By Norman Solomon
Fourteen years later, the horrors of 9/11 continue with deadly ripple effects. American militarism has become the dominant position of U.S. foreign policy, while other options remain banished to the sidelines. Yet from the outset of the “war on terrorism,” some Americans spoke out against a militarized response to the terrible events on Sept. 11, 2001.
Conventional wisdom presents the “war on terrorism” — proclaimed by President George W. Bush and maintained under President Barack Obama — as the only practical response to 9/11. Fighting terrorism has been the main rationale for all U.S. military interventions since then, spinning the Pentagon’s machinery into overdrive despite the absence of clearly identified foes or geographical boundaries.
Even the most prominent warnings against such an approach were marginalized and vilified in the wake of Sept. 11. And those warnings have been buried by the U.S. media as though they never occurred, even though their concerns have proved prescient. The U.S. has spent trillions of dollars on military interventions across the Middle East, and yet the region is more violent and turbulent than ever.
This media amnesia helps keep the U.S. war train on track. The importance of the erasure is embodied in an observation by George Orwell, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” The widespread pretense that there was no credible critique of going to war 14 years ago reinforces the assumption that there is no credible alternative to militarized responses today.
Ignored, derided or slandered at the time, Americans from many walks of life publicly warned against doing what the U.S. government proceeded to do with military action. Their voices have been written out of America’s dominant narrative. Ignoring those voices has proved catastrophic, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya and Yemen.
“I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said just three days after 9/11, standing alone against the rest of the House of Representatives as it voted 420 to 1 for a never-ending authorization for the use of military force. With a singular act of political courage, she told her colleagues and the nation that “some of us must urge the use of restraint.”
“I do not want to see this spiral out of control,” Lee said. “Far too many innocent people have already died. Our country is in mourning. If we rush to launch a counterattack, we run too great a risk that women, children and other noncombatants will be caught in the crossfire … Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target.”
But the U.S. armed forces swung into action without any such strategy or target. The political and media elites in the nation’s capital applauded when Bush began the bombing of Afghanistan in early October 2001. “The launching of military strikes against peasants does nothing to suppress terrorism and only erodes American credibility in Muslim nations around the world,” wrote Manning Marable, a leading African-American historian and political scientist.
[To read the entire article, which was originally published by Al Jazeera America, click here.]