Obama's claims of progress against al-Qaeda ignore the ways in which US policy has laid groundwork for blowback
President Barack Obama marked the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks by claiming the legacy of that day was a safer American people and a stronger country, in a deluded, nationalistic speech in front of the Pentagon.
“As painful as this day is – and always will be – it leaves us with a lesson, that no single event can ever destroy who we are, no act of terrorism can ever change what we stand for,” Obama said at the US military headquarters.
“Instead we recommit ourselves to the values that we believe in,” Obama said, adding that because of the sacrifice on September 11, 2001, Americans had come together and “dealt a crippling blow to the organisation that brought evil to our shores.”
In reality, the 9/11 attacks triggered an onslaught of government actions that utterly betrayed “what we stand for” and “the values we believe in,” if the President was referring to notions like limited government, freedom, individual rights, tolerance of dissent.
From discretionary wars of immense costs and atrocities to rolling back the Bill of Rights through surveillance, torture, and selective uses of habeas corpus – the broad sweep of state action in response to the attacks did represent a stark abrogation of vaunted American “values.”
“Al-Qaeda’s leadership has been devastated,” Obama said, “and Osama bin Laden will never threaten us again. Our country is safer, and our people are resilient.”
While some of al-Qaeda’s formal leadership has been taken out from drone wars in multiple countries, the controversial drone program consistently kills civilians and is daily embittering entire populations of Muslims in Pakistan and Yemen, increasing al-Qaeda recruits and laying the groundwork for more blowback.
Meanwhile, US policies in Syria come dangerously close to directly aiding al-Qaeda militias, the American military is even more present in the region full of US-backed dictators, and the US approach to Israel-Palestine has not changed – all of which are reinforcing the same grievances that spawned al-Qaeda.
The sum of the President’s speech lies in direct contrast to the truth: Americans are less safe, facing threats from new generations of terrorists bred by US policies as well as an overgrown government intent on encroaching upon the rights and freedoms of citizens in the name of security.
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