Dunsmore: Thoughts on 9/11

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In the years since the tragedy of 9/11, the United States has not had
another major terrorist attack. But as commentator and veteran ABC News
diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore tells is this morning , the
efforts to achieve greater security have come with many significant and
not always obvious costs.

(DUNSMORE) Haunting Legacy: Vietnam
and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama, is a new book by Marvin
Kalb and his daughter Deborah. It thoughtfully explores in depth the
degree to which the legacy of Vietnam has hamstrung seven American
presidents over 35 years, largely because Vietnam was the first and
only war the United States had ever lost.

The 9/11 assault was
also a unique historical event, by far the most deadly attack ever on
the continental United States. And as its tenth anniversary approaches,
its powerful legacy is well upon us.

In foreign policy, the
invasion of Iraq and the debacle that followed was a major strategic
blunder. Evil though he was, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was the only obstacle
to Iran taking control over the Persian Gulf. So with Shiites now
running the show in both Baghdad and Tehran, Iran has become the
superior power in the region that produces most of the world’s oil.

George W. Bush’s War on Terror and his ultimatum to the world that
countries were either with America or against it, created resentments
that continue today including among major allies. And being bogged down
for a decade in two unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a
huge drain on this country’s human and financial resources – and has
transformed America’s image of super power to that of a power that’s not
so super.

In terms of defense policy, in the past decade the
U.S. military has been significantly privatized, meaning that in today
‘s war zones there are sometimes as many civilian security contractors
on the ground as G.I.s, which has literally changed the American face
of war.

But for me, the impact of 9/11 here at home may be the
more troubling legacy. The Patriot Act led to warrantless eavesdropping
by super government computers of literally billions of Internet and cell
phone communications every day. Meantime billions of dollars has gone
to create a giant, new National Security apparatus, mostly in the
Washington area, involving acres of expensive real estate and thousands
of new spies. This bears far greater attention but because it’s all so
secret there is virtually no congressional or media oversight.

Americans are apparently more afraid than they were a decade ago, and
much of that fear is directed toward Muslims. The irrational and
racially toned debate over an Islamic Center to be located a few blocks
from Ground Zero is perhaps the worst example of the 9/11 legacy of fear, but probably not the last.

Haviland Smith is a retired senior
CIA specialist in counter-terrorism, now a Vermonter and a fellow
columnist. In his recent analysis on the legacy of 9/11, Smith wrote
that while terrorists want to spread fear and anxiety, they depend
equally on the reactions of the targeted populations and governments to
achieve their goals. In Smiths words, "America has reacted in ways that
have haunted us and will continue to haunt us for decades. Al- Qaida
could not have wished for more." I agree.


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