NINE ELEVEN evokes fearful memories. Each replay of the video footage of commercial liners ramming into the iconic twin towers of the World Trade Centre (WTC) on the morning of Tuesday September 9, 2001 stokes fears of different kinds. Fear among the most advanced countries of the world that they can be hit with impunity by suicide bombers bent upon destroying great monuments of the western civilization. Fears among Muslims, perilously caught up in the crossfire that they are not only subject of indiscriminate racial profiling but that they could any moment become either part of collateral damage caused by a NATO strike or a terrorist attack. Ten years down the line, as the debris of NINE ELEVEN finally settles down, it is a time to reflect on how the element of fear was exploited to seek retribution and hold entire societies hostage.
Much before the official NINE ELEVEN Report commissioned by the US Government was unveiled, the blame of the attack was squarely placed on the doorsteps of the shadowy Al Qaeda organization headed by the enigmatic Osama bin Laden aka OBL. Once a financier of the Afghan jihad against the occupying Soviet forces, OBL now disenchanted with the presence of US forces in Saudi Arabia, pressed the Al Qaeda to strike against the perceived symbols of American imperialism – the financial, military and political landmarks of USA. His brand of violent warfare attracted tens and dozens of adherents from across the globe. His tactics of using suicide bombers to achieve his political and military aims caused fear among all those who came in his way.
The NINE ELEVEN attacks brewed a psychological tsunami. Bush capitalized on it and used the element of fear to rally the American citizens to destroy Al Qaeda and to capture OBL “dead or alive.” The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was swiftly dislodged. The cadres melted into the countryside to fight another day. Those caught in the dragnet were sent to the infamous Guantanamo prison through a process of extraordinary renditions. The quick defeat of the Taliban encouraged Bush to finish off, where his father had left Iraq. A military campaign was launched on ill founded and unsubstantiated fears that Sadam Hussain possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. A “shock and awe” offensive pulverized and swiftly removed the Baathist regime but left the entire region bereft of stability. Things are no better in Afghanistan, as the American military operations hastens towards an inevitable drawdown in 2014.
Fear factor has been used shamelessly by all parties involved in the conflicts arising out of the NINE ELEVEN attacks. More than any country in the world fear grips Pakistan the most. The backlash of the invasion of Afghanistan has unleashed militant forces coiled to destroy peace, harmony and tolerance. With OBL out of the way and the American forces planning to leave Afghanistan in three years time, one hopes the climate of fear would be replaced by one of hope and rejuvenation.