was also to ignite the frontlines between the West and Arab and Islamic worlds with the hope of again sparking the jihad experience that took place against the Soviets. This did not happen as the main countries in the Islamic world stood against terrorism and attempts to divide the world into two peoples who cannot coexist.


In contrast, the US, through its retribution, committed fatal errors that destabilized historic balances in the Middle East. Put simply, were it not for the September 11 attacks, we would not have seen an Iraq without Saddam and we would not have heard an Iranian general boast of managing four Arab capitals: Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Sanaa.


The attacks on that long day changed the regional and international features. America became mired in two difficult and costly wars. This allowed the man who entered the Kremlin on the turn of the century to take advantage of the necessary time to arrange his papers, consolidate his control and sharpen his tools. Had America not been mired in the two wars, Vladimir Putin would not have reached his current position, shaken Europe on more than one occasion and connected Russia to the Mediterranean. The American preoccupation allowed the Russian president to organize a complex dance with the Iranians, Turks and Israelis on Syrian soil.


What applied to Russia in the past two decades can be largely said of China, especially after chairman of the party, Xi Jinping, closed the chapter of the collective leadership. While America was shedding blood and spending trillions of dollars in endless wars, Russia was renovating its arsenal and role and China was reserving a position for itself as the “factory of the world” and advancing on the Silk Road.


September 11 affected the fates of many people. That day, the plane of Jordan’s King Abdullah II was flying to Washington. The man, who ascended the throne a year earlier, did not expect his country to be facing two difficult decades ahead. For two decades it tried to coexist with the Iraqi and Syrian infernos and the chronic tensions caused by its joint fate with the Palestinian people. Moreover, it had to occasionally cope with the cross-border infiltrations by al-Qaeda or ISIS.


Bashar al-Assad was also concerned with the outcomes of that long day. He was concerned with the deployment of American forces on his border with Iraq, so he joined Iran in aborting the American effort to support a pro-West democratic government in Baghdad. But Bashar, who had succeeded in averting the American fire and fallout of the withdrawal from Lebanon after Rafik al-Hariri’s assassination, did not succeed in averting the major implosion from within Syria – even if he may have clung on to power due to the loyalty of his supporters and Russia and Iran’s backing. In the September 11 world, Syria became a playground after it used to be a player.


As for Lebanon, it turned into rubble that lacks a role and even the most basic life essentials. The world that was born after the attacks on New York and Washington also had a clear impact on the Turkish role and Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s wagers and meddling.


Has the US grown weary of living in the September 11 world with its battles, dangers and costs? Has it decided to leave behind the embers of those difficult maps in the hands of its sons and neighbors? Perhaps it no longer has the will or ability to build a world in its image. Does it believe that by withdrawing, the radiation from the reactors of extremism will reach Russia and China more than it will reach it?


The cost of living under the rule of a killer called September 11 cannot be tallied. It was a costly day that no other can compete with due to the damage and victims its has left behind. Only the coronavirus strips the “day of the two invasions” of the title of great killer.


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