Consequences of September 11, 2001: Bush’s fatal Iraq war

Status: 10.09.2021 12:23 p.m.

The 9/11 attacks also had an impact on the Arab world: in 2003, the US attacked Iraq on unproven accusations – a war that changed the entire region for good. The consequences can still be felt today.

By Björn Blaschke, ARD-Studio Cairo

Nine days after the 9/11 attacks, US President George W. Bush gives a speech to the US Congress: “Our war on terror begins with al-Qaeda, but it doesn’t end there.” The US president declares war on al-Qaeda – and, more generally, on the states that support terrorists: “We will persecute the nations that provide aid to terrorism or offer it a safe haven. Every nation in every region must now make a decision: Either you stand by our side or the terrorists. “

Bush’s demand may have made some Middle Eastern leaders a little nervous. Because in some Arab countries at this point in time – more or less undisturbed – members of militant Islamist groups were living.

In his State of the Union address in January 2002, after the US had already started its war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Bush got more specific: He accused the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein of producing weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorist organizations : “Iraq continues its hostility to the US by supporting terrorism. The Iraqi regime has conspired (against us) for more than ten years and produces anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons.”

North Korea, Iran and Iraq are ready to equip terrorists with their weapons so that they can carry out even worse attacks than those on September 11, 2001. Therefore they form an ‘axis of evil’ “.

A speech that set the tone not only for the attack on Afghanistan: the Bush address to the US Congress on September 20, 2001.

Image: picture-alliance / dpa

Allegations with no evidence

Although al-Qaeda had no base in the part of Iraq controlled by Saddam Hussein at the time, possible cooperation between the terrorists and Saddam Hussein’s regime became the guiding principle of US foreign policy. Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda adhere to different ideologies, but hatred of the United States would unite them. Bush’s Secretary of State Colin Powell represented this in February 2003 before the UN Security Council. “Your ambitions and hatred are enough to bring al-Qaeda and Iraq together.”

A few days later, the US started the war against Iraq, and “Operation Iraqi Freedom” began. After the fighting ends and Saddam Hussein is ousted, weapons experts cannot find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bush, however, sticks to his stance, claiming that he acted rightly and for good reason; there was a relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda: “The reason I insist that there was a relationship between Iraq, Saddam and Al Qaeda is that there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Qaeda gave. “

In May 2003, Bush declared the fighting in Iraq over on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Here, too, he was fatally wrong.

Image: picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PR

After the war comes Al Qaeda

In principle, repetition does not make lies any more truthful. In any case, al-Qaeda only became active in Iraq after the fall of Hussein – under the leadership of Abu Musab al Zarkawi, a companion of Osama bin Laden. The terrorists kidnap foreigners like Iraqis. They carry out suicide and other attacks and in 2006 provoked a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis in the country.

The US is trying to take action against the terrorists, killing Zarkawi in 2006 and interning hundreds, perhaps thousands, of alleged al-Qaeda people. As a result, the Iraqi branch of the organization is weakened, but not destroyed: Abu Bakr al Baghdadi temporarily ends up in one of the camps, becomes even more radical there and, in 2010, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq. He later breaks with the organization and in 2014 proclaims the “Islamic State” (IS).

The Egyptian political scientist Mustapha Kamel al Sayyid says today that IS was born in Iraqi prisons – under US occupation.

The notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq – this is where US soldiers tortured prisoners.

Image: picture-alliance / dpa

The triumphant advance of IS

IS began its tragic triumphant advance from Iraq: in Syria, in Egypt, in Libya, in Yemen and beyond in some other countries, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. This rise – and that of other militant groups – was fueled again by the fact that with the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iran began to exert more and more influence through its secret services, militiamen and Shiite population groups, first in Iraq and then in other Arab states .

The Iranian influence – that is grist to the mill of IS: Shiites are considered militant Sunnis, and among them are the terrorists of IS, as heretics who should be killed. At the same time, the rise of militant Islamists gave the Arab regimes an argument for expanding their security apparatus and dealing more restrictively with politically unpleasant forces – with Islamists, but also with everyone else.

“Arab Spring” – just a brief bloom

This became particularly important from 2011: parallel to the strengthening of militant Islamist groups, the so-called Arab Spring began: Millions of people in the region were calling for change. At times in 2011 it seemed as if the dictatorships in the region were collapsing.

A fallacy. In fact, today, ten years later – and 20 years after 9/11 – people are experiencing a restoration phase, a strengthening of the military. And in many places they base their power on the fact that they use their security apparatus to take action against members of the opposition – against Islamists and against everyone else.

How 9/11 changed the Arab world

Björn Blaschke, ARD Cairo, 9.9.2021 4:52 p.m.

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