Guy Millière | Looking back on September 11, 2001 and the new fiasco in Afghanistan

Guy Millière is a French essayist specialized in geopolitics, senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute and at the American Freedom Alliance in Los Angeles. He is also a professor at the University of Paris VIII.

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Q: Why was the United States attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001?

The United States was attacked on September 11, 2001 because it is the leading power in the Western world and the Islamic war against the Western world, jihad, has been going on since the birth of Islam.

The Islamic discourse says that Islam must rule the world and that the world’s population must submit to Islam. Within a few decades, the warriors of Islam created a huge empire in the seventh and eighth centuries of our era, through the most bloody violence. This empire expanded further in the following centuries. It went, at the time of its maximum extension, from India to Spain and the south of France. It led to wars of reconquest by Asian peoples and Europeans.

The empire of Islam changed rulers several times. It was Arab in the beginning and ruled by Turks in its last phase. It could not adapt to modernity and Western innovations, and it lost ground. It collapsed with the collapse and subsequent dismantling of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Islam may have seemed defeated. It was not. In the 1970s, thanks to the oil shocks, money flowed into the coffers of several Muslim states, and Islamic organizations decided to take up the fight against the West.

Jihad is practiced by Islamic warriors in a conventional way cannot work in the contemporary era. Western technological superiority is overwhelming. Terrorism has become, since the 1970s, a means of jihad. Terrorism does not lead to military victory per se, but it does sow fear, and Islamic warriors believe that fear can lead to submission. Striking the United States may have seemed to Osama bin Laden like a masterstroke.

Not only did he hit the major power of the Western world, but he hit what might appear to be the major financial center of the major power of the Western world, the World Trade Center, and the matrix of its military defense, the Pentagon. The fourth plane was supposed to hit the place of political power, so the White House or the Capitol, we will not know because heroes stopped the terrorist action and the plane crashed before it hit its target.

People on the left at the time wondered why Al Qaeda hit the United States, and rather than blame Islam and jihad, they said that the United States was at fault, that it had taken imperialist actions, that it was paying for the Western colonization of the Muslim world. This is not true, and to say this you have to ignore what Islam is. The colonial powers were essentially European. The wars involving the United States after 1945 were wars against the advance of communism on the surface of the planet, through wars against Islam. Osama bin Laden has been very clear that he is waging jihad against the West. The Islamic war against the West is ongoing and will continue.

Q: Did the George W. Bush administration reform the U.S. intelligence community to prevent future attacks on U.S. soil?

A: No. The attacks of September 11, 2001, were possible because, under the presidency of Bill Clinton, the risk of Islamic terrorism was very seriously underestimated, but also because, in the name of protecting the freedom of American citizens and people residing in the United States, watertight walls were erected, separating the activities of the FBI from those of the CIA, which no longer exchanged information.

Terrorists were able to come to the United States, take flying lessons, and they came to the attention of the FBI, which for a time placed them under surveillance. At the same time, the CIA had intelligence that Al Qaeda was planning attacks in the United States, but that intelligence did not lead to a closer look at Muslims taking flight lessons from a terrorist risk perspective.

After the attacks, the silos were broken down, and ways of cross-checking intelligence obtained by the CIA and FBI investigations were put in place. This was at the heart of a law enacted by Congress on 26 October 2001, the Patriot Act. Left-wing movements said the law infringed on individual freedom.

When Barack Obama, a man of the left, was elected and became President, he did not repeal it. He used some of its provisions to monitor his political opponents and instructed the heads of the FBI and the CIA to stop focusing on Islamic risk, which allowed Islamists to carry out attacks during his presidency. These attacks were far less severe than 9/11, but they did cost lives.

Donald Trump has worked to redirect the activities of the FBI and CIA to prevent Islamic risk, and attacks have been prevented. Even when a law is passed, its effectiveness depends on the actions and decisions of those who are supposed to enforce it. So far, there have been no major attacks on American soil. The disastrous decisions of the Biden administration regarding Afghanistan will provide Islamic terrorist organizations with a rear base once again, and it is far from certain that those in charge of the FBI and the CIA today are able to act effectively against the Islamic risk.

Q: What is your assessment of George Walker Bush’s foreign policy after 9/11?

This is a complex question. George Walker Bush decided to destroy Al Qaeda’s rear bases in Afghanistan and that was a legitimate decision. He decided to overthrow the Taliban regime that was harboring and supporting Al Qaeda. That was also a legitimate decision. He had a plan to bring about regime change throughout the Muslim world so that the countries concerned would become westernized and their leaders and people would renounce terrorism.

