9/11: 19 Years On
It’s been 19 years since that awful morning when Usama bin Laden’s fiendishly brilliant plan unfolded. Nineteen Arab Muslims hijacked four American passenger planes in order to wage jihad fi sabil Allah. “Jihad in the path of Allah.” Two were guided into the World Trade Center towers. One was flown into the Pentagon. Another, probably intended for the White House, was brought down by its heroic passengers in rural Pennsylvania.
Three thousand Americans were killed that day as a direct result. Hundreds more heroic firemen, EMTs and policemen perished when the Towers collapsed as they were inside them, trying to save lives.
UBL is truly an individual who changed the course of history. Not, of course, for the better.
Bin Laden was sent to meet his maker by SEAL Team Six in 2011 — no doubt rudely surprised at being greeted not by 72 adoring huris but by the demons of Hell. But what about his global legacy? How has the world changed, thanks to the 9/11 attacks?
The War on Terror
Most obviously, it kicked off the “war on terror” with all that that has entailed. Bin Ladin’s strategy was for al-Qa`idah to attack the “far enemy,” not its “near enemies,” the region’s rulers. This gave us the Department of Homeland Security. It also led to DHS’ annoying yet incompetent stepchild, the Transportation Security Administration. The U.S. military reoriented its focus from conventional to unconventional warfare. Perhaps not a good idea if you hope to counter aspiring hegemon China, with its massive conventional arsenal.
Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
The 9/11 attacks were also the proximate cause for the second Bush Administration to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq. Sending U.S. troops to deprive UBL of the former as a staging area made sense. What makes no sense whatsoever is that thousands of Americans are still there. And that we have spent perhaps $1 trillion trying to get a people with the highest support for shari`a on Earth to like Elmo.
Invading Iraq made no sense at all. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. But he opposed Islamic fundamentalists and jihadists. And overthrowing him, while it helped the Kurds, also destabilized the region. Most importantly, it greatly strengthened the ayatollahs ruling Iran. It also unleashed, although it did not cause, ISIS. That organization is even more dangerous than AQ. Even if its territorial caliphate has been destroyed.
Obama’s Drone War
Bush’s wars of conquest were followed by Obama’s extensive drone one. So, by 15 years after 9/11, conventional wisdom in Washington DC was to support foreign wars. Especially ones in the Islamic world. Call it what you will. The military-industrial complex. The Deep State. The Establishment. The song remains the same. The U.S. is not only the world’s policeman, but the world’s social worker, tutor, arbiter, scold and wokeness advisor. Our government’s job is not only to solve domestic problems. It’s to fix things in other countries. Especially ones full of people who clearly don’t understand their own religion. And whether they like it or not. Oh, and making money by selling them weapons is perfectly fine, too. Forever wars are good for business, not just resumes.
Sympathy for Islam
The fourth major effect of 9/11 is one that UBL would most approve. Sympathy for Islam in the West has skyrocketed. There are now far more Muslims, and mosques, in the U.S. than on September 10, 2001. American Muslims quadrupled, thanks largely to Obama Administration giving them immigration preference. They number at least 3 million, up from about 900,000 19 years ago. And they are served by at least 2,000 mosques.
Muslims are on track to become the second-largest religious group in a decade or so. This has had political effects. Islamic activists like Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are now in Congress. Any criticism of Islam is now deemed “far right” and “hate speech” by the media. The idea that Islam is a protected “race” has become entrenched on the Left. Antifa and BLM thugs are joining forces with Islamic ones. So we see a “terrorist intersectionality” developing. Most European countries have been even more welcoming to Islam, notably France, Germany, Sweden and the UK (Although some, such as Hungary, have resisted.) Bin Laden is surely grimacing, if not smiling, from that fiery pit where he’s roasting.
The Coming of the Twelfth Imam
Finally, the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath ratcheted up eschatological fervor in the Islamic world. And this is, if anything, only increasing. Not just in Iran, but in the Sunni world. Large percentages of Muslims in many countries expect the imminent arrival of the Mahdi, Islam’s warrior messiah.
A Bangladeshi terrorist leader has claimed to be him. Turkish government officials have said they are working to prepare his way. (See my blog posts on this topic.) Of course, the entire Islamic Republic of Iran is in John the Baptist mode for the coming of their version, the Twelfth Imam. There were even some who thought Bin Laden the Mahdi. And as the Muslim year 1500 approaches — 2076 in our calendar — such beliefs will reach a fever pitch. A full-blown Mahdist jihad would make those of ISIS look like child’s play.
Net Positive for Islam
All in all, the last 19 years have been a net positive in the clash of civilizations for the Islamic side. Islam is stronger, certainly as an ideology, within the U.S. (and many European countries). On the international scene, it remains the only religion with global international representation — the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — which has, in addition, leveraged “Islamophobia” into a potent political weapon.
President Trump is working against this trend, and has had some notable successes. The UAE-Israel peace deal. A united Sunni front against Iran. Rapprochement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The ability to call an Islamic spade a spade. No new foreign wars in the Middle East, South Asia or Islamic Africa. So perhaps the tide is turning in our favor. But if Joe Biden is elected, the 20th anniversary of 9/11 will likely be much more grim for America and the West.
Timothy Furnish holds a Ph.D. in Islamic, World and African history. He is a former U.S. Army Arabic linguist and, later, civilian consultant to U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the author of books on the Middle East and Middle-earth; a history professor; and sometime media opiner (as, for example, on Fox News Channel’s War Stories: Fighting ISIS).