Ten years ago tonight, a bunch of fanatical extremist criminals hijacked planes and crashed them into American landmarks. They wanted to start a war between Islam and the West. They wanted to be elevated from petty psychotic criminals to super villains, the main enemies of the world’s last remaining superpower. They wanted that superpower to spend the next decade thrashing about after them, smashing up Islamic countries so that ordinary people in those countries who would never have had a bar of Al Qaeda would lose family members in the carnage and build up their own legitimate grievances against it. They wanted the surge in recruitment that would come from being taken more seriously than they deserved.
Like that was going to happen.
They wanted the West to abandon the civil liberties its citizens enjoyed and become more like the tyrannical regimes they wished they had the support to establish. They wanted their petty grievances, their pathetic “war” on the West to be taken so seriously by the West that the West would concentrate on little else. They wanted the West to get bogged down in unwinnable wars that would be a massive drain on its economies and tip many of them over the edge into collapse.
Fortunately, they didn’t get their wish.
We recognised that they were petty murderous criminals, not super villains (how absurd would it be for them to gain respect simply by killing more people?), distinguished them early from their potential allies in the Islamic world and worked with those people to root out and prosecute these unhinged criminals. We remembered that our long-standing Justice systems had successfully dealt with serious criminals before, and they were now rotting away in jails, stripped of their power, unable to influence or impress anybody. We found the criminals, we charged them with the crimes they’d committed, and – demonstrating once again how different we were to them – gave them fair trials. Of course, since they were criminals who had committed serious crimes, the evidence was strong, and they were convicted and sentenced to extensive periods of imprisonment. They’re still there, pathetic specimens, wishing they could have had the war they dreamed of, wishing for “martyrdom” and a glorious death. But we don’t give murderous criminals what they want.
The people of Iraq and Afghanistan participated in the “Arab Spring” and, like Egypt and Libya, overthrew their dictators. NATO assisted with air support, but the revolutions were run and achieved by the people of those countries, not forces imposed from outside. The Taliban and Saddam Hussein are on the run like Gaddafi, but with their entire countries united against them, nobody expects them to escape capture for long.
Yes, it’s been a decade in which the West stood strong. Its economies were not crippled by a decade of war. Its principles of justice and the rule of law remained strong and were an example to the rest of the world. The terrorists lost their chance to cause destruction and chaos well beyond their actual powers, and are now sitting miserably in jail like any other violent criminals. We were not distracted from the real challenges facing us – economic reform, the increasing power of China, climate change.
A bunch of psychotic radicals in a cave did not defeat us. How could they? We would have had to be led by total morons to have given them anything they’d wanted.
UPDATE: As Matthew puts it in a comment at Pure Poison:
Yesterday (or so), the bolinator was asking (roughly) “is the best they can do?”, referring to the maybe-truck-bomb that probably isn’t bearing down on new york and/or washington. Andrew – that’s all they could EVER do. Their one innovation was to take advantage of airline security that let people take knives onto planes and stage a really big truck bomb. It wasn’t a brilliant or unimaginable innovation – not only was it in the (now famous) “debt of honour” by tom clancy (not his best by a long way – I recently had to struggle to even remember what it was about, whereas cardinal of the kremlin’s a real ripper). It has (apparently) been used in a couple of movies, and was apparently even used on a TV show … broadcast in the US in 2001. It just wasn’t that !$@#ing clever.
Since then, in the US, it’s been amateur night. You have to be pretty desperate to consider that times square thing as anything more than slapstick. The fort hood shooting was just another in an endless line of shootings in the US. A total moron tried to run people over with an SUV, and ballsed it up. THAT’S the enemy. Try comparing these bozos to the IRA, and they’re really very ordinary.
No, Matt! They’re THE GREATEST THREAT THE WEST HAS EVER FACED!