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Teaching & Understanding Sept 11: Mark Hamm & Paul Leighton

Six Years After 9/11: Assessing the War on Terrorism

Paul Leighton

Rather than writing a detailed introduction, I will refer readers to the full text of a chapter Mark Hamm graciously allowed to be posted here. It's called Al-Qaeda, the Radical Right and Beyond: The Current Terrorist Threat and it is from his new book. I think it provides an excellent review of what has happened since 9/11 as well as some important thoughts for the future. 

One important worth noting comes from an article written by Kean and Hamilton, the 9/11 Commission Chair and Vice-Chair. Their article, Are We Any Safer Today? notes: "Six years later, we are safer in a narrow sense: We have not been attacked, and our defenses are better. But we have become distracted and complacent." (Washington Post, Sept 9, 2007, B1). They note slow movement on a number of reforms and a very resilient enemy. Of particular significance for the editors of this website is their comment:

Editor's note: Since posting Teaching and Understanding Sept 11 to this website in Aug 2002, much of he attention has shifted to War in Iraq, which has no direct connection with Sept 11 or bin Laden (despite President Bush frequently mentioning them all in the same sentence). 

Much of this material, however, is still important in understanding political violence, terrorism, the Mid East and international law & justice issues; the pages on understanding anti-Americanism are as important as ever. 

Please see the full contents for a detailed listing of resources that include photographs and additional resources. 

The original (2002) introduction to this material, reflecting more on the first anniversary of Sept 11, is still available. 

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We face a rising tide of radicalization and rage in the Muslim world -- a trend to which our own actions have contributed. The enduring threat is not Osama bin Laden but young Muslims with no jobs and no hope, who are angry with their own governments and increasingly see the United States as an enemy of Islam.

Four years ago, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld famously asked his advisers: "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

The answer is no.

U.S. foreign policy has not stemmed the rising tide of extremism in the Muslim world. In July 2004, the 9/11 commission recommended putting foreign policy at the center of our counterterrorism efforts. Instead, we have lost ground.

The concern about foreign policy also expressed in my chapter, Demystifying Terrorism: 'Crazy Islamic Terrorists Who Hate Us Because We're Free'? The full text of that chapter is available on this site, and as a preview I answer that they're not crazy. 

With the recent video from bin Laden, it is worth commenting briefly on him and al Qaeda. I have kept my page on bin Laden as the photo of the moment for a while, not just because I've been busy, but because I never bought into the belief we had somehow won and his organization was neutralized. I think this reinforces the resilience of the enemy and think bin Laden is important as an inspiration to many, who is also a shrewd ringleader for al Qaeda. A Washington Post article The New al Qaeda Central discussed the recent failure to keep the pressure on bin Laden, which has given him the chance to regroup, recruit and promote loyalists from within. Part of their take:

"All this business about them being isolated or cut off is whistling past the graveyard," said Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst who led the agency's unit assigned to track bin Laden. "We're looking at an organization that is extraordinarily adept at succession planning. They were built to survive, like the Afghans were against the Russians."

So, in a nutshell, we have a vibrant al Qaeda that is easily recruiting from the ranks of people radicalized by what the US is doing in Iraq. Kean and Hamilton are worried about nuclear proliferation and terrorism; Mark Hamm is worried about chemical weapons and terrorism. 

We should be studying these issues all year round, not just thinking about them once a year on the anniversary of Sept 11. 

Teaching & Understanding Sept 11 contents ~ 2002 Intro ~ 2003 Intro




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