Augusto Zamora R. examines the war on terror, five years after the attacks of September 11th, and concludes that Washington has undertaken counterproductive, violent, and in many cases illegal policies, which have left it weaker and more isolated than ever. Terrorism has increased considerably since 2001 both in the number of attacks and in its victims. In Zamora R.‘s opinion, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon have not only proven to be military fiascos, but have provoked a new worldwide arms race.
Augusto Zamora R. is a professor of International Law and International Relations at the Autónoma University of Madrid. He served as a lawyer for the state of Nicaragua before the International Court of Justice from 1983 to 2001. He is a columnist for the newspaper El Mundo (Spain). His most recently published book is “Ridiculed Peace. The Peace Process in Central America” (Sepha Publishers, Madrid, 2006).
FIVE YEARS AGO, HUMANITY WAS SHAKEN by the largest and most complex terrorist action ever realized. Airplanes from commercial carriers smashed into the two emblematic skyscrapers of New York City, provoking their collapse as well as the destruction of seven neighboring buildings. The attack also had a collateral psychological effect: it made the United States realize that it was no longer invulnerable.
September 11th was, in fact, the first violent attack suffered by the United States on its own territory since the English burnt down Washington in 1814. Hawaii was a colony when Japan attacked in 1941.
DESTROYING THE INTERNATIONAL ORDER
The United States reacted quickly, by invading Afghanistan in the same year of 2001. The action was considered illegal according to International Law, but it had enormous geopolitical importance for Washington in order to penetrate into Central Asia and establish military bases in what used to be Soviet territory.
Afghanistan was quickly followed by Iraq, and only a few weeks ago Israel’s war against Lebanon was added to the list under the pretext of combating the guerrilla organization Hezbollah. Three wars in five years; and they have resulted in nothing but military disappointment, and an even more uncertain, unstable world.
In this sense, the war on terror has been a failure. Rather than promote democracy, and collaboration, it has broken down the legal world order, and provoked a new worldwide arms race.
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
The war on terror has also caused the United States and other countries to approve laws, which go strictly against the most sacred foundations of human rights. The list of violations is extensive: the Patriot Act, concentration camps like the one in Guantanamo, the establishment of secret prisons, the kidnapping of suspected terrorists, and the decline of fundamental liberties.
According to Amnesty International, the European Parliament, and various sectors of the United Nations, the war on terror is serving as a pretext for the United States to violate human rights with lethal consequences.
The practical results of the war on terror are far from encouraging. Although the United States has managed to avoid new attacks on its soil, outside of the States the effects have been disastrous. According to the annual report of the State Department on world terrorism, published in April of 2006, in 2005 there were 11,000 terrorist attacks world wide, provoking the deaths of 14,600 people.
And if we consider that in 2004 there were only 651 significant terrorist attacks, resulting in 1,907 mortal victims, then we realize that terrorism is rapidly on the rise. More than 23 times the number of attacks committed in 2004 took place in 2005, and more than 8 times the number of victims died.
While the report of 2006 does affirm that Al Qaeda has lost control of part of its terrorist web, and has been weakened by detentions and the deaths of some of its top operatives, it still poses a very active and dangerous threat to the United States.
The State Department’s own data leads to the conclusion that the war on terror, instead of reducing terrorism, has aggravated it.
The war has stimulated the further growth of terrorism, provoked even more instability in the world, and produced an even more important third effect: the list of the United States’ allies has shrunk significantly. Many countries are looking for alternative measures to combat the criminal phenomenon.
Five years after the attacks on the Twin Towers, Washington is more isolated and weak than ever, a natural result of a violent, illegal, and counterproductive foreign policy.