The world today is a far different place than the one before the fateful morning of 11 September 2001.
Whether the world has become a better and safer place remains an open question and it a question over which opinions differ and differ strongly.
There can be no doubt that what happened on 11 September 2001 was a defining moment in history. The visuals of two planes crashing into the Twin Towers and another into the Pentagon, the symbol of ultimate power, will stay etched into the memory of the people who saw it first hand or followed the drama unfolding on TV.
Much that has happened over the past 11 years in hot spots around the globe can be traced back to that eventful day.
One perceptive analyst made the intriguing observation that horrendous as it was, the cruel murder of over 2000 civilians after the second of the towers collapsed was not the only major crime of that day. It also initiated a war of retaliation and revenge with consequences that will still be felt for years to come.
On the evening of 11 September 2001, President George W. Bush declared a global war on terror when he told the American nation that “we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbour them.”
Originally justified to hunt down those who ordered and were involved in planning the murder of thousands of innocent people– many not American – the war on terror has become a terror war.
The cost to Africa
The killing of Osama bin Laden may have quenched the American desire for revenge, but there is the prospect that it may further radicalise Islamic fundamentalists to continue bin Laden’s mission. The evidence is there for all to see that bin Laden’s “crusade” did not die with him. Al-Qaeda might have lost their charismatic leader but his legacy lives on and has found acceptance in parts of Africa.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Ansar Dine in Mali are all to a more or lesser degree franchises of al-Qaeda and primed to further bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s ideals in Africa.
This in turn has attracted US interest and Africa is firmly in the crosshairs of those in charge of the global war on terror. General Carter Ham, commanding officer of Africom, the US regional military command for Africa, does not mince his words; “Countering the threats posed by al-Qaeda affiliates in Africa remains my number one priority.”
Africa can but hope that something similar never happens again.
Garth Cilliers (Leadership Intelligence Bulletin)