It was a project imbued with noble ideas, but utopian. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein could be justified: Saddam Hussein’s regime was abominable and had become an Islamist regime. Wanting to make Iraq a democratic country implied, as in Afghanistan, keeping American forces there indefinitely. That Islamic warrior would attack American forces in Iraq was logical.

At the end of the Bush presidency, Iraq was stabilized because the U.S. military was still there, and because it had defeated the Islamic warriors, but it was clear that as soon as the U.S. forces withdrew, the Islamic warriors would return to the fight. This is what happened. In late 2011, when Barack Obama decided to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, a group born out of al Qaeda in Iraq quickly expanded, began to form what became known as the Islamic State, gained territory, and became a training base for jihadists.

The U.S. military under George Walker Bush did not intervene outside of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the project of regime change in the Muslim world and the Westernization of the Muslim world slipped into the past. George Walker Bush was not followed by the majority of European leaders, who preferred a policy of appeasement with regard to the Islamic risk, and this contributed greatly to the failure of the project. The balance sheet must therefore be nuanced. It was necessary to destroy the rear bases of al-Qaeda and overthrow the Taliban regime.

The overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime was justifiable. The project of regime change in the Muslim world and westernization of the Muslim world was utopian and doomed to fail, and it cost billions of dollars. That said, the demonization of George Walker Bush was despicable and shameful and allowed the election of Obama, who created various disasters: the Islamic destabilization of the Sunni Muslim world, the civil war in Syria, the establishment of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, from which came a horrific wave of attacks in Europe, the strengthening of the mullahs’ regime in Iran, the takeover of Lebanon by Hezbollah, the slide of Turkey towards Islamism.

Europeans loved Obama, without seeing that he brought them bloody attacks. They hated Trump, who destroyed the Islamic State and stopped the bloody attacks. They were thrilled when Biden was installed in office. Biden put the Taliban back in power in Afghanistan, and al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist organizations will have rear bases again. I don’t know if the Europeans will still be happy with Biden if there are bloody attacks in Europe again.

Q: 20 years after 9/11, the Taliban are back in power in Afghanistan, how can you explain this?

Unfortunately, the explanation is very simple. The Taliban never gave up on regaining power in Afghanistan. They have always considered that the governments put in place after the American intervention and supported by the United States were governments infidel to Islam and had to be overthrown in order for Islam to rule Afghanistan again. Without a U.S. military presence, without U.S. protection of the U.S.-backed Afghan government, the return of the Taliban to power was a certainty. Donald Trump wanted to end U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, but he wanted to do so while maintaining a deterrent designed to prevent what happened.

He wanted to let the strict Islamists return to power while telling them that they were under U.S. surveillance, with drones and surveillance capabilities unmatched on the face of the earth, and he made specific threats that the Taliban leaders took seriously. The Biden administration has shown itself to be weak. In the face of barbarians, weakness is encouragement.

The Taliban understood that they were safe if they went on the offensive. They were able to count on the support of countries that understood that they had everything to gain from an American defeat and the departure of the United States from Afghanistan, Pakistan and especially China and Iran. The debacle caused by the Biden administration was so total that one wonders if it was deliberate. No military leader can make decisions as moronic and criminal as the ones that have been made without being insane or driven by evil intent.

The result is an unprecedented disaster. Biden should be impeached as a matter of urgency. General Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Lloyd Austin, the Secretary of Defense, should themselves be impeached and court-martialed. That will not happen, unfortunately.

Q: In your opinion, has George W. Bush’s presidency been positive for the country?

George Walker Bush showed courage and determination after the September 11 attacks. He averted what could have been a disaster for the country and the Western world at the time. That is a key point. He inflicted major defeats on radical Islam. That’s another key point. He tried to implement a utopian project that was very costly, but that does not erase the positive things he did.

He was in 2001 the right man for the presidency of the United States. It probably would have been better if he had overthrown the Taliban, destroyed Al Qaeda and overthrown Saddam Hussein, without pursuing a utopian project, but many people at the time thought that the project was not utopian. He could not stop the deleterious wave that brought Obama to power, but no one could have stopped that wave. He could not stop the cowardice of many European leaders, but no one could have done so.

European leaders are just as cowardly today as they were during the time of George Walker Bush, who is far better than they are. George Walker Bush remained silent during the Obama years and was hostile to Donald Trump, a brave man as well, so after his presidency George Walker Bush stooped, so he will not go down in history as a great president.

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