The History of America
The War Against Islam
Most historians now consider that the first event that ultimately led to the war was the terrorist hijacking of four jumbo jet liners, three of which were then used as missiles that struck the twin towers in New York City and the Pentagon.
The 9/11 attacks, as they quickly came to be called, were, in retrospect, the work of a very small cadre of terrorists who were led by a charismatic figure named Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden had fought with the mujahedeen against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
He rose from that conflict to lead a group of radical believers (known as “al Qaeda,” or “the Base”). Their numbers in the decade that followed were still small, perhaps no more than several thousand, but they found safe haven in the remote mountain regions of Afghanistan, which, by then, was dominated by the Taliban. The Taliban practiced and enforced a form of sharia law that demanded fundamentalist adherence to the most extreme interpretations of the Koran, the religion’s holy book.
Bin Laden allegedly developed intense anti-American attitudes when U.S. military forces embedded themselves in his native homeland, Saudi Arabia, during the first Gulf war. That war, circa 1990, was prosecuted by the United States and a large coalition of nations (some of them Islamic from the Middle East) to reverse the takeover of a small oil rich country, Quwait, by one of its neighbors, Iraq.
Iraq was, at the time, ruled by a ruthless dictator named Saddam Hussein. Hussein had been supported in his takeover of control of the country, circa 1970, by the United States government, and had received tacit support from the U.S. throughout the 1980s in a bloody war against Iraq’s neighbor, Iran.
The first Gulf war ended with the restoration of sovereign rule to Kuwait, but Hussein remained in power in Iraq. That fact became significant in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when President George W. Bush, the son of the previous U.S. president of the same name (who had led the fight against Hussein in Gulf War I), took his country to war again in Iraq. That war was the second to involve a heavy commitment of U.S. forces in the region at the same time.
The first was the war in Afghanistan, which began in the months immediately following the 9/11 attacks. It was started, at least as originally explained by Mr. Bush, to bring the al Qaeda terrorists, and their leader bin Ladin, to justice.
Bin Ladin was never captured or killed in that long war (the longest in the country’s history), and the reasons for its continuation changed repeatedly as U.S. presidents succeeded each other and never found a way to disengage.
But it may have been the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Hussein that created the greatest negative consequences for the United States. Much of the Islamic world viewed the invasion with contempt, and many observers believe that the prosecution of that war converted many moderate Muslims in the region into bin Ladin followers, if not soldiers in his organization.
That organization grew significantly throughout the first decade of the century, with active cells operating in many countries beyond Afghanistan and its neighbor, Pakistan, which was where bin Ladin appears to have remained until his death, many years later.
By then, his hopes for a worldwide jihad had largely been achieved. He was aided immensely by a political movement in the United States that developed during the presidency of Barack Obama. Obama, the country’s first black president, was felt by some on the far right of American politics to be a sympathizer with, if not a practitioner of, Islam. Throughout his presidency, he was accused of not being an American and of being a Muslim.
And then, in 2010, a controversy developed that led to a strong outpouring of hostility towards Muslim-Americans. The incident concerned a cultural center that a moderate Muslim intended to build in New York City, not far from the site of the twin towers that had been felled in the 9/11 attacks. Opposition to the construction of the center grew exponentially as right-wing politicians joined the cries against the plans for the center.
This groundswell soon became something of a national movement, marked by many concerted acts of violence against Muslim mosques and against individuals believed to be Muslims. Moderate politicians remained silent in the face of these acts, leading to an increase in their frequency and intensity. President Obama did make one attempt to support the construction of the cultural center in New York, but he quickly backed away from that position when the right-wing media and members of the then-nascent Tea Party called him down for it.
Ultimately, anti-Islamic feelings became a major political issue, even eclipsing the failing U.S. economy as an election issue that fall.
The stage was thus set for the next al Qaeda attack, which came in the form of the dirty bomb that detonated in midtown Manhattan in the summer of 2012. It killed 10,000 people, but the radiation that it released sickened many and killed several hundred more in the weeks following its blast.
It was then that President Obama, facing very low poll figures in his re-election campaign, succumbed to the calls from members of both political parties and ordered that all members of the Muslim faith then residing anywhere in the United States be taken to relocation camps.
The war within the country began shortly thereafter, as large bands of renegade Muslims used guerilla tactics to wreak havoc in major U.S. cities.
Those battles consumed the country for several years as Arab states grew increasingly restive. By 2015, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Iran and Lebanon had all broken off diplomatic relations with the U.S. Iraq followed the following year. With the loss of oil some of those countries had provided, the U.S. economy sunk even deeper into a second Great Depression.
Finally, in 2017, the newly elected president, the first from the new Tea Party, declared war on all the Muslim Arab states.
Next: Chapter 34 – The aftermath of the war